Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav| Fragrant Lemon-Scented Rice

Here’s presenting to you the recipe for Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav, a delightful rice dish that is fragrant with lemon zest and juice. You have to try this out to believe how divine it tastes!

Smells and tastes absolutely gorgeous!

What is Gondhoraj Lebu?

I was introduced to the majestic Gondhoraj Lebu on our trip to Calcutta, a few years ago. For the uninitiated, the name literally translates to ‘King of Scented Lemons’. This is no ordinary lemon, mind you, but an extraordinarily fragrant one, its almost oval shape its distinguishing feature. No wonder it is also referred to as ‘King Lemon’!

The Gondhoraj Lebu is the pride of West Bengal, where the lemon is typically grown. A slice of the lemon transforms a simple dal into something majestic. The skin of this lemon is particularly fragrant, and it works wonders when zested and added to lassi, desserts and the likes.

The beauty of a Gondhoraj Lebu from our neighbour’s balcony garden

In Calcutta, we encountered the Gondhoraj Lebu in many foods. It made an appearance in roadside puchkas, making them smell heavenly. I still remember the gorgeous Gondhoraj Ghol or Gondhoraj lemon-scented lassi we had the pleasure of having at Koshe Kosha in Calcutta. For a lemon lover like me, it didn’t take much to fall in this love with this perfumed fruit. I brought some back home with me, and they filled every corner with the scent of Calcutta for days afterward…

Sadly, these special lemons aren’t available very easily here in Bangalore, though I believe there are a couple of online sellers. I didn’t try them out. It was years after our Calcutta visit, some time in January this year, when a Bengali neighbour and dear friend of ours presented us with a Gondhoraj Lebu grown organically in his little balcony garden. It was the size of my palm! I couldn’t stop gushing, and kept mulling over what to use it in for a couple of days. Then, Basant Panchami arrived, the onset of spring, an auspicious occasion for Bengalis, a day when yellow-coloured food is commonly consumed. Everything fell into place then, and I decided to use the lemon to prepare a yellow Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav.

About this Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav

I made the Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav inspired by this recipe from Maumita’s blog Experiences Of A Gastronomad. Maumita’s is a lovely, lovely blog, full of beautifully recounted anecdotes from her life, including several heritage Bengali recipes from her grandmother. I tweaked her recipe to suit my family’s preferences and it turned out simply gorgeous, much loved by everyone in the family. The Gondhoraj zest and juice used in the pulav give it a mesmerising fragrance. The sweetish, slightly sour and mildly spicy flavours of the pulav are unique. I hope I have done justice to Maumita’s nostalgic recipe!

This is a completely vegetarian recipe, which is gluten-free too. I have used ghee here, due to which this recipe isn’t vegan. For a vegan version, you may substitute the ghee with oil or any other vegan fat, though I would strongly recommend using ghee.

Now, without further ado, let’s get to the recipe for this beauty!

How to make Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

To pressure cook:

  1. 1-1/2 cups rice
  2. 3-3/4 cups water
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 3 green chillies, slit lengthwise

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 big Gondhoraj Lebu
  2. 1-1/2 tablespoons water
  3. A pinch of saffron strands
  4. 1 tablespoon ghee
  5. 10 whole cashewnuts
  6. 2 small bay leaves
  7. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  8. 4 cloves
  9. 4 green cardamom pods
  10. 2 tablespoons sugar
  11. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

Top left and right: Steps 2 and 3, Bottom left and right: Steps 3 and 4

1. Wash the rice well under running water. Drain out all the water. Now, pressure cook the washed and drained rice with 3-3/4 cups of water, salt to taste and the slit green chillies. Allow 3 whistles on high flame. Allow the pressure release naturally.

2. Meanwhile, heat the 1-1/2 tablespoons of water. Switch off gas and add the saffron strands. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, by which time the saffron would have released its beautiful orange-red colour into the water. Keep this aside.

3. Zest the Gondhoraj Lebu and then juice about half of it. We will need about 2 teaspoons of lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Keep this ready.

4. When the pressure from the cooker goes down fully, allow the rice to cool down completely. Now, fluff up the rice gently.

Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom left and right: Step 6, continued

5. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Turn the flame to medium. Add in the cashewnuts, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and green cardamom. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds or till the cashewnuts brown nicely.

