Classic Falafel Recipe| Easy Home-Made Falafel

The husband often visits the Middle East and surrounding regions on work. Much as he loves his rasam, rice and potato roast, he has been brought out of his comfort zone on such work trips. 🙂 Over time, life (and I!) has taught him to explore the local cuisine of wherever he is travelling. He has now gotten acquainted with falafel and kebobs, dolma and pita sandwiches, hummus and baba ganouj, various dips and hand-made Israeli cheeses. He reports it has been a happy change, considering the Middle Eastern cuisine has so much to offer vegetarians, and full of flavour at that. It was his ruminations about the food of the Middle East (still quite exotic, quite unexplored to me!) to try my hands at the cuisine. Today, I present to you the recipe for Easy Home-Made Falafel, one of the husband’s favourite snacks while on the aforementioned work trips.

Falafel‘ refers to deep-fried fritters made using chickpeas or fava beans or a mix of both, with a few herbs and spices added in. The origin of falafel has been linked to Egypt, though today, it is quite a common street food across most Middle-East countries, and is very popular even in India. With time, several versions of the falafel have come up the world over, including a healthier, baked version. Mine, however, is a Classic Falafel Recipe, where the snack is made the traditional, deep-fried way.

Making basic falafel from scratch isn’t a difficult task. Once you have the chickpeas soaked and ready, preparing it is a breeze. All the ingredients that one needs for falafel are easy to find in an average Indian kitchen, too. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, they make for a delicious evening snack, especially on rainy, cold days. They are super versatile – lending themselves easily to make a more filling pita bread sandwich or wrap or burger, which would be just the right party snacks. They are deep-fried, yes, but full of protein, and better any day than snacking on junk food.

Enough said. Now, without any further delays, let us move on to the Classic Falafel Recipe!

Ingredients (makes 25-30 falafel):

  1. 1 cup chickpeas aka kabuli chana
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
  4. 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
  5. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  6. 1 medium-sized onion
  7. 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
  9. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin (jeera) powder
  10. 1 teaspoon coriander (dhania) powder
  11. A dash of lemon juice
  12. 1-2 tablespoons maida or gram flour/besan (optional)
  13. Oil for deep frying

Method:

1. Soak the chickpeas for 8-10 hours or overnight, in just enough water to cover them.

2. When the chickpeas are done soaking, drain out all the water from them. Transfer the drained chickpeas to a mixer jar.

3. Add the chopped mint and coriander to the mixer jar, along with salt to taste.

4. Peel the garlic cloves. Add them to the mixer jar.

5. Chop the onion roughly. Add to the mixer jar.

6. Add red chilli powder, black pepper powder, roasted cumin powder, coriander powder and lemon juice to the mixer jar too.

7. Gently mix up the contents of the mixer jar. Pulse a couple of times, a couple of seconds each time. Stop in between to mix up the ingredients. Remember not to make a fine paste – just a coarse mixture. There’s no need to add water while grinding, but do add a spoonful or two if you are finding it absolutely impossible to dry grind.

8. Meanwhile, take the oil for deep frying in a pan. Place on high heat. Allow the oil to get nice and hot.

9. Try to shape small balls out of the mixture you ground earlier. If you are able to form balls that hold their shape, you can drop them – 3-4 at a time – into the hot oil straight away. Then, turn the flame down to medium and deep fry the balls evenly, till they turn brown on the outside. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. However, if the balls crumble when you try to shape them, you might need to mix in some maida or besan. This will help the balls get a bit firmer, post which you can deep fry them in the hot oil.

10. Serve the falafel piping hot, with a dip, sauce or chutney of your choice.

Notes:

  1. Falafel can be made with either fava beans or kabuli chana, or a mix of both. The ancient, traditional versions of falafel were made using fava beans, however the more recent versions use kabuli chana. I have made these falafel using only chickpeas aka kabuli chana.
  2. Traditionally, parsley is used in falafel, for flavour. However, as parsley is not very commonly used in our house, I have used a mix of fresh mint leaves and coriander in the above recipe.
  3. I have served the above Easy Home-Made Falafel with a simple hung curd dip. Here’s how I made the dip – Grind together a handful of fresh mint leaves, 1 green chilly, salt to taste, 2 garlic cloves, a dash of lemon juice and some honey. Mix this into about 1/2 cup of hung curd (curd that has been hung for 2-3 hours to remove all the moisture from it). Mix in some finely chopped coriander, and the dip is ready to serve!
  4. Do not cook the chickpeas. They need to be used raw, in the above recipe, after soaking.
  5. Freshly soaked chickpeas work best in this recipe, rather than canned ones.
  6. Make sure you grind the falafel mixture coarsely. Do not make a fine paste. At the same time, you need to make sure that all the chickpeas have broken down completely – pick out any whole chickpeas that remain after grinding.
  7. Adding water while grinding the falafel mixture is purely optional. If you are able to make a coarse mixture without adding in any water, it’s completely fine. However, I typically add in a couple of spoonfuls of water while grinding – not only does it make the grinding easier, but also makes the falafel softer, I think.
  8. You can use either maida or besan (gram flour) to adjust the consistency of the falafel mixture, and enable you to shape the balls. If you are able to shape the balls as is, there is no need to add a binding agent like maida or besan.
  9. Make sure the oil is nice and hot, before dropping the falafel into it for deep-frying. Reduce the flame to medium while you fry them, which will help in even frying.
  10. The above is a Classic Falafel Recipe, meaning a recipe for the most basic version of deep-fried falafel. There are several variations to the classic falafel – baked versions, those with sesame or beetroot or herbs.
  11. This Easy Home-Made Falafel can be served on its own, with a sauce, dip or chutney of your choice. They can also be used in a sandwich, made using regular bread or pita bread. They can also be used in burgers or wraps, along with hummus, pickled vegetables, sour cream, chopped onions and tomatoes.
  12. The falafel mixture can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to a day, to be deep-fried and served later. I prefer grinding the mixture fresh, though, just before frying up and serving the falafel.
  13. Some people include a bit of baking powder/soda in the mixture, to make the falafel soft. I typically don’t use any. Even without the baking powder/soda, the above recipe does yield soft and delicious falafel.

