Over the weekend, I was invited to be part of a breakfast meet for food bloggers at No. 10 Fort Cochin, a relatively new eatery on the busy St. Marks Road in Bangalore. Along with some of my foodie friends, I had a grand time here, gorging on some typical Keralite fare. This post is all about my experience.
No. 10 Fort Cochin, In a Nutshell
The restaurant, previously called Malabar Kitchen, isn’t a tough spot to find, considering that it is located at a prominent place on St. Marks Road. Basement parking is available, which is a big, big, big plus in a city like Bangalore and, therefore, worth a mention here.
The place prides itself on serving authentic Keralite food, including a full-blown sadya for lunch. Apparently, the chefs have been brought in from a couple of the best restaurants in Kerala, to ensure authenticity. Also, the fish and other seafood used in their meals comes fresh from special places on the coastline of Kerala and Gujarat.
No. 10 Fort Cochin has been used to catering to corporate crowds from the offices nearby, for lunch and dinner. Breakfast, here, though, is something that has very recently launched. They do the typical puttu, appams, egg roast and stew for breakfast, but they also have dosas, idlis and cornflakes forming part of the (limited) menu. You will definitely see a far more extensive menu, including a lot of vegetarian and seafood dishes, during lunch and dinner time here.
The eatery has a simple, no-fuss decor, all clean lines and functionality. The latticework on the walls lets in ample sunlight, ensuring the place is well-lit and ventilated. The wooden chairs and tables, which can seat up to 40 patrons at a time, are comfortable.
The wall decor here is subtle, but impressive. An artist’s impressions of all things Kerala adorn the walls – murals of the famed Dutch Palace in Mattancherry, the streets of Cochin, the ships that you can commonly find in the sea at Fort Kochi, and so on. I couldn’t help but reminisce about the lovely time the husband and I have had vacationing in Kerala, here.
We opted to sample the Keralite fare at No. 10 Fort Cochin over the cornflakes and other stuff (but of course!), and I would say we were richly rewarded. 🙂
Here is a brief overview of the food and drinks I tried out at this place.
Appams with vegetarian stew
I started breakfast with their appams and a vegetarian stew, both of which I loved. I have never had either before, so I am not sure of whether they would match up to the actual thing you get in Kerala. Personally, I quite liked the appams, pillowy soft with a faint hint of tanginess to them.
The vegetarian stew was perfect, with a generous amount of veggies, mild, with a slight kick from ginger. It suited my taste buds perfectly.
I washed down the appams with some good old lemon juice, made in plain water with no soda. It was decent – not exceptionally brilliant, nor too bad either.
Puttu and kadala curry
Next up, I tried out some puttu with its quintessential accompaniment – kadala curry.
The puttu was well done, generously doused with coconut, mild and simple. It was a tad dry and crumbly, but tasted great.
The kadala curry was lovely, and I simply loved it. It was mild and simple too, without any going overboard on the spices, just the way my mommy would make it.
Plain dosas with sambar and chutney
I also tried out the plain dosas here, served with coconut chutney and sambar. I loved the dosas, neither overly crispy nor overly soft, done just right. The coconut chutney was finger-licking delicious, while the sambar was just average and could have been better.
Breakfast for two at No. 10 Fort Cochin would set you back by INR 500 or so, which is pretty reasonable considering the location of the place.
I liked the food here. It was simple, homely and non-restaurant-y, if you know what I mean. The ambience is pleasing, too. This is surely a place I would love to go back to, especially for the Kerala-style sadya.
The views expressed herein are entirely my own, uninfluenced by anyone or anything.
Imagine a cosy little cafe with little tables, big windows that let the sunlight in, plants in pots on the sill.
Imagine porcelain teapots hanging from the ceiling, with decorative roses in them.
Imagine a gorgeous princess bed with net curtains in the vicinity, fairy lights in mason jars, artificial roses in wicker baskets hanging on wooden swings, and paper lanterns strung on trees.
Imagine lights in the shape of a magician’s top hat.
Imagine plates with magical messages on the wall.
Are you wondering if this place is for real or is a figment of my imagination? Are you doubtful if such a cafe really exists? Well, it does! That is exactly how The Mad Teapot Cafe in Indiranagar, Bangalore, looks like, from the inside. I had read, and heard, so many lovely descriptions of the place that I absolutely had to drag the husband here one afternoon, for lunch. We ended up getting equally enchanted by the eatery, too.
The Mad Teapot Cafe is housed within a home decor store called The Wishing Chair, on the bustling 100-foot Road in Indiranagar. The store, and consequently the cafe, has an ambience that can only be described as magical, enchanted, charming, quirky, and fantastical. With names like those, what else does one expect, if not a fairy tale-ish place? And a fairy tale-ish place is exactly what you get.
The magical home decor merchandise on sale at The Wishing Chair doubles up as decor for The Mad Teapot Cafe. It surely is a different-from-the-usual experience eating in the midst of stuff straight out of an Enid Blyton fantasy, an experience we cherished for sure.
The cafe is small, with just about five tables, a good place to stop at for a quick cup of coffee or dessert or some short eats. We lingered over our lunch, just gazing around and taking in the magic of the place, and that is exactly what the other patrons were doing as well. How can you help that, with an ambience like that? The service staff seems to be well used to such gawping, and were relaxed themselves, not exactly hovering over our table, but polite, friendly and responsive when called upon.
What about the food, you ask? I will start by telling you that the menu is straight out of an Enid Blyton book, too. Here is where you will find stuff like Forest Of Pumpkin Blossoms, Moonface Madness, Winter Woodland’s Vegetable Pasta, The White Fairy Pasta, and Island Of Greek Stories. Now, if that doesn’t enchant, what does?
