+ Debbie Rogers and Ishita B Saha on a food tour with Frying Pan Adventures

An Indian food tour in Old Dubai with Frying Pan Adventures

A delicious way to discover Meena Bazaar, one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods of Old Dubai, is to book into the 4-hour long ‘Little India on a plate’ food tour with Frying Pan Adventures.

The cone shaped Topi Dosa at Sangeetha Restaurant

While chalking out my favourite food memories from the neighbourhood trio of Bur Dubai, Karama and Oudh Metha in my previous three-part blogpost, I decided to leave this wonderful food tour aside for a separate blogpost. One of my favourite ways of discovering a city is though walking, specially a walking food tour. The latter not only throws spotlight on eating holes with long-standing legacies, it also reflects a different perspective to a city than the typical ‘things to do’ features in the best selling tourism guides ever will. My association with with Frying Pan Adventures goes back a long way – my first food tour with them being the Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage. Much later, I invited Arva and Farida, the vivacious sisters and founder duo of Frying Pan Adventures, home to show case Bengali cuisine during Noboborsho for their podcast.The following autumn, I hosted a Bengali feast for one of their Sufra events. Even with all the association, it wasn’t an easy task for Frying Pan Adventures to convince me to join them on their Indian food tour ‘Little India on a plate’. As a self-proclaimed Dubai old-timer who could navigate blindly to the nearest Indian restaurant in the Meena Bazaar neighbourhood from any given car park in the area, I honestly saw no novelty in this food tour. I couldn’t be more wrong.

Even for the proud desi that I am, who’s been eating off all the alleys in Meena Bazaar for the last two decades, I was mighty surprised on the Indian food tour.

Ishita B Saha on a food tour with Frying Pan AdventuresBeing on a food tour is a serious activity… gritty and sweaty

One sultry summer evening… once upon a time, when one could walk and eat around freely and happily, free of masks and fear, Debbie (my partner-in-crime and co-founder of FoodeMag) and I hit Meena Bazaar on a four hour long food walk with Frying Pan Adventures. The tour was filled with tasty treats and valuable insights from Farida Ahmed, our tour hostess and co-founder of Dubai’s first food tour company.

Bhel Puri at Rangoli RestaurantBhelpuri at Rangoli Restaurant

our tour hostess and co-founder of Frying Pan AdventuresOur tour hostess Farida Ahmed, being a spice show off

South Indian filter coffee at Sangeetha Restaurant Learning the rocket science of a good South Indian filter coffee at Sangeetha Restaurant

South Indian mini thali at Sangeetha restaurantSouth Indian mini thali at Sangeetha restaurant

The cone shaped Topi Dosa at Sangeetha Restaurant The cone shaped ‘signature’ Topi dosa at Sangeetha Restaurant

Farida spilling out behind the scene kitchen secrets and insights

Aloo Bonda at Farisian CafeteriaDeep fried crispy aloo bonda at Farisian Cafeteria

Aloo bhondas, samosas with mint chutney from the thirty year old neighbourhood eatery Farisian CafeteriaDaunting task – choosing from crispy aloo bondas and samosas

Chicken tikka in the grill at Sind PunjabChicken tikka in the grill at Sind Punjab

Chicken tikka and naans at Sind PunjabSucculent chicken tikkas at Sind Punjab

Fluffy naan at Sind Punjab Meena BazaarHot fluffy naans straight from the tandoor at Sind Punjab

Fresh jalebis in the making at Salam Namaste Jalebis in the making at Salam Namaste ( I notice the Amul Ghee!)

Hot crispy jalebi at Salam NamasteHot crispy jalebis to be savoured strictly with a rich and creamy rabdi

Meena Bazaar in Bur DubaiThe eternal charm of Meena Bazaar

A group of six enthusiastic foodies, we started off with the spicy chaat speciality of Bhelpuri and Panipuris at the Gujrati restaurant – Rangoli and ended our food walk with fresh made crispy sweet Jalebis topped with a creamy layering of Rabdi at Salam Namaste. We made several food stops and halts in the pulsating neighbourhood of Meena Bazaar, in between experiencing the captivating behind the scene kitchen activities, learning on Indian spices and other food stories. Our second stop was at Sangeetha Restaurant, where we had a taste of South Indian food. A steaming South Indian filter coffees followed by a mini thali set and the restaurant’s ‘signature’ cone shaped Topi dosa in its complete finery with spicy sambar and coconut chutneys. The thirty year old neighbourhood eatery Farisian Cafeteria was our next stop, where and we munched on crispy fried aloo bhondas and samosas, accompanied by spicy dips of mint and tamarind chutneys. A quick stop at the Indian grocery store Madhoor Supermarket gave us a chance to buy some of the versatile stock – a variety of lentils and flours used in an Indian pantry. Our ‘meat’ stop was at the formidable Sind Punjab where Farida ordered fresh sugarcane juices to wash away the exhaustion of our previous food tastings and walking in the heat. A food tour is more than an indulgence, it’s sweaty and gritty – a serious activity! Now we were ready for the succulent chicken tikkas, a signature dish at the restaurant that had people queuing up since the time the restaurant opened up in this neighbourhood in 1977. Accompanied by hot fluffy naans which arrived at the table straight from the tandoor, the chicken tikkas lived up to their stardom. Much like some of the long-standing restaurants in Meena Bazaar, Sind Punjab too, carried the heavy tag of being one of Dubai’s culinary legacies. In fact, all the meals that we had at the various places that evening, bore testimony to the goodwill and legacies created by each one of them over the years.

Debbie Rogers and Ishita B Saha in a food tour with Frying Pan AdventuresDebbie and I have always bonded over comfort food and food stories that connect people and places

The epic food tour with frying Pan Adventures, traversing from treats from North India to South India, was not about tasting delicious food or learning about small eateries and legendary restaurants that characterised the alleys of Meena Bazaar. It was sonmething much more than that.

It’s getting to connect to the essence of one of the most intriguing neighbourhoods of Old Dubai and how they co-exist alongside the blooming new neighbourhoods. I felt such a sense of pride when our wonderful hostess Farida pointed out about Al Jamarik Cafeteria, which ‘nourished the soul of Dubai, serving tea to all those establishments in the surrounding’. Established in 1958, even before the birth of the United Arab Emirates, Al Jamarik Cafeteria was one of the oldest cafeterias in Dubai. When places like these hold its head high amidst Dubai’s new urban landscape in 2020, this is a story that has to be told and celebrated. What do you think?

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: Frying Pan Adventures (www.fryingpanadventures.com) kindly hosted us for the ‘Little India on a plate’ tour. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.


You might enjoy reading these related articles of mine:




Immersing Myself Into The Heart Of Sharjah with FPA – Part 1
+ Iranian dhows in Dubai creekside

Bur Dubai | My favourite food memories from Old Dubai – Part 1

Chalking out my favourite food memories from the neighbourhood trio of Bur Dubai, Karama and Oudh Metha in a three-part blogpost … digging into a two decade long delicious list!

After twenty years of living in the UAE, we are relocating to India once the commercial flights resume between the UAE and India. The Bearded Biker is being transferred within the organisation that he has been working for, hence it’s a happy move. Where are we headed to next? While I shall reveal that shortly – what I can tell you right now is that, it’s going to be another delicious journey!

Esha Nag, Senior Editor of Gulf news and Ishita B Saha, author of culinary travel blog IshitaUnbloggedWith Esha Nag, Senior Editor of Gulf News for whom I have written one of my favourite columns – Hidden Gems, featuring many casual eateries around Dubai

In one of my recent articles published for the Gulf News Neighbourhood Guide (above), I chalked out my favourite food memories from the neighbourhood trio of Bur Dubai, Karama and Oudh Metha. To do justice to the long standing culinary legacies of these neighbourhoods, a combined article with a word limit of 800-1000 words can never be enough. In fact, an entire supplement is also probably not enough if I were to dig into my memories from two decades! So in my three-part pictorial blogpost here, I am including some of the eateries that I couldn’t mention in my published article and sharing some delicious images for the ones that I may have already mentioned in the GN article… for one can never be rich enough… or in our case, hungry enough!