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is Levantine Cuisine, wherein members need to present dishes from the Levant region (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordon and Cyprus). This week’s theme was suggested by the very talented Sujata Shukla who blogs at PepperOnPizza – you have to check out her blog for various exotic and traditional recipes!

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #261. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.

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Postcards From The 75th Ayappan Festival, Tattamangalam, Kerala

Tattamangalam, a village near Palakkad in Kerala, is a small place if you compare it to the sprawling cities of today. However, it is quite big if you choose to compare it to the surrounding villages. It is the village where my mother-in-law was born and grew up, a cherished childhood and adolescence, judging from the several anecdotes she has narrated to us of the customs and traditions, the people and the lifestyle of her hometown. I have visited Tattamangalam a couple of times with her in the past and it is, indeed, a quiet and charming place, a world that is far, far away from the hustle and bustle of my own today. However, it is very recently, towards the fag end of 2018, that I got an opportunity to witness the Ayappan festival celebrations that are an annual affair in this village.

For the last 74 years, Tattamangalam has been conducting festivities to commemorate ‘Ayappan season’, the period between Diwali (October-November) till Pongal (January 14), which is when the maximum number of pilgrims visit the holy temple of Lord Ayappa at Sabarimala. These festivities in Tattamangalam, typically held towards the end of every December, are quite grand, I have always been told, including parades by elephants, performances by music artistes, large-scale community meals, frenzied beats of drums and cymbals, and the blowing of trumpets. In December 2018, Tattamangalam celebrated the 75th edition of the Ayappan Festival Celebrations, and my extended family and I figured it was time to pay a visit. I am glad we booked our tickets at the very last minute (we were lucky to even get them, indeed!) and visited, for the festival was bigger and better than ever.

Many families staying away from Tattamangalam had had the same thoughts as we did, I suppose, as we saw an influx of city-dwellers to witness the festivities. I was, naturally, thrilled to see the magnificence of it all, in a relatively less crowded setting at that, and went crazy clicking pictures with my camera. It was lovely meeting my mother-in-law’s old friends and acquaintances, and just walking around the clean village roads, breathing in the pure air. We even managed to do some shopping for the bub in the fair that came up in the village streets, on the occasion of the festival celebrations.

I leave you with some pictures from the celebrations, of the pretty stalls that came up all over, of our walks around Tattamangalam.

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The people of Tattamangalam, making rangolis at their doorsteps, in preparation for the ceremonial procession to pass through the village
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People lighting the lamps, at one of the many serene temples in Tattamangalam
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The ceremonial elephants, being readied for the procession around the village. Check out the anklets are being tied around their legs!
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A chariot being readied, for the ceremonial procession
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The ceremonial elephants, all decked up, being taken for a walk around the village
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Taking selfies, with the majestic tuskers in the background
The ceremonial elephants, saluting at one of the temples in Tattamangalam
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The celebrations are all set to begin, and the men with the drums, cymbals and trumpets pour in to the village
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… And the celebrations begin! Here are devotees dancing and performing pooja on the backs of the elephants.
The sounds of trumpets, cymbals and drums rent the air. I can’t put into words the frenzy and fervour that filled the atmosphere at this time.

 

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Stalls selling earrings, hair clips, toys, bangles, food and what not, lining the streets of Tattamangalam. Oh, my, the village wore a fair-like atmosphere!
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Goddess Bagavathiamman, making the rounds of the village, in her bedecked chariot
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The chariot for the procession, all decked up and ready. Here, women are preparing rangolis on the ground, in preparation for the chariot to make its customary rounds around the village.
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A close-up of the men making the music. You should check out the video on my Facebook page to understand just how magical this was!
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Scenes from the idyllic village life in Tattamangalam. Sigh! I would love to spend a couple of days more soaking in this serenity!
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Two stone elephants adorning someone’s doorstep, in Tattamangalam. They surely caught my fancy!
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The gorgeousness that was the village pond! My mother-in-law used to swim here, apparently, when she was a little girl.
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The famed Kerala nei payasam (kheer cooked in ghee) getting ready for the community meal
A musical performance in the village, to commemorate the Ayappan Festival
The elephants, their duties done, being fed before they were led to their holding places to take rest. This was, as per me, the most amazing thing.

Check out my Facebook album for more pictures from the celebration!

