Food Fun in USA (Jul 2010)

The highlight of my visit to USA would be my food adventures. It started the very next I arrived in USA. One of my colleagues there in USA is a real food-lover, never tired of eating out and trying new foods. I have passion for food too but he is way ahead. Anyway, we decided to carry out a restaurant-yatra while I was there in Boston so we went to a different restaurant every day. This food spree included but not limited to Wendy’s (American fast food), Subway (Sandwiches), Cheese Cake Factory (American food), Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Chinese (twice, best Chinese ever outside china), Bangladeshi, Afghani (just in & out, it wasn’t Halal), Pizza (run by Greeks), Ice Cream factory, Mexican, and of course StarBucks coffee.

 

Cambodian Restaurant
Cambodian Restaurant

We started with a Cambodian restaurant Tepthida Khmer. It tasted a bit different but was nice. Service was really good. We started with a papaya salad followed by fish with coconut milk curry in banana leaf and a fried vegetables dish with rice.

 

 

 

  

  

  

  

 

Jasmine, Thai Restaurant
Jasmine, Thai Restaurant

Next was a Thai restaurant called Thai Jasmine. Here we experienced their dishes chilli with sprout & shrimps, and tofu vegetable curry with rice.

 

 

 

  

  

  

 

 

 

szechuan Chinese
szechuan Chinese

 

We visited a Chinese Sichuan restaurant next. This was the best Chinese food I have eaten outside china. We started with a kind of fried pancake stuffed with vegetables. Main course had two curry dishes, fish chilli and egg plant with vegetables accompanied by boiled with rice and Chinese tea. The chilli curry was real hot as it should be, Sichuan is famous for very hot food. It was not as hot though as I once tried in Shanghai (will tell you the story later in my China visit).

 

 

 

On Friday whole of our team went to lunch at Vietnamese restaurant. I limited myself to salad only, I didn’t wanted to have a heavy lunch & then doze at my desk.

 

 

Bangladeshi Cuisine
Bangladeshi Cuisine

On the weekend we went to a Bangladeshi restaurant in Cambridge. It was Halal, out of excitement we ordered a channa (chickpeas) chat as starter, a traditional fish dish, lamb biryani and chicken curry. It turned out to be worst Bangladeshi food I ever had, and it was the most expensive restaurant of my entire US visit. I would give it 0 out of 10. Disappointed, we went to Bangladeshi shop nearby to have Kulfi dessert to compensate but disappointment continued..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kabab Factory Indian
Kabab Factory Indian
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Indian restaurant called Kabab Factory. Our starter was spicy potato soup. Main course had vegetable (gobhi etc mixed) sabzi and Lamb chops (very expensive 4 chops for $22) but it was good. I got a bit carried away, indulged into gulab jaman dessert & masala chai (Indian tea) to complement a complete Indian evening. Verdict: OK

 

 

szechuan Chinese  Food
Szechuan Chinese Food

 

Disappointed, I insisted to go back to Chinese again! It was just so excellent. This Szechuan restaurant has quite a few Indian fans as food resembles to Indian (at least from chillies aspect). I tried egg soup as starter (just average). Main course was green beans with chillies, and fried fish with chilli & pepper. It was just so delicious, though hot – chilli chilli every dish.

   

My Attempt
My Attempt

By now my inner-chef had aroused. So I cooked one dish (rice, vegetable curry, salad and yogurt raita). You can’t taste but the picture speaks…

 

 

 

One day before leaving, our manager (American) & few others (from India) decided to try another Indian at lunch called Pongal (it is the name of a festival similar to vaisaakhi). Lunch was buffet with mix dishes. We went a bit late, we knew no one will be able to work afterwards. The restaurant was quite good, better than the Kabab Factory. Stuffed myself with delicious Indian food, I finished with mango ice cream – good shot.

 

 

 

South indian BanglorianThe story doesn’t end here. Next I went to Washington DC to visit my friend. New food adventures were waiting ahead as the party season was in full swing. I reached his house about 3pm. As soon as I freshened up (10 mins max) we left to his friend’s house for lunch. It was a full south Indian Hyderababadi buffet fetched from a local famous restaurant Swadis. I was spoiled with the choice of dishes. As you know Hyderababdi cuisine is quite hot & spicy. I did the happy ending with bread pudding, very very similar to my favourite Middle Eastern cutie “Ume-Ali” (name of the dish!).