Property Weekly Neighbourhood Guide: Do explore the various communities of Dubai in this weekly community neighbourhood magazine… where to stay, where to shop and most importantly, where to eat!
Barjeel Al Arab Restaurant, the traditional Textile Souq and Meena Bazaar area, Everest Restaurant, Arabian Tea House, Local House Restaurant and Coffee Museum in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood... these are a few places that I have mentioned in the above article.

The traditional sweet and savoury vermicelli dish Balateet at Barjeel Guest HouseThe traditional vermicelli dish Balateet for breakfast at Barjeel Al Arab restaurant

Traditional ethnic wear shops in Meena Bazaar

Flower shop near the temple alley in Bur DubaiA shop in the temple alley in selling fresh flower garlands and other puja ingredients

Crispy hot jalebis at Veg WorldCrispy hot jalebis at Veg World

Live chaat counter at Veg World

Blue Barjeel restaurant by Dubai creeksideBlue Barjeel restaurant by Dubai creekside

Breakfast at Blue Barjeel restaurant – falafels, parathas and eggs

Apart from Barjeel Guest House, the Blue Barjeel restaurant situated near the Al Ghudaiba Metro station is also a great alfresco dining option by the creek. The Textile Souq and the Meena Bazaar nearby is a culinary treasure trove – from small eateries offering fresh juices, crispy fried pakodas and shawarmas to restaurants which have stood the test of time. Veg World situated in the atrium of a shopping centre is a very good chaat stop in this area. Much like a food court, there are multiple shops that serve different kinds of Indian quick bites – street food, a variety of kulfis, fresh juices and more. The chaats and panipuris aside, the Cheese Gini Dosa is also my favourite pick here.  The spicy concoction of cheese, vegetables and sauces inside crispy upright mini dosas, is a popular rendition of the South Indian dosa from Mumbai’s roadside food vendors. A stone’s throw away, the Pakistani restaurant Sheher Karachi is a must try for meat lovers. The restaurant has been around for more than thirty years and is open way past midnight. Try the special Peshawari Mutton Kadai, the most sought after dish in this restaurant… amongst their other signature meat dishes

Traditional Nepali thali at Everest Restaurant in Bur DubaiThakali Mutton thali at Everest Restaurant

Kothey buff momo at Everest Restaurant in Bur DubaiKothey buff momos at Everest Restaurant

Steamed momo at Everest Restaurant in Bur DubaiSteamed momo at Everest Restaurant

Chilli Buff Momo at Everest Restaurant in Bur DubaiChilli Buff Momo at Everest Restaurant

Desi Chinese at Everest Restaurant in Bur DubaiBadam Sadheko or Nepali roasted peanut salad

Desi Chinese at Everest Restaurant

The Everest Restaurant near Astoria, serving authentic Nepalese cuisine and desi Chinese is another small eatery that we are very proud to have discovered. Tucked in a small alley near the Astoria hotel, it can be a bit tricky to find the restaurant. The kothey momos – half steamed and half fried dumplings or their other momos served with spicy peanut sauce are as delicious and authentic as the ones that we tasted in Kathmandu. You must also try the Nawari khaja sets and the Thakali Mutton thali.

Our cultural lunch at SMCCU – Chicken Machboos and Leqaimats

Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Cafe in Al Fahidi

Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Cafe in Al Fahidi

Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Cafe in Al Fahidi

Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Cafe in Al FahidiChicken Machboos at Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Cafe

The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is not only a cultural and creative treasure trove, there are so many different kinds of cafes and restaurants in its hidden and not so hidden alleys. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) offers a variety of programmes where one can have a glimpse of both Emirati culture and cuisine with its interactive cultural meals (you can read all about it and Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in my earlier post). Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Café is one of my favourite restaurants and hang out spots in Dubai, since the time we arrived in Dubai. It is as if by sheer syncronicity, that I wrote about it way back in 2017, as one of the restaurants that I would like to visit one last time, if I were to leave Dubai!

XVA Gallery Art Hotel & CafeThe legendary mint lemonade in XVA Gallery Art Hotel & Cafe

Coffee Museum in Bur Dubai

Coffee Museum in Bur Dubai

The Local House Restaurant located next to Arabian Tea House serves Emirati and regional specialities while the XVA Café doubles up as a boutique guesthouse and art gallery and specialises in a gourmet vegetarian menu. The Coffee Museum is a unique museum and is a brewing haven for coffee lovers (above images). From learning about roasting and various brewing techniques to understanding about different coffee cultures – Arabic, Japanese, Ethiopian, Vietnamese and others, there’s also a small cafe at the museum where one can taste a variety of coffee.

Meena Bazaar in bur Dubai

Another delicious way to discover the old Dubai area is to book into the ‘Little India on a plate’ food tour with Frying Pan Adventures… do read all about it in a separate post. While I must absolutely wrap up this post now, all I can say borrowing the words from Andy William’s Love Story…

Where do I begin
To tell the story of how great a love (Bur Dubai) can be
The sweet love story that is older than the sea
The simple truth about the love she (Bur Dubai) brings to me
Where do I start?
Bur Dubai is my first muhalla in our Dubai chapter… changing houses and neighbourhoods multiple times after that in a span of twenty years. See you in Karama in my next post!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. We have paid for our meals at all restaurants, excepting the cultural meal at SMCCU and the ‘India on a Plate tour, where we were kindly hosted us our FoodeMag team. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

 

+ Bengali Taler Bora

Taler Bora or Palm Fruit Nuggets, if I may call them so

When Janmashtami or the annual celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna is in full swing, these fried mini Taler Boras make their entry… sweet – bitter – crunchy entry!Bengali Taler Bora

My attempt at another futile translation… Taler Bora. Palm Fruit Nuggets? The last time when I translated Phulko Luchi to Bengali puffed-up flour flatbread, I was sure that some of Luchi’s crispiness and fluffiness got lost in translation. So this time, can I simply say how I love these fried balls of deliciousness? Or how they might just become extinct, washed away by the more popular fritters and branded nuggets? Or shall I add to the already existing confusion – how will you categorise Taler Bora… under snack or sweet?

Bengali Taler Bora

Bengali Taler Bora

Bengali Taler Bora

Bengali Taler Bora

Bengali Taler Bora

Bengali Taler Bora

All I know for now, these are fried mini balls filled with love. Love from grandmothers and mothers belonging to the previous generation. Probably not my Ma though, who’s got other kind of cooking skills to her credit! During the monsoons around Bhadra maash (the Bengali month of Bhadra coincides with mid August onwards), when Janmashtami or the annual celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna is in full swing, these fried mini Taler Boras make their entry… sweet – bitter – crunchy – delicious – entry. We resort to Purnimadi, the wonderful lady who’s been cooking and looking after my parents for more than fifteen years. Purnimadi prepares Taler Bora, Taler Shaash and many other edible knick knacks that are typically associated with Janmashtami. She prepares all of these at her home and shares them affectionately with us.

Lady wearing yellow sari

Every year around July and August, we are in Kolkata. An indulgence that I have been referring to as my summer hibernation. The Z-Sisters and I stay on for a longer period, while the Bearded Biker is headed back to Dubai to join back work. The 10ft x 6ft balcony in my parents’ house overlook a lot of greenery that fools one into believing that there can be no cacophony on the road below the lush green foliage cover. One couldn’t be more fooled. All day long, the chayer dokan or the roadside tea stall across the road, are frequented by the locals, mainly parar chokras or the young men from the neighbourhood. Their day jobs seem to be just hanging around the tea stall and drink tea, accompanied by tea biscuits and rusks, which are very typical of these roadside tea stalls. It seems to me sometimes, that these never ending tea-refills must be coming for free!