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Tips for travellers:

  1. The nearest railway station to Tattamangalam village is at Palakkad. From Palakkad, it is quite easy to find a cab that will take you to Tattamangalam. The roads are in excellent condition, and the on-road journey takes barely half an hour.
  2. The nearest airport is at Coimbatore. From Coimbatore, it is a roughly 1.5-hour journey on road to Palakkad, with the roads in excellent condition. Local trains also ply between Coimbatore and Palakkad.
  3. There are no great stay options in Tattamangalam, as far as I know, considering that it is but a small village. Your best bet would be to rent a hotel/stay in Palakkad, and hire a cab to reach Tattamangalam.
  4. Please do find out the exact dates and timings for the Ayappan festival timings in Tattamangalam from the presiding body, the Sri Dharma Sastha Utsavam Trust, if at all you plan to witness them.
  5. I am pretty sure there are several villages across Kerala that host similar festivities for the Ayappan festival. Tattamangalam’s celebrations are believed to be among the best, though. I don’t have any information about the festivals that might be conducted in other villages, but we do receive the schedule for Tattamangalam, as it is my mom-in-law’s ancestral place.

I hope you guys enjoyed the visuals! Please do let me know, in your comments!

 

Butterfly Pea Lemonade| Colour-Changing Magic Lemonade

Today’s recipe is a magic one! Christmas time, the season of Santa Claus and fairies and unicorns and secret gifts and all that, eh? 🙂

Now, this is a simple lemonade recipe at heart, but a magical, colour-changing one! When served, this drink is a pretty, deep blue. Squeeze some lemon into it, and it changes colour to a gorgeous purple! Let me hasten to add that this happens very naturally, without the help of any artificial colouring agents. The secret ingredient here is butterfly pea, a beautiful blue flower that grows in several Asian countries, including parts of India.

Also called Shankapushpam, blue pea, cordofan pea, Asian pigeonwings, bluebellvine, Darwin pea and Aparajita, the scientific name of the butterfly pea is Clitoria Ternatia. The blue flower is used as a natural food colouring in several parts of Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia and Burma. Adding a few of these flowers while cooking infuses the dish in question with a lovely blue colour – it is, actually, quite difficult to believe that such a brilliant blue colour can be achieved in food this naturally, without any chemical involvement at all! The colour of the food further changes to purple or pink, depending upon what ingredients have been added to it.

So, how does this colour-changing happen? It is simple science. Butterfly pea flowers contain a high concentration of something called anthocyanin, a pigment whose colour depends upon the amount of acidity present in its environment. When added to plain water, the pigment makes the water blue. Add something acidic to the water – like lemon – and when the pH level changes, it turns purple. When the acidity increases further – say, the addition of more lemon – the water turns a pretty magenta or pink.

Thanks to being rich in antioxidants, the butterfly pea flower aids in relieving stress, improving blood circulation, bettering eye health, and nourishing one’s skin and hair. This is precisely why the flower is widely used in South Asian countries in various food products as well as skin- and hair-care products.

I was introduced to these flowers for the first-ever time on our recent holiday in Thailand, in our hotel spa. I dropped in to the spa for a massage, and was served a warm blue-coloured tea with a wedge of lemon on the side. I was stunned to see the tea turn purple with the addition of the lemon, and wondered why on earth would they be using something so artificially coloured in a spa that claimed to use only traditional Thai methods and natural ways of healing! It was much later that I came to know that what I was offered was, in fact, Butterfly Pea Tea and that the blue was entirely natural. I had to pick up a packet of dried butterfly pea flowers in a Thai departmental store to get back home (very reasonably priced, I must add) – and good I did that too, for they cost an arm and a leg online!

On its own, the butterfly pea extract does not taste like much. It has a mild woody taste, not unlike green tea. I am not particularly fond of that, but when mixed with something else – like rice or lemonade, for instance – the woody taste gets masked by the other ingredients. This Butterfly Pea Lemonade tastes just like regular lemonade, but is much more healthier thanks to the addition of the flowers. The colour-changing property of this lemonade makes it a perfect drink for parties – especially Christmas parties. Instead of pre-mixing it, serve it with some lemon on the side, and watch your guests’ mouths open with wonder as they see their drink change colour! Just imagine how much kids will love this – mine did, to bits!

Enough said. This wondrous flower needed this long-winded introduction. Now, without further ado, let us check out the proceedure to make this Butterfly Pea Lemonade.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

  1. 1 tablespoon dried butterfly pea flowers
  2. 3 cups of water, at room temperature
  3. 6 tablespoons of sugar, or as needed
  4. Lemon halves, as needed
  5. Chilled water, as needed

Method:

  1. Heat the 3 cups of water on high flame, till it comes to a rolling boil.
  2. Add the sugar to the boiling water, and mix well. It will dissolve immediately. Let the water boil for a minute, then switch off gas.
  3. Add the dried butterfly pea flowers to the hot water. Close the pan with a lid, and let the flowers steep in the hot water for 20-30 minutes. By this time, the dried flowers would have let out their colour into the water, which would have turned a bright blue.
  4. Strain out the flowers from the water (you can choose to keep them in, too!). Allow the blue extract to cool down completely.
  5. When you are ready to serve the Butterfly Pea Lemonade, fill up as much of the blue extract as you need in serving glasses. Add some plain chilled water to the glasses, as needed. Taste and adjust quantities. Serve the glasses with lemon halves on the side.

