Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Haridwar , Food and Religion

BM # 56
Week : 5 , Day: 3
Theme: Blogger's Choice

Today for the last day of this marathon I will take you to Haridwar , a city in Uttarkhand. This was not the first time I was visiting this city, my sister in law lives there and so we have been visiting it since a long time.

Let me tell you a little about this paradise of nature lovers.

In Sanskrit, Hara means "Lord Shiva" and Dwara means "gate" or "gateway"Hence, Hardwar stands for "Gateway to Lord Shiva". Hardwar has been a typical place to start a pilgrim's journey in order to reach Mount Kailash, the eternal abode of Lord Shiva, Kedarnath, the northernmost Jyotirlinga and one of the sites of the smaller Char Dham pilgrimage circuit and Gaumukh, the source of River Ganga. Har ki Pauri or footsteps of Lord Shiva is considered the most sacred site in Hardwar. Mind you a dip in the river is considered very auspicious.

Pooja being performed at Har ki Pauri

Something that is not well known today to Indians and probably to those settled abroad, in an ancient custom detailed family genealogies of Hindu families for the past several generations are kept by professional Hindu Brahmins popularly known as Pandas, at the Hindu holy city of Haridwar in hand written registers passed down to them over generations by their Brahmin ancestors which are classified according to original districts and villages of ones ancestors, with special designated Brahmin families being in charge of designated district registers, even for cases where ancestral districts and villages that have been left behind in Pakistan after Partition of India with Hindus having to migrate to India. In several cases present day decedents are now Sikhs and many maybe Muslims or even Christians. It is common for one to find details of up to, or even more than, ones seven past generations in these genealogy registers kept by the Pandas of Haridwar. On our recent trips to Haridwar I was very keen to see this register and my hubby made sure I saw it.

Here is a glimpse of it where my son has signed way back in 2008 when my BIL passed away.

A visiting family member is required to personally sign the family genealogical register furnished by ones Family Panda after updating it for future family visitors and generations to see and to authenticate the updated entries.

The most sacred ghat within Har Ki Pauri is Brahmakund. The evening prayer (Aarti) at dusk offered to Goddess Ganga at Har Ki Pauri . Har refers to God and Pauri refers to steps .this is an enchanting experience for any visitor. While walking to the ghats you see many of these small time food joints, where they cook in bulk and the poor are fed. The vendors try to convince the passer by to feed the poor , the food quality is of course very poor and it is a sad sight to see beggars and poor people in that state.

On reaching the ghats one has to find a suitable place to sit and wait for the aarti.

 About 21 Brahmins line up to recite shaloks for the Ganga Pooja

Playing Holi with Gangaji.

Aarti preps going on

 The lamps are really hot so they need to be holded with a thick wet towel

The complete Brahmkund is surrounded by priests doing the Aarti

The Market area

The main city has narrow lanes and a bustling market, which has shops lined on either side. Most of the shops sell religion related stuff and knick knacks. I was not very keen on buying things but keen on exploring the shops which sold mouthwatering food. Incidentally this city has only vegetarian cuisine. 

I cannot forget the taste of the Poori chola sold at Mohans , every time we have visited this city we made sure we ate these. Like a ritual after the aarti we gorged on these Poori chola with Aaloo sabzi. This is a complete treat and the taste is absolutely mind blowing. The market is lined up with these chola Poori walas but nothing can beat Mohans . They also sell Halwa , gulab jamuns and malpuas. This was our day 1 experience , and I was eagerly waiting for The next day to try more stuff.

Next day my cousin took me to the market and I did some prop shopping. On the way we saw freshly baked Indian Cookies flavored with cardamon. Yes you guessed right, nankhatais. The vendor had a custom made oven where he had a tray on which he placed these little bites to be baked. This was one of the most rustic ovens I had ever seen and the cookies were warm delicious , melt in the mouth kinds, after buying a small pack of these we headed to a famous Bhagwati Chole Bhature wala . Chola Bhatura is a very very common dish , but tell me how many of you have heard of Tari? Tari is like a soup. The chola is boiled and the water in which they are boiled is reserved. This water is then tempered and served as Tari along with Chole Bhature. This was absolutely new for me and I thoroughly enjoyed this soup.