6. Now, add in the fluffed up rice, along with the sugar and Gondhoraj Lebu zest. Add in the saffron water too, along with the strands. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Cook on medium flame for a minute, stirring intermittently, then switch off gas.

Top and bottom: Step 6

6. Mix in the Gondhoraj Lebu juice and finely chopped coriander. Your Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav is ready. Serve hot or warm.

Tips & Tricks

1. The original recipe uses fragrant Gobindobhog recipe, which is commonly used in several Bengali dishes. I used Sona Masoori rice instead, because I wanted the fragrance of only the lemon to rule the dish. Not that I had any Gobindobhog rice either. I’m guessing Basmati rice would work too.

2. I have used zest and juice of the ultra-fragrant Gondhoraj Lebu here. You can use the juice and zest from a regular lemon too. While it might not be as fragrant as Gondhoraj, it will still smell awesome and taste delicious.

3. Adjust the quantity of green chillies, lemon juice and sugar, as per personal taste preferences.

4. I have added a lot more lemon zest than the original recipe suggests. While the hubby and I loved the fragrance, my mom found it a bit overpowering. Please do go easy on the lemon zest, if you so prefer.

5. Don’t overcook the rice. Cook it till done, but don’t make it overly mushy. The above rice:water ratio worked perfectly for us. Adjust the quantity of water you use as per personal preferences.

6. The original recipe uses a mix of water and curd to cook the rice. I haven’t used any curd here.

7. Mix the rice well but gently, so that the grains don’t break.

8. You can use a pinch of turmeric to colour the rice, instead of saffron.

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

Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni| Bengali Tomato, Dates And Mango Leather Chutney

Today, let me introduce you to a long-time favourite condiment of mine – Tomato Khejur Amshotter Chaatni. This is a Bengali chutney – chaatni in the local language – made using tomatoes, dates (khejur) and aam papad or mango leather (aamshotto). Like Bengali chaatnis are, this one too is a riot of flavours, sweet and sour and salty and spicy. Beauty!

Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni

My tryst with Bengali cuisine

I was introduced to proper Bengali food, including some amazing chutneys, on a holiday in Calcutta, a few years ago. Life hasn’t been the same ever since. The trip expanded my knowledge of Bengali cuisine, much beyond what I had tasted in Durga Pooja pandals in Bangalore. It was in the course of this holiday that I started loving the versatile spicy-sweet-tangy chutneys that the Bengalis prepare, and even learnt how to make some of them myself. It was my initiation into Bengali vegetarian cooking. Now, Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni, Anarosher Chaatni, Bhoger Khichuri, Aloor Dom and Bhapa Doi are as much a part of our meals at home as sambar, rasam, dosa, idli, phulkas, undhiyu, Gujarati dal and kadhi are. 🙂

West Bengal cuisine for Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

The Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is a group of food bloggers, who cook dishes from a particular region of India, every month. All the participanting members are paired up, and every pair exchanges two ingredients which they will go on to use to cook a dish belonging to that month’s region. Interesting, right?

This month, the members of the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge are showcasing dishes from the state of West Bengal, a state known for delectable things like Rosogulla, Sondesh, Chhanar Dalna, Shukto, Dhokar Dalna, Puchka, Mochar Ghonto and Chorchori. I was paired with the talented blogger Seema of Mildly Indian this month, who assigned me the two ingredients of ‘tomatoes’ and ‘salt’. The ingredients were just right to prepare my favourite Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni, and so that’s what I decided to put up.

Seema’s blog, BTW, is a treasure trove of beautiful recipes from around the world, including some really unique dishes. Her Nadru Palak Sabzi, Bhindi Pulao and Jackfruit Rind Curry have been playing on my mind – can’t wait to try them out! Her blog is something you must definitely check out. While you are at it, do visit the lovely West Bengal dish that she prepared using the two ingredients I assigned her.

How to make Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni

Here’s how I prepare the chaatni, based on what I learnt from the kind staff at the hotel we stayed at in Kolkata, all those years ago.

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those on a plant-based diet. It is a gluten-free dish too.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):

  1. 6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
  2. 10-12 dates
  3. 1 tablespoon raisins
  4. 2 big pieces of dried mango (aam papad or mango leather)
  5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  6. 1/2 tablespoon mustard oil
  7. 1 teaspoon panch phoron
  8. 2 small bay leaves
  9. 4-5 dry red chillies
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  12. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
  13. 6-7 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
  14. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
  15. 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder or to taste

Method:

Top left: The ingredients needed for the chaatni, Top right: Step 1, Bottom left and right: Steps 2 and 3

1. Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep aside.