Notes:

  1. For those of you who are interested, I picked up the dried butterfly pea flowers at Big C, a departmental store in Pattaya. The store stocks most traditional and contemporary Thai products, priced quite reasonably.
  2. If you are planning a visit to Thailand or have a friend or relative flying in, dried butterfly pea flowers are something you could ask them to get you. They are also available online, on websites like Amazon, but they are heavily priced.
  3. I haven’t worked with fresh butterfly pea flowers in my kitchen, so I’m not sure how they need to be used. If you have access to them, you may try using them instead, in this Butterfly Pea Lemonade recipe.
  4. In Thailand, these flowers are used in rice-based dishes, cocktails and mocktails, bakery goodies, ice creams and patties, among other things. I have not yet tried any of these things out, but I am simply amazed at the world of culinary possibilities these little butterfly pea flowers have opened up for me.
  5. You may use a healthy sweetener – like palm jaggery, coconut sugar or honey – in this lemonade recipe, instead of refined sugar, too. However, I am not sure how that would alter the pH level of the lemonade, and alter its colour.

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

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Foodie Monday Blog HopThis recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is #FlowersAndFruits, wherein members are cooking recipes using fresh or dried flowers and/or fruits. I chose to make this Butterfly Pea Lemonade for the theme.

I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #256. The co-hosts this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons.

 

 

 

Coconut & Mango Pulav

Coconut and mango is a classic combination, one that is much loved. The two flavours marry beautifully, which is why they are found together in many dishes like Sticky Rice With Mango, Mango & Coconut Smoothie, Mango & Coconut Bliss Balls, and the like. The dish I present to you today – Coconut & Mango Pulav – uses this classic ingredient combination again, in a very Indian way.

This Coconut & Mango Pulav tastes lovely. The coconut flavour comes from fresh coconut milk, and I have used some of the dried, sugared mangoes that I picked up while holidaying in Thailand recently. I tried out this pulav recently at home on a whim, and it was an instant hit with everyone.

This is a pressure-cooker dish, a one-pot meal that can be put together in mere minutes. It makes for a different-from-the-usual lunch or dinner, perfect for busy weekdays or lazy weekends. Kids will love this Coconut & Mango Pulav – mine did!

Let’s now see how to make this Coconut & Mango Pulav, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 3):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  3. 4-5 beans
  4. 1 medium-sized onion
  5. 1 small carrot
  6. 2 tablespoons shelled green peas
  7. 4 green chillies
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 1 tablespoon oil
  10. 2 small bay leaves (tej patta)
  11. 4 cloves (laung)
  12. 4 cardamom pods (elaichi)
  13. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon (dalchini)
  14. 4 large pieces of dried mango (with sugar)
  15. 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

  1. We will first prepare all the vegetables we need to use in the pulav. Peel the carrot and chop finely. Chop the onion finely. Remove the strings from the green beans, and chop them finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep the prepared vegetables aside.
  2. Wash the rice thoroughly under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water.
  3. Now, heat the oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon (broken into two), cardamom and cloves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  4. Add the chopped onions to the pan, along with the chopped carrot and beans, and the shelled green peas. Saute for a minute.
  5. Add the washed and drained rice to the pressure cooker. Saute for a minute.
  6. Add the 1 cup of coconut milk and 1.5 cups of water. Add in salt to taste and the slit green chillies. Mix well.
  7. Put the pressure cooker lid on. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
  8. Meanwhile, chop the dried mango into small pieces.
  9. Mix in the finely chopped coriander and the mango bits. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. I have used Sona Masoori rice here. You may use any other variety of rice you prefer.
  2. The heat in this pulav comes only from the green chillies. Adjust the quantity of green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the dish to be.
  3. Use only a minimal amount of vegetables in this pulav. Only mango and coconut are supposed to be the dominating flavours here.
  4. I have used dried mango from Thailand here, which had some sugar in it. It was quite soft, so I just had to chop it into pieces and add it to the pulav. There was no need to soak the mango.
  5. Increase or decrease the quantity of dried mango you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.
  6. I have used 1 cup of thick home-made coconut milk here. Alternatively you may use 200 ml of store-bought coconut milk, which roughly comes up to 1 cup.
  7. I have used a 5-litre pressure cooker to make this Coconut & Mango Pulav.
  8. I have used refined oil in this pulav. You may use any oil of your preference or ghee, instead.

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

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

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!

 

Agathi Poo Poriyal| Vegetable Hummingbird Stir-Fry From Tamilnadu

Last month, we finally made that long-pending trip to Thailand. This voyage had been waiting to be undertaken for years on end, and it did happen over the bub’s Dassera holidays in October. Thailand is where the bub turned 4, and we spent some happy days there, roaming around and exploring as much as we could. This time around, I saw Thailand from the eyes of a food and travel blogger, a completely different experience to the one I had previously, on our honeymoon. Among the foodie souvenirs I brought back to India from our holiday were these edible flowers, called Vegetable Hummingbird.

Walking around the aisles of Big C, a departmental store in Pattaya, I spotted this packet of flowers – labelled ‘Vegetable Hummingbird’. Apparently, these are flowers of the Sesbania Grandiflora, called so because their shape resembles that of the beak of little hummingbirds. The flowers, called Dok Khae in Thai, can be white, pink or red. They are used in several Asian cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Lao, Maldivian, Indian and Sri Lankan. The Thais use vegetable hummingbirds, mostly the white ones, raw in Nam Prik, and cooked in curries like Gaeng Som. I was intrigued, and absolutely had to pick up a packet of these to carry back home with me.

