Grand Palace & Temple Of The Emerald Buddha, Bangkok

The temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok was one of the reasons the husband and I finally undertook that long-pending trip to Thailand, this October. 9 long years ago, while we were honeymooning in Thailand, it was at this very temple that I made a vow – a vow to come back later, with any children that the future might bring into our lives.

Our secret connection with the Emerald Buddha

We were shy newlyweds then, on a tour to the temple not unlike many other Indian tourists. The Thais place immense faith in the Emerald Buddha, housed in the Grand Palace (the former residence of the country’s royal family), and strongly believe that no prayer goes unanswered here. When we visited, back then, the aura of sacredness came off the place in waves. When our tour guide mischievously suggested that the husband and I should pray to the Emerald Buddha for a cute baby girl, I went ahead and did just that. I prayed for the husband and I to lead happy, healthy lives together, vowed to Him that I would come back with our cute little one to see Him again. I kept my pact with Him this October, introducing Him to the cute and little (but also, super naughty and super frustrating) bub. The experience made me feel all light-hearted and warm inside. Touchwood.

People’s expressions range from ‘Whhhhhatttttt?’ to ‘Squeee! Just howwww romanticcccc is that!’ when they hear this story. I’ll leave you to decide on that. I’ll just say that, back then, the prayers came straight from the heart, and it felt like the most natural thing in the world to do. This post is a glimpse into the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha, through my eyes.

About the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha

The Grand Palace in Bangkok refers to the former residence of the royal family of Thailand, since 1782, which is when it was constructed by King Rama I. It is not a single structure, but rather a collection of a number of buildings, halls, lawns and open courtyards, and a temple. Considering that these buildings were slowly added on over the years, their styles of construction are quite different from each other. This asymetry is evident as soon as you enter the main gate of the Grand Palace, but the painstaking detailing and prettiness of each building will not fail to blow your mind away.

The various buildings that the Grand Palace houses, visible as soon as you enter. Can you notice the mixed architectural styles?

By the year 1925, the royal family had completely moved out of the Grand Palace. However, there are a few royal government offices that are still functional here. Parts of the palace grounds are open to visitors, who come in droves. Even as I write this, the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha within are among the most visited sites in Thailand by tourists.

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The entrance to one of the structures in the Grand Palace. Can you spot the crowds of tourists?
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Just how beautiful is this structure at the Grand Palace!

Wat Phra Kaew (more commonly known as the temple of the Emerald Buddha) is a chapel located within the palace grounds. Apparently, King Rama I had the temple constructed in 1782 to house the 60-foot tall statue of the Buddha that he had carved out of green jasper stone. This statue exists in the chapel till date, and is considered one of the most important Buddha idols in Thailand.

Our experience at the Grand Palace

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A pretty mural we came across in the Grand Palace. This was a part of an entire series of similar murals, all of which apparently depict the Thai version of the Ramayana.

It is a hot and humid October afternoon when we visited the Grand Palace for the second time. The taxi we hire drops us off at the designated spot for the same, from where we proceed walking towards the palace. Only to be stopped by a smiling local, dressed formally and wearing some sort of a tag around his neck – he goes on to tell us that the Grand Palace was closed till later in the day, that we should probably head out to some of the other surrounding tourist attractions and come back post that. The husband and I sense something fishy about this, and walk away saying we would check with the tourist information desk at the Grand Palace anyway. Only later do we come to know this is a popular scam around here – a way to make tourists part with some of their cash by making them go on unnecessary tuk-tuk rides and visiting spots they hadn’t planned for in the first place.

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A structure inside the Grand Palace. Just how pretty are those ‘ball’ trees?
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One of the many ‘bearers’ we spot at the Grand Palace, holding up the many pillars and blocks present here

The Grand Palace is very much open, as we suspected already. We buy our tickets and head inside, not opting for the services of a guide or an audio tour. Instead, we decide to rely on the maps freely available to tourists at the ticket counter, and tour the premises ourselves. Swarms of tourists walk in with us. Thankfully, the Grand Palace premises are huge (almost 2,20,000 sq mt., to be precise), and it does not feel stiflingly crowded inside.

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A demon guarding the temple of the Emerald Buddha within the Grand Palace compound. Check out the detailing on the idol! There were six huge ‘demons’ like these, every single one crowded with people who wanted selfies with them!
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Check this out! Beautiful detailing on one of the walls within the Grand Palace premises

The premises of the Grand Palace are extremely neat and well-maintained, just as I remember them from our visit all those years ago. The traditional golden-coloured Thai monuments glitter as they catch the rays of the sun, as does the fine detailing in crystal, glass and gold detailing that seems to be everywhere. Personnel from the Thai Army and Police are everywhere too, infusing order to the movements inside the palace compound. All over again, I am entranced by the place at the first glance.

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A beautiful, beautiful white-and-blue structure within the Grand Palace premises
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Statue of a Chinese guard spotted at the Grand Palace

I can understand why a visit to the Grand Palace proves to be quite overwhelming for some tourists. The droves of tourists, the hordes of uniformed guards, all those monuments, all those different architectural styles, all that detailing and bling, a highly sacred Buddha in the midst of it all – it can be too much to take in and process. The husband and I take it really easy, for this very reason. We have no agenda in mind; we are not there just to check the place off a long checklist. We have come prepared to stay for a few hours’ time, simply walking around and taking in the scenes and sights and sounds, one little piece at a time, taking breaks in between just to sit in silence. I can’t say we understand the entire layout of the Grand Palace or figure out the many stories associated with the place, but I can definitely say we thoroughly enjoy exploring it at our own pace. This way, our visit turns out enriching and oh, so rewarding.