The cafe proclaims that they are ‘proudly vegetarian’. Except for just one dish with eggs in it and the desserts (this latter part I am assuming!), everything on the menu is vegetarian. The cuisine is a mix of Italian and Continental food – no pizzas, but a variety of flat breads (mini pizzas, if you must!), pasta, salads, little bites, sandwiches, tea and coffee, the freak shakes that are all the rage now, and other desserts.
I have heard people raving about the food at this place, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. We had a good experience with the food here, too. To be honest, we didn’t find the food mind-blowingly brilliant, but it was definitely good.
The love affair between me and The Orange Citrus Fancy was immediate. I absolutely loved this pudding, well done, with just the right amount of sweet and sour for my tastebuds, bits and pieces of real orange peel in it, decked up with slightly bitter orange brittle. I have absolutely got to have this again, here!
The husband and I loved The Adventures Of Miss Evergreen, too. Spread with green pesto and topped with mozzarella, ricotta, sundried tomatoes and walnuts, this flatbread was a delight to eat. It was barely warm when it was brought to our table, and we were too hungry to ask for it to be heated up. Had it been served piping hot, I am sure it would have tasted even better.
Winter Woodland’s Vegetable Pasta was a simple but hearty dish, with a lot of grilled veggies, without any sauce. We weren’t really bowled over by this pasta, which actually felt a bit dry.
Twisty’s Tomtom Spaghetti came with a creamy red sauce that was a tad too fiery for me, but flavourful. In hindsight, the sauce would have gone better with penne pasta, rather than the spaghetti we had ordered. Overall, it was a good dish, though.
The cappuccino was decent. The almond cookie it was served with was chewy, but nice and tasty.
We found the portion sizes to be generous.
Price-wise, the husband and I found the cafe to be expensive. We paid about INR 1300 for our meal, including taxes.
I know for sure I will be visiting this place again, to try out the large number of desserts they have on their menu (in spite of the prices being a tad high), and to soak in more of that magical atmosphere. I think the place is best suited to times when you want to linger over some food or desserts, for a very relaxed cup of coffee with a book, or catching up with your friends and loved ones.
Do visit this place, if you haven’t already! It’s well worth it.
We spotted this beauty in the grounds of the Vana Durga temple at Kathiramangalam, near Kumbakonam. We made a pit-stop at the temple during our recent visit to Kumbakonam.
Is she resting? Abandoned? The story stays unknown to me. Whatever she might have gone through, she is extremely beautiful and captivating, for sure. I couldn’t resist this picture.
About the Vana Durgai temple, Kathiramangalam
The village of Kathiramangalam, a short drive away from Kumbakonam, houses a beautiful, ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Durga, where this picture was taken. The 6-foot tall idol of the Goddess within has a rustic beauty to it, the same way that the small temple itself does.
There are several legends associated with this temple, popularly called the Vana Durgai (Forest Durga) temple. It is believed that the famed sage Agasthiyar performed penance in the forests at this place, and that it is he who created the idol of Goddess Durga here.
Popular legend has it that the Goddess visits the holy land of Kasi every night, and comes back in the mornings to preside over the temple in the day time. She is believed to be highly powerful, and devotees come from far and near to seek her blessings or relief from their problems. The special pooja held at this temple during Rahu Kaalam is very popular.
Tips for travellers
This temple is located in the midst of an almost forest-like area, with no shops, ATMs or eateries nearby. If you plan to visit, do make sure that you are well prepared for this.
The temple is located roughly 15 km away from Kumbakonam and about 7 km from Mayiladuthurai. Kumbakonam and Mayiladuthurai are the nearest railway stations, while the nearest airport is at Trichy.
A taxi from either Mayiladuthurai or Kumbakonam is the best way to reach this temple.
You can combine a visit to this temple with visits to several other temples in and around Mayiladuthurai or Kumbakonam. Do speak to your cab driver beforehand and fix up an itinerary.
The Rahu Kaalam pooja at this temple is believed to be highly auspicious. If you are interested in witnessing it, do find out the exact timings of the pooja and plan your visit accordingly.
Different kinds of flowers are offered to the Goddess here by devotees seeking relief from different issues. For instance, the ‘manoranjitham’ flower is offered by people seeking reunion for separated couples, while roses are offered by devotees seeking marriage.
I hope you have been reading and enjoying my posts about our trip to Kumbakonam. If not, please do!
There’s always room for desserts, particularly if the dessert in question is ice cream! Well, that’s how the husband and I are, both of us with a huge sweet tooth! We often turn to ice cream to satiate our sweet cravings, and that is what led me to experiment with making different flavours of frozen delight at home.
This summer, I tried out a whole lot of simple ice creams at home, and was extremely pleased with the results. I made some classic, old-time flavours – like mango and malai kulfi. Then, I also went on to try out some ‘twisted’ flavours, like chocolate-chilli and sesame-jaggery. Everything was equally loved, equally hungrily devoured. The best part? Every single one of these ice creams was so very easy to make!
Here, I present to you recipes for 10 beautiful flavours of ice cream that you can try out at home very easily. I hope you will try out at least a few of these recipes, the next time you have guests coming over, are hankering for dessert, want to celebrate something, or just want to brighten up a dull day!
Click on the name of each ice cream, to get the respective recipe!
This is the very first type of ice cream that I tried making at home, and so very special to me. This recipe yields a beautiful, creamy, lemony ice cream that is pleasantly tangy and sweet. The lemon peel in the ice cream elevates its taste to a whole new level!