2. Remove seeds from the dates and chop them into large pieces. Also, chop the mango leather into large pieces too. Keep aside.

3. Peel the ginger. Grate finely or cut into thin slivers. Keep aside.

Top left and right: Steps 4 and 5, Centre: Step 6, Bottom left and right: Steps 7 and 8

4. Heat the mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the panch phoron, and allow it to sputter. Now, add in the bay leaves and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

5. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, along with a bit of salt. Reduce heat to medium. Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes or till the tomatoes start turning mushy. Stir intermittently.

6. Now, add in the chopped dates and mango leather, the grated/slivered ginger, raisins, salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and jaggery powder. Mix well.

7. Continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes on medium flame, or till the chutney starts thickening and getting glossy. Switch off gas when it is thick, but still a bit on the runny side.

8. Mix in the lemon juice and roasted cumin powder. Your Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni is ready.

9. Allow the chutney to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Use as needed, and keep it refrigerated otherwise. The chaatni can be served with khichuri or as part of a complete Bengali meal. We love having it as an accompaniment with rotis or plain parathas too.

Tips & Tricks

1. Use the more flavourful and tart country or ‘Nati‘ tomatoes, as opposed to the ‘farm’ variety to make this chutney.

2. If the tomatoes are too tart, you can skip using the lemon juice.

3. Sugar can be used instead of jaggery powder. I prefer using jaggery powder.

4. Adjust the quantity of red chilli powder and jaggery as per personal taste preferences. Remember that you are also using raisins, dates and mango leather in the chutney, all of which have sweetness in them already.

5. In a traditional Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni, mustard oil is used, so I went ahead and used it too. You may use any other variety of oil if you so prefer.

6. Switch off the gas when the chutney is still runny. It gets thicker as it cools.

7. Slivers of cashewnuts can be used in the Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni too. Here, I haven’t.

8. Transfer the chutney to a clean, dry, air-tight container only after it has cooled down fully. This chutney is best refrigerated when not in use. Stored in a refrigerator and used hygienically, it stays well for 7-10 days.

9. To make roasted cumin powder – Take a couple of tablespoons of cumin and dry roast them in a heavy-bottomed pan till fragrant, taking care to ensure that it does not burn. Allow it to cool down fully and then coarsely crush in a small mixer jar. Store in a dry, air-tight bottle and use as needed.

10. ‘Panch phoron‘ – a mix of the five spices of mustard, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, cumin and fennel seeds – is used for tempering in this chaatni. I buy the panch phoron ready to use, but you can mix the five ingredients yourself too, if you so prefer.

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

Tom Kha| Vegetarian Thai Coconut Soup

Have you had the pleasure of experiencing Tom Kha soup? You must try it out, if you haven’t already. It is such a beauty of a soup, inside and out!

What is Tom Kha?


Tom Kha refers to a Thai soup made using coconut milk. With hints of sweet and sour and spicy, it is bursting with flavours. It is a delicate soup, a harmonious balance between flavours the way most Thai dishes are. 

Tom‘ is the Thai word for ‘boil’, referring to the method of making the soup (as in Tom Yum). ‘Kha‘ in Thai means ‘galangal’, a rhizome similar to ginger, which finds pride of place in several dishes from the cuisine. Galangal is, indeed, the star ingredient in this soup too. Tom Kha is typically made using chicken pieces and broth (referred to as Tom Kha Gai, with ‘Gai‘ being the Thai word for chicken). I am presenting to you today the recipe for a vegetarian version of this soup, which is referred to as Tom Kha.

Traditionally in Thailand, Tom Kha is eaten as a side with rice, thereby making it a complete meal. Even on its own, too, this soup is hearty and hugely satisfying. I make it light, instead of rich and creamy as it usually is – we prefer it this way.

Tom Kha

My first tryst with Tom Kha

After a hot, sweaty and tiring morning exploring the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok last year, the husband and I were walking around with the bub, hunting for a place where we could partake of a vegetarian lunch. A small eatery right opposite to the temple caught our eye, offering quite a few traditional Thai vegetarian dishes. Something about the place called out to us, and we headed in. The owner was this very sweet, friendly, middle-aged Thai lady who lived and cooked in the tiny space behind the eatery. It was here that we had the most amazing Tom Kha soup, full of flavour. I couldn’t resist asking the lady how she made it and, in her broken English, she complied.