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The surroundings of the Emerald Buddha temple. Again, the same mix of different architectural styles.
Outside the temple of the Emerald Buddha

Walking around, we reach Wat Phra Kraew or the temple of the Emerald Buddha, and get inside to pay our respects. The inside is cool and refreshing, a welcome respite from the heat that is beating down outside. Photography is not allowed inside the temple, so I have no pictures of the idol to show you. However, we are surely left breathless by all the ornate work in and around the temple.

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Some of the detailing on the walls outside the Emerald Buddha temple
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A mythological Thai creature that is half-woman, half-animal

We sprinkle some of the holy water from the temple over our heads, and gear up to walk around some more. By then, the sun was at its hottest best, and we are quite tired. We realise we should be heading out soon, and that is just what we do. On the way back, we capture a few more of the charming, painstakingly done sights that the Grand Palace has to offer.

A model of Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temple, in the Grand Palace premises. Cambodia used to be a vassal state to Thailand (erstwhile Siam) in those days, and legend has it that King Rama I had this constructed so he could show people this beautiful temple from the other country that was also under Thai rule.
Rows and rows of cannons spotted in the premises of the Grand Palace. I kind of shudder to think that these must have been in actual use at some point of time.

Tips for travellers

  1. Visiting the Grand Palace can be quite an overwhelming experience for some travellers. It helps to take this place easy and explore it at one’s own pace, like we did.
  2. You can hire the services of a guide at the Grand Palace, if you so wish. He/she will help you understand the history of the place better. However, make sure he/she speaks good English, and do fix a price for the tour beforehand to avoid heartache later.
  3. Beware of tourist scams in and around the Grand Palace. Be careful with your belongings.
  4. Dressing conservatively is a must at the Grand Palace. Shorts and dresses that expose knees and/or ankles are a strict no-no. If needed, you can rent a wraparound from a stall located near the ticket counter.
  5. Photography is allowed everywhere in the Grand Palace, the parts that are open to public I mean, except inside the temple of the Emerald Buddha. The chapel is highly sacred to the Thais, and it is advisable to follow the rules and maintain the sanctity of the place.
  6. Entry fees at the Grand Palace are 500 Thai Baht per head, for foreigners, which is actually pretty steep.
  7. The palace remains open between 8.30 AM and 3.30 PM daily, except on special holidays which are usually announced well in advance.
  8. The Grand Palace gets really, really crowded with tourists! If you would like to explore it quietly, you would do well to reach before it opens, before the maddening crowds descend upon it.
  9. Walking around the huge premises of the Grand Palace can be a tiring, draining affair, especially in the months of summer and monsoon. Ensure that you don’t carry much while you walk around, wear loose and breathable clothes, and have a bottle of water with you as you explore.
  10. Do read up a bit about the history of Thailand and the Grand Palace, as well as a bit about Thai culture and mythology, and I can bet you will have a fascinating experience here. No time to do that? Check out the place at leisure, and then do your reading after you get back home – like we did.
  11. There are several places that you can visit around the Grand Palace – the temple of the reclining Buddha aka Wat Pho, for instance, Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, and the famous Khao San Road. You may combine a visit to the Grand Palace with any of these places.
  12. You can use a cab, the BTS Skytrain or river taxi to get to the Grand Palace, or just walk down if you are staying nearby. We used a cab.

I hope you liked this post, and found it useful! Do tell me in your comments!

 

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Cocktail Idli Flowers| Beetroot, Carrot & Spinach Mini Idlis

The days are long, but the years are short.”

~ Gretchen Rubin

I think the above quote sums up parenthood (motherhood, in my case) just about perfectly. The countless sleepless nights, never-ending tantrums, spilled food, the tears that seem to come suddenly out of the blue, the endless reasoning and chastising – all of it did seem overwhelming and interminable when I went through it with the bub as a toddler. However, there were also innumerable sloppy kisses, toothless grins, tight hugs, endless cuddling up, reading, visits to the park, baby talk, playing peek-a-boo, dressing up, pretend cooking and what not. These were the good parts, which kind of balanced out the overwhelming bits.

Looking back, I wonder at just how quickly time has passed – the bub is 4 already! I remember a lot of the moments, the memories, we created together, a few of the not-so-good times too. But, really, I wonder, should I have just hugged her, cuddled her, coddled her, a little more, focused a little less on the imperfections? How long will it be before the bub is no longer a small girl, and will no longer want to be held or hugged? 😦

Toddlerhood – the time when a child is between 1 and 3 years of age – is a precious phase. This is the time when kids are at their most notorious, driving their parents up the wall every so often – yet, this is when they are at their most vulnerable and adorable best. This is also when the time when they are exploring the world around them, food included. They are slowly learning to navigate the world, understand what they like and what they don’t and, as parents, it is our duty to help them do just that. In terms of food, toddlers should be exposed to a variety of finger foods – stuff they can easily hold in their little hands and eat on their own. This has a number of benefits, from improvement in gross and fine motor co-ordination and sensory integration to improved bonding with the parents and a deeper sense of ‘home’.

