Friday, 30 December 2016

Mauritian Tadka!!!

As my stomach growled, I dipped my finger into the green chutney kept on the table while mentally praying that the kebabs would come soon. The next moment my tongue was on fire, my mouth was a furnace and my eyes were a couple of leaky taps! That's what chili does to me. This was the work of the Devil! This was not mint chutney this was chilly paste. My sister saw my face and laughed out loud while announcing to the whole family how the baccha of the family, the food snob, the chili avoider had just rubbed a glob full very gleefully onto her sensitive taste-buds.

 This was the infamous Pima paste, a Mauritian green chili. My brother in law is a Chef in Mauritius and runs a much loved Indian restaurant in Curepipe and Quatre Bornes in Mauritius. The Istwals had just landed in his town that evening and he was hosting us in his restaurant. My introduction to Mauritius may have been fiery but by the time I left the white beaches and blue green sea, I carried with me only sweet memories.
Two weeks were spent trying out every water sport, lounging on every beach possible and checking out every highlight of the island.

While I was busy doing all that I also made it a point to try out the local delicacies to experience the local flavours. On top of my list is the Tarte Banana or the Banana pie; A buttery pie crust and caramelized banana filling.



I also enjoyed the Napolitaine.
These are shortbread biscuits with jam in between and a pink sugary glaze. Very girly and very pretty, perfect for a table spread for tea or a child birthday party. The only thing is that these dainty looking things are heavyyyyyy! Two bites and you are done. So I was partial towards the mini bite sized ones and bought some as souvenirs though they didn't survive the journey.





When you say Mauritian food most people will say Dholpuri. Maybe a corruption of the DhalPuri.


Anyway since I was constantly talking about eating it, my sister's friend and neighbour bought it one morning from the local bazaar and dropped it off for breakfast. It was super heavy as it basically is two layers of maida (refined flour) rotis stuffed with dry cooked chana dal (split gram).

Compared to the Dholpuri I found the Roti Curry a more satisfying a meal. Again a maida roti but this time rolled up and stuffed with veggies or meat of your choice with a generous dose of curry slapped over it and a Pima chili according to your tolerance level (mine as I already mentioned is extremely low).

While I am on the topic of rotis and curries, I must mention the most amazing out of the world mutton Haleem I had from a food stall in the popular Grand Baie beach side area. My chef bro-in-law saw the man cooking it and couldn't help himself. He got us two small tubs brimming with creamy Haleem.


It was so good that we gobbled it up standing in a car parking near the pier while waiting to get on to the yacht that had been booked for a fancy barbecue party for my niece's 13th birthday.


Then there was the usual shrimps in a million ways, red snapper, occasional octopus, calamari, sword fish and all sorts of sea food. But then as usual it was all the same with some local flavours and twists.

But then came the day I was supposed to leave for Delhi. My bro-in-law got me some local snacks to try while I was packing for my journey back! My favourite were Gateau Piment or Gato Pima. A Gateau may mean cake for most of us but these are dal fritters with the famous Mauritian chilli Pima! Yes the same one that I ate on my first night there thinking its green chutney. Anyway I avoided Pima after that but here it was just perfect! Not overwhelming the taste but complimenting it. The crispy fritters were soft inside with the crispy outer skin having a bit of achari taste!



He also got Mauritian version of samosa, a filo pastry triangle stuffed with boiled potatoes and peas. I have seen this in India too and it is actually a lazy cook's samosa.


Anyway while Mauritian food is not something you can write couplets about, it definitely adds the right spice to your trip there. The island has taken flavours from India, China, France, Africa and added their own Tadka to it. I will end this piece with a few photos of the food that I enjoyed there.










Wednesday, 26 October 2016

My Khao trip at Indore!!!

I confess! I am guilty! Guilty of Greed! Guilty of over-indulgence! In straight simple words; guilty of eating too much and loving it!

But the good thing is that it makes me what people call a foodie! One foodie follows other foodie's advice on Twitter, blogs, Instagram and wherever possible. But sometimes I feel foodies lie! Yes they tell lies! They make things out to be better than they are! Maybe those things were great at one point of time when they became famous, but now they have lost that unique flavour and taste BECAUSE they became famous!

I am cribbing about this as sometimes the most read about dishes and food at certain famous places just lets you down.
I had a great time in one such place, Indore! But some things let me down! Let's do a short countdown of things I did and why I think they are over hyped or why they deserve the hype.


There are a few things you try as a foodie in Indore:

1. Shikanji at Vijay Chaat house in Chappan Dukaan: not the regular shikanji with lemon and masala. This is a sweet and sometimes slightly sour thick yogurt with kesar and dry fruits! You might confuse it with the rabri till you taste the rabri there. This in my opinion deserves all the hype, it is a a tasty calorie bomb waiting to explode in your mouth.


2. Rabri: the rabri was a bit different than other places. It was not too sweet and it was very thick. I liked the fact that the sweetness of the rabri did not overpower the milkiness of it. This is good too, but not as seductive as Shikanji.