Bengali Taler Bora

For both my patents, the balcony has almost the window to the world. I may be sounding over-dramatic but believe me, it really has become so. In the mornings, my Baba, a retired bureaucrat, enters the world of somebody else’s reality, by flipping through the pages of the several newspapers that he’s subscribed to. This is my Baba’s version of scrolling through his social media feed while a nondescript radio tuned into the local FM channel unceremoniously cuts into the birds chirping in the nearby Kadam tree (wiki describes it as Leichhardt pine, and coincidentally Lord Krishna’s favourite tree!). The branches of the Kadam tree seem to forcefully barge into the balcony, which is where we all converge during our tea times… and the candid photo shoots of Bengali food cooked at Ma’s kitchen.

Ishita B Saha and Rupa Dutta Chowdhury in KolkataAn early morning walking tour with Calcutta Walks last year at this time, along with my photographer buddy

My annual summer hibernations in Kolkata are powered by addas – hanging out with family and friends. They are stirred by a whirlwind of emotions… kaleidoscopic journeys through Kolkata’s alleys and a whole lot of food stimulation. I am curious to know… are you at this hour, living in the city where you have grown up in? Or are you making a home in a different city altogether… far away from home? Wherever you are… keep safe and stay happy.

Don’t ever give up on any festive spirit or traditional recipes that connect you to your roots, no matter how hard it can be at times and how hard times are!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter!

I would love you to see Kolkata through my eyes. Here's a rewind on some of my favourite Kolkata memories:
Introducing Kolkata's street food in BBC Travel Show at Dacker's Lane; immersing myself in a surreal Ramadan Walk with Calcutta Walks; indulging myself in the colonial hangover at Flurys; diving into ice creams at my childhood ice cream parlour by the Ganges - Scoop; there's Dilipda's Phuchka, which is 'world famous in Kolkata' and last but not the least... hoping that unique bazars like Tiretti Bazar continue to thrive, where you can still find the last remnants of Chinese culture... but maybe not for long.
    • Taler Bora or Palm Fruit Nuggets

      • Servings: 4
      • Difficulty: easy
      • Print
      Category=snack/dessert; Cuisine=BengaliBengali Taler Bora

      Ingredients

      1 ripe tal/palm fruit with 3 medium size kernels
      4 bananas
      1 cup suji/semolina
      1 ½ cup maida/flour
      1 cup sugar
      ½ cup grated coconut
      white oil for deep frying or ghee (if you are generous!)

      Method

          • Scrape off the skin of the palm fruit and squeeze out the fibrous pulp from inside. Use a sieve so that the pulp is smooth
          • Squeeze the kernels in water before throwing them off, so that all the juice isn’t wasted
          • Add the semolina, flour, sugar, grated coconut into the pulpy juice and mix them thoroughly to make a smooth batter. Add mashed bananas and mix them into the smooth batter
          • Heat oil in a deep bottomed frying pan. Or ghee (oh yes, generously if you using ghee!)
          • Make small balls (1 inch in diameter) and drop them slowly in the hot oil and fry them till they are crispy and golden brown.*

      *Where will you get Palm fruit in Dubai? A few Indian/Asian stores like Lulu Supermarket, Adil and in the Fruits and Vegetable market in Deira or Backet in Sharjah. A few of the Spinneys outlets hold Market Days on Mondays and stock many Srilankan vegetables. My guess is, you might get palm fruits there as they are also used widely in Srilankan cuisine.

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

+ Srilankan Lamprais cooked at home

For the love of Lamprais… and Srilanka

Cooking Srilankan Lamprais at home… what a delicious and elaborate tribute to the country where we set up our first home – Srilanka!

Srilankan Lamprais cooked at home

On the day of Guru Purnima when one pays homage to their gurus or teachers, I wanted to pay homage to a country that has taught me a lot – Srilanka! I cooked Lamprais and Deviled Prawns at home, both very popular Srilankan dishes… delicious and elaborate tributes to the country where we set up our first home. Lamprais is a rice preparation where Kaha Bath or yellow rice, along with Lampara meat curry, fried plantain cooked in coconut curry, Wambatu Moju or an eggplant preparation, seeni sambol, fish cutlet and others… all are delicately wrapped up in a banana leaf and cooked in an oven. A Dutch-Burgher influenced dish, Lamprais is a reminiscent of the Dutch colonisation of the island country. Cooking the Lamprais was much more time consuming than I had originally expected with so many things accompanying it. Digging into the lumped rice by hand was mandatory, at least in our home!

Srilankan Lamprais cooked at homeCooking Lamprais is quite elaborate as there are several accompaniments with lumped rice

Srilankan Deviled Prawns cooked at homeSpicy deviled prawns – Srilankans love their spices and I don’t think a Srilankan dish can ever be spicy enough!

My Srilankan Sojourn – the pre digicam and smartphone era… does anyone even remember the era?

I landed in Colombo in January 1998, a few days after our wedding. This was my first trip to a foreign land and Colombo didn’t disappoint my idea of how ‘abroad’ looked – imported cars, beautifully marked roads, supermarket isles with neatly stacked glossy products, branded clothes and everything that I had imagined. What I hadn’t imagined was the intensity of the tropical lush greenery and verdant landscape, or the eternally smiling friendly faces – quite a contradiction to the regular army checkpoints at roadsides, where we were stopped frequently to show our identity cards. Carrying our passports with us became as natural as carrying our wallets and handbags – even to the neighbourhood grocery. The country was in civil war and waking up to news of bomb explosions far and wide was as normal to us as waking up to the birds’ chirping in our garden. S had been living in Srilanka for a while and was quite used to the on going situation. I found it rather disturbing initially. It was also difficult to explain to our parents back home during our weekly calls that we were – safe and doing fine. After the initial panic buttons were switched on for a while after such unprecedented events, I realised that life bounced back to our familiar understanding of normalcy pretty soon.

Ishita B Saha and Subir Kumar Saha in Colombo

 

Our house at Rosmead Place in ColomboThe beautiful staircase in our home at Rosmead Place – taken from both inside and outside

My 1st lesson in Srilanka … home is wherever the heart beats happily.

We lived in Rosmead Place in Colombo 7, a heavily guarded prestigious neighbourhood that housed a few embassies and residences of political dignitaries. Our house was beautiful and pretty huge. Much like the Magistrate’s House in Alipore, the house that shaped my childhood and honed my creativity, the house at Rosmead Place contributed to shaping my youth. It soon became my creative dream pad. S and his colleague, who became our close friend, were put up in this house at Rosmead Place by their office. Each had a bedroom to his own on the first floor with an attached bathroom, while they shared the rest of the house. The ground floor was a single unit – an open kitchen giving way to a living cum dining space. Our bedroom and the corridor leading to it, overlooked into the living room space below from above, much like an inner courtyard. The alcove windows with its wooden blinds overlooked a lush garden that encompassed the entire stretch of the house. Even before I moved in, our house had become a cool hangout spot with the wonderful Srilankan friends that the two boys had made in their initial year. Effectively, I invaded a boy zone and was welcomed whole-heartedly into the gang. Not a single chore was delegated to me. Cooking to doing the dishes post-dinner, everything was off my job list! Grocery was a fun outing together to the popular supermarket chains like Keells and Cargills Food City. The only designated chore for me, was supervising the cleaner who came once a week. He spoke in Tamil and didn’t know a word of English. I didn’t know a word of Tamil. I decided to converse with him in Bengali. Guess what? It worked!

Sketch of our garden in Rosmead PlaceMy painting of our garden which thrived on its own, fed and nurtured by short afternoon rain showers

My purpose in life in those days was just to find out my purpose, which has changed its direction and flowed with the ebbs and tides of my life over the years. Quite naturally so!