This week, the theme at Foodie Monday Blog Hop is just that – #ToddlerFingerFoods, as suggested by Poonam from Annapurna. For this theme, which is super close to my heart, I decided to prepare pretty Cocktail Idli Flowers, naturally coloured mini idlis arranged into flowers. I have added pureed beetroot, carrot and spinach to home-made batter, to create three different colours of idlis. This has always been a favourite with the bub and when I made it again for her last week, she happily gorged on them all over again.

Cocktail Idli Flowers or Beetroot, Carrot & Spinach Mini Idlis

Let’s now see how to go about making these coloured mini idlis, shall we?

Ingredients (makes about 70 mini idlis of each colour):

  1. 3 cups idli batter, separated
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 10-12 large spinach (palak) leaves
  4. 1 medium-sized carrot
  5. 2 pinches of turmeric powder
  6. 1/4 of a medium-sized beetroot
  7. Fresh coriander, as needed
  8. Capsicum, cut into sticks, as needed
  9. Oil or ghee, as needed to grease idli plates

Method:

1. Take 1 cup of idli batter in three separate mixing bowls. Keep it tick, without adding any water to it.

2. Wash the spinach leaves thoroughly under running water. Ensure no mud or dirt remains on them.

3. Bring about 1 cup of water to a boil, and add in the spinach leaves. Blanch the spinach – let the leaves stay in the boiling water, on high flame, for 1 minute. Switch off gas, and transfer to a colander. Let all the water from the spinach drain away. Allow to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, peel the carrot and beetroot. Cut them into large-ish pieces, separately.

5. Pressure cook the carrot and beetroot separately, with a little water, for 3 whistles. Use very little water. Allow the pressure to release naturally.

6. When the blanched spinach has completely cooled down, chop it finely. Grind it in a small mixer, with a little water. Add the spinach puree to the idli batter in one of the mixing bowls. Add salt to taste. Mix well. Keep aside.

7. Drain out the water from the cooked beetroot. Chop finely. Grind to a puree in a mixer, using very little water. Mix the beetroot puree to the idli batter in the second ball, along with salt to taste. Mix well. Keep aside.

8. Similarly, drain out the water from the cooked carrot. Chop it finely, and grind to a puree using a little water. Add the carrot puree to the idli batter in the third mixing bowl. Add salt to taste and turmeric powder. Mix well. Keep aside.

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When idli batter looks so pretty!

9. Grease mini idli plates with oil or ghee and keep ready.

10. Spoon a little idli batter into each cavity of the greased plate, one colour at a time. Steam for 12 minutes. Allow to cool down a bit and then remove the cooked idlis.

11. Arrange the idlis in the shape of flowers on a serving plate, warm or at room temperature. Decorate them with sticks of capsicum and fresh coriander. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Don’t add any water to the idli batter. Keep it thick, since you will be adding pureed vegetables to it later.

2. You may add a little ginger and green chilly paste to the batter too. I haven’t.

3. While chopping the cooked veggies and pureeing them, make sure the colours don’t mix. Do the chopping and grinding one vegetable at a time, washing the knife and mixer thoroughly in between uses.

4. Since we are grinding very small quantities of veggies here, use the smallest jar of the mixer.

5. Add very little water while grinding the cooked veggies, otherwise the batter will become runny and the idlis will not turn out well.

6. You can serve these mini idlis with sambar, chutney or podi of your choice, but they don’t really need any accompaniment.

7. I have used a gas-based mini idli cooker to steam these colourful idlis. It is a time-consuming and laborious affair, indeed, to make them, but the end result is totally worth it. You may use ordinary idli plates with big cavities to steam the idlis instead, too.

8. Don’t steam the idlis for any more than 12 minutes. First, let the water in the idli cooker base come to a boil, then place the plates with the idlis on, and cook for exactly 12 minutes. More than this, and the idlis stand a chance of becoming hard.

9. You may add a couple of pinches of baking soda or Eno Fruit Salt (plain) to the batter, just before steaming. I haven’t.

10. Allow the steamed idlis to cool down slightly before removing them. Otherwise, they’ll be too sticky and might lose their shape.

11. 70 idlis of each colour might seem like a very large number, but I’m talking about very small, ‘baby’ idlis here. An adult can easily have 20 of these at a go, at the very least.

12. Any leftover mini idlis can be made into a stir-fry or upma the next day.

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This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is #ToddlerFingerFoods.

I’m also sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #253. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons and Mila @ Milkandbun.

Bread Rolls| Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets

Eid is just around the corner! Here’s wishing good times to all those who are celebrating! 🙂

Today, I present to you a recipe for Bread Rolls or Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets that you can make for Iftaar, the routine breaking of the fast during Ramzaan. You can also make these on the occasion of Eid, a hearty and nutritious vegetarian snack.

I have extremely fond memories associated with Bread Rolls aka Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets. In the almost 36 hours it took to travel by train from Ahmedabad to Madras, while I was growing up, Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets would make for my morning breakfast. I remember them tasting awesome (I’m not sure if I would still say the same about them!), and being all excited about having them because they were such a novelty for me – we never made them at home ourselves.

