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The past few days my Facebook timeline has been filled with friends and relatives in Odisha relishing a glass of Lassi. Now Lassi is such a colloquial term to be writing about when it’s readily available in every street corner in the country. But this kind of the Lassi is a special one that sure has to be told about.

Back during my childhood, I’d cycle back from school and with the pocket money given to me. With the small amount jingling in my pocket I had to choose between either spending on the vendors standing outside my school or cycle back to my favorite Lassi point. I’ve always been a picky person with a knack for discovering right from the time I was a kid. Not boasting of it, but it was just that my friendship revolved around people who’d come to for recommendations.

The burning 46C temperature didn’t matter as I wizzed past in the traffic for my glass of Lassi. Let’s also face it that having got the preparation of chenna right hundreds of years ago, Odisha was going to be come up with something creative it’s Lassi. While Punjab and Varanasi variants are talked about across whole of India, you haven’t had a Lassi until you’ve tasted the one at Lingaraj Lassi. But Lingaraj Lassi had never been my favorite but rather the ones in Cuttack.

Odisha Lassi - 1

The other day I was reading a humorous take of one of my fellow Odia blogger who felt who’d been swindled by having a lassi in Delhi. Yes, I do too feel the same everytime I want to have one during the summers. Rest of the seasons in India, you’d not find me complaining, but the summers are kind of special time for this. In fact the Lassi in Odisha is so thick that you’d ever find any blended dahi (yogurt) in them.

Let me take you over the entire process of how one is made in a typical stall. First comes crushed ice, syrup, curd and essence in each of the tall glass. As the person makes upto 50 glasses at a time, each of the glasses are hand-mixed at high levels. This is then topped off with a thick layer of rabdi (condensed milk), nuts, raisins and cherries. A glass of the Lassi and you’re set until your next meal. They are super heavy.

So the next time I order a glass of Lassi while sitting in a restaurant all I’ll feel is a dampness in my soul of missing a part of summer I liked. The summers in Odisha have been cruel but this was a respite. Best Rs 10/- spent once upon a time has now been hit by price rice. The last I remember they’d sky rocketed to about 40 bucks. Others might think that it still isn’t much. But for us Odias when eating in our state, anything costing beyond or nearing 50 bucks is considered pricey.

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This blogpost is a continuation of an idea that formed with Kalyan Karmakar’s Facebook post. He talked about Vegetarian Brahmin cuisine from the South which kind of put him off as it had been termed Brahmin. Although with the change in today’s societal shift in removal of the caste system, I can’t help but disagree with the fact that the caste system, religion, land and wealth went on to define the food in a household.

Religion as a context shouldn’t apply to today’s behavioral concepts but yet holds paramount importance when it comes to food. With the practice of one’s faith came an amalgamation of local dishes and belief. The caste system gave birth to many such dishes like the use of offal parts which wasn’t bought by the well to do. This can be beautifully highlighted especially in the Telangana cuisine. Despite being under one of the wealthiest rulers in the country, the food of Telangana has always taken a backseat. The ruler believed in keeping his subjects under a lot of pressure. So if most of the citizens are going to be thinking on how to get their next meal, the probability of a rebellion happening decreases. Thus you see a lot of usage of Boti, Gurdha and Keema in the cuisine of Telangana with the most basic spices than the numerous dishes which originated out of Andhra, a fertile belt with a vast shoreline.

But the topic I want to really get into is the Rajputs. There has been plenty of coverage in recent times about the Rajputs because of a movie. But let’s look into this from an angle of culinary history. Now the Rajputs weren’t confined to Rajasthan alone and expanded as far to Central India and Odisha. As most of the invaders came into Indian through the north, they gradually bought in their food too. Hence this led to a seepage of Mughal influences into Rajputana food too.

As they say in India that the language changes every six kilometers, for food that changes with every household. This can be perfectly illustrated with the Laal Maas. Just like the many fictional characters created by literature, this is one fictional dish which arose out of Recipe books. There is no known time frame as to when the Laal Maas went on to be defined what it is now. In fact the many Rajput food historians absolutely do agree that the Laal Maas is a colossal imagination formed out of thin air.

Junglee Maas (Chicken)

The Laal Mass is what we can ingenuously put down as a jhol that is made in many Indian homes. I had heard of a competition happening where the judge said that the original recipe of Laal Maas is only made using the chilies from Mathania, a village in Jodhpur. This is where geography comes into play because the village of Mathania ceased to exist long ago and so did it’s chilies. So the next time you head to Amazon.in to buy the best Mathania for preparing the Laal Maas, this might be worth remembering. So if the chilies were only to be sourced in Mathania, didn’t the kingdoms of Begu, Bhainsrorgash and the other 10-12 kingdoms which make up now Rajasthan have Laal Maas at all?