 

Few hours later we were heading to a birthday dinner party. There were a variety of dishes, mainly Indian. My favourite was the chicken tikka masala and the birthday cake!

 

Next morning I was treated Bangalori breakfast (at home, my friend’s wife, our bhabi cooks great. I broke my own record of eating parathas on that day, a huge total of 5.5 in one single day! 2.5 at breakfast, 1 at lunch & 2 at dinner. Don’t jump, South Indian prartha is quite thin & small, just the size of a hand of a (small) lady.

 

For dinner, we were invited at a friend’s house. He is Banglorian, south Indian. I was especially treated to small parathas. Other dishes included dossa (similar to puri, I just had one, not included in paratha total). Round white things are called idli, these are made with rice, urd dall and methi seeds mixed & then steamed. It is eaten with different curries and chutneys. Talking about chutney, there was green raita, mint chutney, mango achaar (pickle), aaloo bhujia (similar to what we stuff in samosa). It was just so delicious!

 

Sadly I had to leave next morning, so the food party ended!

Read my Washington DC visit here: http://kashif-ali.com/2010/08/washington-dc-jul-2010/

Funny & Interesting USA Facts

Urban Street with Typical Houses
Urban Street with Typical Houses

Language, Currency & Advertising

Everybody speaks, as you would expect, in English but there are a lot of variations depending on the state and the person. Packaging has two languages though, English & Spanish. Americans speak loud and in very high pitch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Downtown
Boston Downtown

There are many channels on TV. What you watch is very US-centric, talking about US-internal affairs. It gest pretty boring if you are a non-American-happen-to-be-in America. Art of advertisement has advanced too well here, they know how to sell. You will see the real consumer of the product praising it rather than the company itself.

US currency is.. oh no, I won’t tell you – you should know it. Hint, it is called buck in slang. All paper notes are of same size. It is difficult to distinguish among different denominations; same is the case with coins. 5c (cents), 10c & 25c are called nickel, dime & quarter respectively.

Burger & coke is the most “American” American food & drink respectively. Pizza, burger and chips are the most favourite ones. Food portions are quite big here. I always struggled to finish a portion. Three sizes are available usually, kids, small & large. There are many small ice cream factories around locally. I intended to buy ice cream from one such factory & so approached the counter. The salesperson asked few questions before dispensing:

 

 

Q: Can I help you?

A: I want to buy some ice cream.

Q: Which flavour?

A: Vanilla

Q: Soft or Hard?

A: whichever you prefer (I wasn’t sure what he meant)

Q: Size

A: Small (I thought it would be appropriate)

Q: Cup or Cone

A: hmmm…. Cup

It was getting little scary by now, how many more question do I have to answer before setting my eyes on ice cream?

He takes cash & disappears inside (hopefully to fetch my ice cream). It turned out to be at least 4 scoops worth of ice cream, I was wondering how big the large portion would be!

 

Boston Downtown
Boston Downtown

Few Funny Facts about USA:

–        Americans drive on the wrong side of the road (as it appeared to me!)

–        Hotel names are numbers e.g. 99 Restaurant

–        Americans play a game with an oval shaped ball, probably the only game in the world played with non-round ball.

–        They call this game Football but it is played with hands.

–        The actual football as rest of the world know it, is called soccer

–        All countries have their own country dialling code, e.g. 92 for Pak, 44 for UK. But there is no code for US. Code 1 is used commonly by US, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean.

–        It is not possible to tell from a number whether it is a mobile or a landline. All numbers are tied to an area (or a state)

–        You have to pay for listening to an in-coming call also

–        Roads are long & long, you can find building number in 1000’s. We went to a restaurant and its building number was 2245.

–        Every country has an internet Domain, e.g. uk for UK, .pk for Pakistan. But USA (though it has .us but) doesn’t use any domain.

–        10 to 15% Tip is compulsory no matter how you were served. Service is excellent throughout though.

–        Prices are shown without tax. You get a shock on paying counter when $60 item suddenly turns into a $75 one.