Vegetable Hummingbird, Agathi Poo or Bokful

It was only after I got back home and did some quick reading on the Internet that I got to know that these flowers are the same as Agathi Poo, quite commonly consumed in Tamilnadu in the olden days. With time, though, there are fewer and fewer families in South India using these flowers, sadly. I have never had them before, and had no way of knowing these were from our very own Tamilnadu – I lugged them all the way from Thailand! The family had a hearty laugh, at my expense, but I was thrilled to have had an opportunity to cook with something new to me! 🙂

The Internet also told me that these flowers are also commonly used in Bengali cuisine. The Bengalis call these Bokful, and they are dipped in chickpea-flour batter and deep-fried to make delicious Bokful Bhaja. I cannot help but marvel at these little similarities in cuisines throughout the world!

Both the flowers and the leaves of the Sesbania Grandifloraagathi poo and agathi keerai in Tamil, respectively – are chock-full of nutrients. The flowers have the power to ward off ailments like asthma, rheumatism and epilepsy, and to keep stress and anxiety at bay. Rich in calcium, the flowers have a cooling effect on the body, too. In Tamilnadu, agathi poo are used to make a lip-smackingly delicious stir-fry or poriyal, the slight bitterness of the flowers balanced by the addition of sugar, grated coconut, onions and/or beans.

Check out the lovely Tamilnadu-style Agathi Poo Poriyal I made using these flowers, under Amma‘s expert tutelage. It was, indeed, super delicious and made for a wonderful pair with piping hot rasam rice!

Agathi Poo Poriyal or Tamilnadu-Style Vegetable Hummingbird Stir-Fry

Ingredients (serves 2-4):

  1. 15-20 vegetable hummingbird flowers aka agathi poo 
  2. 1 medium-sized onion
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1 tablespoon sugar or to taste (optional)
  5. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
  7. 3 green chillies
  8. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  9. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  10. 1 sprig curry leaves
  11. 2 pinches of asafoetida (hing)

Method:

  1. Open up the agathi poo and remove the stamen – the hard stalk within. Discard the stamen. Chop up the agathi poo finely – you should get about 1 cup of the chopped flowers. Keep aside.
  2. Chop the onion finely. Keep aside.
  3. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add the asafoetida and the finely chopped onion. Stirring intermittently, saute on medium flame till the onion begins to turn translucent. This should take about 2 minutes.
  5. Now, add the curry leaves, the slit green chillies and the chopped agathi poo to the pan. Add in the salt to taste, sugar (if using) and turmeric powder too. Cook on medium flame, stirring intermittently, till the flowers are cooked. This should take 2-3 minutes. You may sprinkle a little water if you feel the poriyal is too dry or is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Mix in the fresh grated coconut and cook for a minute more. Switch off gas. The Agathi Poo Poriyal is ready!

Notes:

  1. The agathi poo has a slight bitterness to it, and the onions, sugar and fresh grated coconut help to counter that. You may skip the sugar if you don’t want to add it, but I personally think it adds a lovely flavour to the poriyal.
  2. Agathi poo comes in red, pink and white hues. The white ones are less bitter and tastier than the pink ones. Thai cuisine makes use of the white flowers only, while Tamilians use the white, red and pink ones.
  3. Coconut oil or gingelly oil works best in this kind of poriyal. However, you can use any other kind of oil you prefer, instead, too.
  4. You may add finely chopped coriander leaves to the Agathi Poo Poriyal too. We usually don’t, in this kind of poriyal.
  5. Typically, only the heat from green chillies is used in this kind of poriyal. However, if you feel it is too mild, you may add a dash of red chilli powder too.
  6. Considering the vegetable hummingbird flowers are quite thin, they cook really easily. There’s no need to cover the pan while the flowers are cooking, but you may if you want even faster cooking.
  7. Vegetable Hummingbirds or Agathi Poo are quite fragile, and do not have much of a shelf life. They are best consumed straight after plucking or buying at a vegetable vendor’s, as the case may be.
  8. The calyx of the agathi poo – the greenish part at the bottom of the flower, which holds the petals together – is okay to consume. The stamen – the hard stalk within each flower – needs to be removed.

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

I’m sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #251. The co-hosts this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes.

Paneer Masala Dosa| Dosa With Cottage Cheese Stuffing

Bored of eating the same ol’ dosa with chutney/sambar, or masala dosa? Paneer Masala Dosa is another version of dosa that you could try out.

With a protein-rich, delicious cottage cheese stuffing, Paneer Masala Dosa makes for a great snack or even a lunch/dinner option. This is quite a filling dosa that doesn’t require any accompaniment to it. If you have dosa batter on hand, making these is a breeze, too!

I tried out Paneer Masala Dosa for the first-ever time at Murugan Idli Shop in Madras, a few years ago, and fell in love with it. A few attempts at making my own version at home later, I was rewarded with success – a beautiful, delectable dosa that was much loved by everyone in the family. Do try it out too, and let me know how you liked it!

Here is how to make Paneer Masala Dosa.