3. Lichee rasgulla: yes, there was something like that. I ate it just to see what it is and this wad definitely one of those things that was not required to be made. It was just a small rasgulla stuffed inside a tasteless Lichee and served with thin rabri. Nope!! I ain't going there again!


4. Pattis: potato pattis stuffed with different fillings like coconut and all! This was definitely worth it, crispy and flavourful. Worth the hype


5. Kulfi in Sarafa bazaar: so totally not worth it. This weird colourful concoction with rabri and god knows what was not nice at all but I did see some people enjoying it. Even the stick kulfi was not good, the guy who pedals down my galli at home with kulfi box, serves better stuff!


6. Paan at Sarafa bazaar: this was a Meetha paan didn't eat is as it was already made and taken out from a packet! My camera person ate it. Nothing to write home about but the presentation sure is great


7. 10 types of gol gappas/pani puri/phuchka : this was a waste of my tastebuds. Period!!!


8. Non veg at Nafees: the barra kebab was amazingly tender and cooked to perfection. Other chicken kebabs were nice too, but their mains left a lot to be desired. The paya was insipid and tasteless, the mutton korma was below average. The biryani was average. So basically nothing was really worth writing home about.


9. Namkeen: the famous Indori sev is nice and even better is the experience of buying it. You taste what you want while the wares are displayed in glass boxes. I tasted almost all but bought laung sev, lasun pyaaz sev, hing chatni sev and some masala faafda. This is totally worth it, in terms of cost, taste and fun factor.
10. Khichdi: this was one of the most unassuming yet tasty dishes of Indore. I had it for lunch with kadhi at Apna Sweets and loved it.


When you are a foodie you cannot walk past a dish that is famous without tasting it but I can never understand why some foodies choose to go with the hype. Anyway hope my list of Indori food will help you on your visit to Indore if you choose to explore it. Keep eating and keep enjoying!!





Sunday, 7 August 2016

I wear handloom!

How things change with time.......I used to find wearing sarees fun but tiresome! Spending a whole day in saree would exhaust me. Today I prefer wearing sarees to jeans! I find jeans constrictive and the whole idea of sizes just kills me. Every time you go up a size, depression sets in.
Anyway, I have been wearing sarees quite often to work now for past two years. Believe me there is nothing more suitable for Indian weather.
Here is a collage that I am making with few of my saree looks!

Friday, 8 April 2016

What to do when you lose your money in a foreign country???

Funny thing is that a holiday requires a lot of work....especially if you plan to go abroad. Getting a visa means arranging for salary slips, bank statements, letter of employment, medical insurance, filling forms, multiple visits to visa offices, arranging for bookings, flights, Forex and many such small but necessary things. By the time you leave for the "holiday" you are tired of it all. But then the thought of exciting locales, exotic food keeps you going. 

Now imagine....all this excitement gets wipes off in one moment.....you get robbed or you lose your money. What will you do? Well the best advice is to have a back up. We all have heard our parents tell us, "don't keep all your money in one place, don't count it in public, be mindful of your bags" and if it was possible they would even suggest we chain ourselves to them. But bad luck doesn't differentiate between the cautious and the careless. Most careful ones can also end up losing money. In a situation like this i have a few words of advice since I went through it myself. 

- your priority should be to cancel your cards first. Internet banking comes handy here and one click of mouse can block your card.
- call a friend in India to block your cards in case you cant, simultaneously send an email to the customer care regarding the same. 
- In case you have lost all your money don't worry. There are ways to get money. The best and fastest is Western Union, in case you have a friend living outside India. Western Union doesn't allow money to be sent outside India so you will need someone in another country. It take a steep commission but then when you lose all your money its a matter of life and death. 
- http://www.westernunionnearme.com/ is a good way of searching for the closest western union agent. The money gets transferred in a matter of minutes. Just make sure you take your passport to pick up the money. 
- One good way of avoiding loss of money even if you get robbed is to reduce the amount of cash you carry and instead get a travel card which you can choose according to how much you want to take and the unspent will be reverted back to your account. Ask your bank about it. It also save you from fluctuating currency rates and commissions on transactions that your regular card is subject too. 
- Many times if you make a cash withdrawal in Latin American countries or Caribbean countries, your bank might block your debit card calling it a suspicious activity. It might be a god idea to keep your bank informed if you are taking trips to these countries so that they know it is you who is making those withdrawals and you don't get stuck with a useless piece of plastic. 
- In case you lose your passport then the only option is to head to the closest police station. They will file a complaint and help you get connected with your embassy. Remember, in a foreign country your embassy is there to help you.
- a few things that you could do to avoid getting stuck in a jam in case you lose money is to pay for the hotel room in advance, book your tickets to museums and other places online beforehand and save yourself the waiting time at ticket windows and also the risk of having to skip the trip coz of lack of money. 