I have made this soup several times over since, tweaking little things here and there to suit my family’s taste preferences.

How to make Tom Kha or vegetarian Thai coconut soup


I outline below the way I make Tom Kha, and urge you to try it out too – I’m sure you will fall in love with it too.

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suitable to those on a plant-based diet. It is gluten-free as well.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

For the stock:
  • 1. 2-1/2 cups water
  • 2. 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3. 8-10 strands of lemongrass
  • 4. 2 green chillies
  • 5. 1 tablespoon fresh coriander stems
  • 6. A 1-inch piece of galangal
  • Other ingredients:

  • 1. 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2. 4 button mushrooms
  • 3. 1 small carrot
  • 4. Salt to taste
  • 5. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • 6. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder
  • 7. 2 green chillies
  • 8. 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 9. A few strands of lemongrass
  • 10. A 1-inch piece of galangal
  • 11. 1/2 tablespoon soya sauce
  • 12. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 13. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste

  • Method:

    1. We will first prepare the stock for the soup. Take 2-1/2 cups water in a pan. Tear the 2 kaffir lime leaves roughly and add them in. Roughly chop the lemongrass strands, galangal and coriander stems, and add them in too. Slit 2 slit green chillies length-wise, and add to the water. Place the pan on high heat, and allow the water to start bubbling. Then turn the flame down to medium. Cook on medium  flame for 5 minutes.

    2. Now, strain all the ingredients out. Reserve the clear, greenish stock.

    Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Bottom left and right: Steps 3 and 4

    3. Peel the carrot and chop finely. Chop up the button mushrooms length-wise. Keep aside.

    4. Heat a teaspoon of oil in the same pan, and add the chopped carrot and mushrooms. Saute till they are soft, but still retain a crunch.

    Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom left and right: Steps 7 and 8

    5. Now, add the stock to the pan, along with salt to taste and jaggery powder. 

    6. Tear 2 kaffir lime leaves roughly and chop a few strands of lemongrass. Add to the pan. Roughly chop the galangal, and add to the pan too. Slit 2 slit green chillies  length-wise, and add to the pan. Mix well.

    7. Add the coconut milk and soya sauce to the pan. Mix well. Let it all cook together on medium flame. Switch off gas when it comes to a boil. Then, mix in juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste.

    8. Serve hot, garnished with the finely chopped fresh coriander.

    Tips & Tricks


    1. Use fresh kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass for best results.

    2. I could find only strands of lemongrass, and that’s what I have used here. If you have access to lemongrass bulbs, do use them in the soup – they are super aromatic.

    3. Authentic Tom Kha Gai uses galangal or Thai ginger. You can substitute it with regular Indian ginger, but it alters the flavour of the soup quite a bit. You could choose to leave out the galangal or Indian ginger completely too, and the soup still tastes brilliant.

    4. Traditionally, oyster sauce or fish sauce is used in Tom Kha Gai. However, since this is a vegetarian version, I have used soya sauce.

    5. I have used naturally fermented soya sauce from Shoyu, a brand I picked up in Thailand. You can use any brand you prefer.

    6. If you can get your hands on Thai coconut palm jaggery and bird’s eye chillies, please do use them in the soup. I didn’t have these ingredients, so I have used regular Indian jaggery powder and green chillies.

    7. Adjust the quantity of chillies you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

    8. I have used button mushrooms to make the Tom Kha Gai. Other varieties of mushrooms can be used as well. I prefer only mushrooms and carrots in this soup, but you could add in any other vegetables you prefer.

    9. Adjust the quantity of lemon juice you use, as per personal taste preferences.

    10. I have used a pack of Dabur Hommade Coconut Milk here. You can use homemade coconut milk if you so prefer.

    11. The above quantities yield a light and flavourful soup – I prefer it this way. If you want a thicker soup, you can skip the water fully and use more coconut milk.

    12. I have used cold-pressed sunflower oil here. You can use any odourless oil you prefer instead.

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

    Momo Achar| Peanut Chutney For Momos

    The husband was in Sikkim earlier this year on an official get-together, and he told me endless stories about the place on his return. He loved the Sikkimese momos especially, the many varieties that are available. I was intrigued by his descriptions of the yellow chutney served alongside momos by the streetside in Sikkim, Momo Achaar in local parlance. In Bangalore, we only get a spicy red chutney with momos, so this was new and interesting.