Ingredients (makes 8-10 dosas):

For the filling:

  1. 100 grams paneer aka cottage cheese
  2. 4-5 cloves of garlic
  3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  4. 1 small tomato
  5. 1 medium-sized onion
  6. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  7. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  8. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  9. Salt to taste
  10. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  11. Red chilli powder to taste
  12. 1 tablespoon garam masala
  13. 1 tablespoon amchoor powder
  14. 1 tablespoon sugar
  15. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

For the dosas:

  1. 8-10 ladles of dosa batter
  2. 8-10 teaspoons of oil, to make the dosas

Method:

We will first prepare the filling for the Paneer Masala Dosa.

  1. Crumble the paneer, using your hands. Keep aside.
  2. Peel the ginger and chop finely. Chop the garlic finely. Grind the ginger and garlic to a paste in a small mixer jar, using a little water. Keep aside.
  3. Chop the onion finely. Keep aside.
  4. Chop the tomato finely. Keep aside.
  5. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a pan. Add in the cumin seeds and asafoetida. Allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds.
  6. Add the chopped onion to the pan. Saute on medium heat till the onions begin to brown.
  7. Now, add the chopped tomato to the pan, along with a little water and salt, and ginger-garlic paste. Cook on medium flame till the tomatoes turn mushy.
  8. When the tomatoes are cooked, add in the crumbled paneer, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, sugar, amchoor powder and garam masala. Mix well. Cook on medium heat for a minute. You may add a little water at this stage, if you feel the mixture is too dry. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Switch off gas when the filling is done cooking. Do not overcook the filling, as this might cause the paneer to get hard and rubbery.
  9. Mix in the finely chopped coriander into the paneer filling. Set the filling aside.

Now, we will make the Paneer Masala Dosas.

  1. Heat a thick dosa pan on high heat. When the pan is nice and hot, turn down the flame to medium.
  2. Place a ladle of the dosa batter in the centre of the pan. Spread it out to form a medium-sized dosa.
  3. Spread a teaspoon of oil around the dosa. Let the dosa cook till it gets brown on the bottom.
  4. Flip over the dosa, and let it cook on the other side for about a minute.
  5. Transfer the dosa to a serving plate, and place inside it a little of the paneer filling we prepared earlier. Close the dosa. Serve immediately.
  6. Prepare all the Paneer Masala Dosa in a similar manner.

Notes:

1. I have used home-made dosa batter here. You can use store-bought batter as well.

2. I have used paneer from ID to make these Paneer Masala Dosa. You may use home-made paneer instead, too.

3. Adjust the quantity of salt, red chilli powder, sugar, garam masala and amchoor powder that you use in the filling, depending upon personal taste preferences.

4. Be careful while adding salt to the filling, as the paneer will have some amount of salt in it too.

5. I have used store-bought amchoor powder (from Everest) and garam masala (from Ciba Taaza) to make the paneer filling.

6. You can use chana masala instead of garam masala in the filling, too. It adds a lovely, different touch to the filling.

7. You may skip the sugar in the filling, if you so prefer, but I would not recommend that. The sugar does not make the filling sweet, but rather rounds off the other flavours brilliantly and brings out their taste more effectively.

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

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This post is for the Healthy WELLthy Cuisines Facebook group that I am part of. The members of this group cook for a particular theme every fortnight. This fortnight, all of us are cooking different types of dosas.

Check out what the other members have prepared for the theme!:

Pavbhaji Dosa by Sasmita| Ragi Dosa by Shalu| Healthy Brown Rice & Quinoa Dosa by Vanitha| Sweet Cucumber Dosa by Seema| Jowar Dosa by Jayashree| Spicy Tomato Dosa by Rosy

I’m also sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #249. The co-hosts this week are Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

 

 

Thai Food Festival @ In Azia, Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel

Regular readers of my blog will know how special Thailand is to me. The husband and I honeymooned in Thailand, watching Thai dancing and kick-boxing shows by the hour. Who on earth does that on their honeymoon? Turns out the hubby and I do. 🙂 It goes without saying that I have fond memories of us being shy newly-weds together in a foreign land. Making Thai food at home is something I have taught myself to do, to keep that connection with Thailand alive.

Thailand was also my very first international holiday, the first-ever time I set foot on soil that wasn’t Indian, which made the trip all the more special. I wasn’t a food or travel blogger then, so we didn’t explore much of the local food or sights, a fact I regret to date. I haven’t had a chance to go back to Thailand, and explore it to my heart’s content. I did, however, recently get the thrilling opportunity to experience some of Thailand’s famed street food at InAzia, the classy restaurant at Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel. Along with a few other bloggers from the city, I was present at InAzia for a sneak peek into the restaurant’s ongoing Thai Food Festival.

Sample Chef Rungtiwa Sorlae’s expert craftsmanship at the Thai Food Festival

Like I said earlier, InAzia, the Pan-Asian restaurant at Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel, has a Thai food festival going on now. The festival, brought to you in association with Thailand Tourism, will continue till August 29, 2018.

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Thai Chef Rungtiwa Sorlae, Specialty Chef at InAzia, Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel

Chef Rungtiwa Sorlae, Specialty Chef at InAzia, has put together a special menu for the food festival, which includes several vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies straight off the streets of her hometown, Thailand. There are also some incredible desserts on offer!

We had a lovely time sampling Chef Rungtiwa’s expert creations, and would urge you to partake of them too. The Thai food festival special menu is available at InAzia between 7 and 11 PM every day, on an a la carte basis. A meal for two would cost approximately INR 2000. Prior reservation is recommended.