Being the sucker for mangoes that I am, how could I not go ahead and make some mango ice cream? The mango lends a lovely all-natural colour and flavour to this ice cream, which is as easy to make as 1-2-3!
This ice cream is an attempt to recreate the gorgeous, gorgeous Lonavali ice cream I have grown up eating in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Instead of the peanut brittle aka chikki that the ice cream traditionally uses, though, I used sesame-and-jaggery revdi. The revdi, with a hint of rose in it, as well as the jaggery I used to sweeten the ice cream makes it an absolute delight to eat!
This dessert looks like good old chocolate ice cream, but it is so NOT! Eat a spoonful, and you will find the rich, lovely taste of chocolate swirling on your tongue. The very next moment, the hint of chilli in the ice cream will hit you, in a good way. Try this ice cream out to understand exactly what I mean!
The beautiful fragrance of coffee and the crunch of dark chocolate chips – the two things that majorly make up this ice cream – what is to not love? Try out this super simple but utterly scrumptious ice cream the next time you are craving some dessert!
This ice cream is pure nostalgia in a bowl, a throwback to older and simpler times when weekends meant a visit to the neighbourhood park, followed by a treat of buddhi ke baal aka cotton candy. Do try out this pink beauty some time!
This is an extremely simple dessert, with not many ingredients, but definitely gorgeous in taste. The sinfully creamy texture, hint of rose essence, slivers of pistachio and refreshing sweetness will surely bowl everyone over.
Delectable malai kulfi stuffed inside a sweet, juicy, ripe mango – sounds good? Well, let me tell you that this dessert tastes great as well. What’s more, it isn’t very tough to put together either! Try it out, will you?
Which of these simple ice cream recipes did you like the most? Which one/s are you the most tempted to try out?
I am sure every person who has ever dreamt of going to North-East India has read about the living root bridges that are common in this part of the world. These bridges, made by joining the roots of rubber trees (Ficus Elastica), are very much a part of living trees and are, in consequence, live too. They are believed to have the ability to renew and strengthen themselves, as the trees grow and gain strength. Quite safe and sturdy, these living bridges form part of everyday life for the various tribes inhabiting North-East India.
The lesser known living root bridge of Nohwet Village
The living root bridge of Cherrapunjee, a double-decker one, is perhaps the best known of all such bridges. Crossing the Cherrapunjee living root bridge (a UNESCO heritage site) is said to be a must-do, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. The scenery around is extremely beautiful, but the trek is an arduous one, involving the climbing of over 3000 steps. At the end of this tough trek, you are amply rewarded with a glimpse of the gorgeous Rainbow Falls, but this task that can take hours on end is not meant for the faint-hearted, people who aren’t really fit or used to trekking. Our tour guide advised us not to attempt the trek with a child in tow, and the husband and I acquiesced, understanding that our fitness levels are definitely way below good.
Contrary to popular belief, though, the Cherrapunjee bridge is not the only living root bridge that exists – there are many more, some lesser known, some not known to tourists at all. There’s an equally beautiful and awe-inspiring living root bridge in the village of Nohwet, near Mawylnnong, relatively lesser known to tourists, for instance. Our tour guide suggested we visit this bridge, seeing that we weren’t in a position to do the Cherrapunjee one, considering getting down to this one wasn’t as tough a job to undertake. And that is exactly what we did.
Scenes from the Nohwet living root bridge
The minute you land in Nohwet, a little village, the site of the living root bridge, you begin to feel a definite change in the surroundings around you. This village is very well structured and organised, and it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into its layout. There are proper channels for rain water to flow, cobbled streets and lamp posts. The houses are small but beautiful – thatched huts with a small porch, a little patch of green around the front, hens roosting here and there. Following the example of Mawlynnong, I suppose, Nohwet too is very clean, with spotless roads and conical bamboo dustbins set up everywhere to collect waste. For a proper tourist spot to be that clean is, I believe, something highly commendable.
Walking along the beautiful Nohwet village, following the signboards clearly directing us, we headed towards the living root bridge. Along the way are quaint little shops, selling pineapples and local berries and jackfruit and bamboo artifacts and what not.
After just a few minutes of walking, the gorgeous sound of water gushing and gurgling filled our ears, and we knew we had arrived. A minute or so later, we came to a place that I can only describe as heavenly – lovely, lovely green all around, almost a jungle, the sound of water and crickets chirping renting the air, a river gushing by, and a magnificent bridge made entirely out of the roots of trees straddling the river. I couldn’t help falling in love with the place there and then, and a ‘Wow!’ escaped me. If this lesser-known bridge was so beautiful, just how beautiful would the double-decker living root bridge of Cherrapunjee be?
The descent to the spot of the living root bridge is rocky, but not very tough. We managed to get down in about 15 minutes, walking slowly and gradually, holding on to each other and the bub. The sight that met our eyes was totally worth every ounce of energy we spent on the descent, that is for sure.
The Thyllong, a river held sacred by the Khasis, flows extremely picturesquely beneath the bridge. The living root bridge has been prepared by the locals by training the roots of rubber trees, trees which were planted as far back as 1840. The plaque at the spot doesn’t indicate when exactly the bridge was built. It is, however, clear that the bridge was built so as to enable people from the surrounding villagers to cross the river, which I hear gets unimaginably swollen in the monsoons.
The bridge is still very much in use by the villagers and, in return for a nominal entry fee (INR 20 per head or so), tourists are allowed to visit it as well.