If the gravy was white and used green chilies, it was called Safed Maas and when red, it was called Laal Maas. This is the most uncomplicated way of putting the nomenclature of a dish whose origins have been a subject of much debate. The Laal Maas uses the most basic ingredients: onions (an approx. of 250 gms to a kilo of Meat. The more the onions the sweeter the Laal Maas turns out to be), Ginger, Garlic, Chili and Coriander Powder, Turmeric Powder, Salt and Khada Masala for the initial tempering in the oil. The curd is used as a souring agent although some of the households do use a little bit of tomatoes too.

Moving on to the part on how the caste and wealth play a major part in making of Laal Maas lay in the tempering. While the wealthy households tempered with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and the likes. The not-so-well-to-do families used the Pathar ka Phool in the tempering. It is believed that this gave a much fuller taste to the Laal Maas as they had to make do with the least amount of dishes and hence a more enhancement of flavor unlike the rich who had variety.

So does the Caste System, Religion, Region and Money play a major role in food? It is a huge resounding YES from my end.

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Brussels has to my favorite city among the ones I visited during my Europe vacation. There are poems I could have written sitting on a pile of Autumn leaves and breathing in the sweet Belgian air. Yes, it’s true. The air was so extraordinarily wonderful that I could smell waffles a kilometer away. A tingling feeling of wonderfulness engulfed me with every breath.

Autumn In Brussels

A very dear friend of mine resides in Brussels and promised to take me around the city. So excited was she that I was visiting her city that she ended up taking a day off work on the weekday.

The Brussels Bunch

It was a 3-hour journey from Paris with Flixbus which costed me € 11. Brussels was the only city in my European Itinerary that I’d not planned for and it was for a good reason.

Churches in Brussels

Brussels

Lampposts in Brussels

The first sight I noticed in Brussels was that there weren’t any people as I expected to be. It was like the whole city had been almost deserted with a virus outbreak. I took to sitting in the balcony of my hotel and hearing at what point the clickity-clack of a woman’s heels would die away. There were cars, but no honking. This was a city of profound beauty encompassed in silence. A city I’d dream of settling in with great beers playing a large motivator.

Started off the day with a bowl of steaming escargot. This was my first time I got to try snails which tasted fairly nice. It was the broth especially which was the game-changer, packing in a sea-food like flavor with a whole lot of fresh vegetables.

Escargot

Being the city where the best comics like Tintin, Asterix etc have been developed, the city’s graffiti is comic-inspired too. It’s like you’ve been placed in a comic book and tasked with the job of going off on your own adventure.

Comics Graffiti In Brussels

Streets In Brussels

Streets in Brussels

We then headed to the city square where we bumped into a little guy peeing, whom everyone seemed to be interested in. Manneken Pis is the most famous little statue with a whole lot of stories revolving around it. The statue itself has a massive wardrobe collection which changes several times a week.

Manneken Pis

Manneqen Pis in Chocolate & Waffles

The city’s square is magnificent with the Grand Palace and it’s opulent edifices. Right on the square you’d find comic book artists creating caricature versions of people, horse –drawn carriages and lot of activity. This is the most visited landmark in Brussels and the only place where I actually saw lot of people gathered in the city.

Grand Palace Square

Right next to the Grand Palace is the sculpture of Everard t’Serclaes, rubbing whose hand is believed to bring luck. Legend has it that rubbing the hand will ensure a return to Brussels and bring good luck. This is one theory I didn’t mind believing in.

Everard t'Serclaes

A visit to Belgium is incomplete without sitting down over a glass of Belgian Beers and we had a glass too many at Delirium. Officially crowned in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the largest collection of Beers in the world, you’re spoilt for choice with more than 2,000 variants. It was easily a couple of hours before we left Delirium for a late dinner only to be back at another pub for a few more drinks.

Delirium Brewery

Delirium Brewery

Delirium Brewery

Right in the alley of Delirum Brewery is the statue of Jeanneke Pis, the female equivalent of the Manneken Pis although not as famous as it’s counterpart. The creepy smile by the girl doesn’t help it’s cause too.

Jeanneke Pis

Alley Outside Delirium Brewery

Meals in Brussels were grandiose as I went crazy on the fresh produce. An entire bowl of Moules Frites which had mussels cooked in white wine with onions and celery and a side of Fries at Chez Leon. This was neatly polished clean in a few minutes. For brunch it was an order of Savory Waffles with smoked salmon and poached eggs at Peck 47. And of course all of my meals were accompanied with glasses of Belgian Beers.

Moules Frites

 

 

Belgian Waffles

Brussels blew me away and should be high on your list when doing a Europe Trip. It’s been one of the most exhilarating cities I had the chance to visit during my travels across the world.

For readers who’ve reached the end of my post on Brussels, here are some more fabulous pictures of the city. And of course, there are going to be loads of Beer photos.

Belgian Beers

Galeries Royales St Hubert

Belgian Beers

Brussels

Belgian Beers

Sprout To Be Brussels

Belgian Beers

 

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Ever since I’ve returned from my Europe Trip, there have been numerous DM’s and messages about the costings and hacks that I used during the vacation. Yes, I did my entire Eurotrip for a little over Rs 1.5 lakhs. 1,56,000 INR to be precise which is roughly $2400.