I sketched and painted quite a lot. I slept occasionally during the days and dreamt during the nights. Once in a while, I cooked and while the boys were at work, I thought of ideas to innovate on our cooking techniques. To this day, the kitchen in our Srilankan house has been by far the largest kitchen we have had in our married journey so far, with the least number of gadgets. Not to mention our cooking skills, which were also at the lowest level. Fish wrapped in banana leaves and placed on a hanger, which was then set on a bucket filled with water with an immersion water heater… that was my genius kind of an idea for cooking steamed fish. We saved on the gas too! I haven’t ever shared this with anyone… I sometimes pretended that I owned the house, and similar houses in our posh neighbourhood. In a way, it was true. S and I set up our first home here, in spite of the fact that we were sharing it. The concept of ‘mine’ or ‘ours’ hadn’t crept in yet. When we got married, I didn’t have any particular notion or expectation of setting out ‘our own home’ or a separate home. My only reason to get married was that it allowed me to hang out more with S. I didn’t have to return home at a given time or rebuked for the long telephonic conversations late at night. In fact, S kept all the phone cards that nurtured our cross-country relationship through the year before our marriage when we were living apart – it’s quite an impressive stack!

My 2nd lesson in Srilanka … to intuitively ‘feel’ ingredients. Much like the different colours that went into a painting in different proportions and mixes, it was the same with ingredients. There was no right or wrong in cooking, nor only one technique. Like an artist continually evolving, a cook too, evolves.

I started making our meals occasionally, with the intention of helping out the boys. My first culinary bible in those days was a simple cookbook that my mum-in-law had gifted to both S and me, lovingly signed “Cook happily & Eat merrily”! The cookbook –N.I.A.W. (National Indian Association of Women) Cookbook was a compilation of recipes from different cuisines around the world. The recipes were simple, easy to follow and there were no pictures. This is the cookbook I most refer to, even today. Those days, I didn’t have much experience in cooking, except making instant noodles or scrambled eggs. This was quite typical of most Bengali families in my known circuit when “porashona kora/studying” superseded everything else in a child’s life, especially for girls. I didn’t fear cooking, nor was I ever anxious about a dish turning out wrong. My principle was simple – if following a recipe, cream custard turned into a sorbet in my next attempt, I presented that smartly as a dish I had planned it to be! There was always something to learn from an experience and that was the great fun. Any dish that I liked soon became my culinary reference point, be it cooked by my mother, mum-in-law, friend or relative or I would come across while travelling.

In course of time, cooking became my favourite subject for experimenting and connecting to people, known or unknown.

Mum-in-law cooking potol that she brought from Kolkata

My parents-in-law dressed up for a formal dinner. The kitchen has always been our happy space!

My father and S in Mount Lavinia hotelAt the heritage property Mount Lavinia Hotel for a sundowner with my father

With my mum-in-law on our trip to GalleWith my mum-in-law on our trip to Galle

When my parents-in-law visited us, our kitchen soon became the focal point for all our hangouts and late night chit chats. We ‘binge-devoured’ on traditional Bengali meals cooked by mum-in-law. The first episode of the subsequent future seasons of her carrying potols and other typical Bengali food items in her suitcase when Ma visited us in different cities where we set up home, started from our Colombo days (here’s a story of food, love and good memories travelling in our suitcases)! I accompanied them back to Kolkata to celebrate my parents’ 25th anniversary on the condition that my father would drop me back to Colombo. We wanted everyone in our families back home to visit us in Colombo – such was the charm of the island and the house that we called our home!

My 3rd lesson in Srilanka… to grace kindness, humility and faith on a daily basis.

Our Srilankan friends showered us with immense love. Every person we met, was friendly, kind and smiling. While at home, we were surrounded by giggles and laughter, we were surrounded by joy in spite when we stepped out. This was despite all that was happening in their lives. We heard from how the civil war and the conflict in Jaffna affected the people. Every family had some incident to share that was a result of the conflict. Amidst all these conflicts however, what struck to me was how they had an unflinching faith and hoped for peace in their beloved island.


Discovering Srilanka

Colombo

Colombo… the starting line

In the course of the year, I explored Colombo and Srilanka as and when S’s work permitted. While the city was new to me, S already had his favourite spots, which he proudly introduced me to. Ice cream sundaes at the dessert parlour Carnival in Galle Road, my first ‘food court’ meals at Liberty Plaza Food Court, tuk tuk rides to the seaside promenade Galle Face over the weekend (here’s my love story on tuk tuks!). The tuk tuk drivers would mistake S for a local and charge us the regular fare. On realising that we weren’t, they would start renegotiating! On our occasional visits to the lakeside Buddhist temple Gangaramaya, I learnt to emphasise on faith rather than any particular religion. Leaving spirituality aside, the material girl in me loved visiting Odel, the famous Srilankan department store. A short walk from our house, I loved the scented candles, colourful sarongs or their eclectic range of accessories. Every product on Odel’s self seemed to reflect the characteristics of the island and that really inspired me.

Bentota and Galle – the seduction of coastal Srilanka

Galle, situated on the southwest coast of SrilankaGalle’s colonial past is reflected in the architecture of its houses and fortifications

Turtle Hatchery near BentotaMany endangered species of turtles have been nurtured at the Turtle Hatchery Project at Bentota Beach

Our first trip out of Colombo was to Bentota, a laid back seaside town on the southwest coast. We stayed at the Serendib Beach Hotel, a causal beachfront property designed by the world famous architect Geoffrey Bawa. The architecture was characteristic of Bawa’s signature style – simplicity and a blend of the surrounding landscape. Our room on the ground-floor overlooked the serene sea through a grove of swaying coconut trees. Beach barbecues, grills of fresh catch by the table – specially King Fish, watching the locals scaling up coconut trees to tap toddy, sunsets over the sea, late night strolls by the beach and… watching one day old turtles in the nearby Turtle Hatchery – these are just a few of my favourite ‘Bentota’ memories from a long list. A day trip to the Galle situated on the southwest tip of the island, completed our first trip outside Colombo. Built in 16th century by the Portugese colonists, the old town of Galle with its historic fortifications, is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Galle’s colonial past was reflected in its architecture and magnificent fortifications. The Portugese had arrived in the 16th century, the Dutch in the 17th century and subsequently followed by the British in late 18th century. The Portugese styled white-washed houses city exuded an old world charm. The Galle Lighthouse, standing tall on the fortification rampart, was one of the oldest in the country and still in use.

Kandy – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an alluring ancient capital

Ishita B Saha and Subir Kumar Saha in front of Kandy Lake Kandy Lake is encircled with a decorative white parapet that resembles clouds. Built in early 19th century, there are many folklores associated with the lake

Perehera, a spectacular procession held annually to pay homage to Buddha’s sacred tooth relicKandy Esala Perahera or The Festival of the Tooth is a spectacular procession paying homage to Buddha’s sacred tooth relic

In August, we took a trip to Kandy, situated three hours away from Colombo amidst the scenic hills of Srilanka. We had booked into a B&B run by one of S’s colleague’s grandparents. The sacred city of Kandy comprising of The Temple of the Tooth Relic was another UNESCO World Heritage site. When we visited the temple, it was still reverberating from the damage left behind by a militant attack earlier in January, the same year. The shrine housed the relic of the tooth of the Buddha and was considered one of the holiest temples in Srilanka. We had planned our trip to coincide with Kandy Esala Perahera or The Festival of the Tooth. Held annually in July or August, the Perehera is a spectacular procession held annually to pay homage to Buddha’s sacred tooth relic which is carried in a golden casket by an elephant. We queued for hours so that we could watch the mesmerising procession standing in the first row. Elephants dressed up in ornamental garments, local folk as well as traditional Kandyan dancers, drummer dancers, fire dancers and many such heart stomping show-stopping activities were part of the procession. We walked the entire circumference of the picturesque Kandy Lake, a manmade lake with an island in the middle. Built in the medieval era, the lake was encircled with a decorative white parapet that resembled clouds. A beef preparation with kankun (water spinach) that we tasted in a restaurant that overlooked the lake and the simple breakfast at the guesthouse with homemade jams and Kiri Peni, a dessert made with curd and palm sugar treacle, still linger on my tastebuds.