Lastly, if you do lose money...do no feel too bad and let it spoil your holiday. At the end of the day its just money...there are worse things that can happen on a holiday and consider yourself lucky that they didn't. 
Enjoy the rest of it!!!!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

When your holiday nightmare comes true!!!



What is your biggest holiday nightmare???? losing your passport?? Getting left behind by Eurorail SRK-Kajol style??? Getting robbed?? Bomb scare??? Being pulled aside for questioning??? Or all of it rolled into one big Mega-Nightmare!!!! Well, my biggest one is losing my passport. Thankfully that nightmare didn't come true, but i got robbed and the later got pulled aside for questioning while my passport was taken away from me for and hour in a communist country. Yep......this also is pretty scary.

So my story begins in Istanbul, Turkey in a plane to Barcelona, Spain. Suddenly there were whispers of "bomb....bomb" to be heard. The man sitting in the row in front of me was being questioned by the airline staff. Apparently some woman had complained about him. I couldn't make out what were they saying to him but the conversation concluded with the man being hauled off the plane with bag and baggage. after a few minutes all passengers were informed that they have to identify their baggage and a bomb squad got on to the plane with some sort of a chemical analyser. They ran a paper strip on the seats and put it inside the machine which I assumed was an analyser. After we all identified our bags and the checks were complete the plane had permission to leave. The man never came back and we were delayed by 2 hours.

All was forgotten as soon as I landed in Barcelona. I was in love with the city. I spent days exploring the stony nooks of old Barcelona and spent the nights downing wine and Tapas with Barcelonians. But soon that honeymoon came to an end too. On the day before my last I got robbed in one of the busiest markets of Barcelona. I don't know who did it and when. All I know is the bag, which i held real close to me was opened and my wallet was stolen with a small fortune inside it along with all my cards and IDs. Luckily my passport survived the nimble fingers of the thief. I didn't have much time to mourn the loss of my handsome Burberry wallet and the small fortune. I had to think of more mundane things life money for food and travel. Then began the process of arranging money to be wired to me. I will write another post for people who are interested to know how to survive after being robbed in a foreign land.

I thought the worst was over. Its just going to be smooth sailing from now. But then I reached Havana, Cuba for the second leg of my holiday. Lo and Behold!!! this was the cherry on top. I got pulled out by the immigration officer and a security officer spent 1 hour questioning me in broken English and Spanish while my passport was taken away from me. Now what made this worse was that I was carrying only 100 euros on me and my friend who had entered two hours before I had, had been questioned too. She had sent me a message saying not to be very forthcoming with the information about my line of work, which is a TV Journalist. I managed to convince them that I worked as a TV host on a Health Show and was carrying 500 euros on me though I had to tell them I had no credit cards. All this while my heart was pounding. I was in a communist country....alone....with no phone network and they had taken away my only identification.....my passport.

Anyhow this also came to pass. I entered Havana and enjoyed it immensely. I spent 10 days travelling all over Cuba and came back to the airport burnt crisp. And then the unthinkable happened!!!! I was stopped again at the immigration. This time they took away my passport for an hour but no questions were asked. After a while I was not the only Indian waiting for their passport to be returned. I was joined by three other Indian men and they confirmed that it happened with them while entering too. Conclusion: they stop all Indians, despite a valid visa.

So the holiday ended on a bitter note but despite all the trials and tribulations of the holiday.......it was one of the most exciting and adventurous holidays I have taken. And yes....I did sneak in some Cuban cigars....or wait.....they are not illegal in India!!!! Adios!!!!



Monday, 7 March 2016

Early bird or angry Bird???

I am wondering if I can become one of those early birds that always claim that its their kind that gets the best worm. Let me be less cryptic.....well....all the early risers claim that they are highly productive in the wee morning hours. They claim they get their best and most work done in the hours before the rest of the world starts disrupting their concentration with its clutter and noise.

I was in Bangalore last weekend...and met an old friend and ex-colleague. I have always felt that she has had it all sorted....which I am sure is not a hundred percent true. She has led life at her own terms, tackled tough times like a fighter and now is settling down to build a new phase of her life professionally and personally. She told me how she took a concious decision to become a morning person and how it has benefited her. She also suggested to me I should also do so as I am now of a "certain" age (LOL). Anyway, She told me that she programmed her body and mind to sleep early and wakeup early on weekdays and reserve all the late night merrymakings to the weekends.

Now this brings me to the important question......Can We Change our body clock so completely that we actually start enjoying getting up early morning? After all all our adult working life I have not hit the bed before 12 am unless it meant less than 3-4 hours of sleep. In fact the days I reach office early in the morning for my anchoring, I am a total grouch for at least an hour or two. People in office avoid me like a plague. after all I amm not a very pleasant person in the morning, I get angry easily, fumble more during anchoring and am super hungry by 7 am.

Anyway......maybe this will remain a mystery to me for sometime, as I seem to have no intention of waking up early unless I had to be in the News Studio in the morning. So happy Sleeping to me :)