–       Petrol is called Gas. And gas is called hmmm… Natural Gas.

Driving!

And my driving! I rented a car with GPS and started driving. It turned out to be easy; you just have to drive on the other side. What I found difficult was to remember which side is the driver side. Often, I would go the right side door (passenger side here), open the door and get shocked on seeing the steering missing, oh it is on the other side! Then I would go to the other side, sit down start the car and try to shift the gear with left hand, only to hit the door. Looking through back mirror also confuses, just try in your car then you will what I mean! But so far so good, I’m driving very well! I drove up to Cambridge, the town of two best universities in the world namely MIT and Harvard. It was summer holidays so there were only few students there.

Read first part of USA visit Here 

Read my Restaurant Yatra Here http://kashif-ali.com/2010/07/food-fun-in-usa-jul-2010/

Next I’m off to Washington DC next, the capital of USA, read my visit to Whitehouse here: http://kashif-ali.com/2010/08/washington-dc-jul-2010/

Our Garden (Summer 2010)

Welcome to Our Garden!

Months of efforts & tons of cash paid off.  All of us, that is my whole family including little Sarah, worked hard and reward is blossoming now. Don’t believe me? Just have look:

I start with this one, you know what it is and there are a lot of these. Sadly there is no smell in it. Most rose plants grown in UK are smell-free, nevertheless Rose is a Rose….

 rose

 

Sun Flower just grows & grows. It has same qualities as our politicians. Like, it always faces the rising sun, Kids love it when they see it turning to sun though! If not checked (controlled), it grows and grows eventually taking over other plants. So I had trim it a bit:

 sun flower

 

 I don’t know the name of this one but a flower is a flower…..

 flower 1

 

This is another interesting plant. We grew it in a big wooden pot. It flourished with unlimited number of flowers, though they face downward.

flower 2

 

This is my favourite plant, it is called Bleeding Heart. Photo explains it all, its flowers appear as a heart is broken and it is dripping! A true wonder by the greatest artist called God..

bleeding heart

 

Now we come to my Fruit & Vegetables patch. There are a lot of these packed in a small patch namely potatoes, tomatoes, lattice, carrots, coriander & mint. We have already started using mint, corriander and lettice, & waiting for others to ripe.

Garden

 

We are also enjoying fresh home grown juicy strawberries.

Straberry 1 

And there are many new ones growing everyday thanks to nice hot weather.

 strawberry 2

 

See More Here

We are having BBQ picnic using our own wood.  Come join before we munch up all the sausages!!!

bbq

Boston USA Jul 2010

I wanted to visit United States of America ever since but could not for one reason or the other, and now here I am in Boston USA. I was quite scared before leaving home as heard many stories of mistreatment en-route and on US airports. But to my surprise it turned out to be a pleasant experience. I was asked few extra questions at Heathrow before boarding, and this is it. Some passengers were subjected to extra searches (I guess at random) as most were white Americans & included young, old, men & women. The queues were long at immigration after landing at Logan Boston. However officers dealt with everyone quickly. Fingerprints & photos were taken of every non-US citizen but there was no extra questioning.

Boston Massachusetts
Boston Massachusetts

As I came out, I was approached by a Moroccan shared-van driver (there are shared-vans at airport that take you to destination at slightly cheaper price than taxis). I shared this van with two people from Saudi. Environment turned to be quite izlamik inside. They spoke to each other in Arabic. I asked the Moroccan driver how he feels living in US after Sept 11? He seemed satisfied, saying life goes on as usual for Muslims here. It gets disturbed when any incident occurs. Generally American people don’t bother with you but are a cautious now than before.

Weather is sweltering hot now days, temperature is 35c plus, just like April in Pakistan. It is difficult to walk in the sun. No wonder Americans are literally out of clothes, well almost!  

 

I’m staying in a small town Tewksbury, just outside Boston. USA is a huge country (2 & half times bigger than whole European Union). People are heavily reliant on cars for mobility (US is the largest carbon dioxide emitter from fuel). I wanted to use public transport but it is not possible because nearest train station is about 10 miles and taxi is expensive, so I have to rent a car! Driving is on the right side; let’s see how I perform, or how others view it, more precisely (will update you in next post). Public transport is not well developed here because there are too few people living too far apart. I wonder what happen when we run out of fuel?