My experience at InAzia’s Thai Food Festival

As soon as I set foot into InAzia, I was greeted by two ladies in traditional Thai gear with a sweet ‘Sawadee Kha‘ (‘Hello’ in Thai). This instantly put me at ease, as did the lovely live Thai music being played in the restaurant. The simple and uncluttered but elegant decor of InAzia also soothed my mind plentifully.

The understated but classy decor at InAzia

I loved the references to Thailand that were everywhere in the restaurant. Being the sucker for attention to detail that I am, I adored these little touches – centrepieces made of Thai bird’s eye chillies and galangal, Thai-style lanterns on the tables, place mats that depicted the different aspects of Thailand, Thai umbrellas on display, and a live station for Thai salads, et al.

Glimpses from our recent preview of the Thai Food Festival at InAzia

With the warm hospitality that is typical of the Thai people, Chef Rungtiwa brought out one after another of her creations. We greedily lapped all of it up, loving every bit of it.

What did I taste?

Here’s a brief recap of all the vegetarian, non-alcoholic goodness that I sampled at InAzia’s Thai Food Festival.

Som TamSom Tam or Green Papaya Salad is, perhaps, one of the most popular dish in Thai restaurants across India. Chef Rungtiwa’s version was slightly less sweet and sour than the Som Tam I am used to here, more spicy and pungent with hand-pounded chillies and garlic. I loved this salad quite a bit!

Pheuk-TordPheuk-Tord or deep-fried taro cakes are a popular street food in Bangkok. Salty and spicy, they are served with the accompaniments of chilli and/or peanut sauce. These cakes were too bland for me, not meant for my taste buds that demand chatpata food all the time. 🙂

Tom Yum Soup – Spicy and salty and sour, Tom Yum is one of my most favourite kinds of soups there is. Chef Rungtiwa’s version was brilliant – slightly more sour than the Tom Yum we get here in Bangalore, it suited my taste buds just perfectly. It was just the right amount of spicy too – neither the boring kind of bland, nor too spicy as to draw tears from your eyes.

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Top Left: Spiced Pineapple; Bottom Right: Pheuk-Tord; Top Right: Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup; Centre Right: Virgin Mojito; Bottom Right: Som Tam

Spiced Pineapple – This was one of the mocktails I ordered from the regular menu at InAzia, to go with the Thai appetisers. This was such a lovely drink, perfectly made, Indian spices subtly adding depth to pineapple juice. Lovely!

Virgin Mojito – I also tried out the Virgin Mojito here, off the restaurant’s regular menu. It was perfectly made too, the right blend of sweet and sour, very refreshing and lovely.

Pad Thai – Main course began with a serving of Pad Thai, Thai-style noodles that are hugely popular in India. I love a well-made dish of Pad Thai, and this one was no exception. The flat noodles were interesting to eat, with the added crunch of bean sprouts and coarsely crushed peanuts. The flavours were absolutely on point, just the right blend of sweet and spicy and salty, with just a tinge of sour.

Left: Thai Green Curry; Top Right: Thai Jasmine Rice; Bottom Right: Pad Thai

Thai Jasmine Rice – This was my first time eating Thai Jasmine Rice, and I simply loved it. The texture and fragrance of the rice was just lovely!

Thai Green Curry – We were served some beautiful Thai Green Curry to go with the jasmine rice. Mild and subtle, very well-made, the curry made for a great accompaniment to the fragrant rice.

Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong – And then it was time for the desserts to be brought out! We started with Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong, a traditional Thai delicacy that I had never heard of before. Coconut custard is poured onto big slices of pumpkin and baked together, to create this dessert, which apparently sells like hot cakes on the streets of Thailand. The Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong did sound wonderful, but it was too eggy for me to eat. For someone who loves eggs, this would be a very unique thing to try, I’m sure.

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Left: Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong; Top Right: Sang Kaya Ob; Centre Right: Home-made Coconut Ice Cream; Bottom Right: Tab Tim Krob

Tab Tim Krob – Next up came the Tab Tim Krob, another interesting traditional Thai dessert. This one was brilliant, with bits of jackfruit and jellied water chestnut served in sweetened coconut milk. It was delicate but hugely satisfying, mildly sweet but delicious, and I couldn’t stop lapping it all up.

Sang Kaya ObSang Kaya Ob refers to baked coconut caramel custard, another traditional Thai dessert. This just blew my mind away with silky texture, coconut-ty flavour and mild sweetness. It was served on a banana leaf, which added to its taste greatly. This is one dessert I would highly recommend you to have at InAzia!

Home-Made Coconut Ice Cream – Yet another dessert that was brilliant enough to charm the socks right off me! Good ol’ simple ice cream made the traditional way, this one tasted scrumptious. The crushed cookies that the ice cream was dusted with added oodles to its charm and taste. This is another dessert I would highly recommend you to try out here.

Traditional Thai Rose Cookies

Thai Rose Cookies – The meal ended with a thoughtful little gift from Chef Rungtiwa to all of us – a box of traditional Thai Rose Cookies. These were so pretty, I almost didn’t have the heart to eat them. 🙂 I am glad I did, though, for they were exquisite. Delicate, mildly sweet, each one topped with white, dark and milk chocolate, these three cookies were a treat to the taste buds.

In hindsight

I loved most of the food that was served at the preview, though I wish there had been more vegetarian options.