The list of countries that I covered were all part of the east side of the continent which make up for the costliest cities. If you go further east, countries like Hungary, Croatia etc your budget can decrease even more. For people who’re surprised by the amount that I spent on the Europe Travel, you can do it too. There is no great hack to it but just simple research. In this blog let me detail some of them.

  1. First decide on the entry and exit points from Europe and then your Itinerary:

Europe is so vast that you might want to cram the maximum in one visit. But remember that it’s a vacation and not a marathon. Soak in the cultures, the art, hear the stories from people and most importantly enjoy. Indulge yourself by sipping on a wine while overlooking the Eiffel Tower, a spritzer in Italy while Beers in Belgium and a little bit of green in Amsterdam.

Also since you apply for a Schengen for the country that you’re going to be most days at (or the point of first entry in case it’s equal number of days in each country), this should be thought over thoroughly. I’d first suggest to get the visa and then plan on the itinerary as a whole. Applying for the maximum countries, increases the chances of rejection.

  1. You don’t always have to eat at McDonald’s (Fill up on a good breakfast at the Hotel/Hostel)

Most of the blogs I read before I ventured on my Europe suggested to eat at McDonalds to cut costs. A hamburger in McD will have a starting price of €1 but you’re going to be hungry again after an hour or two. Rather spend about €6 for a fulfilling breakfast in the Hostel/Hotel which will have a huge assortment of breads, meat, cornflakes, fruits, muesli and more and be set for almost till the afternoon. A sandwich at a supermarket will cost €4-5 and upwards while most hostels provide breakfast for just €2 more. Would you rather have a whole meal or a lousy supermarket sandwich?

And with every city I’ve indulged in € 20 meals for I really do love food and exploring a culture through it. From a beautiful Pork Knuckle in Berlin to a bowl full of Mussels in Brussels tossed over in white wine with onions and celery. Remember you’re on a trip to enjoy and not hold back on your cravings.

  1. Skip the tours and Hop-On Hop-Off Buses. (Take A Day Pass)

The biggest mistake that tourists do is to choose for tours and buy a hop-on-hop-off pass for the city. A hop-on-hop-off bus pass for a day costs minimum €30 and you’re allowed to only use specific buses. Meanwhile a whole day pass in a city costs €7 which gives you access to Buses, Trams and Metros. Every city of Europe is well connected by public transport and the best way to explore a city is by taking the day pass.

Europe is meant for walking and soaking in the energy of the city on foot. There have been days that I’ve walked 15 kms – 20 kms and yet never felt tired. Almost all attractions in each city are maximum 2-3 kms from each other and do not require a transport altogether.

  1. Re-think the Eurail Pass:

Most people travelling to Europe usually buy the Eurail pass coz it gives them access to all train travels through the countries. But there is a huge catch. The Eurail Global Pass for 5 countries is Rs 20,000
(€245) while all my travels through 7 countries in buses cost 6200 INR (€80). Isn’t that a huge difference? The buses are super comfortable and make for a pleasant journey.

Compare prices between cities using GoEuro website. Flixbus connects most cities with very attractive prices but I loved the comfort of RegioJet far better. Flixbus only offers 150 MB of free Wi-Fi while RegioJet has unlimited Wi-Fi, free entertainment screens loaded with movies and also complimentary coffee and juices on request. If you’re doing much longer journeys, then the €99 pass of Flixbus too comes in handy.

  1. Choosing the right Multi Currency Travel Card

This is a prime point to tick off before embarking on a Europe Trip. Banks which offer multi-currency cards do so at much higher rates which will also include service, conversion and withdrawal charges among many more. On the other hand, the online sites like Centrum and Bookmyforex offer travel cards at very competitive rates. In addition, they also have a number of free ATM withdrawals on the travel card.

I bought my currency and Multi-Currency Travel Card through Centrum. I was following the rates on the website and Google carefully for a few days. The rate at which I loaded my card was much lower than the latest conversion rate shown on Google. There is a time-lag during which it takes to update on the websites and this is best utilized to buy currency. It’s paramount to buy currency on weekdays than the weekends when it’s much higher due to last minute plans.

  1. Buy a local SIM Card

Being a blogger, I go through data at a much higher rate than a normal person. With updates on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter the HD photos that I keep uploading suck in a bulk of data. I know it’s a bad thing, but I actually have withdrawal symptoms if I’m not online. Buying a local SIM Card is much cheaper than taking a global one from your country of origin.

To give a better understanding let me jot down the rate difference between different SIM cards:

  • € 40 Matrix SIM Card taken from India – 2 GB of data and 400 minutes of calling.
  • € 39 Orange SIM Card from the Airport – 10 GB Data and 500 minutes of calling.
  • € 15 Lebara SIM Card at a Tabac/Tabacchi – 2 GB of Data, Unlimited Local calls and 500 Mins International Calls. These can be topped up online as per requirement

Most definitely I chose the last option.