Sinharaja – of hikes and forest trails

Hiking in Sirigiya forest in SrilankaA small break while hiking in the rainforest. My need for wearing those long, thick football socks? Bloodsucking leeches, of course!

Dense rainforest in Sirigiya, SrilankaThe dense rainforest in Sinharaja National Reserve is home to many endemic species and sixty percent of the island’s endemic trees

Posing in the Srilankan highwayPosing on the highway – nothing is more exhilarating than outstretched hands without any inhibition

We went on a hiking trail once with the gang to the dense rainforest in Sinharaja National Park. Recognised as a World Biosphere Reserve as well as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the experience was thrilling. Gushing waterfalls and breath-taking views of the forest cover from vantage points made for several gorgeous photo-ops. A subsequent visit to a gem factory and museum at Ratnapura later, opened our eyes (literally so) to the various gemstones that the emerald shaped island was famous for. Those were the pre-digital smartcam days, hence limited captures only after several contemplations! One of my favourite pictures from our Srilanka albums is when our friend’s car broke down. We stood across the highway holding our outstretched hands. And a not-so-favourite moment? The leeches that kept on gnawing at us all along the forest trail!


Revisiting Srilanka – Bentota on repeat mode and hey you, digicam… you are so welcome!

View of Indian Ocean in Bentota in SrilankaView of the Indian Ocean from Taj Bentota

Senaka Senanayake's work in Taj BentotaSenaka Senanayake’s signature style – bright hues depicting Srilanka’s flora and fauna

Origami activity in Taj BentotaBig Z with her origami art

When we planned our first vacation beyond the annual Kolkata visits after Lil Z’s birth, our first choice of destination was obviously Srilanka. So off we headed back to the island in 2011. With the Z-Sisters accompanying us, we were exploring a different Srilanka this time – alibi a luxurious vacation mode. Naturally, Bentota had to be the first stop. We booked into Vivanta by Taj, a far cry from our humble holidays in our first years of marriage. Not that it seemed to matter in those earlier days of travelling. Perched on an elevated cliff with a stunning ocean view, Taj Bentota provided us with some precious moments – a mile long stretch of Bentota’s classic golden beach, origami activities, stunning ocean views and authentic Srilankan food. The other truly memorable experience for me was witnessing the work of Senaka Senanayake, one of Sri Lanka’s best-known artists. Several brightly hued canvases depicting Srilanka’s flora and fauna that are so characteristic of the artist, hung on the wall of Taj Bentota – a priceless collection indeed. We also visited the Kosgoda turtle farm nearby, as we wanted to share the experience of holding one-day old baby turtles with the Z-Sisters.

Kitulgala – a riverside rendezvous, an epiphany and the inception of my blog

Rafters' Retreat in KitulgalaKelani River in Kitulgala… most of the scenes in the ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ that were shot in Srilanka are in Kitulgala

My 4th lesson in Srilanka… life always comes back in full circle. In doing so, it gives one ‘cues’ to the direction that leads straight from your heart. Grab them!

After the sunny seaside, we were headed to the scenic Hill Country of Srilanka. We stopped for lunch at the riverside ecolodge Rafters’ Retreat in Kitulgala (here’s my write up). The gushing Kelani river and mountainous forests brought back memories of my trip with the gang from a decade back. It was a similar landscape in Ratnapura where we had stopped impromptu… to bathe in Kalu Ganga! The riverside stop in Kitulgala this time, was momentous in my life. It was like an epiphany and my blog was born. Here’s an excerpt from my first blog post, written nine years back…

Re-visiting Srilanka was more than just a vacation. It was as if, we were searching for our own roots. A decade back we had stood by the banks of the Kelani river, letting our eyes wander into the woods. Now a decade later, the four of us were standing at the same spot. As if one circle of life just got completed.

Rafter's Retreat, Kitulgala, SrilankaKitulgala is one of the wettest places in Srilanka with two monsoons in a year

Rafters' Retreat by the Kelani River, Kitulgala

The empty bench by the Kelani River (in the picture above) seemed symbolic. With the beginning of the second circle with the four of us, I wanted to unblog them all. The surrounding greens, multiple shades of green reflected on the Kelani river and the empty bench beckoning me – this was predestined to be the first post of my blog IshitaUnblogged, all the way back in 2011!

Nuwara Eliya – the misty hills and romance of Ceylon tea

Waterfalls in Srilanka's Hill CountryThe magnificent St. Clair’s Waterfall on our way to the Nuwara Eliya

Misty hills of Nuwara EliyaMisty hills of Nuwara Eliya

Heritance Tea FactoryTwo year old Lil Z picks on freshly plucked tea leaves to make her own version of Ceylon Tea Heritance Tea FactoryThe original machineries from the tea factory have been preserved and are operational, forming aesthetic backdrops in the decor

Heritance Tea FactoryA small tour of the tea museum guided us through the tea making process – from withering to packing

Rolling mountains, rippling waterfalls and mountainous streams marked the landscape as we drove into Srilanka’s scenic Hill Country. Set amidst lush green tea plantations and misty hills of Nuwara Eliya, our stay at Heritance Tea Factory is definitely one of my most unique stays (recalling our experience in my earlier write up). A colonial experience awaited us at this boutique hotel which was once a tea factory during the British Raj, the Hethersett Tea Plantation. The machineries from the original tea factory were still preserved and operational and were cleverly incorporated within the décor of the hotel. These machines were switched on from time to time offering a ceremonial spectacle for the resident guests. The sifting room was now converted to a formal restaurant – Kenmare. Wooden tea cartons held the buffet area serving authentic Sri Lankan cuisine as well as Western delicacies. Apart from Kenmare, there was another restaurant – TCK 6685 (Railway Carriage) Restaurant. It was a theme restaurant, a full-size replica of the actual train’s restaurant from the 1930s. Sitting on its small-gauge rails, the restaurant offered a unique fine dining experience complete with ‘whistle blowing’ and ‘toot-toots’. Food was served served by white-glove clad ‘attendants’ wearing their railway uniform. Our fondest and nerve wrecking culinary memories associated with our stay at Heritance was the formal five-course sit-down dinner on Valentine’s Day, complete with candle lights … along with the tiny Z-Sisters.

Revisiting Kandy – architectural splendour of a holy shrine

The moonstone in Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth RelicLil Z stepping on the moonstone carved at the entrance. Much like a welcome mat, it is a unique feature of ancient Sinhalese architecture

Carvings on wooden door in Temple of the Tooth RelicIntricate carvings on wooden doors

Intricate stone carvings in Kandy's Temple of the Tooth RelicThe stone carvings inside the temple date back to the 17th century

Alfresco painting on the ceilin gof Temple of the Tooth RelicThere are alfresco paintings on the ceiling of the temple. This one depicts a Perehera procession with the sacred casket bearer elephant, flag bearers and Kandyan dancers

Our our journey downhill from Heritance Tea Factory, we revisited Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth Relic and offered prayers. Unlike on our first visit, when the temple and the palace complex was still undergoing restorations after the damages of the 1998 attack, I could completely immerse myself in the beauty of the temple this time. The architecture, stone carvings and the alfresco paintings were intricate and extraordinary. The temple has suffered considerable damage twice from bombings – once in 1989 and again in 1998, but both times it was restored fully as the relic is very important to Srilanka, both culturally and politically.