Outside Hotel in Tewksbury
Outside Hotel in Tewksbury

I was watching TV & noticed that times are shown as 8/7c. I was baffled what it means. Then I realized that it meant 8 o’clock Eastern Time and 7 o’clock Central time. USA is divided into 4 time zones namely Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific, each one an hour later from previous.

 

 

USA broke off from Britain, its mother country in 1776. It had 13 states originally, more states were added later through war or acquisition. It is the 3rd biggest country area-wise (9.60 million Sq KM) & also population-wise (310 million). Interestingly US’s biggest neighbour Canada is of same size (10.00 million Sq KM) but has 10 times less population (33 million). US has 50 states now, 48 are connected, Hawaii consists of islands, and Alaska is situated 1000’s miles away near Russia (after crossing Canada). US is such a huge country that it has all type of terrain from hills to lands and lakes. Climate varies from state to state so does rules, traditions and behaviour.

 

Street in Poor Neighbourhood
Street in Poor Neighbourhood

Ethnic groups are as, white 80%, black 13%, Asian 5% (includes Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, etc), and natives 1%. Out of all these 15% are Hispanic origin (means persons of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin including those of Mexican, Cuban, etc). In terms of religion, Protestant are 51%, Roman Catholic 24%, Mormon 1.7%, Jews 1.7%, and Muslims 0.6%.

Culture, habits, living, regulations, religion are similar to or originated from British since their forefathers came from UK. Though whites, referred to as Caucasians come not only from England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland but also from Germany, France & Italy.

 

 

 

USA has borders with only two countries Canada (in north) & Mexico (in south). Two other borders are with North Atlantic Ocean (called East Coast) & North Pacific Ocean (called West Coast).

Suburban House
Suburban House

People are very friendly & open, much more than Europeans. They would greet you and chat with as you walk around. It is common to say “You are ya Duu-aan” (how are you doing) on meeting. Old English used to say “how do you do” on meeting if you remember. I guess it originated from there.

Suburban houses are huge with many rooms and garage. There is a big lawn all around the house.

 

 

 

You will find all types of restaurants here & I visited many of these (photos in separate blog). Service is very friendly & informal. Waiter will ask you at your table how you found the food and chat with you, it is almost non-existent in Europe. And why shouldn’t they? 15% tip is compulsory! Food portions are huge. Price is a bit cheaper compared to Europe.

 

Numbers are commonly used in the names of streets, roads, shops and restaurants, for example Yummy36, Motel6, 88Chinese Chowmien, Route 54, 7th St East.  It helps sometimes as you would know how far 7th St is if you are standing on 5th St.

Knight Rider
Knight Rider

I visisted a classic cars show where people had brought all sorts of fancy old cars. This guy was so much into Knigh Rider that he had trsnformed his car exctly like it.

Read Few Funny Facts about America Here

Next I’m going to White House, Capitol Hill. Read Washington visit Here

 

 

 

 

classic Car
Classic Car

GTP

 GTP (GPRS Tunneling Protocol)

–  It is an important tunneling protocol used in mobile packet switched networks.

–  GTP is a set of IP based protocols to connect & carry PS (Packet Switched) data across 3GPP networks.

–  GTP Header is based on UDP and is similar to TCP / UDP.

 GTP Versions:

  • There are three versions, v0, v1 & v2
  • v0 & v2 works with both UDP & TCP
  • v1 works with UDP only
  • v2 introduced at the end of 2008, it will be used for EPC/LTE. v2 can fallback to V1 but not to V0.
  • Echo Request & Response messages are common in all. Rest is all different.

  

GTP Sub Protocols:

 1- GTP-C: used for signaling transfer between Packet Switch nodes e.g. setting up PDP contexts, mobility messages, etc.

2- GTP-U: used to carry data between Packet Switch nodes, e.g. carrying data separately for each PDP context.

3- GTP’ (GTP Prime): used to carry charging data to CGF (charging gateway function).

  

GTP based Interfaces:

Gn, Gp, S3, S4, S5, S8, S10, S11, S16, S101, and S1-U. For S1-C, GTP is not used, instead RANAP is used.

The end…