It is such a serene, magical place, something straight out of the pages of a fairytale. We managed to visit at the best time, just before the sun went down, when there were not many tourists around. I would have loved to lounge around this place, sitting on a rock by that gurgling river and reading or simply staring at all that bounty of nature, soaking it all in. Sadly, though, we had a hotel to check into, a drive to head on, places on our to-do list to check off, and could spend only a short while (much too short for my taste, actually) here.
Some other time, some other vacation, I am going to make sure I stay put at this place to my heart’s content.. Till then, I will make do with memories. 🙂
Tips for travellers
A trip to the Nohwet living root bridge can be combined with a visit to the adjacent village of Mawlynnong.
A boat ride at Dawki and a visit to the India-Bangladesh border at Tamabil can also be combined with a visit to this living root bridge. Do check with your tour operator on this.
Mawlynnong, as far as I understand, can be accessed only via taxis, private or shared.
The living root bridge can be visited any time of the year, but monsoons are the best time to do this, actually. During monsoons (between March and August), the river is apparently at its beautiful best.
There is an Eco Park at the same spot as this living root bridge. We weren’t able to visit it due to paucity of time, but I hear it is very beautiful too.
I hope you have been reading my posts about our recent trip to North-East India, and enjoying them too. If not, please do check them out!
Saragva ni kadhi, a Gujarati dish made using curd and drumsticks (‘saragva’ is Gujarati for ‘drumsticks’), is a hot favourite at our place. One of our Gujarati friends taught us how to make this kadhi, years ago, and I have been making it ever since. The husband loves it, the bub loves it, and so do I. This kadhi is something I prepare often at home, whenever there is sour curd left over. Hey, sometimes I even set extra curd just so I can make this! 🙂 Beloved as this dish is, it was only natural that I chose to make it recently, on the OH’s birthday.
It is a commonly held myth that all Gujarati dishes are sweet, that they have at least a dash of sugar in them. That is SO not the truth. There are a whole lot of Gujarati food items that do not contain any sugar at all. This saragva ni kadhi is one such no-sugar preparation.
This Gujarati drumstick kadhi tastes absolutely delish, and is a delight to eat with rotis and rice alike. It is a great way to get those super-healthy drumsticks into your diet, and to make use of any excess curd lying around in your kitchen. What’s more, it is fairy easy to make too, a matter of minutes.
Now, let’s find out how to make saragva nikadhi, shall we?
Ingredients (serves 4):
For the garnish:
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 dry red chillies
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
2 medium-sized drumsticks
1 medium-sized serving bowl of thick curd
Salt, to taste
Red chilli powder, to taste
2 green chillies, slit length-wise
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 tablespoons gram flour (besan)
A few fresh curry leaves
A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
Remove the ends of the drumsticks, and chop them into 2-inch pieces.
Heat some water in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add a little salt to it. Drop in the drumstick pieces. Cook them, covered, on a medium flame, till they are tender. This will take 4-5 minutes. You will need to keep checking on them in the interim, adding more water if required.
While the drumsticks are cooking, get the curd ready to make the kadhi. Take the curd in a large mixing bowl, and add in about 1/2 cup of water. Add the gram flour, salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, slit green chillies and curry leaves to it. Mix well, ensuring that everything is well incorporated together.
When the drumsticks are cooked, add the curd mixture to the pan. Keep the flame on medium.
Stirring intermittently, let the curd mixture come to a boil. At this point, turn down the flame to low.
Let the kadhi simmer for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, get the garnish ready.
For the garnish, heat the oil in a little pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add in the fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds, and then switch off the gas.
Add this garnish to the simmering kadhi. Mix well. When the 2 minutes of simmering are up, switch off the gas.
Add in the finely chopped coriander leaves. Mix well.
Serve hot or warm with rotis or rice.
Use curd that is slightly sour, for best results.
You may add a dash of sugar or jaggery to the kadhi if you want, but that is purely optional.
I sometimes tear the curry leaves, using my hands, before adding them to the curd. This way, I make sure they are consumed along with the kadhi, and not left on the side of the plate.
Add more or lesser water to the curd, depending upon how thick you want the kadhi to be.
Make sure the drumsticks are just about cooked, and not overcooked.
Do not cook the kadhi for too long after it has reached boiling stage. Overcooking might cause the kadhi to curdle or lose its taste.
Did you like the sound of this Gujarati drumstick kadhi? I hope you will try this out, too!
If you make this kadhi at home, I would love to hear of your version!
Eid Mubarak to all those who are celebrating today! 🙂
This day, I had to break open the packet of Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix that I had been hoarding for a while! It is the day of Eid after all! Let me tell you, I absolutely loved the way it turned out, and so did everyone at home.
What is sheer khurma?
For the uninitiated, sheer khurma or sheer korma is a special kind of milk pudding, containing dates and vermicelli, that is commonly prepared by Muslims on the occasion of Eid. Wikipedia tells me that this pudding constitutes festival day breakfast or dessert, and is largely prepared in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia.
I have always been intrigued by sheer khurma, and have always wanted to try out an authentic version. I have even bookmarked a couple of recipes for the pudding from the Internet, but somehow, never got around to making the pudding from scratch at home. Recently, when a fellow foodie, Soumya Gopi, posted about her highly successful attempt at making sheer khurma using a ready mix by Shan, I was tempted to try it out too.
I have frequently come across garam masala and other spices by Shan in departmental stores, but never picked them up. After Soumya’s post, I kept my eyes open for the sheer khurma mix and, soon enough, found it, a while back. Today seemed to be a very auspicious occasion for experimenting with it.
About Shan Foods
Shan Foods produces and offers a wide variety of spice mixes that are commonly used in making Pakistani dishes. This Pakistan-based firm has been around since 1981.
I have been hearing great things about their pulao masala and meat masala, but this is the first product by them that I am trying.