    So, this yellow Momo Achaar was what I decided to make when Sikkimese cuisine was chosen as the theme for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge this month. The Sikkimese follow a mostly non-vegetarian diet, with simple food made using minimal ingredients. That said, the food is hearty and delicious, several locally grown spices, herbs, greens and vegetables featuring in the dishes.

    Coming back to the Momo Achaar, I made it using this recipe from Healthy Recipe Home as the base, with a few little changes here and there. Peanuts are the major ingredient in this chutney, which tastes absolutely delightful. I kept it mildly spicy with a hint of sourness, and it went beautifully with not just the momos I prepared, but also with rotis, parathas, dosas and idlis. You have to try this out, if you haven’t already! The husband loved it to bits and said it tasted exactly like the chutney he had had in Sikkim, I’m happy to report.

    Luckily, the two secret ingredients my partner Aruna gave me for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge – garlic and peanuts – were just right for me to make this chutney. On that note, you must check out Aruna’s blog, Vasu’s Veg Kitchen, a treasure trove of well-explained recipes from around the globe. Look at the beautiful dish that Aruna made using the two secret ingredients I assigned her!

    Now, let me take you through the way I prepared the Momo Achaar. I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #292. The co-host this week is Ai @ Ai Made It For You.

    Ingredients (makes about 2 cups):

    1. 1/3 cup sesame seeds
    2. 1 cup peanuts
    3. 1/2 tablespoon oil
    4. 2 dry red chillies
    5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
    6. A small onion
    7. 5-6 garlic cloves
    8. 6 medium-sized tomatoes
    9. 2 green chillies
    10. Salt to taste
    11. 2 tablespoons chopped coriander
    12. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
    13. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
    14. Juice of 2 lemons or to taste
    15. 1 tablespoon honey or to taste (optional)

    Method:

    1. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Peel the garlic cloves. Peel off the skin of the onion and chop roughly. Chop the green chillies and tomato roughly, too. Keep aside.

    2. Dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds together, on medium flame, till they start turning brown and crunchy. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. Transfer to a plate. Keep aside.

    3. In the same pan, add in the oil. Then, add the chopped ginger and onion, garlic cloves and the dry red chillies. Saute on medium flame till the onion starts to brown, 2-3 minutes.

    4. Add the chopped tomatoes and green chillies to the pan too. Cook on medium flame till the tomatoes turn mushy, 2-3 minutes. Switch off gas and allow all the cooked ingredients to cool down fully.

    5. When all the cooked ingredients have entirely cooled down, transfer to a mixer jar. Add in salt to taste, turmeric powder, roasted cumin powder, chopped coriander, lemon juice to taste and a little water. Grind everything together to a smooth paste.

    6. Mix in honey to taste, if using.

    7. Allow the chutney to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Store refrigerated when not in use.

    Notes:

    1. I have used country (Nati) tomatoes here, for the beautiful flavour and tartness they impart. If these are not available, you may use the ‘farm’ variety of tomatoes.

    2. I have used dry Bydagi red chillies here, for the lovely colour they give to the dish, without adding too much spiciness.

    3. Adjust the quantity of dry red chillies and green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the chutney to be. The above quantities yield a medium-spicy chutney.

    4. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the chutney you prefer.

    5. Using the honey is purely optional.

    6. White vinegar can be used in place of the lemon juice in this momo chutney. I have used lemon juice here.

    7. This chutney stays well for up to a week when refrigerated and used hygienically.

    8. Make sure all the cooked ingredients have completely cooled down, before grinding them.

    9. I didn’t remove the skins from the peanuts before grinding.

    10. You may reduce the quantity of peanuts you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

    11. Traditional Sikkimese recipes suggest the use of soyabeans, the local Timur peppers and green Dalle chillies in this Momo Chutney. Each of these ingredients adds a special flavour and fragrance to the chutney. I didn’t have any of these, so I have omitted the soyabeans and Timur completely and used ordinary green chillies in place of the Dalle.

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

    Weekend Getaway To Pearl Valley, Near Anekal

    We are trying to make the most of the beautiful, beautiful weather in Bangalore lately. Of late, weekends see us on heading out on long drives, exploring places, seeing the city we live in with new eyes. One of my cousins has moved from the US of A, and we are – sort of – helping him get acquainted with Bangalore. Suits me just fine! So, that’s how we came to be checking out this place called Pearl Valley one gorgeous rainy weekend.

