Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Meet the Queen of the Spices! Shashi of Udaipur

There is something very special happening in a humble kitchen tucked away in the crooked streets of Old Udaipur. In a humble family kitchen strangers are coming together to learn cooking from Shashi but they walk away having learned a whole lot more about life as well.
Shashi begins the class by telling a little about the circumstances that forced her to seek a way to support her two sons after her husband was murdered. She talks about how she slowly grew to know some tourists who encouraged her to start her own small home managed business. "Even though my family do not support me, now I feel that I have sisters all over the world" she says. Immediately you fall in love with her simple truths and sharp sense of humour and thats before she starts working her magic with the spice box.

In the space of a few short hours Shashi will have you rolling chapatti, frying pakora and making chai like an expert. 
Looking at the menu and the space, you wonder if the class will actually achieve the ambitious plan but Shashi cooks with all the discipline of an army major but with all the love and humour of an angel.
Here is what you can expect to learn in her twice daily classes. Please remember that the foods are seasonal and some dishes may be substituted for others.
  • Masala Chai (Indian Tea) / Potato and Onion Pakora / Corianda & Mango Chutnies / Aubergine and Tomato Masala (curry) / Vegetable Palau / Naan with cheese and tomato / Garlic Cheese / Chappati / Parantha / Potato Parantha
Then you get to sit down and eat it all!
Not only that but Shashi sends you home with all the recipes printed out.
Two classes daily, charge is so minimal I wonder how she does it and please don't be fooled by the many copy cat classes that have sprung up on the back of Shashi's success.
You will find her at Gangaur Chat 18
Below Sunrise Restaurant
Or ask the friendly team at real-india by kalkatravels to call her and arrange a class as part of your tour of  Rajasthan,

Monday, 23 July 2012

Udaipur, Venice of the East

 Udaipur, the City of Lakes. Some have dubbed it the Venice of the East. Despite being one of Rajasthan's largest cities, with a population of over a half-million people, Udaipur still manages to feel like a small town;people are friendly and time still moves according to the whims of nature and the gods.
The old city center is a labyrinth of winding streets,  bordering Lake Pichola's eastern side. Five main gates lead into Udaipur's old city:

Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) to the north; Kishan Gate to the south; Delhi Gate to the northeast; Chand Pol (Moon Gate) to the west; and Suraj Pol (Sun Gate) to the east.
Anchoring Udaipur's old city are the famed City Palace and Lake Palace; the latter is in the middle of Lake Pichola, and is now a Taj hotel.
The Mewar region is famous for its silver jewelry, wooden folk toys, miniature paintings, tribal arts, molela (terra-cotta work), appliqué, and embroidery.

Udaipur is also known for its spirit of voluntarism: it has one of the largest numbers of non-government organizations (NGOs) in India. Many of these groups are grappling with crucial environmental issues, such as drought and deforestation, and social issues, including the displacement of tribes and bride dowries.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Akshardam Temple

 A lot of people arriving in Delhi have the Lotus Temple on their list of sightseeing musts but don't bypass the Akshardam Temple, it offers a totally unique experience unmatched in the city.
Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi has been highlighted as one of the world's Wondrous Houses of Worship'.

Like the thousands of temples across India, the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple has intricately carved sculptures and statues of deities. Unlike traditional Hindu temples, however, this one (on the banks of the Yamuna River and spread over 100 acres) also features a 12 minute indoor boat-ride, a light and sound show, an Imax screen, a musical Fountain, and animatronics, -characters that recount the life and philosophy of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. 

A house of worship that borrows in equal measure from the spiritual as well as from Las Vegas and Walt Disney, the temple is carved from pink sandstone and white marble - and was reportedly designed without steel supports. Seven thousand sculptors and thousands of volunteers worked round the clock to build the temple in a mere five years.
Allow at least three hours to visit the temple, be in time for the evening light and sound show! Security is tight so you wont be able to take your camera inside, best to leave your valuables with your Real-India driver to save a lengthy queuing process.

Akshardham Temple is closed every Monday and open from 9.30am

Friday, 6 July 2012

Mango Madness in Delhi

It's monsoon and mango madness now in India. The sweet succulence of mango mingles with the slightly hysterical celebration of the arrival of the rains and now its time for a festival. A Mango Festival!
The International Mango Festival  celebrates everything about the King of all tropical fruits, ‘Mango’. The International Mango Festival is held every year at the Delhi Haat Pitampura in Delhi. Hosted by Delhi Tourism in alliance with the Delhi Government, this festival showcases the specialities of mangoes from different states of India. Many other mango festivals are also held across India during the same time.

With all kinds of events, like mango eating competitions, quizzes, mango slogan writing, mango carving, children’s shows, mango folk performances, mango tasting, and plenty of mangoes to go around with varieties of the fruit on display.

One gets to savour over 1100 varieties of mangoes and some rare species of the sumptuous fruit. Some of the traditional and exceptional mango varieties are Langda, Dasheri, Alphonso, Fasli, Bombay Green, Chausa, Sindheri, and many more hybrid species of the fruit. Best of all, its free to taste it all!

The Delhi International Mango Festival also carries sale of processed mango items. This includes products like pickles, jam, chutney, mango pulp, mango juice, jelly, aam papad, and aam panna. One can also buy mango plants. The festival encourages trading of the fruit and has buyers from all over the world.
Come to the festival and completely immerse yourself into the tempting mango extravaganza!
A word of warning though, the mango fruit is considered very heating within the science of Ayurveda, balance out the heating properties of the mango by drinking lots of cold milk or fresh coconut milk with it.

When:6th - 8th July, 2012
Where: Delhi Haat, Pitampura, Delhi, India