He strode towards the table with a smile in his eyes. “So this is the girl who likes to eat weird things! Well, have I got a treat for you!”

The enthusiastic Prem is the third generation of his family to run Koshy’s, a Bangalore hangout that’s been lively for over 6 decades. His enthusiasm was contagious that night as we sat near the kitchen at a table that had the best view of the room and it’s eclectic patrons. He sat beside me beaming over the uncommon-for-India meal we would soon consume, and told me his story. Prem had spent several years in Louisiana, getting accustomed to cajun cooking and southern drawls. He was a certified bar tender and cook with plenty of entertaining asides from those days. He didn’t hesitate to tell about his ups and downs in the South before eventually landing back in the heart of Bangalore to claim his birthright in the family business.

Between key points in his life story, he would jump up and rush off to the kitchen, remembering this or that little extra (“lagniappe” for those of you from Louisiana) to add on to the meal. I was instantly enthralled by Prem’s captivating personality. I could hardly wait to find out what was in store for my palate.

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One at a time, four separate platters were set before us. My gracious host motioned for me to try the dish to my right. I was smiling suspiciously and asked him not to tell me what I was eating until I’d swallowed my bite. My brain’s connection to my gag reflex is minimal, but present nonetheless. I selected a medium sized morsel of some squiggly-shaped, deep burgundy meat and sent it down the hatch. I was delighted to find a smoky and salty bacon-like flavor. A bit firm and chewy in texture, the smoked pork tongue was instantly my favorite.

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Next up was a soft mass of bright yellow stained meat. I cut it in half and my fork slid through it like butter. Based on previous second hand knowledge, I guessed that I was about to eat brain. I put that thought aside as I chewed the soft, curry-spiced meat thoughtfully, assessing the flavor. The cook didn’t hesitate to use a liberal amount of pepper, causing my lips to tingle. The goat brain itself didn’t seem to have much flavor on its own, and the seasonings made up for it. I ate one more bite after confirming that I was indeed eating brains. My defiant ego wouldn’t let me get away with swallowing just one spicy piece, and I teared up as the heat flashed on my tongue.

Luckily I had a glass of whiskey to cool my burning mouth.

Platter number three contained chunks of fatty, salty pork. I’m not sure what part of the pig I was eating, but it was coated in some crumbly bits that added a nice rough texture to the fatty meat. The soft fat coated my tongue and left an agreeable porky aftertaste once my sampling was complete.

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I could easily see that the last dish was a pile of small fish, heads missing. They were covered in red seasoning which I guessed was paprika but I was probably way off base. Prem explained that the decapitated swimmers were mackerel. This prompted a story about my childhood of eating canned mackerel and searching out the bones to eat, like they were a prize in a cereal box. He agreed that the bones were always the best part. Unfortunately, for this dish, I didn’t eat the bones but neatly stripped the white flaky flesh away from the spine. The fish went down easy, skin and all. And by this time, I was getting full.

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But what happened when I stated my proportion of unused stomach space to my gracious host? I was told there was more food to come. Another round on the plate, this time a heaping pile of rice, curd, and sambar. The sambar was a mix of beets and potatoes cooked together with (holy moly) hot pepper spices and their own juices. This would have been one of my favorites since I (being of Irish descent) love all potatoes and their underground neighbors, the beets. Sadly, I’m just not Indian enough to handle the level of spice lurking in this innocuous-looking dish.

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Now properly stuffed to the gills, I sat back satisfied and looked to Prem, who was radiating pure pleasure from sharing something as special to him (and me) as food. To be right in the middle of a moment, not thinking of the past or the future, just enjoying good food and passionate company is something to revel in. I would have to say that dining with Prem at Koshi’s is on my list of unforgettable meals. I enjoyed the food, but I think my dinner companion made the evening even more meaningful.

Chatting after the plates were cleared, I was curious to know how often people order these meat dishes off the menu, seeing as India is predominantly a vegetarian culture. Prem explained that the selection of dishes that I was eating are not on the menu at all. These delicacies are reserved for himself and the staff after hours, his patrons would never get the chance to sample these secret gems. At this enlightenment, I felt thrilled and honored that I had been initiated into Koshy’s secret dining club. I think now we should look into getting some cool patches or invent a handshake or something.

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The one constant I’ve found about traveling is that it’s the people you meet who can make a place special or ruin it completely. I can honestly say that the people I’ve met in India have been the most welcoming and hospitable people that I could ever hope to know. Thanks, Prem, for being one of many!

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(Close-up of the goat brains)

2 Responses to “Brains, Tongue, and Good Company”

  1. Lam
    8 March 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Wow! You’re like a queen! I’m sure their hospitality was matched by your graciousness.

    But goat brains, NO WAY. đŸ™‚

  2. Jen
    8 March 2014 at 11:40 am #

    So amazing!