    And we’ve arrived at Pearl Valley!

    Located about 40 km from Bangalore, Pearl Valley needs just about an hour’s time to drive down. The roads are in great condition, and the ride is smooth. You pass through some narrow roads and little villages en route, all of it made extra charming by the pretty weather. Google Maps is a great guide to take you to this little known picnic spot, just 5 km or so away from Anekal district.

    The little lake that greets you upon your arrival at Pearl Valley

    There’s not much to do at Pearl Valley, whose original name is Muthyala Maduvu. It is, however, a nice spot for a relaxed half-day picnic in natural surroundings, I would say. This is a green valley situated in the midst of mountains, and a trek through the valley will bring you to the star attraction – a waterfall. I’ll hasten to tell you that the waterfall isn’t much to look at (definitely not in the league of Jog Falls or Shivanasamudra), and the trek doesn’t really involve very rugged terrain or an extremely tough trail. That said, it’s still a scenic place to visit, especially in the monsoons, a quiet sojourn away from the chaos of city life. My 4-1/2-year-old did a fairly decent job of the trek, as did the other two little ones in our family. I’d say this is a nice place for beginner trekkers or for children to get a feel of trekking or walking amidst wilderness.

    Look at that green, green valley!

    A hotel run by the Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) – Mayura Nisarga – is the only sort of commercialisation you will find at Pearl Valley. Mayura Nisarga is, actually, a bar-cum-hotel serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The hotel premises are where you park your vehicle and take a loo break, before heading down to the waterfall in the valley. Beware – monkeys run amok at this spot and are known for snatching food and drinks from the hands of unsuspecting tourists!

    Up to monkey business!

    The trekking trail here is still under construction. You’ll find proper steps along part of the way, while the rest is just finding your foothold amidst worn rocks and bushes and mud. There are no signboards or restrooms once you begin the trek, descending into the valley. No monkeys inside the valley, thankfully!

    Down, down, down we went that steep flight of stairs!

    One little girl had her first ‘trek’ experience amidst narrow trails!

    The views en route are pretty, albeit nothing extraordinary. I especially loved the rustic temple we passed en route. If you need to take a break, rocks and grassy land are all you have to sit on.

    Captured on camera en route

    This temple had me charmed!

    The waterfall you reach after the trek is, really, just a little trickle. Don’t go for the waterfall – go with family and friends to make memories along the way.

    The little waterfall at Pearl Valley

    Notes for travellers:

    1. The villagers of Muthyala Maduvu charge an entry fee of INR 30 per vehicle. Apart from this, there’s a small parking fee to be paid for using the premises of Mayura Nisarga.

    2. The food and beverages at Mayura Nisarga are pretty sad – speaking from personal experience. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry a lunch hamper from home. It would be best to leave the hamper in your vehicle – thanks to the monkeys – and wait till you reach a safe spot somewhere nearby, to eat.

    3. The trek can be a bit much for the aged and infirm. Children above 4 can head in, I’d say, provided they are able to walk independently. It’s about a 45-minute walk in all.

    4. Like I was saying earlier, there’s not much of development or vigilance inside the valley. We spotted bunches of people ducking under bushes with bottles of alcohol, and a few couples trying to get close. That said, there were quite a few families trekking the day we visited too. There’s really no one to keep an eye on the place, a sad fact.

    5. Carry a backpack with water bottles, umbrellas and/or rain coats, and a few snacks while you trek. Comfortable attire for trekking is highly recommended.

    6. The valley is not the cleanest of places. Be prepared to see several plastic bags and bottles, juice cartons, snack covers, alcohol bottles and the likes strewn all over.

    7. There’s nothing much to do or explore in the immediate surroundings. Plan your visit accordingly.

    8. Mayura Nisarga offers some good views of the valley, which you might want to check out.

    9. The valley was quite green and pretty when we visited, probably because we visited in the peak of monsoon. We had good weather too, as we trekked. I doubt either of this would be the case, if you visit in the non-rainy months.

    10. We didn’t come across any flora or fauna of interest, in the course of our trek.

    11. Pearl Valley is open from 7 am to 7 pm every day.

    ********

    I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #290. The co-host this week is Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.