Pinnawala – sweet call of the wild

Elephants bathing in PinnawalaHerd of elephants gather at the bathing area in Pinnawala

Elephants bathing in PinnawalaA spectacular sight in Pinnawala as herds of elephants of all ages come down to bathe

Bathing an elephant in Pinnawala in Srilanka 

Pinnawala has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world and is known for its elephant orphanage – Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Initially built to nurture wild orphaned elephants, the orphanage has now also been breeding. Our lunch halt was synced with the elephants’ bathing time. The terrace at Grand Royal Pinnawala, just opposite the bathing site on Oya River offered a spectacular sight as herds of elephants of all ages came down to the river to bathe. Tourists could also partake in the bathing of elephants and feed them (with feeding bottles… awww!) at a charge. While Big Z loved joining in for the activities, Lil Z was in absolute tears!

Trincomalee – panoramic bays, stiff cliffs and white beaches

Private beach of Jungle Beach by Uga Escapes in Trincomalee A walkway led us to from the deck of our beach chalet to the Jungle Beach Resort’s private beach

Inside Jungle beach by Uga Escapes in TrincomaleeThe resort’s breathtaking landscape scattered with lily pads, stone pathways amidst tropical foliage and vegetation. I also had a tiny snake encounter by the restaurant here!

Fish drying by the roadside in TrincomaleeFish being dried by the roadside in Trincomalee

The view from Koneswaram temple, the classical-medieval Hindu temple complex in TrincomaleeThe view from Lover’ Leap or Ravana’s cleft at Koneswaram temple, perched up high at 350ft above the sea level

In 2014, we decided to visit Srilanka again. This time, our itinerary had only one place – Trincomalee, in the northeast coast of Srilanka. During the conflict days in Jaffna, Trincomalee was completely cut off for both residents and tourists. Apart from having the finest deep-sea natural harbours in the world, Trincomalee also boasted of one of the most beautiful stretches of white sandy beaches in Srilanka. Hence, our decision to visit Trincomalee, the moment we heard that it had opened up its tourism. We had a wonderful stay at the boutique resort Jungle Beach by Uga Escapes. With breathtaking views of the mangroves from our private deck, our beach chalet was luxurious and had thatched roofs and a vaulted ceilings. A walkway led us to the resort’s private beach from the deck. The resort’s restaurant was nestled around a lagoon set amidst a jungle vegetation. The focus was on fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Along with the typical breakfast spread, we also devoured the  Srilankan offerings like hoppers, appams, dhal and curries. The Kiri Peni or curds was delicious and each day we were served a different variation. A very special memory is our private dining under a canopy of stars – a seafood barbecue against the backdrop of torched flames. We intentionally didn’t make too many plans while in Trincomalee, excepting a short drive to the city and a visit to the Koneswaram temple. A classical-medieval Hindu temple complex, the temple was perched up precariously on a cliff and the view of the ocean and the adjoining bays from there was stunning.

Colombo… once more

Rosmead Place in Colombo 7The Z-Sisters by our favourite staircase at Rosmead Place

Revisiting Carnival Dessert Parlour in ColomboRevisiting Carnival’s for ice cream sundaes

Odel in ColomboOdel, of course!

Navam Perehera is held in ColombWatching the Navam Perehera in the comfort of VIP seatings

Food kiosks line up Galle Face PromenadeFood hawkers and other stalls at Galle Face promenade

Our Srilanka trip was a recap for both of us as we revisited familiar places and showing them to the Z-Sisters. We were also exploring new places. In Colombo, we took the Z-Sisters to our house in Rosmead Place, visited Caravan for ice cream sundaes, ate at the food court in Majestic City and shopped at Odel, of course! We were staying in Taj Samudra where we brushed against some famous cricketers who were put up in the same hotel for an ongoing international cricket tournament. The hotel was located just opposite the Galle Face seaside promenade . Unlike in our Colombo days, the promenade was now lined with hawkers and food kiosks. From the devilled crabs and prawns to pineapple slices sprinkled with red chill flakes, everything looked extremely tempting. Finally, we settled for Kottu Rotis. While on our visit to the Gangaramaya temple, we learnt that a Perehera was being held the next day. Not wanting the Z-Sisters to miss out such an incredible opportunity, we bought VIP tickets that allowed seating… this is also something that we hadn’t known that one could do earlier! The Navam Perehera is held in Colombo on the Full Moon day in February. While we watched the Perehera in the comfort of seats, but alas it wasn’t from the front row as both S and I reminisced our experience of watching Kandy Esala Perehara a decade back!


Srilankan Food – spicy and spicier than thou!

Red Samba Rice in Jungle beach Resort in TrincomaleeThe short grained Srilankan rice – both red and white variety, is served for all Srilankan meals! At Jungle Beach Resort

Parippu or Dhal CurryParippu or Dhal Curry is made with red lentils (Masoor dal) cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with spices. At Jungle Beach Resort

Pol Sambol at Jungle beach Resort in TrincomaleePol Sambol is a spicy relish made with freshly grated coconut, onions, chillies and Maldive fish and eaten as an accompaniment. At Jungle Beach Resort

Deviled crab at Jungle Beach Resort in TrincomaleeDeviled crab at Jungle Beach Resort. Our favourite Srilankan seafood preparation is the deviled one – prawn, crab and squidSrilankan food cooked in traditional earthen pots in Heritance Tea FactorySrilankan food cooked and served in traditional clay pots in Heritance Tea Factory

Srilankan Kottu or shredded rotiA food hawker making spicy Kottu Roti at Galle Face Promenade

Sweet Papaya Juice at Jungle beach Resort in TrincomaleeSweet Papaya juice at Jungle Beach Resort

Kiri Peni or curd at Jungle beach Resort in TrincomaleeMango Kiri Peni at Jungle Beach Resort

Once we were introduced to Srilankan food, there was no looking back! The spicy curries, the short-grained Samba rice and red rice, stir-fried shredded rotis or kottus, string hoppers, coconut sambols, fish cutlets, devilled prawns and cuttles – Srilankans loved their spices. I gradually acquired a liking for some of the popular fruits eaten in the island like jackfruits, mangosteens, custard apples and various kinds of bananas. I also had my first taste of Nasi Goreng and the banana wrapped Lamprais. Both these rice dishes captured the heart and soul of this rice-loving Bengali! I also fell in love with Wattalappan – a custard pudding made out of coconut milk and jaggery. When our Srilankan friends dined at our home, they couldn’t believe that there could be any curry that could be made without using red chillies. For that matter, we couldn’t believe the amount of chillies that actually went into making each one of their curries!

 Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site in Sri LankaDambulla Golden Temple, which we visited on our way back from Trincomalee to Colombo. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka

A tea picker in Srilanka's Hill CountryWherever we went, we were met with evergreen smiles – look at the tea picker in Srilanka’s Hill Country!

It’s time to return to Srilanka once again. And when we do, the topmost in our bucket list is to visit Ministry of Crab, the very famous seafood restaurant set up by celebrated chef and restaurateur Dharshan Munidas and cricketing legends Mahela Jayawardane and Kumar Sangakkara. Both the times we were in Colombo, the restaurant was closed as it was Poya or full moon day, considered auspicious by the Buddhists and a holiday in most places in the island. If it happens to be a Poya day once again on our next Colombo visit, I will consider that as predestined. I will happily settle for a food crawl in Galle Face promenade instead… digging into our eternal love – humble street food!

Last but not the least, the life lesson I learnt in Srilanka… life is a beautiful journey. It’s good to flip the album once in a blue moon to remember where it all started (not a full moon this time!). Most importantly to remind oneself, why we start a journey in the first case.