I also remember my school friends bringing home-made Bread Rolls in their snack boxes, and offering me a taste. I would adore them, and we would end up exchanging our boxes – they would happily gobble up my idlis while I munched on their Bread Rolls.

The bub was introduced to Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets at school, and she happened to adore them. Like mom, like daughter, eh? When she came home from school grinning like a Cheshire cat a couple of days – because the snack was her favourite Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets – I absolutely had to learn how to make them at home. I spoke to the parents who had sent them, understood how they had made them, and began making them with a few customisations. Now, they are a regular snack at our place, and a much-loved one, too!

I make these Bread Rolls with tonnes of vegetables and whole wheat bread, and use home-made garam masala to spice them. I use a dosa pan to shallow-fry them, with minimal oil, as opposed to deep-frying. They turn out absolutely delicious in taste, perfectly crisp from the outside, soft from the inside, just the way we like them to be.

At a lot of places, I find Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets containing either too much of potatoes or too much of bread. The recipe I am going to tell you about today will help you avoid both these situations. These measurements will give you the perfect cutlets – perfectly balanced ones, with no one ingredient overpowering the others. Do try it out!

Here’s how to make the Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets.

Ingredients (makes 18-20 cutlets):

  1. 4 medium-sized potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
  2. 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  3. 1/3 cup shelled green peas
  4. 1/3 cup grated carrot
  5. 1/3 cup finely chopped cabbage
  6. 1/3 cup finely chopped beans
  7. 1/3 cup finely chopped capsicum
  8. 1/3 cup finely chopped cauliflower
  9. Salt, to taste
  10. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  11. 2 generous pinches of asafoetida
  12. 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
  13. Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
  14. 4 tablespoons bread crumbs + more as needed to coat the cutlets
  15. 3-4 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
  16. 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds
  17. 8 slices of bread
  18. 4 green chillies, finely chopped
  19. A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  20. 1 tablespoon oil + more as needed for shallow-frying

Method:

  1. Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. Add in the chopped onion, carrot, cabbage, beans, capsicum and cauliflower, as well as the shelled green peas. Salt lightly. Cook on medium flame till the vegetables are half done – they should be cooked, but retain their crunch. Switch off the gas, and allow the cooked vegetables to cool down entirely.
  2. Grind the ginger and green chillies to a paste in a mixer, using very little water. Transfer the paste to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the peeled and mashed boiled potatoes to the mixing bowl.
  4. Soak each of the bread slices in water for just a second, then squeeze in between your hands and drain out all the water. Add the drained bread slices to the mixing bowl.
  5. To the mixing bowl, add the 4 tablespoons of bread crumbs, lemon juice, asafoetida, salt to taste, garam masala, turmeric powder, chopped coriander and slivered almonds.
  6. Once the cooked vegetables (the carrot, capsicum, beans, peas, cabbage, cauliflower) have completely cooled down, add them to the mixing bowl too.
  7. Mix all the ingredients in the mixing bowl together thoroughly. Shape patties out of this mixture. Keep aside.
  8. Heat a heavy dosa pan on high flame. When it is nice and hot, turn down the flame to medium.
  9. Spread out some bread crumbs on a large plate. Dip two of the patties in the breadcrumbs, evenly coating them, and place them on the hot dosa pan. Spread some oil around the patties, and cook on medium flame till the bottom gets brown and crisp, ensuring that they do not get burnt. Then, flip the patties over, add a little more oil around them, and cook till crisp and brown on the other side. Transfer to a serving plate.
  10. Prepare all the cutlets in a similar manner. Serve hot with hot green chutney, kasundi, tomato ketchup or sauce of your choice.

Notes:

1. Cooking the Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets on a dosa pan ensures that minimal oil is consumed, as against shallow frying in a deeper pan.

2. To make bread crumbs, just tear a few pieces of bread roughly and grind in a mixer. Alternatively, you can use store-bought bread crumbs, too.

3. You can use either whole wheat bread or white bread to make these Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets.

4. Chana masala can be used in place of garam masala, too.

5. Increase or decrease the number of green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets to be.

6. You can add any vegetables of your choice to these cutlets, but the ones I have mentioned above are the usual suspects. These are the veggies that go really well in the making of Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets.

7. Make sure you soak the bread slices for just a second and then immediately drain out all the water from them, before proceeding to add them to the cutlet mixture. Over-soaking of the bread slices or retaining too much water in them will cause the cutlets to get soggy.

8. The above quantities of bread, bread crumbs and vegetables are perfect to get cutlets that are just right – neither too much of veggies nor too much of bread.

9. I prefer cooking these Bread & Mixed Vegetable Cutlets on a dosa pan, but you could deep-fry them too. If you want to deep-fry them, dip the prepared patties in a thin paste of maida or wheat flour and water, then coat evenly with bread crumbs, then proceed to put them in smoking hot oil. Deep fry on medium flame till evenly brown on both sides, ensuring the cutlets don’t get burnt.

10. Crumbled paneer or cheese can be added to the cutlets too. Alternatively, you can garnish the cutlets with grated cheese, just before serving them.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Eid-Special Recipes’.