Haridwar is also very famous for its chaats. Right outside my sis in laws hotel we have two Chaat  vendors. One sells fruit Chaat and the other sells burgers. The Chaat is quite common but the burger was very interesting. It had a bun, a patty and then chutneys and even curd. A true desi burger. Which was delicious to the core.

Ok let's take a break from food and let me tell you that Haridwar is also one of the four places; where Kumbh Mela occurs after rotation of every twelve years and Ardh Kumbh after every six years. It is said that drops of Amrit (Elixir) fell in to the Brahmkund of Har-Ki-Pauri, therefore considered that a dip in the Brahmakund on this particular day which is very auspicious and when Jupiter (Brahaspati) comes to the sign Aquarius (Kumbh) once in every twelve years the Maha Kumbh fair is celebrated at Haridwar. The last time the Kumbh was held we visited this fair and here are some glimpses of it.

Beyond the mystic aura and mythology, Haridwar casts a magic spell on the visitor. 

I would have loved to stay on in this place and gorged on some more famous food available there, but what we had to head ahead towards the hills and so the trip to this holy city came to an end...but before I end let me give you just one more place  to explore while you are in that city.

Hoshiarpuri Restaurant , which is very famous for its Parathas and I love it's Kadhi Chawal, Baingan ka Bhartha and Raajma Chawal.

I cannot end this post without thanking my 12 year old niece, Tanya who made special Shahi Paneer for me , since she knew she had a blogger aunt who would be really pleased by this  gesture. I have to admit this was one of the best Shahi Paneers I have had till date! A cook in making Tanya, great job and Thanks dear !

With this post we come to the month long Buffet on the Table!, hope you enjoyed what I served you.

For me with every Mega Marathon, its a real learning process and I enjoy it thoroughly.

My humble Thanks to Valli for organizing these and of course a big word of thanks to all my fellow blogger friends and viewers.

Do come back for a recap soon , and of course we shall begin our regular marathons from the first week of October, just the way they are normally scheduled.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kutch , The Street Food and The Rann Utsav

BM # 56
Week : 5 , Day: 2
Theme: Blogger's Choice

Let me take you to Kutch today. 
Kutch district is a district of Gujarat state in western India,and it is the largest district of India.

Kutch literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry; a large part of this district is known as Rann of Kutch which is shallow wetland which submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The Rann is famous for its marshy salt flats which become snow white after the shallow water dries up each season before the monsoon rains.

Kutch District is surrounded by the Gulf of Kutch and the Arabian Sea in south and west, while northern and eastern parts are surrounded by the Great and Little Rann(seasonal wetlands)  . 

This district is inhabited by various groups and communities. Many of these have reached this region after centuries of migration from neighbouring regions of Marwar(Western Rajasthan), Sindh, Afghanistan.

The language spoken predominantly in Kutch is Kutchi language, a slightly varied dialect of standard Sindhi, to a lesser extent Gujarati, and Hindi.

In the villages, staple foods include bajra and milk; bajara na rotla with curd and butter milk is very common food for all the Gujarati people.

This is about the Kutch region of Gujarat, I took a trip to a small town called Gandhidham in Kutch. My father's sister has been living there since years but somehow I have visited the place only on occasions where one is not able to explore the place.

This year mom and I decided to visit my aunt and while on this tour I was able to explore this region. For me exploring a place is naturally exploring the cuisine and the specialties of the place.

Gandhidham is a very small place and to reach a destination you need just a few minutes, so it was easy to go around . My cousin's children who are no longer children took me around and trust me I was amazed to see the street food of this place.

Fresh green channa.roasted with their pods

Vada pav
Vada pav is a Maharashtrian street food which is very popular in Gujrat too. We have a Ahemdabadi version of Vada pav which is dunked in butter and garlic chutney, but the Kutchi version was absolutely different. They served loads of mini chilly pakoras along with the Vada pav. A post on this version is due since long! 

The cone 
When we say Cone we naturally think of ice cream, but this is a savory cone made of all purpose flour. The cone size is just like ice cream cone. The vendor has a stove where he has a masala or stuffing made of spiced potatoes. He stuffs a little of this stuffing in the cone , adds some chutneys, tops with spicy peanuts and repeats the process . Definitely a very delicious savory cone.
It definitely was not very appealing hygiene wise , but I loved the concept. 