  1. Peeing is costly but you DON’T necessarily have to pay:

I explore a lot on beer and with that comes the after-effects. Yes, you’re charged from around 50 cents to €1 every time you got to go pee in a public toilet. Even in McD you’ll have to pay to use the washroom which isn’t the case in local pubs or eateries. With an extended Oktoberfest drinking in the town square, it was safe to say that I lost €7 my first night in Berlin. It wasn’t until someone in my hostel told me that the payment has been put up only for tourists and you can choose not to pay. Sure do pay for the initial first time coz this helps them maintain the cleanliness and makes for a good tip. But with every recurring visit, rather hold back the change for another pint of beer.

  1. Never hold back on Desires and Cravings:

You’re in Europe on a vacation and sometimes you don’t know when the next trip to a particular country might pan out. So if you see a delicious looking pastry or gelato, go ahead and buy it. This is one decision you won’t regret.

After Eight Gelato In Florence

  1. Tap water is drinkable:

The tap water in Europe is filtered and you’d rather utilize the money spent on a mineral water bottle elsewhere. Mineral Water and Sparkling water cost the same in a restaurant, however the restaurant is bound to serve you tap water if you ask for it. It’s just that they don’t mention it anywhere.

Before heading outside, I carried my own water bottle filled from my hostel itself. This helps a lot in keeping hydrated.

  1. There is no concept of MRP.

Nowhere in Europe is there a concept of Maximum Retail Price that can be charged on a product. This can be quite confusing as the same bottle of water will cost €6 in one shop and €1 in a vending machine. Beers can be priced at €4-5 in shops around tourist areas while cost €1 in Carrefour. Personally I preferred Carrefour for buying my basic needs for the trip. But if you need to buy fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, the local markets provide a much better rate than the supermarkets. This is one things you’ll get used to gradually once you’ve spent a few days.

If you have any further questions do feel free to post them in the comments. Do not postpone your trip to much later on. A Europe Trip is doable and not as costly as it’s advertised to be.

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Paris as a city is hard to fathom in one day. There is so much of history in this ‘City of Love’ to see and experience but yes it can be done. I landed in Paris early morning and had a whole day to explore with an itinerary in hand. I do like to set off on my own and break away from the monotony. It wasn’t like what I’d planned to do in a day was set in stone.

From Hyderabad To CDG

Landing IN CDG Airport

The moment you land in Paris, buy a carnet which is a set of 10 tickets. The pack of 10 tickets are valid for 10 journeys across whole of the city be it on the Tram, Metro or Bus (exception being the route from Airport to City).

Paris’s charm lies in it’s boulangeries and cafes. Absolutely a must do in Paris is to sit in a Parisian Café, order a croissant or pain au chocolat and observe the city while sipping on coffee. Almost everyone in Paris has a dog, preferably small size and smoking is almost fashionable.

IMG_20170923_144258-01

As I was staying in Gare du Nord, my first stop was the Sacré-Cœur Basilica & Montmartre. Entry to the church is free and the area is buzzing with tourists and peddlers. It’s hard not to be wowed by the intricate mosaic artworks and ornate ceiling dome. A little walk down the Place du Tertre is the Moulin Rouge which I skipped as I was short of time.

Notre Dame

My next stop was the spectacular Notre Dame and is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Memorized in the famous Victor Hugo novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, this cathedral is nothing short of grand. The entry to the Notre Dame cathedral is free although a climb up the tower costs € 8.50. The lines may hold you back but they move really quick. You can be in and out in 20-30 minutes. Once I entered, the breathtaking glasswork were the ones which impressed me.

The exterior of the Notre Dame, Paris

The Interior of the Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

Glass Paintings inside the Notre DameNotre Dame, Paris

Now off was I to the Place de la Concorde and The Louvre. Home to a massive collection of artworks and home to the most famous painting in the world, The Mona Lisa. You’ll have no time to visit the Louvre and should keep it for another trip. On a minimum if you have to rush through the Louvre, it’ll take about 3 hours. While admiring every painting and appreciating the art takes over 7 hours. The Louvre outside is nonetheless impressive and presents a lot of photo opportunities with the Pyramid.

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Place de la Concorde is the heart of French Revolution. It was here that around 2,500 people were guillotined which included King Louis XV, Marie Antoinette among others. Also take time to note the hieroglyphics on the Luxor Obelisk which had been presented to the French by the Egyptian Government in the 19th Century and is almost 3,300 years old.

Louis XIV At The Louvre

From here on you can choose to either go towards the Arc de Triomphe & Les Champs-Élysées and then do the Eiffel Tower or only the latter. I chose to do only the Eiffel Tower as I’d just landed after a 10-hour journey and been walking around the entire day. It was almost nearing sundown and as they say the Eiffel follows you everywhere when in Paris. As I made a walk from The Louvre towards the Eiffel through the Tuileries Garden, there were many sights to behold.

