On the season three premiere of Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain travels to Punjab in Northern India near the border with Pakistan. When Bourdain told Eater in a previous interview that Punjab was a "shot rich environment" resulting in an "amazing looking" episode, he wasn't overselling. The season premiere on Punjab is a looker with bright colors, dynamic crowd scenes, and stunning landscapes.
Food-wise, the theme of the episode is Bourdain eating vegetarian cuisine and not complaining about it. "If this was what vegetarianism meant in most of the places that practice it in the West," he explains, "I'd be at least half as much less of a dick about the subject." Along with the food, Bourdain also delves into the Sikh religion, British colonial rule in India, and the post-colonial aftermath. He also rides a train into the Himalayas, rests on a former maharaja's bedroom, and takes a death-defying taxi ride up a mountain. And now, on to the Quotable Bourdain; feel free to add your picks in the comments below.
1. On where to find good food: "In Amritsar they have a saying: The best food isn't cooked in people's homes, you find it on the streets."
2. On the local cuisine: "Punjabis are known for their adventurous spirit, as brave warriors spread throughout the world bringing great food with them. Much of the good stuff we refer to simply as 'Indian food' comes from here."
3. On the nearby border with Pakistan: "It remains a potential flashpoint for conflict, but that's easy to forget when you first smell the food."
4. On eating at a dhaba, or side of the road food stall: "See Tony eat vegetables and like it."
5. More on vegetarian cuisine: "You eat around this part of the world, Punjab in particular, get used to eating a lot vegetarian. And India is one of the few places on Earth where, even for me, that's not a burden."
6. On the local cooking style: "In Punjab, meat or no meat, you're almost guaranteed a free for all of intense colors, flavors, and spices."
7. What Punjabi vegetarian food gets right: "Unlike some of the joyless vegetarian restaurants in my sad experience, vegetables here are actually spicy, all taste different, different textures, and served with extraordinarily good bread ... It's a whole different experience."
8. On what it takes to change his mind about vegetarian cooking "If this was what vegetarianism meant in most of the places that practice it in the West, I'd be at least half as much less of a dick about the subject."
9. On having a flashback: "I did high school wrestling so I could get out of gym class. I was a dirty, dirty fighter."
10. On a local specialty: "Want something good? Really, really good when in Amritsar? Something local, regional, iconically wonderful? You can't say you've had the Amritsar experience until you've had a little kulcha in your life ... a perfect little flavor bomb of wheat dough pressed against the side of a very hot clay oven, slathered with butter, and served with a spicy chole, a chickpea curry, on the side. Did I mention the butter?"
11. One of Bourdain's local dining companions on how important food is to the region: "Food is religion here."
12. On finding tandoori chicken: "I gotta score some animal protein. It's time. I've been going all Morrissey for like two days now and frankly that's enough. I need chicken."
13. On Indian television and movies: "Everybody dances and sings. I don't get it."
14. On being a hungry on the train to the Himalayas: "I'm guessing there ain't a Shoney's or a PF Chang's on the way."
15. On Colonel Barog, the British engineer charged with building the train line to the Shimla: "When he realized the two ends of this tunnel didn't meet in the middle, he shot himself. It's the kind of personal accountability I'd like to see more of frankly. Or is that just me?"
16. On the legacy of British buildings and traditions in Shimla: "One can be forgiven for maybe briefly forgetting what it took to build this lost kingdom and how much the world has changed around it."
17. On eating a vegetable and yogurt curry in the Himalayas: "Vegetables again? Surprisingly, not a problem ... This is one of the few places in the world where I could eat vegetarian every day and still be happy."