Ice Dabeli

Dabeli is a Kutchi street food and is popular all over the world now, but in Kutch you get dabeli in umpteen variations. One variation which made me curious was the Ice Dabeli. I wondered what it would? Can you guys guess? ...well this Dabeli was made in a slightly different manner with chilled curd and chutneys, hence the name Ice Dabeli.
The most famous Dabeli shop of Kutch

If the pav bun remain in the oven and become hard just like rusk, what would you do? , probably throw them. Rt ? ...well Kadak is a Chaat made with those hard pav buns , potatoes, peanuts and chutneys! A speciality of Kutch, this was totally new to me! 

Besides these they had the regular pani puri, Tikki Chaat and the routine chaats that are available all over.

Fortunately we had chosen just the perfect time to visit Kutch . 
We wanted to go and visit the Rann of Kutch where the famous festival Rann  Utsav is held, I am sure most of you must have watched the advertisement by Amitabh Bachan .
First a little about the Rann.

The Rann is a seasonal salt marsh located in. The Thar Dessert in Kutch. The name Rann comes from the Hindi word Raan, meaning dessert. The Rann is all white and on a full moon night it looks absolutely breathtaking. An unexplained strange dancing light phenomenon locally known as Chir Batti occurs in the Rann.

The famous Rann Utsav is held every year between December and March.It is a cultural and artistic extravaganza which is organized by the Gujarat tourism annually.the fair showcases traditional Indian art forms and celebrates the distinctiveness and diversity of the Kutch district. Tourists can see the various sights of the Rann as well as get the taste of the local culture, cuisine and hospitality. Specially built local houses are also used to house the tourists. 

The festival is interesting and one gets a visual treat of traditional culture, shops are lined up selling the Gujrati handicrafts and cuisine. Activities like traditional dances and music highlight the fair. While going around the stalls there was one very interesting food stall which attracted me. They sold those fry yum pipes, which we had as kids. I remember those pipes, we used to put them all in fingers and play. Well the same pipes were served with garlic potatoes. These pipes are called Bhungra and served with Lassaniya Bataka. They tasted delicious and it was quite a fun snack to enjoy.

I love to shop traditional stuff so I picked some Kutchi mirror work shawls for the family. We were there for one evening which was a memorable one.

We returned back to Gandhidham and the very next day we left back for Ahemdabad.
All in all it was a beautiful trip where I caught up with my paternal family, who went overboard to take care, a food journey and exploring a mesmerizing Rann with super shopping .

This picture shall show you the super fun we had with the cultural activities in the Rann !

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Jodhpur , Sweet and Savory Treats

BM # 56
Week : 5 , Day: 1

Theme: Blogger's Choice

For the last week of September Mega Marathon, with Buffet on the Table I shall share some of my travels with you. While travelling, my focus is always on the cuisine and food served in those places.

Rich in history, the center of Marwar is one of the most vibrant places to explore. Music, food, art and language blend in perfectly to gives one a lively experience that is very distinct to this region. I have always loved the Rajasthani culture and food, infact I have always had good Marwari friends and am well versed with their culture.

When it was time to do my room, I wanted to get furniture from Rajasthan. We visited Jodhpur , but the visit was too short could only manage to finish our work and have a typical Rajasthani meal at Ummaid Bhavan Palace. It was a meal where we had Gatte ki sabzi , ker sangri , flavors still linger. This was more than 20 years back.Ever since Jodhpur was on my travel wish list. It was only recently that we planned this trip with family and friends.

We traveled by road and the journey was about 6 hours from Ahmadabad. We were welcomed by a family who are very religious and have a temple . The head of the family is a Guru and is famous as Bhau. Our first meal was a lunch prepared by the family members, but it included Pyaz ki Kachori which is one of the most popular street foods there. 

Which ever city I visit my first choice is the street food. Jodhpur too had a evening and night eatery joint . The place had different carts selling all the possible street food, from all over India. They had dosas, Chinese, sandwiches, wada pav, pani puri, the only different stall that I saw was the Indian Ice Gola. They drizzled the rose syrup , then rabdi on top, which was different than our usual Ice Gola!