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Here are a few of my articles on my Srilankan sojourn:
Heritance Tea Factory Hotel, Nuwara Eliya
Red tuk-tuks and triumphant rides – Colombo  
Living by the water with sunset as prop – Colombo and the Indian Ocean

Srilankan Lamprais cooked at home

Lamprais

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: elaborate
  • Print
Category=Main course; Cuisine=Srilankan

Cooking Laprais was quite a feat and was elaborate, as it requires preparation of several dishes other. After going through several recipes on the internet, I chose this Lamprais recipe as it seemed most authentic to me along with the recipes of the accompanying dishes of Lampara meat curry, Seeni Sambol, Fish Cutlet, Fried Ash Plantain Curry and Wambatu Moju. To make the banana leaves soft and pliable for making the rice packets, pass them over a flame or grill on low heat, moving them constantly. Enjoy this legendary Srilankan dish!

Wambatu Moju – an eggplant preparationWambatu Moju – an eggplant preparation

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. All meals, stays and other expenses have been paid by us. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

Srilanka is very special to me and my intention was to connect to all the places where we have lived, travelled and have good memories. I am sharing some links below that will help you to create similar itineraries when you wish to travel to Srilanka. Please note once again, that I haven't been paid to share these links.
www.srilanka.travel (Srilanka Tourism)
www.srilankan.com (Srilankan Airlines)
www.emirates.com (Emirates Airlines)
 www.iamsrilanka.com (Travel agency based in Srilanka)
www.alrostamanitravel.ae (Travel agency based in UAE)

+ Homemade Lachha ParathaLachha

Lachha Paratha – Love and ghee in every layer

We made Lachha Parathas at home the other day. They turned out to be smoky, crispy and slightly flaky, just like they should be – only a bit less oily and slightly thicker.

Homemade Lachha Paratha

Making the multi layered Lachha Paratha at home was another feat. Much like making Acharuli, the boat-shaped Georgian cheese bread at home. Or perfecting the Awadhi style Kolkata Mutton Biryani. The first time we made the Lachha Parathas at home, they turned out to be smoky, crispy and slightly flaky, just like they should be – only a bit less oily and slightly thicker. No matter how much ghee we poured (or love, for that matter) onto the Lachhas, the layers seem to gulp up all the ghee.

Beef Mughlai

Laccha Paratha with beef Mughlai

We complimented the Lachha Parathas with a pistachio encrusted Mughlai preparation of beef (above), the aroma of which reminded us immediately of Galawati Kababs. Naturally, there had to be a next time for the Lachhas… this time with Galawatis (below)!

Lachha paratha with Galawati Kababs

Paratha – the popular flatbread from the subcontinent, can be compared to fine jewellery. Like jewellery, there are different types of parathas originating in different regions and they come in different shapes, textures, forms and intricacies in design. The basic technique of paratha making remains the same…  unleavened flatbreads made by cooking flour dough on a tawa or the cast-iron griddle, or baking inside a tandoor and mostly followed by shallow frying. The nitty-gritties of making each type, make the parathas distinctively different from each other.

Homemade Lachha Paratha

Homemade Lachha and other Parathas

I love parathas of all kinds. Apart from stuffed parathas, I also love plain parathas – specially when they are fresh out of the tawa, with a dollop of ghee or butter. There are some parathas which are absolute indulgences, namely the Lachha paratha, Mughlai paratha, Dhakai paratha and the soft fluffy ones that go into the making of Kolkata Kati Rolls.

Nothing beats these pleated multi-layered Lachha Parathas though, where the drama unfolds as you rip the flaky ghee-laden concentric layers and dip into your desired curry or a simple hot garlic pickle!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Bread recipes that you might enjoy:
Homemade Bread with Sprinkled Sesame
Cinnamon Rolls

Making Laccha Paratha at home

Making Laccha Paratha at home

Making Laccha Paratha at home

Making Laccha Paratha at home

Making Laccha Paratha at home

Making Laccha Paratha at home

Making Laccha Paratha at home

Laccha Paratha

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
Category=Flatbread; Cuisine=Punjabi, IndianHomemade Lachha Paratha

Ingredients

3 cups all purpose flour (you can also use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups all purpose flour)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
3 tbsp milk
½ cup ghee or white oil

Method

  • In a bowl, combine well-sifted flour and salt. Dissolve the sugar in warm water and add into the flour. Stir and mix well. Add 2 tbsp of ghee. Start kneading the dough by adding a bit of water and 1 tbsp of ghee. Knead until the dough is soft.
  • Take palmfuls of dough to roll into smooth balls, with slightly greased hands.. With a rolling pin, roll out each ball into a rectangular shape, spreading it as thinly as you can. Brush the surface of the flattened out dough generously with ghee.
  • Make thin strips onto the flattened out dough with a knife. (You can also make pleats)
  • Gather the strips longitudinally and holding onto one end with your palm, make a spiral like a Swiss roll. Gently flatten the spiral roll into a paratha by pressing onto the with your fingers. Apply some more ghee continuously.
  • Heat a tawa or a pan, pour ghee and shallow fry the Paratha on both sides until it turns crispy and golden brown. Serve hot.

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

+ Chicken machboos at the cultural lunch at SMCCU

Dubai Creekside, Al Fahidi and a cultural lunch at SMCCU

Despite Dubai’s changing landscape, the historic district of Al Shidagha, the traditional Textile Souq along the Bur Dubai side of the creek, the continuing Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (formerly Bastakiya), the Spice Souq and Gold Souq across the creek in the Deira side… all these places have managed to retained their original charm and sanctity.

Bukhoor or Bakhoor, scented bricks soaked in fragrant oils Bukhoor or Bakhoor, scented bricks soaked in fragrant oils

Today’s post is in celebration of my brother’s birthday. A designer by profession, he’s an artist, a creative soul and capable of capturing the eclectic in things that others would find most ordinary and random. This is a creative and a foodie day out in my favourite places of Dubai, along with two of my most creative buddies with whom I have shared many a creative travel moments – long before lockdown and travel bans. Here’s to Neil, my little brother (not so little anymore) and Rupa, my artist friend and a talented amateur photographer!

Ishita B Saha, Rupa Dutt Chowdhury, Aveek Bhattacharya

Dubai is a city where the landscape is changing by the minute. Despite all the changes, reconstructions and restorations that I have witnessed in almost two decades of living here, there are still a few places which retain their original charm and sanctity. These are the select places in Dubai that I would love any creative person (or any person) to visit… Al Shidagha, the traditional Textile Souq along the Bur Dubai side of the creek, the continuing Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood or (formerly Bastakiya), the Spice Souq and Gold Souq across the creek in the Deira side. All these places can be traced to the 1890s, reflecting the humble beginning of Dubai making the evolution of the city even more breathtaking.

We’ve spent almost two decades in Dubai – the Z-Sisters have been born and brought up here. For me, the kaleidoscopic charm of traditional souqs of Dubai supersede the impressive shopping malls, so does the traditional houses with its’ alluring wind-towers over the glitzy skyscrapers. Hoping that it’s the same for you too!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. We paid for all our meals at Blue Barjeel, XVA Cafe while SMCCU kindly hosted us our FoodeMag team. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

Bin Zayed Mosque in Shindagha historical districtBin Zayed Mosque in Al Shindagha constructed in 1964

Historic district of Al Shidagha

I always like to start my itinerary by parking near the Al Ghudaiba Metro station before exploring the traditional houses of Al Shindagha. Some of these houses are converted into museums and spaces for special exhibits – for example, the Architecture Museum (read in my Hidden Gems column) or the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, the historic building and former residential quarters of former ruler of Dubai. For me, the kaleidoscopic charm of traditional souqs supersede the impressive shopping malls any day. The mishmash of items sold at small kiosks or established retail outlets in the old Textile Souq range from expensive regional antiques and artefacts to embroidered cushions, clothing and footwear from the subcontinent, attars or aromatic Arabic perfumes to bukhour or oudhs, incenses and scented bricks soaked in fragrant natural oils, local spices and many such interesting things. Added impetus are always the fresh coconut water or freshly squeezed sugar cane juices to keep one hydrated during the mini breaks! The original plan was to stop at Barjeel Guest House for breakfast but it wasn’t open. Instead, we halted at Blue Barjeel Restaurant by the creek side – another casual eatery that I like to take our guests to. A masala omelette with parathas, a plate of crispy fried falafels and fresh coconut water fuelled us up adequately until our next meal halt – lunch at SMCCU.