I’m also sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #227. The co-hosts this week are Lizet @ Chipa by the dozen and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

 

Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles

The Montessori school my daughter goes to follows a lovely system for snack time. One set of parents send snacks for all the 12-odd children in their child’s class, every day. The snacks are supposed to be home-made and healthy. There’s a rotation system in place, ensuring every parent gets a turn once a month. I love how this system exposes kids to tastes beyond those of their homes, how this brings about a learning of what foods each kid favours. Yes, there are a few pitfalls to this system too, but I think the advantages far outweigh them. Why am I talking about this? Because the recipe I’m going to share today – Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles – came about because of this snack system.

The bub returned all happy from school one day, having discovered a new-found love for vegetable noodles. This surprised me, because she had been used to only South Indian snacks – idlis, dosas, pongal and the like – before then. This instance made me pour more thought into what I cooked for her, to get my creative juices flowing, to experiment wildly, to come up with healthy yet satisfying and delicious meals for her. To me, ‘noodles’ had always meant a sauce- and oil- and calorie-laden dish, but this instance had me thinking up ways to make them healthy, yet finger-lickingly good. A few trials and errors later, these fusion Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles were born, something that is now a regular at our table and is much loved.

I make this dish using wheat noodles, with no sauces or any other bottled products. Just a hint of home-made garam masala and freshly ground black pepper add oomph to the noodles, as does the bit of raw cane sugar I put in. Further, I fortify the noodles with loads of veggies. Lots of yum, the simple, healthy and desi way!

Here’s how I make these Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  1. 150 grams hakka noodles
  2. A small piece of cabbage
  3. 1 small carrot
  4. 1/2 of a medium-sized capsicum
  5. About 3 large florets of cauliflower
  6. 5-6 beans
  7. 1 small onion
  8. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  9. Salt, to taste
  10. 1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon oil
  11. 2 generous pinches of black pepper powder
  12. 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
  13. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Method:

  1. Fill a pan about 3/4 with water, place it on high heat and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil. Break the noodles and add them to the boiling water. Let the noodles cook on medium flame till they are soft, but not overly mushy (al dente).
  2. At this stage, switch off the gas and transfer all the noodles to a colander placed in the kitchen sink. Immediately run cold water over the noodles, to stop the cooking process. Let the noodles rest, and let all the water drain away.
  3. Meanwhile, we will prepare the veggies that we need to make the noodles. Peel the carrot and remove strings from the beans. Chop the onions, capsicum and cabbage length-wise. Chop the coriander, carrot and beans finely. Chop the cauliflower florets into medium-sized pieces. Keep the veggies aside.
  4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. Add in the chopped onion, capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot and beans. Add a bit of salt and a pinch of black pepper powder. Cook on medium flame till the veggies are cooked, but still retain a bit of a crunch. Stir constantly, to ensure that the veggies do not get burnt.
  5. Now, add the cooked and drained noodles to the veggies in the pan. Add some more salt, one more pinch of black pepper powder, the garam masala and the raw cane sugar. Mix thoroughly, but gently. Let everything cook together for a couple of minutes. Switch off gas.
  6. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Serve piping hot, on its own or with a bit of tomato ketchup drizzled on top.

Notes:

1. I used 1 packet of Ching’s hakka noodles, which is equal to 150 grams. They are, apparently, made of wheat as opposed to the regular maida-based noodles.

2. Since I was cooking this for the bub, I have avoided using any kind of sauce. You may add green/red chilli sauce, tomato ketchup and/or soya sauce, if you want to. You might want to skip the sugar in that case, since the tomato ketchup has added sugar too.

3. I have used garam masala and coriander here, for an Indian touch, and we absolutely love it. If you are using sauces, you can skip these two ingredients.

4. These vegetable noodles taste great if the salt is just a tad on the higher side. However, be careful while adding the salt, so as not to make the noodles overly salty.

5. Adjust the quantity of pepper powder you use, to suit personal taste preferences.

6. You can use any veggies that you have on hand, to make these vegetable noodles. I have skipped adding ginger-garlic paste here, but you could add it in as well.

7. Make sure the noodles are cooked al dente, before adding them to the veggies. Remember that the noodles will cook some more with the veggies. Overcooking the noodles will lead to a mushy end result, which might not taste great.

You like? I hope you will try out this recipe, and that you will love it too! Do let me know your thoughts, in the comments.

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I’m sending this to Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

Stuffed Vadu Maangaai| Stuffed Baby Mango Pickle

In most South Indian homes, baby mangoes find their way into vadu maangaai, a simple pickle that tastes absolutely delicious. I love vadu maangaai, but I simply adore the stuffed version of the same that I have grown up eating. An elderly cook in one of our relatives’ home specialised in making this stuffed baby mango pickle, and it was at their place that I first tried it out, as a teenager. I went ga-ga over it, so much so that my mother requested the cook for the recipe, which she shared happily. Since then, this Stuffed Vadu Maangaai has been an integral part of our family as well.