On way to the Eiffel Tower as you walk across the Tuileries Garden from The Louvre

It’s impossible to not be wowed by the magnanimity of the Eiffel Tower. Popped open a bottle of wine as the sun set. The Eiffel flickers every hour post 7 PM for 5 minutes. Such beautiful scenes of people kissing to mark their love for each other, I must have seen at least 3 people propose under the tower and one with mariachi band playing. There no denying that Paris is the city of love.

Eiffel Tower

Affligem

I’ll still reiterate when I say that Paris is impossible to do in a day but I think this post covers the most famous attractions. But if there is one thing which is a must-do is sit in a Parisian Café and gorge on delicious desserts.

Millefeuille, Eclairs and Paris Brest at a Boulangerie in Gare Du Nord with a shot of espresso.

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It’s been almost 5 years now that I’ve moved to Hyderabad and it’s safe to say now that the city has embraced me completely. With Ramzan now here, the city is decked up with flickering lights, Haleem in every nook and corner of the city’s alleyways and gorgeous street food.

The first time when I had come visiting Hyderabad during the Ramzan season, my parents who were strict conservationists kept my away from having my Haleem. It was more of the thought of mixing Beef with Mutton in any of the Haleems served across the city. But they’ve now given up on after hearing of the endless tryst with different meats from across the world.

So approximately 5 years back is when I had my first taste of the dish that I had heard so much about. It’d be safe to say that it was the worst thing I ever had in my freaking life. It was in one word – Yuck. I gave up on the worst looking dish ever made on earth. Needless to say that whole month of Ramzan that year was spent eating everything else but Haleem.

Then arrived 2012 and by then I had made a number of Hyderabadi friends. With Ramzan arrived a fresh batch of homemade Haleem by one my friend’s mom. Falteringly I took my best bite and my completely perspective of the entire dish changed with that bite. It was exquisite, smooth and full of flavor. I literally still can’t comprehend how a dish which looks like it had been thrown up after an after-party, taste so good. Then started my Haleem quest in Hyderabad. From literally visiting each eatery to try their fare to becoming a self-confessed expert critic at it. Also a point to note is that the original Haleem just like the Kacchi Gosht ki Biryani tastes nothing like the ones made commercially.

Haleem at point in the city was served 365 days of the year. But there was a lot of time and patience that went into making the dish and also the heaviness of it. It was then that it got relegated to being a Ramzan only special. Hotel Nayaab was the first to start serving Haleem commercially in the hotel before the rest picked it up. The now famous Pista House was instrumental in getting the GI tag for Haleem for Hyderabad. It’s now become as much a part of the city as the Charminar itself.

As the city progresses, so does it’s cuisine. Restaurants started serving variants like the Emu, Fish, Topping it Zubaan and Chicken 65. The wow factor of the dish had finally descended on us with some going far out to making Haleem with Oats, Italian herbs of Oregano and Thyme. But they forgot to realize one important factor. Haleem is a wheat dish first and the red meat is secondary. It is all about getting the consistency of the wheat beaten to correctness while the meat melts away in the pot.

For me it will always be the perfect fulfilling dish it’s meant to be. Next throw in the brown onions, fresh mint and cashews. You then generously add a ladle of Sherwa to have the best goddamn food that Hyderabad has to offer.

You can still check out the 20 Best Places To Have Haleem in Hyderabad we compiled in 2015 below. The list shall now be updated once again with 2017.

The 20 Best Haleem Joints In Hyderabad

 

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It’d been a beautiful journey so far with the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ and it wasn’t yet over for us yet. We headed out from Bhopal to Dhar which is about 70 Kms from Indore. With a quick pit-stop on the Indore Highway for lunch, it wasn’t until evening that we were welcomed in the Bada Bangla in Dhar. Dhar as a city was beautiful with the it’s picturesque lakes and barren lands surrounded with trees. As I wandered to the top of the Dhar Fort to watch the sun setting over the city, I could only marvel at the architectural might the Pawars had.

Royal Cuisine Trail - Dhar

View From Dhar Fort

We were welcomed at the Bada Bangla which is still being restored. The vast cultural history that adorned the Bada Bangla was astounding. From books in the library from as early as the 18th century to the numerous stuffed tigers spread across the bungalow. There was also a detailed mini structure of the Mandu Kingdom in the lawns.

Bada Bangla

Invitation

The evening was eventful as we were received by Maharaja of Dhar, Hemendra Singh Rao Pawar and Maharani Shailaraje Pawar at their home. Now for a bit of insight into the culinary history of Dhar which takes it’s influence from the Konkan Maratha style of cooking. The cuisine gives a whole lot of priority to homemade masalas bringing along a fusion of north and south style of Marathas. All of the dishes prepared that night dates back to the Maharaja’s grandmothers. She realized that these royal and historical recipes would soon be forgotten hence she hand wrote all the recipes and handed over these copies to all her three daughters and two daughter-in-laws.