Dishes like Pad Thai and Thai Green Curry gave us a glimpse into Thai cuisine as we know it, while the ones like Pheuk-Tord and Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong taught us that there is more to Thai street food than what we typically find on restaurant menus in Bangalore. I love that this festival has whetted my appetite for more – I can’t wait to head to Thailand now, and explore the vegetarian street food scene there, right at the source! I wish the food festival had delved deeper into more lesser-known food, drinks and desserts from Thailand, but I understand the problems that might cause.

A bit of background, history and stories, to each of the dishes would have been hugely appreciated. To a food history buff like me, that would have been blissful.

While the staff was extremely polite and warm, we found the service to be quite slow. A bit more pro-activeness on the service front would have taken our dining experience up by several notches.

Overall, we had a great time at the food festival, eating our way through some of Thailand’s known and lesser-known delicacies, created with Chef Rungtiwa’s finesse. I would definitely urge you to head to InAzia too, to get your fix of authentic Thai street fare!

 

 

Your Sterling Holiday Is Waiting!

Hola, people!

I have something exciting for all of you! ♥️ Read on!

Here is your turn to #holidaydifferently with Sterling Holidays, to create loads of memories to cherish!

Now, you can book a stay at any of the Sterling properties across India and get 15% off! All you need to do is log on to http://www.sterlingholidays.com, book your room/s, and use the code PRIYA to avail of the discount. This offer is valid on bookings done till October 10, 2018, and is over and above some other exciting promotional offers already in process by Sterling.

So, what are you waiting for? Time to book for your Dussehra holidays and let the travel tales unfold!

Go Crazy At These Eight Asian Destinations!

Asia, the largest continent on this planet, has plenty of sites that will astound you to no end. From scenic and mighty mountains to pristine low-lying valleys, from roaring seas to serene beaches, Asia has lots of destinations to please all kinds of travellers.

Many of these Asian destinations should definitely be on your bucket list! We present to you a list of some such amazing Asian places – choose any of these for your next holiday, and we assure you will have an experience worth cherishing!

Bali

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Are you looking forward to a romantic honeymoon vacation? In that case, Bali is the right place for you. Thanks to its prolific beauty, this place is often referred to by travellers as ‘heaven on earth’. Picturesque mountain ranges, lush rainforests, scenic beaches and sweeping valleys all together make it a vibrant destination in Asia to holiday in. Moreover, Bali also boasts of a handful of serene temples, which you absolutely must not miss on your vacation. The cultural capital of Bali, Ubud, is something you must visit as well.

Singapore

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People often ask why Singapore is unique and different from other Asian nations. Well, Singapore offers travellers a melting pot of Asian cultures. In Singapore, you will find a blend of various cultures, which gives it a modern outlook and vibrant city neighbourhoods, as well as some really eclectic cuisines. Singapore is one of the most-loved island nations in the world. While here, you must head down towards Little India and China town for an amazing shopping experience, and later the Merlion to contemplate the high-rise skyscrapers.

Nepal

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This Himalayan country surely needs no introduction. If you are planning a trip to scenic Himalayas in all their majesty, Nepal is the place you should be heading to. Nepal is the most sought-after destination for trekkers – here, you can undertake various treks here, each of which will give you an opportunity to introspect and explore your inner self. Nepal is also where you can relax in the serenity of golden temples and watch wildlife.

Bangkok

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This capital of Thailand is choc-a-bloc with things to do for all sorts of travellers. Take your pick from a horde of eye-catching sites to never-ending nightlife and mouth–watering Thai cuisine! The Chatuchak Weekend Market is a huge street market that you must not miss. The sacred shrines of Bangkok are where you can immerse yourself in spirituality, if that is your kind of thing. Bangkok is also a good place to indulge one’s senses, with some of the best spas in the world on offer.

Ladakh

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Travelling to Ladakh by road is quite a thrilling experience, one that must definitely be on your bucket list. Ladakh is visited by thousands every year, but the beauty of the regal Himalayas never gets old. There are several Leh Ladakh tour packages on offer, each of which will leave you with an unforgettable experience.

Bhutan

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Surrounded by the gorgeous Himalayas, Bhutan has a magical aura to it that you must definitely experience. Bhutan is a country full of surprises. Here, rice is red and chillies are not only seasonings, but very much a main dish. Here is where a Buddhist monk will update his social media handles after performing a divination. Yes, you read that right! The traditional Buddhists of Bhutan have completely adopted modern culture, and are proud to do so.

The Maldives

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A kingdom of oceans, 1200 islands, and a never-ending horizon – that is what the Maldives are. Wherever you go, you will find clear, clear skies and the prettiest of turquoise waters waiting for you. You can choose to stay in one of the many luxurious overwater bungalows that the Maldives has to offer, and spend your holiday watching majestic coral reefs and surfing white-sand beaches with your loved ones. Maldives is quite a popular destination among honeymooners, and that is no big wonder!

Tokyo

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The largest city in the world, Tokyo, has plenty of things to offer travellers. It is a beautiful and vibrant city, known for its crowded streets, flashing lights and warm people. Tokyo is a shoppers’ paradise and a haven for foodies. This megacity of Japan is buzzing with constant movement, something that you must experience for yourself.

So, which of these Asian destinations would be your pick for your next holiday?

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This post is brought to you in association with Thrillophilia, international travel planners. All images in the post are courtesy of Thrillophilia.