This summer, as soon as I got my hands on the first baby mangoes of the season, I got out that age-old recipe and made stuffed pickle, just like the olden days. It was a new experience for the bub, and she watched in awe as her mother and grandmother cut slits into the little mangoes, and filled them with a home-made spice mix. Oh, if only I could teleport the beautiful, beautiful fragrance of that spice mix to you! My house smelled like heaven on pickle-making day! 🙂

Well, the stuffed vadu maangaai is all ready now, filled up in a glass bottle. It has turned out exquisitely delicious, if I may say so myself. The eating of a simple bowl of curd rice on a hot summer’s night has become even more of a pleasure than it always was, thanks to this lovely pickle.

Today, I am going to tell you how to make these stuffed baby mangoes.

First up, get the spice mix ready. Here’s how you go about doing that.

Ingredients for the spice mix (makes about 1-1/2 cup):

  1. 3/4 cup salt
  2. 1 tablespoon asafoetida
  3. 3/4 cup red chilli powder
  4. 1/2 cup mustard seeds
  5. 1/2 cup fenugreek seeds
  6. 1/4 cup turmeric powder
  7. 1/4 cup gingelly oil

Method for making the spice mix:

  1. Put all the ingredients into a mixer jar and grind to a fine powder.
  2. Heat the gingelly oil in a pan till it begins to smoke. Pour it over the prepared spice mix. Keep aside till the spice mix is cool enough to handle.
  3. Now, mix it well using a dry spoon. Transfer the spice mix to a clean, dry, air-tight container, for future use.

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Now, we will proceed to make the stuffed vadu maangaai or stuffed baby mango pickle.

Ingredients for making the stuffed baby mango pickle (makes about 1 mason jar):

  1. 6 heaped cups baby mangoes
  2. 1/4 cup gingelly oil
  3. Spice mix, as prepared above, as needed

Method to make the stuffed baby mango pickle:

  1. Wash the baby mangoes thoroughly under running water, to remove any traces of grime or dust. Then, place them in a colander for a few minutes and let all the water drain out.
  2. Gently pat the washed and drained baby mangoes dry with a clean piece of cotton cloth. Then, spread them out to dry on a cotton cloth, preferably in the sun, for at least an hour. Now, they are ready to use and pickle.
  3. From the stem down, make two long slits in the baby mangoes (in the sign of a +). Slit them about 3/4 of the way through, keeping them intact at the base. Do not remove the seed.
  4. When all the baby mangoes have been slit this way, stuff as much of the spice mix as you can into each one. Place the stuffed baby mangoes in a clean, dry, air-tight stainless steel container or a large vessel. Add 2-3 extra tablespoons of the spice mix over the stuffed mangoes, for good measure.
  5. Leave the stuffed baby mangoes undisturbed for a day, at room temperature. Post this, heat the 1/4 cup of gingelly oil till it smokes, and pour the hot oil over the stuffed mangoes. Keep aside untouched for one more day, at room temperature.
  6. Then, every day post this, stir the mangoes gently using a clean, dry spoon. The idea behind doing this is to ensure that all the baby mangoes are evenly coated with the spice mix and that they all soak equally. By the end of two days or so, you will find that the mangoes have become softer and that they have shrunk. Continue doing this gentle mixing for 5-6 days, by which time the mangoes would have shrunk even more. Now, you can bottle the pickle and even refrigerate it. It is ready to use, but with more time, the pickle gets even more softer and all the more delicious.

Notes:

  1. Use good-quality gingelly oil to make the spice mix and the pickle, for best results.
  2. You can even roast the mustard seeds and fenugreek before you grind the spice mix, but it is not compulsory to do so. Even without the roasting, the spice mix tastes absolutely delicious and the fragrance is out of the world.
  3. Increase or decrease the quantity of ingredients you use in making the spice mix, as per personal taste preferences.
  4. Any spice mix left over after making the pickle can be stored in a clean, dry, air-tight bottle for later use in other pickles. It keeps well for about a month.
  5. Don’t miss out on gently mixing up the pickle from the second day onward. This is an important step, which will greatly enhance the taste of the pickle.
  6. The pickle should not refrigerated while it is soaking, i.e. for about a week. After this time, you may refrigerate it. You can even store it at room temperature – that is totally up to you. This stuffed baby mango pickle keeps well for about a month at room temperature. Refrigeration would increase its shelf life further.

You like? I hope you will try out this recipe too, and that you will love it as much as we do!

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday 222, where the cohost this week is Antonia @ Zoale.com.

Pussycat Dosa| Food Art For Kids

You eat first with your eyes,’ some wise person once said, and just how true is that! Well-presented food has a huge impact on building one’s appetite, making one want to eat the said food.

Food art, or the artistic presentation of food, is more than just building appetite in the diner. It is a way of creating drama on a plate, of letting imagination run wild, of creating masterpieces on a blank plate. It is a way of having fun as a cook, and making sure the diner has some too.

I think it is very important, though, to make sure the food that is presented very beautifully tastes equally good as well. It is all too easy to get caught up in the task of always presenting beautiful platters, so caught up that it doesn’t matter how tasty or healthy the food is. All show and no substance – that is just not the way to go, in my humble opinion. There are too many high-end restaurants losing track of the balance between healthy, tasty and beautiful, these days, a sad state of affairs.