My thoughts about Shan Sheer Khurma Mix
1. Like I said earlier, all of us at home loved the way the sheer khurma turned out. It was absolutely delish, and disappeared within minutes of the making!
2. I liked how the sheer khurma had a generous quantity of dried fruits and nuts, unlike some ready mixes where they are added just for the name’s sake.
3. There was no chemical, artificial smell to the sheer khurma, which sometimes happens in case of pre-packaged mixes. The pudding tasted as if it had been made fresh, from scratch, in my kitchen.
4. I would have loved to see slightly more dates in the sheer khurma. Also, the dates didn’t seem to have any taste to them – I’m guessing that is because they had been dried before packaging. Using fresh dates would have made a whole lot of difference, I think, but of course, that isn’t possible in a pre-packaged mix.
5. I loved how it was so very simple to make the sheer khurma. All I had to do was boil a litre of full-cream milk, add the mix to it, and simmer for a few minutes. The pack came with clear instructions about usage, which were no trouble following.
6. The package suggested how to make three different versions of the sheer khurma, each one with a subtle difference in taste. I followed one of these instructions, and added 1 cup of condensed milk to the boiled milk, along with the mix. The pudding turned out perfectly creamy and just the right amount of sweet. I am not sure if I would had to add extra sugar, had I not used the condensed milk. I think the pudding would still have been creamy, sans the condensed milk, because I used full-fat milk to make it.
7. I loved how the mix had strands of thin vermicelli in it, and not big, fat ones. The vermicelli added to the taste of the dish, rather than becoming one big, goopy mess.
8. This 150-gram mix yielded enough sheer khurma to generously serve 5 people. So, for the INR 70 that the package costs, I think it is totally worth it.
9. It must not have taken me more than 15 minutes to get the sheer khurma ready. It would, therefore, work wonderfully for those times when you need to whip up a dessert for guests within minutes, and do not have ingredients (or experience!) on hand. It would make for a lovely, different-from-the-usual dessert, too.
10. Shan masalas (and this mix as well) are readily available in several departmental stores in Bangalore. You can find them on Amazon as well. After this, I am sorely tempted to try out their other mixes and masalas! Like Soumya says, food does not (and should not) have any boundaries!
11. I am not qualified enough to comment on the ingredients listed on the package, so I will refrain from doing the same.
This is not a paid or promotional post. I paid for the packet of Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix and wrote about it here because I really liked the result.
The views expressed here are entirely my own, and are not influenced by anything or anyone.
I do not recommend the use of processed and pre-packaged mixes, and rarely buy them. I do get tempted by unique stuff such as this, though, and pick them up to try them out.
How do you make sheer khurma, if at all you make it at home?
Have you tried out products by Shan? What are your thoughts about them?
Our recent trip to the North-East began with a brief stop at the sweltering Guwahati, where the only thing we managed to do was visit the famed Kamakhya temple, that too from the outside. The next morning, armed with a good night’s rest, all rejuvenated and excited, we set out for Shillong by road, an approximately 2.5-hour journey if you don’t come across any major traffic jams. We were to stay in Shillong for 2 days.
The roads between Guwahati and Shillong are excellent, and we had a very smooth drive. In fact, we wouldn’t even have realised we had neared Shillong if the quality of the air hadn’t begun to change after a certain point. The closer we got to Shillong, the clearer, the crisper, the colder, the air became. Shillong itself was cold, in the peak of the monsoon season, and we set about sightseeing with jackets and umbrellas in tow.
A brief note about Shillong
From the time of the British rule until 1972, Shillong was the capital of the state of Assam (back then, an undivided state as Meghalaya hadn’t yet been formed). In the year 1972, when Meghalaya became a separate state, Shillong was retained as its capital, while Guwahati was chosen as the capital of Assam.
Shillong is a small but extremely beautiful city – with rolling hills, flowers, waterfalls and pine trees all around. The city enjoys pleasant weather all year round, thanks to its location of about 4000 feet above sea level, but is all the more beautiful in the period from March to June.
The city gets its name from U Shyllong, a revered deity of the local Khasi tribe. Shillong has also been nicknamed ‘Scotland of the East’ because, apparently, the beautiful weather and rolling hills of the city reminded the Britishers of Scotland.
Close on the heels of the British, Christian missionaries arrived in Shillong, establishing churches and schools and spreading Christianity among the local tribespeople. Some of the educational institutes established in Shillong during this period – St Edmunds and IIM-Shillong, for instance – have made the city proud and famous. You will find several relics from the British rule and the reign of the missionaries in Shillong, including the city’s famous rock-and-roll culture. Most of the locals here still follow Christianity, introduced to them by the missionaries. Archery, golf, football and polo are popular sports here.
10 experiences we thoroughly enjoyed in Shillong
We fell in love with Shillong at first glance. As we explored the place, a little on foot and a little by cab, this love only deepened.
Shillong is a popular tourist destination, and it was teeming with people when we visited. We were lucky, though, to manage some off-the-beaten-track experiences here, along with checking out the local tourist spots.
Would you like to know which experiences in Shillong we loved the most? Here you go!
1. Gorging on gorgeous pineapples en route to Shillong
On the way to Shillong from Guwahati, you will come across many little stalls that sell a variety of things, from pickles made the old-fashioned way to local varieties of bananas, jackfruit, banana flowers, pineapples and arum root.
You will come across a vast number of pickles here – bamboo shoot, mango, local berries, gooseberries, raw mango, local fish varieties, and what not. These pickles are made (and sold at these stalls) by people residing in the villages, in the mountains en route. Most of these pickles contain nothing but salt, chilli powder and oil, and are preserved the ancient way – using sunlight.