My hubby told our hosts that I was into food blogging and that was enough , they made sure that my knowledge on Jodhpur Cuisine was enriched.Yes I have yet to see such hospitable family. The very next day they took me to a dhabba,which was very rustic and perhaps I would never go there without a male escort. It sold Kabuli Pulao along with different Rajasthani dishes. They had koftas which were totally new to me. Gulab Jamun kofta! ..yes gulab jamuns were fried and immersed in a very rich gravy. I was told that they had a special Masala Papad. It was a huge Bikaneri Papad, which was roasted and then dipped into the oil . Wait, this oil was the oil which floated on top of a gravy. I wondered if I could ever dream of cooking with so much oil, but I have to admit the Papad tasted absolutely wonderful and delicious.

This is the menu of that Dhaaba and below you can see the Bikaneri Masala Papad, Gulab Jamun Kofta and a glimpse of the Dhaaba

In the evening we went around the market and did some shopping, but amidst that we saw Samosas and Mirchi wadas.The Mirchi Wadas and Samosas are available at very nook and corner, but I was impressed by Shahi Samosa House.

Non stop hands work on stufing the Mirchis and then stocking till required to fry.
The kachori stuffing being made into balls and then filled !

Now what do you say to this?..Awesome Kachoris!!

The procedure of making samosas.

I was amazed at the crowd at that samosa wala. The guy said they sold more than 3000 samosas. The shop has been there since ages. As soon as I started clicking the owner himself came out and started conversing with me. He was very polite and explained me how they worked and even gave his samosa recipe. They had a staff of more than 50 people, whose hands worked non stop. Their samosa size was also massive.  The samosas here are on the tarty side,as they use lot of citric acid.After I finished clicking I thanked the guy who in return packed samosas and Kachoris in a big box and requested me to accept as a token. I was very hesitant, but the owner insisted ...atithi devo bhava. For Rajasthani's guests are like God. Humbly I accepted the packet. Thank you Shahi Samosa House!

We headed home and later in the evening went out for dinner . Our hosts insisted we go to a nice restaurant, we did go , but I could'nt eat my dinner as the Samosas and Kachoris still ruled my tummy. 

Next day I was keen on checking out some more foodie places. We went around the city and I was told that there was a special lassi , called Makhaniya Lassi and a sweet kachori which was sold at Mishri lal. This place was very busy , I wanted to ask the details of the lassi and kachori but these guys were very busy and could not talk at all . I am not a sweet lassi person, I had just one sip, but my friend loved it . I liked the kachori there it had a mawa or khoya filling, with syrup.

Then came the most famous Jodhpur Sweet House. This was right next to our hotel and I loved the sweets sold there. I wanted to taste all the sweets, but it was not possible, so I tasted a few typical ones. The Ghevar is very popular here , the Besan ki Chakki, Makhan wada was amazing. 

For dinner we went to a place called Gypsy Restaurant. The restaurant belonged to our hosts friend , so we were really taken care of. They had all the fast foods, plus they had a Rajasthani Thali which was very very elaborate. At that time I wished I had one extra tummy. The amount of dishes they served us was amazing, I prepared the Rajasthani Jodhpuri Thali on the lines of the Thali served at Gypsy.

Ummaid Bhavan Palace is a place which I was very keen on visiting, since I have always been interested in architecture of india and Rajasthan has beautiful historical architecture and Umaid Bhavan Palace of Jodhpur is noted for its imposing architectural features. Chittor sandstone has been used in the construction of this palace which imparts a special effect on it. The architecture of the palace was designed by a British The main features of architecture of Umaid Bhawan palace is beautiful balconies, green gardens, charming courtyards, and stately rooms. At present the palace has been converted into a heritage hotel and a royal museum.

The Mehrangarh Fort majestically perched on a rocky mountain, at a height of hundred and twenty meters looks down on the city below. The architecture of the fort is very impressive and it is one of the largest forts in India. The fort wall has seven entrances and a number of palaces within, all connected with courtyards. The structures with their Bengaldar roofs bear a resemblance to the Bikaner Palace and have a strong influence of Islamic architecture. 

Well this was our trip to Jodhpur , which was a beautiful trip, where I explored the city for the foodie I am . Hope you enjoyed this travel with me.

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