Why am I talking so much about food art today? Well, because ‘Food Art’ is the theme for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop this week. I am no high-flying artist, food or otherwise, but I did try out a very simple Pussycat Dosa for the theme and absolutely loved the experience! The bub loved the dosa and could recognise the pussycat figure (though I think it looks a little like a monster, in hindsight), so I’m happy. And I think this little experiment in food art has put me on a new track – now, I so want to continue doing this, building beautiful plates with the simple food that I cook at home, to bring some drama into our kitchen! Wait and watch! 🙂

So, here’s the sort of Pussycat Dosa that I made for the theme.

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Let me tell you how I went about making this plate, now.

Ingredients (for one pussy cat dosa):

  1. Dosa batter, as required
  2. About 2 tablespoons of cooked kidney beans aka rajma
  3. A few pieces of pineapple
  4. A couple of pieces of capsicum
  5. 2 kernels of sweet corn
  6. A small piece of carrot
  7. Salt, to taste
  8. Red chilli powder, to taste
  9. A dash of roasted cumin (jeera) powder
  10. About 1/2 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon oil

Method:

  1. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a pan. Add in the cooked kidney beans, the corn kernels, and the carrot and capsicum pieces. Add in salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder to taste. Saute on medium flame till the carrot, corn and capsicum turn slightly tender, just a couple of minutes. Make sure the kidney beans are all evenly coated with the salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder. Switch off gas and keep aside.
  2. Heat a dosa pan until droplets of water dance on it. Then, lower the flame to medium. Make a medium-sized circle in the centre of the pan, then make a smaller circle exactly above it – the pussy cat’s belly and head, respectively. Make ears and a tail for the pussy cat out of the batter. Spread 1/2 teaspoon oil around the dosa. Cook on medium flame till the dosa browns at the bottom, then flip over and cook on the other side till done. Transfer the pussy cat dosa to a colourful serving plate.
  3. Shape the pussy cat’s eyes out of the sauteed corn kernels.
  4. Pinch the cooked carrot piece to make a smiling mouth out of it, and place it below the eyes.
  5. Place the cooked kidney beans below the pussy cat dosa.
  6. Fashion a small flower out of the pieces of capsicum and pineapple, adjacent to the pussy cat.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. I have used home-made dosa batter to make this dish. You can use multi-grain batter, adai batter or multi-millet batter as well.
  2. I have used whatever ingredients I had, handy, to create this dish. You can let your imagination run loose and use the ingredients you have lying around in your pantry, too!

Do let me know how you liked this Pussycat Dosa, and if you’d like to see more such food art for kids on my blog. I’m no expert, I’ll repeat, but, hey, I promise to try my best!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Food Art’.

Ahmedabad, after ages

So, so, so, that long-pending trip to Ahmedabad finally happened! On New Year’s day, the husband got confirmation for a work trip to Ahmedabad, and he asked if the bub and I would accompany us. We did just that, flight tickets were booked, and we were off the very next day – as simple as that. After 6 long years, I finally visited the place where I grew up, and it happened Just.Like.That!

Did I find traces of the city I loved so much or has it changed drastically?

Read on, to find out!

Bhoger Khichuri| Bhaja Muger Daal Khichuri| One-Pot Bengali Khichdi

Last year, around this time, I was in Calcutta, in the thick of Kali Pujo. It was there that I fell in love with the beautiful Bhoger Khichuri, the Bengali khichdi that is offered as prasad to Kali Maa. The bub fell in love with the sweetish khichdi, too. When I returned back home to Bangalore, I began craving for the khichdi all over again, and learnt how to make it too. Today, it is a much-loved dish on our table, especially on winter evenings like this one.

Since this khichuri is commonly prepared as bhog, it is usually strictly vegetarian (niramish), with even onion and garlic being excluded. The moong daal is dry roasted till it emits a gorgeous fragrance, which is what gives this dish the name of Bhaja Muger Daal Khichuri (fried moong daal khichdi). Vegetables that we commonly use in pulao – carrots, green peas, potatoes and cauliflower commonly – go into the making of this Bhoger Khichuri, which has a sweetish tinge to it.

I love how this Bhaja Muger Daal Khichuri is so very simple to prepare, a one-pot dish that takes just a few minutes to put together. I love how it is so hearty, so very satisfying, so very rich, thanks to the addition of the ghee and various spices in the garnish. I love how life enabled me to permanently bring home a slice of Calcutta with me.

Now, let’s see how to make Bhoger Khichuri aka Bhaja Muger Daal Khichuri, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 4):

Ingredients needed for tempering:

  1. 1 tablespoon ghee
  2. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  3. 2 dry red chillies
  4. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon (dalchini), broken into two
  5. 4-5 cardamom (elaichi)
  6. 2 small bay leaves
  7. 4-5 cloves (laung)
  8. A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

Veggies needed:

  1. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  2. 2 medium-sized potatoes
  3. 1 medium-sized carrot
  4. A handful of shelled green peas
  5. 4-5 large florets cauliflower
  6. 6-7 green beans or 1/2 of a medium-sized capsicum
  7. 2 green chillies
  8. A 1-inch piece of ginger

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1/4 cup split yellow moong daal
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. Red chilli powder, to taste
  5. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste

Method:

  1. Dry roast the moong daal in a pan, on medium flame, till it emits a lovely fragrance. Transfer to a plate and keep aside.
  2. Now, prep the veggies that you will need to make the khichuri. Peel the carrot and potatoes and chop them into cubes. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Chop the coriander finely. Chop the large cauliflower florets into half. Remove strings from the beans (if using) and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop the capiscum into 1/2-inch pieces (if using). Peel the ginger and chop into small pieces, then pound them with a mortar and pestle. Keep the shelled green peas handy.
  3. Wash the rice in running water a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water, and place aside.
  4. Heat the ghee and oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add in the dried red chillies, bay leaves, cinnamon pieces, cloves and cardamom, along with the asafoetida. Let the ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds, taking care to ensure that they do not burn.
  5. Now, add in the carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, green peas, capsicum and/or beans, along with the slit green chillies and pounded ginger. Saute on medium flame for a minute.
  6. Add the dry roasted moong daal and washed and drained rice. Saute on medium flame for a minute.
  7. Add in 6 cups of water, salt and red chilli powder (if using) to taste, turmeric powder and sugar. Mix well.
  8. Mix in the finely chopped coriander leaves.
  9. Close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles.
  10. Let the pressure release naturally, and serve the khichuri hot.

Notes:

1. Traditionally, Gobindobhog rice is used to make the Bengali bhoger khichuri. I didn’t have any, so I used Sona Masoori rice instead.

2. Carrot, potatoes, green peas and cauliflower are commonly used in this khichdi. Potatoes are an absolute must in Bengali khichuri. I usually add in some capsicum and/or beans as well.

3. I use a mix of ghee and oil for the tempering. Feel free to use only ghee, and vary the quantity depending upon your family’s taste preferences.

4. Omit the sugar if you want to, but I personally wouldn’t advise it. I think the sugar adds a beautiful flavour to this khichuri.

5. Bengali bhoger khichuri is traditionally made without onion or garlic, and I tend to omit these ingredients too. Feel free to add them if you want to.

6. Traditionally, almost equal quantities of moong daal and rice are used to make this khichuri, but I have used only 1/4 cup moong daal for 1 cup of rice.

7. Skip the red chilli powder if you think the heat from the green chillies and ginger would be sufficient for you.

8. If you want, you could soak the rice for about 20 minutes before setting about making the khichuri. I usually omit this step.

9. Whenever I can lay my hands on it, I use Jharna ghee from Calcutta to prepare this bhoger khichuri. That gives the dish an even more beautiful taste.

9. Traditionally, it is a must to dry roast the moong daal before making the khichuri. However, I often make the khichuri without roasting the moong daal, and it still turns out fabulous.

10. You can cook the khichuri with the veggies separately, and then add the tempering at the end.

You like? I hope you will try out this khichuri too, and that you will love it just as much as we do!

Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us Comes To Bangalore!

Renowned international toy brand Toys’R’Us made an entry into India last Saturday. The brand launched its very first outlet in India in Bangalore, at the Phoenix Marketcity mall in Whitefield. I was thrilled to be invited to the launch with the husband and the bub – a grand affair, with a number of fun activities for kids and adults alike arranged all day long.

The Bangalore outlet has two sections – Toys’R’Us, which stocks an unimaginable array of toys meant for children up to 11 years of age, and Babies’R’Us, which offers everything related to infants, from clothes and diapers and formula to breast pumps, potty seats, high chairs and princess beds.

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The entrance to Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us at VR Bengaluru, beautifully decked up for the launch

The store is huge, huge, huge and the three of us had a gala time walking through the aisles. We admired this and that, reminisced over the times when the bub was a little babe we could carry in the palms of our hands, had a fun time watching the magician’s performance, wishlisted a number of toys for the bub (and me, of course!), and even bought an early birthday present for the kiddo.

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Some of the stuff I loved at the store – a doll with a darkish skin tone; a doll that eats, drinks, poops and pees (yes!); the huge range of moisturisers for babies and moms alike; cutesy bows and hairbands on sale; a mermaid doll; and a pink princess bed that was straight out of a fairytale

There are a whole lot of toys available to the kids of today, I realise, a lot more opportunities to create memories and happy moments, for better or worse. Yes, there are a lot of toys and appliances that aren’t really necessary for the healthy upbringing of a child, and neither do they really help the child in any way. That said, there are a whole lot of toys out there that not only help keep a child engaged, but also help in developing creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and decision making, aid eye-hand co-ordination, and help in the development of motor skills. As a parent or a loved one, I think it is you who need to choose wisely, select the right kind of toys for a child. A walk through stores like Toys’R’Us act as an eye-opener to all that is available to a child today, allowing you to make an informed decision.

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More stuff off the shelves of the store – baby hand-print kits; travel pillows; feeding bottles by Dr, Brown’s (a brand that isn’t easy to come across in India); and cute, cute, cute clothes

I love how the store has a huge array of products for infants, toddlers and children, at different price points, from both Indian and international vendors. There’s something here for everyone, I am sure. You just need to take your time checking out different things and choosing what works for you.

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Some more stuff that caught my eye at the store – a Freddie the Firefly high chair toy; Superbottoms cloth diapers; a little piano; and a baby-proofing kit

Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us plans to open more stores in India in the near future, at Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai.

If you are in Bangalore, you must surely visit this pretty store!

This post is in collaboration with Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us. The views expressed herein are entirely mine, not influenced by anything or anyone, and completely honest.