We made a pit-stop at a couple of these stores, and the beautiful pineapples here were what caught our fancy the most. We ate the loveliest ever pineapples here – perfectly ripe, so sweet the slices felt like they were dipped in sugar syrup, so juicy the juice ran down to our elbows when we bit into them. The taste of these pineapples still lingers on in my mind, and I now realise how much the fruit available in Bangalore pales in comparison to this gorgeousness.
The families manning these stalls are very friendly too, and we had a lovely time clicking photographs of them and talking to them as we ate.
2. Basking in the beautiful views of the Umiam Lake
About 15 km away from Shillong lies the beautiful, beautiful Umiam Lake. This 220 square km man-made lake was built as part of a hydroelectric project by the Assam State Electricity Board. Over time, the lake has grown to become a major tourist attraction and picnic spot for the locals. Now, you will find stalls selling snacks, photo ops, washrooms, a play area for kids, adventure sports and boating facilities here, too.
The lake looks exceptionally lovely, breath-takingly so, during sunset. You can view the lake from a viewpoint on the highway passing above it, too, and this view is extremely pretty as well.
They say the Umiam lake looks different at different times of the day, depending on how the light falls over the waters. It looks different in different seasons, too, apparently. We spent some quiet time here, just sitting and gazing at the calm, seemingly unruffled waters of the lake, in awe of its beauty.
3. Getting up close and personal with the ducks at Ward’s Lake
All of us – the husband, bub and I – absolutely loved Ward’s Lake in Shillong. This large lake, with a big garden around it is so very pretty! In a lot of ways – the variety of trees in the park, the sloping grounds, the cobbled pathways – reminded me of Sims Park in Ooty, a place beloved to the husband and me.
We spent quite a bit of time at Ward’s Lake, leisurely walking around the garden, soaking in the beauty around us. We had a lovely paddle-boat ride in the lake – something we dismissed as a very touristy thing to do initially, but absolutely loved it once we got into it. The bub loved, loved, loved watching the ducks at the park in action – they are so used to people that they get really, really close to you; we had never seen ducks at such close quarters before.
If we had had more time, I’d have loved to lounge around in Ward’s Lake for hours on end, reading a book and just inhaling as much of that pollution-free air as I could.
4. Exploring the delights of Police Bazaar
Police Bazaar is one of the biggest markets of Shillong city, a bustling place that is best explored on foot. Here, you will find shops selling everything, from readymade garments, cosmetics, footwear and groceries to the locally produced betelnut, knives, berries, plants, fruits and vegetables and bamboo handicrafts – all at very reasonable rates.
In this bazaar, you will find several traditional eateries, modern cafes, bakeries and sweet shops, too. Come evening, and the bazaar comes alive, transforming into a food lover’s paradise, with road-side stalls selling kebabs, chaat, roasted peanuts, noodles, chowmein, fried eggs, and what not.
We loved the time we spent walking around the bylanes of Police Bazaar, taking in the sights and sounds and smells, trying to capture as much of the action as we could on camera, bargaining and shopping, understanding the ways of the locals, experimenting with local food.
Yes, the Police Bazaar area can become quite crowded, especially during the evenings, but I would highly recommend a visit here. This place will definitely give you a taste of local flavours.
5. Checking out the ‘Skywalk’ at Don Bosco Centre For Indigenous Culture
The Don Bosco Centre For Indigenous Culture in Mawlai, Shillong, is a great starting point if you want to understand the cultures of the many tribes that reside in North-East India. The museum houses pictures of the various tribespeople, their clothing, utensils and jewellery, as well as life-size models depicting their daily lives. The little shop in the museum sells Meghalaya-special souvenirs, such as locally grown tea and turmeric powder, as well bamboo handicrafts. There is a small cafe in the museum premises, too, which will give you a taste of North-Eastern food.
To be honest, the husband and I weren’t too impressed with the museum. It is extensive, yes, and it is definitely a good place to understand North-Eastern cultures. That said, there was an air of commercialisation around it, that feeling of there being too many models and not enough actual relics from the past like you would expect to see in a museum like this. That said, I still maintain that this is a place you mustn’t miss out on, on your visit to Shillong.
The part of the museum that we absolutely loved was the ‘Skywalk’, a winding pathway that takes you up, up, up, from where you can get breath-taking views of Shillong. Don’t forget to check out the Skywalk whenever you visit the museum!
6. Soaking in the peace at the Shillong Gaden Choeling Monastery
The Shillong Gaden Choeling Monastery is not your typical tourist destination. It is a place of worship for Buddhist monks, a small place nestled in the foothills of Lumparing, Shillong. It is a scenic place, though, and a very peaceful one.
We visited the monastery early in the morning, while incense was being burnt near the prayer wheels and the chants of the monks filled the air around us. There were no other tourists, and the place emanated a pleasant, peaceful, relaxed vibe. We just walked around for a while, looking at this and that, and that sat in to bask in the peaceful atmosphere. Absolute bliss, I tell you!
7. Staying at the home of a Khasi family, at Dew Drop In
The husband and I have always loved staying in homestays wherever we go. We think it is a great way of understanding local culture and cuisine, a wonderful opportunity to interact with locals. Now, with the bub travelling with us, homestays work out best for us, where we manage to get kid-friendly food and other necessities under the same roof, without too much of a hassle.
