My friends at National Institute of Design have done me great favours, one of them being introducing me to rare and hidden places around Ahmedabad where one can find the choicest and most exclusive food. Food which one wouldn’t usually associate with Ahmedabad.
A few days ago I was alone in Ahmedabad for a day, wondering what to do after waking up hungover from previous night’s shoot. Pulling on my sweater, I looked at new buildings crowd around old ones across the cityscape. It was cold enough to be pleasant and still be cold.
Venturing out of my friend’s building I stopped a rickshaw and directed him towards Paldi, the part of Ahmedabad where NID is located. Although none of my NID friends were present I wanted to visit Tibbs, a tiny homely Tibetan food paradise very close to NID, nestled inside a group of small houses. On Zomato this place is listed as ‘Amdos Kitchen’. The best part – one has to remove their slippers before entering and sit on the ground with folded legs and low-heighted tables. The first time I visited this place a few years ago, I was confused; Dharmashala, Dehradun, Sikkim, Leh, Kargil or even Majnu ka Tila in Delhi – I’d seen it all. But this? In Ahmedabad? What a nice surprise. The credit goes to my friends, none is mine. I’ve only been paying the bill here.
So today I decided to visit this eatery alone, I was the first customer for lunch, which also meant I’d get fresh steaming food of my choice without having to wait. The place is usually crowded with youngsters who dull the lights with cigarette smoke and pluck the ambient sound when they slur on their lemon tea. The lemon tea is quite pleasant, especially with a television lulling the background with Bollywood songs. What a strange concoction. The walls are pale, a cane carpet covers the floor and a homely vibe is present throughout.
I chose a seat right opposite the television, with the entrance brightly open on my left. I sat at the cone of an L-shaped low-sitting table, which composes the room that the restaurant is in. Only one room; and it’s enough.
Going through the menu (yes, they have a sorted and upgraded menu now, a change from my last outing here in 2013). I asked for Momos to begin with; steamed Chicken and Beef momos, six each.
The Beef Momos were generously filled with mince, onions and garlic. Not overcooked or rubbery, the soft covering of the momos perfectly disguised their potent interior. The chicken momos were milder in comparison and texture, but equally appealing. What I liked the most is the treatment; the skin of the momos weren’t broken or loose or tearing, they were thin enough but still wrapped onto the filling perfectly. What a delight!
When having momos, one must pay heed to the chutney. Chutneys either ruin or enhance the momos. They are responsible in adding life to them and making them hotter – in every sense. The chutney served here was (of course) hot: grounded red chilli with a sparse tomato base, garlic, a bit of onion. Not very pasty like a staple ‘schezwan’ sauce one has at roadside Chinese stalls in India, it was very Tibetan and required you to miss Sikkim or Dehradun in order to enjoy it. There are variants in this chutney when it comes to colour – this one was a dark poster red, showing the sort of chilli used and probably the climate, too? I need to research more on North-eastern chillis.
Next – Beef Shaptak. A fried dish with boneless beef strips cut into small pieces sautéed with soy sauce, onions and capsicum. Minimal but fulfilling, shaptak is the perfect accompaniment to soups, noodles and broths. The red chutney complimented the shaptak, too. Although I liked the preparation, I felt a slightly softer or pre-steamed version of the meat could’ve worked better considering the template of the rest of the dishes. Nevertheless, a good decision.
But what is Tibetan food without a soup? I chose Chicken Talumein, and this was some serious cooking. A chicken-stock based flat noodle soup loaded with vegetables and chicken chunks with eggs was just what one needed on a cold day in Ahmedabad when is alone and hungry. The mix of chicken stock and boiled vegetables was the gem, along with flat noodles which added to the texture. The more crunchy and fibrous shaptak accompanied the soft soup elements, overall forming a complete meal.
Obviously one would be a little slow after such a meal. More customers began to enter; mostly youngsters. With them, talks on design and life arrived and sprouted. I sat for a few minutes and called for a glass of lemon tea, without which I never leave this lovely place.
Sipping the end of the tangy tea, I was revived into reality and then came to pay the bill – it wasn’t much for the amount of food that was just consumed.
One leaves Tibbs happy. And surprised. India is a country where you can find anything, anywhere. One must only be ready to be awed.
All photographs have been created by the author, Ishan Sadwelkar, on location.