B Sides (India)

When I think back to the life I led in my 20s, I will be forever grateful and amazed that I got to do the things that I did. How did I figure out how to travel around the world, eating, working, writing, taking photos? I don’t think that life exists anymore. Not in the same way anyway. But I really milked it for what I could.

Right out of college, I was a freelance travel and food writer. I wrote about different parts of Southeast Asia. I wrote about chefs. I was interested in history, food culture, people. I still am. But the ways in which I led that life (writing for magazines with “Geographic” in their name, getting advances and payouts from travel guidebooks, selling photos to newspapers), don’t and won’t exist anymore.

So I continue to do those things, but with a day job.

While I was out on the road, my phone photos were an important ‘B Roll’. Today I am sharing a selection of those photos in one place, for the first time.

a photo of two men in Chennai, India, in a restaurant showing some food from behind a counter

Chennai was often my first port of call. Whenever I had work in India, I would fly first to Chennai. $100 one way from Singapore. Once there, I deeply explored the world of ‘nonveg Tamil food’, still one of my favorite cuisines anywhere. That love for Tamil Nadu country food was a love that nourished me and kept me happy. Brain masala, mutton sukka, deeply spiced seeraga samba biryanis. They also called this ‘military food’, and it was cuisine that was eaten in contrast to the totally vegetarian, ‘cleaner’ high caste food that I never developed a fondness for. Whenever in Chennai, I ate most at places like this.

a photo of the insides of a restaurant in Chennai that says Sri Velu Military Hotel

Sri Velu was one place that I frequented for this type of food.

a photo of a man standing at a window of a Alibag vada pav restaurant in India

Roadtrips across India were a big part of my life. I went on long rides with friends, and one frequent trip was the road trip from Mumbai to Alibag. Vada pavs were mandatory, of course. Till this day, I still dream about the perfect little potato patties, with the right amount of spice, in a squishy white bread.

a photo of the outside of an old looking Goan seafood restaurant in Mumbai

I spent most of my time in either Chennai or Mumbai. These are the two cities that, even today, if you were to drop me there and have me live there for months on end, I would be quite happy. My social circles and my favorite foods remain the same. Goan and all other coastal Konkani food is also a cuisine that I adore. In Mumbai, I frequently went to places like this, as well as to Gomantak or Malvani restaurants.

a photo of a restaurant with tamil words that says Orosorru

My happiest food memories are always whenever I get to get Tamil style biryanis. Orosorru in Chennai was a fave for a long time, but sadly they are no longer around.

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Adrianna Tan @skinnylatte
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