While in Shillong, we were thrilled to know that our tour operator had arranged for a day’s stay at Dew Drop In, the home of a Khasi (one of the local tribes) family. The property is extremely beautiful, well managed and maintained. We had a delightful time staying here, looking around the place, admiring the artful way the house has been done up, checking out the gorgeous plants here, just chatting, reading on the terrace, and gorging on some wonderful Khasi food. Our guests were super friendly and courteous, taking care of our every need, and that made our stay all the more pleasant.
Don’t miss staying at this place whenever you are visiting Shillong. I can assure you that the experience will be totally worth it!
8. Relaxing at the Don Bosco Cathedral
The Mary Help Of Christians Cathedral in Shillong, popularly called the Don Bosco Cathedral is quite a popular tourist spot in the city. And why not? The church, said to be one of the oldest is Shillong, is a beautiful, beautiful Gothic structure. The surroundings are lush green, filled with the flowers that are a common sight all over Shillong. What’s more, you get a majestic view of the mountains of Shillong if you climb all the way to the top of the cathedral. I also hear the Cathedral housed refugees in times of war, saving them from the clutches of hunger and death.
This is the sort of place that fills you with peace the moment you set foot in it. There is that charming, old-world aura to the place, and memories of all those prayers that must have taken place here rush to you as you walk around. All that unadulterated, natural beauty around is sure to make you feel heady, as is the beautiful weather of Shillong. We spent a couple of hours here, much more than the average 15-20 minutes usually allotted to this place, just relaxing and soaking in the loveliness of it all. We absolutely loved every bit of it.
9. Walking along the very pretty golf course
The golf course at Shillong is a beautiful, beautiful thing. You might think – as we did, initially – about what exactly there is to see at a golf course. But, there is! This golf course is a huge expanse of green, dotted with pine trees, with some gorgeous views.
You must spend some relaxed time here, like we did – walking around, soaking in the peace, sampling local berries from the women vendors who frequent the place, taking pictures of the amazing surroundings, reading a book or listening to music, collecting pine cones, sitting below the pine trees and taking in their gorgeous scent as the wind ruffles their branches… this surely is a place that needs to be cherished.
10. Hogging authentic Khasi food at Red Rice and Dew Drop In
Being the foodie that I am, I wanted to try out at least a few authentic Khasi dishes while we were in Shillong. Considering that we are pure vegetarians and that the people of the North-East are predominantly meat-eaters, this was a slightly difficult task. Thankfully, our tour guide directed us to the right places where we did manage to get hold of some very authentic, vegetarian Khasi food.
During our stay at Dew Drop In, our Khasi hosts were more than happy to cook us an authentic local meal with vegetarian ingredients. Here, we got to sample Khasi daal (made with greens), mixed vegetable curry, jado stey (a Khasi dish of rice cooked with turmeric, green peas and onion), a pickle made with local sour berries, along with rotis, curd and green salad. Every single dish that was a part of this meal was absolutely delicious – simple but hearty, well cooked and flavourful.
Another such beautiful meal was at Red Rice in Police Bazaar, a small eatery that prides itself on serving proper Khasi food. Here, we sampled a Khasi thali, served with the locally consumed red rice. It was, sort of, marvelous to see how a meal could be cooked up with so little ingredients and yet be so fulfilling, so lovely. It set me thinking as to how we city dwellers do have a lot to learn from these people of the hills, who live every day in the face of hardships.
Khasi fare is definitely something that I want to try out in my own kitchen. Hopefully, soon!
Well, that is all about the experiences we loved having in Shillong city. But then, of course, that is not all there is to Shillong. There is a whole lot more to be felt, explored, in the city, and I am so sure we have simply touched the outermost fringes. Beneath its touristy, vibrant exterior, there are surely layers to Shillong that we can fathom only when we make several more journeys to the place.
Apart from these experiences, we also visited the Rabindranath Tagore museum and Lady Hydari Park in Shillong. In this post, though, I chose to write only about those experiences that we absolutely loved.
I hope you had fun reading this!
Have you read my other posts about our North-East trip? If you haven’t yet, please do!
Recently, for a cooking group that I am part of – called Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge – I recreated a dish that my mother would make often as I was growing up – Chawal Ke Pakode or fritters using leftover rice. She would make these fritters whenever there was extra cooked rice left over, and they would get gobbled up in minutes. In fact, apart from the rice, she would add any leftover dry curry, upma or vermicelli too. 🙂 Best way to use up leftovers, I say.
For the Challenge, I was paired up with another food blogger, who writes at Shobha’s Food Mazaa, who assigned me two ingredients – mixed vegetables and flour. I had to use these ingredients to create something fried, which was the group’s theme for this month. I decided to make this dish I have grown up eating.
Following in my mother’s footsteps, I made the chawal ke pakode with leftover cooked rice, vegetable upma, grated cheese, cauliflower and onion curry. Unlike Amma, though, I added in some taste-makers – amchoor, sugar and garam masala. They made for a beautiful snack on a rainy day and, as always, got eaten within minutes of the making.
About 10 stalks of fresh coriander leaves, chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons amchoor powder, or to taste
2 pinches of asafoetida powder (hing)
Oil, for deep frying
Take the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, and set it to heat on a high flame.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the oil. Mix well, ensuring that all the ingredients are well combined together. You should get a mixture that you can easily shape into balls, without everything crumbling apart. There is, usually, no need to add water.
Make lemon-sized balls out of the mixture, and keep them ready.
When the oil is nice and hot, reduce the flame to medium. Deep fry the balls in the hot oil, a couple at a time, turning sides, till they are well browned on all sides.
Serve piping hot, with chutney of your choice, tomato sauce and/or kasundi.
Personally, I think the sugar adds a nice taste to the chawal ke pakode. Feel free to reduce the quantity of sugar or skip it altogether, if it doesn’t sound like a great addition to you.