With The Maharaja and Maharani of Dhar

Maharaja and Maharani of Dhar

The starters for the night Bheja Kachori and Sawal Machli ke Kebab. The Bheja Kahori especially were outstanding. A crisp brown outer covering with soft and deliciously spiced brains, this was a snack worth reaching out for another. I really liked the fresh green chutney which was served alongside which goes on to play a major role later.

Bheja Kachori and Sawal Machli ki Kebab

The dining room had been set as per Indian traditions. The seating was on the floor with the silver plates placed on a higher stool to enable proper eating. The Maharaja was personally there to supervise as we washed our hands over a bowl covered in Ashoka leaves. The food served at Dhar is one that I’ve had innumerable times in Maharashtra but better. Arranged along the thali were Aloo ki Bhaji, Pathawadi ki Rassa, Hari Mirch ki Amtii and Kakdi Raita.

The Royal Cuisine Trail - Dhar (1)

These are all traditional Konkan food which are part of most Maharashtrian homes. But it’s to the hara chutney (Green Chutney) that I had mentioned earlier that I shall now elaborate on. The same chutney was used in marination of the Pomfret fish which was absolutely divine. As Shrimant Jaishree Raje Deokar, the Maharaja’s sister informed us that the fish goes through a double marination and then is grilled in between to soak in all of the flavors. The other fish that night on our plate was the Laal Masale ki Surmai, a simple preparation of the seer fish.

Laal Masale ki Surmai

A Konkan thali is incomplete without the Sol Kadi made from kokum and coconut milk, a perfect respite from the heat. We ended the meal with some classic desserts featuring the Puran Poli, Rave ke Sheera and Chawal ki Kheer.

That night after the lovely meal we headed onwards to Mandavgad, a now ruined city which has been classified a UNESCO world heritage city. But more on that in another blogpost. The culinary history we got to discover through the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ was spell-binding. From endless discussions on Indian Family History, rides among the ruins of erstwhile kingdoms and road trips filled with knowledge worth a lifetime. These are memories worth treasuring.

Other Posts of ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ are as below:

Limdi – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/limdi/
Bhopal – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhopal/
Bhainsrorgarh – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhainsrorgarh/

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Royal Cuisine Trail - Bhainsrorgarh

Food from the royal kitchens of Limdi and Bhopal had now been crossed off the list. Although the little bit of experience we had with the food from the two princely states could never justify the vastness of the cuisine, it was at least a start. The next in the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ was from the kitchens of Bhainsrorgarh Fort. The Bhainsrorgarh Fort is a beautiful heritage property which has now been converted into a hotel. The nearly 250+ years old fort at point of time was impenetrable. Situated on a cliff it is surrounded by the Chambal river on side and Bamani on the other.

Bhainsrorgarh Fort

To justify the food we had the night from Rajpootana Kitchen, I have to first tell of my first encounter with Kunwar Hemendra Singh. His passion for food, cooking and knowledge of ingredients is can’t be explained in mere words. When we first met, he had made us a Hari Mirch ka Maas and Jungli Aloo in a commercial kitchen which was literally one of the best dishes I’ve had in awhile. Yet he’s his own critic and lamented the change in taste that he could have got with with his own set of tools and at his kitchen. That’s when I knew that the food was going to be worth every bite.

With The Kunwar and Kunwarani of Bhainsrorgarh

Happy Moments

As Kunwar Ajay Raj Singh of Begu would later tell me that Hemendra Singh did head out early morning to get the right cut of meat from the butcher for each of his dishes. Starting off the dinner was with the Bakre Ki Champ and Macchi ke Sule. The Bakre ki Champ were mutton ribs which had been roasted magnificently with spices. In the afternoon I did sneak a chance to get into the kitchen while Kunwarani Vrinda Kumari Singh was marinating the fish and all I did notice is the simplicity. Other than the basic spices, there was no extra dose of masala and the fish was the centerpiece. These were then smoke-roasted to give us the delicate melt-in-the-mouth sooleys.

Bakre Ki Champ

Machchi Ke Sule

Now it was time to indulge in true Rajasthani-style food. There were a couple of dishes that I’ve tried before and some hereto unknown. The Safed Maas Hari Mirch was exquisite along the with the Jungli Chicken. If we take a look at Indian culinary history on a simpler note, then you either had a red (Laal) or a white (Safed) gravy to each of your dishes. The Laal Maas as a dish is a very colloquial term that went to named as a dish. The Safed Maas in turn had a light tanginess from the curd with the spice coming from the fresh green chilis. You’d be amazed to know how 3 ingredients can make a wonderful dish and that was the Jungli Chicken. Just meat, red chilis and ghee is all that goes into making a Jungli Chicken and yet it’s the precision at which to cook it makes the difference. This was simple authentic Indian cooking at it’s best.