Basically, any dry leftovers from your kitchen can go into the making of these fritters. I made another batch of these using leftover cooked rice, potato curry, carrot salad, and lemon rice. Those tasted yummylicious, too.
Increase or decrease the quantity of gram flour that you use, depending upon the consistency of your fritter batter. Add just enough to make a mixture that easily shapes into balls, without coming apart in your hands.
You could add any other veggies from your refrigerator to these fritters too.
My mother would pick out the chillies from the leftover upma before making these fritters, and so did I too. Leave them in, if you are okay with them.
Amma would add just salt, red chilli powder and a hint of garam masala, but I went ahead and added some amchoor and sugar too. Take your pick, as far as the spices are concerned. Chana masala or pavbhaji masala instead of garam masala would be a nice touch too, I think.
I used Amul processed cheese.
Did you like this idea of using up leftovers from your kitchen? How do you make use of leftover rice and curries? Tell me; I’m all ears!
A chef who has trained under some of the most reputed institutions out there, who has a couple of television shows to his name, who is well recognised by all and sundry in Indian households, who has been a judge of the famed MasterChef India, who has been witness to some of the most exciting trends in the culinary world, who has had the opportunity to cook for the nation’s Prime Minister and the foreign dignitaries visiting him – that is Kunal Kapur for you, a celebrity in his own right. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity, recently, to attend a ‘Food Camp’ by the celebrity chef at the International Institute Of Hotel Management (IIHM), Bangalore.
I had gone to the event prepared with a set of questions for the chef, and was so glad the bloggers present were given a chance to have a little one-on-one conversation with him. Chef Kapur was happy to answer my questions, in his cool and composed and smiling manner.
Without further ado, here’s presenting to you the conversation I had with Chef Kapur, about food and more.
Me: What is comfort food for you?
Chef: Ice cream and chocolate – these spell out ‘comfort’ to me (laughs). Also, homely, old-time stuff like daal chawal or khichdi are what I turn to when I need comfort.
Me: How do you think food has changed over the years?
Chef: I think everyone wants to order out these days. There are very few people today who really love cooking, and that is a sad state of affairs. Food has become fancy. Plating is of crucial importance now. Soon enough, actual home-cooked, simple food will be a luxury.
Me: How do you manage to stay fit, in spite of cooking so much, day after day after day?
Chef: I try to burn whatever I eat – that is the only way. I think you can eat all that you want, but in moderation. And you have to work out, get moving, and burn fat.
Me: You are currently researching unique pickles across India for your latest book. Could you tell us more about this book?
Chef: Yes, you are right. I am travelling from one place to another in India, talking to people, trying to find out about various pickling practices used in the country. There are so many unique pickles made in our country, many of them unheard of by common people. That is the stuff I want to bring to light through my latest book.
This book will take me at least two more years to write. The Internet hasn’t been of much use in my research – this is something that needs extensive travel and first-hand research. I am in full-on research mode, for the book, as of now.
Me: What are the most unique pickles that you have come across, in the course of your research?
Chef: A very unique pickle I encountered, in the course of my research, was one made of mustard leaves, in Darjeeling. The leaves are pounded, put into a sack and buried under the earth for over a week’s time, to ferment. Post this, the fermented leaves are dried and pickled. This is something I had never heard of before!
Then, there was this mahani root pickle that I tried out in South India. The root is pickled in buttermilk, which is said to preserve the pickle. This completely blew me away. Commonly, when we think of pickles, we think of a whole lot of salt, spices and oil – but this pickle is so very different!
Me: What do you think are the best-kept secrets of Indian cuisine?
Chef: I would say, the dadis and nanis in Indian families, the grandmothers, are the best-kept secrets of the culinary world. These grandmothers possess a wealth of experience and knowledge. They have, in their repertoire, a number of culinary secrets and recipes that are, largely, unknown to the modern world. They are the best people we should be learning to cook from!
Me: You have been conducting food camps in different cities across India. What do you plan to achieve with them?
Chef: Yes, I have been conducting food camps in hotel management institutes in different Indian cities. These food camps are, basically, workshops where students can learn the basics of molecular gastronomy, plating, food trends and reinvention. These hotel management students are the chefs of tomorrow, which is why I want to work with them, to train them. I want them to get the benefit of my experience of all these years.
Through these workshops, I plan to bridge the gap between the trends prevailing in the culinary world, nationally and internationally, and the syllabus followed in these institutes.
Me: How was your experience cooking Sattvik food for PM Narendra Modi, on his visit to Bangalore? And for the visiting German dignitaries? Do tell us more!
Chef: Oh, it was a wonderful experience! I had a lot of fun preparing a slew of vegetarian dishes for Narendra Modiji, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the other honoured guests. I am so glad I got this opportunity to showcase the wealth of vegetarian dishes we have in India, to these guests.
You know, I was okay cooking Sattvik food for Modiji, since he is used to vegetarian dishes. I was actually scared of preparing vegetarian food for the German dignitaries, who are hard-core meat-eaters. What if they didn’t like what I had to offer them?, I worried. I needn’t have worried, though. Everyone loved the meal, German dignitaries included.
Me: Is there a memoir in the offing? Do you plan to write a book telling your fans all about yourself?
Chef: Oh, I don’t think I am accomplished enough to do something like that! I’m still learning about food, trends and different cuisines of the world. There are a whole lot of things about food that I want to write about – not myself.
If someone else wants to write about me, though, they are welcome to take it up (laughs). That is not a task that I want to undertake myself.
I hope you enjoyed reading our little conversation, folks! Do let me know!