Food From Rajpootana Kitchen (1)

Jungli Chicken

The Siri Paya makes use of both the trotters and head of mutton to get the juices out with all of the spices with a slow cooking. The result was a magnificent gravy which I thoroughly enjoyed. The vegetarian dishes that night featured traditional Rajasthani dishes like the Bharwa Bhindi, Sangri ki Sabzi, Gatte ki Sabzi and Papad ki Sabzi. The Makki ka Soyta was another superb dish where the mutton was cooked with corn kernels.

Bharwa Bhindi

Makki Ka Soyta

Siri Paya

I liked the fact that there was Bafla to go along with the gravies. The Bafla are balls of dough which have been baked with a shine on top coming from clarified butter. These can be crushed to help soak in any of the gravies much like what a bread would usually do.

Bafley

Food From Rajpootana Kitchen (3)

The desserts from the kitchens of Bhainsrorgarh that night was the Makki ki Kan and Panna Halwa. The Panna Halwa a dessert made with Hara Channa (Green Lentils) had me excited, a dish you’d seldom come across most menus across the country.

Panna Halwa

Makki Ke Kan

It was a wonderful meal curated by Rajpootana Kitchen from the erstwhile princely state of Bhainsrorgarh. Each of the meals we’ve had till are soaked in history, with each dish having a story to tell. With the next post we travel to the kingdom of Dhar.

Other Posts of ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ are as below:

Limdi – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/limdi/
Bhopal – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhopal/
Dhar – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/dhar/

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As we continue on with the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ after Limdi, we headed onward to Bhopal. The moment you enter into Bhopal, the beauty of the lake surrounds you. An expanse of a city is built around the Bhopal Lake. A huge statue of Raja Bhoj with a sword looks down at the city towards the upper lake. But this trail is all about the food and that’s where we are headed now to.

Royal Cuisine Trail

We were hosted in Bhopal by Sahibzada Raashid Ali and Ayesha Ali Khan of Bhopal at their residence – Shamla Kothi. Bhopal being a central princely state, borrows it’s cuisine heavily from the neighboring kingdoms of Rampur, Awadh and Hyderabad. Rampuri and Hyderabadi touches play a primary role in most of the dishes. But there are three dishes which the Nawaabi kitchens of Bhopal identifies with – Gosht Pasinda, Bhopali Rizala and the Filfora.

At Shamla Kothi

The environment at Shamla Kothi was truly a royal setting once the sun set. Livening up the evenings was mellifluous qawaali and great conversations on history with Sahibzada Omar Faruq ‘Ali and Kunwar Ajay Raj Singh of Begu. We started with the Bhopali Shamis and Cocktail Chicken Samosas. The Shami Kebabs were outstanding with the dash of lime on them. But it was the Cocktail samosas which turned out to be quite addictive. Among the other starters that night were fresh Hummus and Labneh with Za’atar which were served with pita bread. The Labneh had been infused with chili and garlic.

Cocktail Samosas And Bhopali Shammis

Now it’s important to note that most of the Bhopali cuisine uses a lot of coriander in them. In fact most of the dishes feature coriander prominently either in whole seed form, freshly cut coriander or as a powder component while cooking. Hence the dishes Filfora and Bhopali Rizala were born. The Filfora is a jungle recipe originating from hunting expeditions. The meat is pounded finely and is cooked in it’s juices with light spices and whole lot of coriander.

Table Setting For The Night (2)

The Nawabi Murgh Bhopali Rizala is though not to be confused with the Rezala of Bengal is also inspired by the Mughlai Cuisine. There is no use of cashews and coconuts unlike the Bengali Rezala in the cooking process but it definitely packs in complex flavors. The dish again values the coriander which gives it a fine green color. The dish is garnished with peeled eggs.

Nawabi Murgh Bhopali Rizala

It is now that we gradually move on to the Rampuri and Awadh side of effects on royal Bhopal dishes. The Taar Gosht is a delicacy from the royal kitchens of Rampur was exceptional. The gorgeous red of the Taar Gosht comes from the use of fresh tomato puree which also gives it some tanginess.  I absolutely adored the Koftas which were made in an exquisite gravy. The other dishes included Quail (Bater) Masala and Paya.

Kofta

Bater Masala

Bhopal literally marries the cuisines of the North and South kingdoms. With the Hyderbadi influences came the Mutton Dum Biryani, Mirchi Ka Salan, Dahi Baingan, Khatte Aloo and Khatti Dal. But there is one dish that I wish to discuss here and that’s the Tamatar ka Kut. One of the most popular dishes among the Hyderabadi Muslims, the kut in the name refers to dry roasting of the spice mix. It’s tangy and spicy and goes great with hot rotis and Baghare Rice.

Table Setting For The Night (1)

Dahi Baingan

The food that we had from the Royal Kitchens of Bhopal was exceptional but the best was saved for the last. Among the desserts was the Double ka Meetha which had a lovely aroma of saffron and cardamom and Phirni. The highlight though will have to go to the Chana ki Daal ki Halwa. Made from split bengal gram it is sautéed till a rich aroma is achieved and flavoured with cardamom and saffron.

It was a remarkable experience at Shamla Kothi with all of this food available under the bespoke brand of Bigde Nawaab.

Other Posts of ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ are as below:

Limdi – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/limdi/
Bhainsrorgarh – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhainsrorgarh/
Dhar – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/dhar/

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The month of April 2017 was particularly special in terms of our search for new cuisines and travel. This month after intensive planning we went on to experience “The Royal Cuisine” food at the palaces of royalties of Madhya Pradesh. The Royal Cuisine Trail began with the a tale of food through the princely state of Limdi.

Royal Cuisine Trail - Limdi

Among the numerous princely states which existed before partition, Limdi held prominence in Gujrat. With Limdi lying very close to Madhya Pradesh, the food habits of the kingdom reflected the cuisines of both the states of MP and Gujarat. We were hosted by Kunwar Shivraj Sinh and his wife at their residence in Indore to gain a first-hand experience on the food of Limdi. To give people an insight into the food of the royal kitchens, the duo of Kunwar Shivraj Sinh Limdi and Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur have started Gourmet Royal.

Kunwar Shivraj Sinh Limdi and Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur

The night began with Vegetarian Seekh Kebabs and Maans ke Sule. If you take the consideration of royal food, most of the dishes were born out of need. From recipes created during hunting to dishes prepared which could last them through the drier months. So unlike the popular notion of richness, they also used the fresh produce of the land with changing season and whatever spices were found around. The Maans ke Sule had been given a twist than the original recipe although holding onto the originality. The raw papaya (kacha papita) and kachri (a variety of cucumber) as used to moisten the meat. Also to be noted is that the Kachri gives the meat a bit of sourness. The fusion twist to the soole was the use of Worcestershire sauce giving it further tanginess. The rest of the ingredients were all simple being red chilies, homemade garam masala and garlic. The Maans ke sule were literally melt in the mouth and the perfect start to the evening.

Maas Ke Soole

The princely state of Limdi in Gujarat was closely related to the Malwa region of Jabua. With Kunwar Shivraj Sinh and Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur being cousins, there is a confluence of dishes of both royal cuisines under Gourmet Royal. To gain further deep understanding of Royal Cuisines in India, it’s important to note that there was a interlinking by marriage between the princely states. This changed the entire eating habits with the women bringing along their state recipes and integrating them with the kingdoms they’d been married to. For eg. Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur’s grandmother was from the kingdom of Nepal married to Jhabua. Thus there are also a lot of Nepali recipes being catered to under the brand of Gourmet Royal.

The Food For The Night

As we progressed on with the main course there were distinct flavors which I could identify. The Limdi Khatti Meethi Dal was beautiful bringing along the flavors of Gujarat. The sourness in the dal came from the lemon (nimbu) while the sweetness from jaggery (gud). It was all about the right balance and went great with plain rice. My favorite among the night was the Kachu Tarkari. It’s a Nepali Vegetable Raita which was especially refreshing to the palate with the use of fresh vegetables. A perfect summer accompaniment to all the other heavy food on the plate. The other vegetarian dishes on the menu included Aloo Do Pyaaza, Baked Veg, Crispy Bhindi (Okra) and smoked Paneer.

Aloo Do Pyaaza

Baked Veggies And Smoked Paneer

Now to the non-vegetarian dishes on the menu. The dishes were wonderfully represented with Desi Chicken Curry, Safed Gosht and Keema Pulao. The Desi Chicken Curry is a very simple recipe of country chicken in spices. The stewing of the ingredients gave a superb aroma to the gravy with the chicken being almost fall of the bone. But it was the Safed Gosht which had caught my attention. Now there are multiple variations of the Safed Gosht among the states of MP, Rajasthan and Gujarat. In fact this dish had change in it’s preparation with each home too. The Safed Gosht of Limdi is different from the Rajasthani version with it’s use of cashew paste. The rest of the ingredients which go into making the Safed Gosht are Khus Khus (Poppy Seeds), Lemon Juice and Khadi Hari Mirch Paste (Whole Green Chili Paste). The Safed Gosht tastes phenomenal with roti.

Non-Vegetarian Main Course

The night was full of conversation on food as we were joined for dinner by the royalties of Bhopal, Bhainsrorgarh, Begu and Dhar. The wealth of the information about royal cuisine and history which were discussed that night were impeccable. We finally concluded the exquisite meal with Mango Pudding and Homemade Phirni. I might have been a bit to greedy in reaching out for a second helping of the fabulous mango pudding.

Mango Pudding and Homemade Phirni

It is a delight to know that we can now experience the royal food from the erstwhile princely kingdoms through Gourmet Royal started by Kunwar Shivraj Sinh Limdi and Kunwarni Vijaya Singh Sirmaur.

With The Kunwar and Kunwarni

Bhopal – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhopal/
Bhainsrorgarh – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhainsrorgarh/
Dhar – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/dhar/

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