Intricately designed traditional doors in Sheikh Saeed Al Makhtoum House, est. in 1896

Sheikh Saeed Al Makhtoum House Traditional wooden windows in Sheikh Saeed Al Makhtoum House

Sheikh Saeed Al Makhtoum House is vast and occupies around 3600 sqm and now a houses a museum

Inside Saeed Al Maktoum HouseThe rooms inside Sheikh Saeed Al Makhtoum House are decorated in a traditional way

Inside Saeed Al Maktoum HouseApart from artefacts, the museum also has many images of old Dubai from the 1940s and 1950s

Traditional Architecture Museum in the historical district in ShindaghaAnother intricate wooden door in the Traditional Architecture Museum

Traditional Architecture Museum in Al Fahidi Historical District in ShindaghaA typical of a traditional Emirati house in the historical districts of Al Shindagha and Al Fahidi

Dubai CreeksideDubai creek, the focal point in Dubai’s trading history. It is a natural sea-water inlet that cuts the city into two parts – Deira and Bur Dubai

Blue Barjeel restaurant by Dubai creekside in Bur DubaiBlue Barjeel restaurant offers a spectacular view of Dubai creekside

Masala omelette at Blue Barjeel restaurant by Dubai creekside in Bur DubaiMasala omelette

Breakfast at Blue Barjeel restaurant by Dubai creekside in Bur DubaiBreakfast at Blue Barjeel – falafels, parathas and eggs

Vendors setting their shops in Textile souq in Bur DubaiVendors setting up their shops in Textile Souq

Juttis or Nagrais sold in the Textile souq in Bur DubaiJuttis or Nagrais, traditional embroidered footwear in the Textile Souq

A spice shop in Textile Souq in Bur DubaiA spice shop selling exotic spices, extracts and dried herbs

Emirati artefacts in Textile souqA window display with artefacts and antiques

A shop in the temple alley in Bur Dubai selling all puja ingredientsA shop in the temple alley in selling fresh flower garlands and other puja ingredients

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood or Bastakiya as it was known earlier

The Al Fahidi district, on the other hand is a riot of colours and a stimulation for any art lover. Galleries hidden in nooks and sikkas or alleys, traditional houses restored and transformed into cool cafes and eateries, museums showcasing specific interests – the options are far too many along the cobbled winding sikkas of Al Fahidi. After our lunch break with a cultural meal at SMCCU, we briefly visited the Coffee Museum, the Calligraphy House, Majlis Gallery, XVA Art Hotel and Café and a few other villas in this heritage quarter. The SMCCU or the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) offers a range of cultural and culinary activities and initiates both the expats and tourists into Emirati culture. Fathayah Younis, our lovely presenter at SMCCU welcomed us with Qahwa, the traditional Arabic coffee followed by an elaborate lunch spread that comprised of Chicken Biryani, Lamb Machboos, Lamb Margooba, Vegetable Saloona and the divine Leqaimat – the crispy fried golden dough balls coated with date syrup and sesame seeds!

Qahwa, the traditional Arabic coffee made from green coffee beans and cardamom | cultural meal at SMCCU

Chicken machboos at the cultural lunch at SMCCUChicken Machboos at our cultural lunch at SMCCU

Leqaimat, crispy fried golden dough balls coated with date syrup and sesame seeds. Fathayah Younis, our presenter at SMCCU pours date syrup over Leqaimats, the crispy fried golden dough balls

Fathayah Younis, presenter at SMCCU explains the local clothing etiquette and the use of ‘niqab’Fathayah explains the local clothing etiquette and the use of niqab

Fathayah Younis, presenter at SMCCU explains the local clothing etiquette

A display in SMCCU of an old type writer with Arabic fonts

A traditional majlis arrangement in front of Arabian tea HouseA traditional majlis arrangement in front of Arabian Tea House

A photo session in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in Bur DubaiAn impromptu photo session in progress in Al Fahidi

Artwork from Mawaheb from Beautiful People An exhibit in front of Mawaheb from Beautiful People, a Dubai-based art studio for ‘determined’ adults

Majlis Gallery in in Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood in Bur DubaiThe courtyard inside Majlis Gallery, set up in 1976 by expatriate Alison Collins who fell in love with the unique architecture of Al Fahidi houses

XVA Gallery Art Hotel & CafeThe legendary mint lemonade in XVA Gallery Art Hotel & Cafe

The interiors of XVA Café has art exhibits and specialises in contemporary art from the Arab world and the sub-continent

Make Art Cafe in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in Bur DubaiMAKE Art Cafe is in partnership with the creative Alserkal Cultural Foundation

Knickknacks in a souvenir shop in Al FahidiPretty knick knacks in a souvenir shop in Al Fahidi

Related links (none of the below are affiliated links):
www.cultures.ae
www.coffeemuseum.ae
www.mawaheb-dubai.com
www.themajlisgallery.com

 

+ Grilled eggplant in tempered spices

Grilled Eggplant in tempered spices | Big Z turned sixteen

This Grilled eggplant in tempered spices or Tadka Baigan was, as if a modern preparation with a desi soul, just like Big Z.

Turmeric in hand

Big Z turned sixteen… she was merely eight-year-old when my blog started! Today’s recipe is much like her, at least in temperament. Grilled Eggplant in tempered spices… baby eggplants in a spunky tadka of Indian spices. I used a mishmash of cooking techniques… grilling as well as a traditional chaunk or the tempering with whole spices roasted in pungent mustard oil and then poured onto the grilled eggplants. It was a burst of colours as well as flavours.

Grilled eggplant in tempered spices

I also tried out a variation of Doi Begun, the Bengali preparation of eggplant in yoghurt (below). This turned out to be equally amazing, so might keep it for another post. In Doi Begun, eggplants are fried and then cooked in a yoghurt gravy. In my version, I added some whipped yoghurt with spices to the eggplants and grilled them, before adding the tempered whole spices.

Doi Begun

The tadka baigan or grilled eggplant in tempered spices was, as if a modern preparation with a desi soul, just like Big Z. For her birthday lunch, however, she demanded to be surprised. We did manage to surprise her, which is a feat in itself considering that we are staying at home together all the time these days. We celebrated amidst screaming and screeching and zoom parties and cakes and surprises and hopefully everything that our young lady wished for. Do catch me on my instagram stories if you would like to see the feat and the feast!

Big Z - Shrishti Saha

Big Z - Shrishti Saha

Big Z - Shrishti Saha

Do keep safe, stay blessed and may you occasionally burst into colourful and flavourful surprises just like my Grilled Eggplant in tempered spices!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Thank you for joining me on my daily food and travel journey oPinterestInstagramFacebook and Twitter

Some recipes that Big Z likes:
Homemade Nutty Spreads – Almond, Cashew & Hazelnut

Stuffed Chilli Spring Rolls

Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.

Baby eggplants

Marinated Eggplant

Grilled eggplant

Grilled eggplant

Grilled eggplant in tempered spices

Grilled Eggplant in tempered spices

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Category=Sidedish; Cuisine=Indian

Grilled eggplant in tempered spices

 

Ingredients

18 baby eggplants
6 green chillies, sliced longitudinally
3 dried whole red chillies
3 bay leaves
5 tbsp black mustard seeds
3 tbsp whole coriander seeds
2 tsp turmeric
3 tsp red chilli powder
3 tbsp cumin powder
3 tbsp coriander powder
½ cup mustard oil (stronger the better)
salt as per taste

Method

  • Make a slice in each eggplant longitudinally, keeping the stem intact.
  • Smear the eggplants with salt, turmeric and mustard oil.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Brush the baking tray with mustard oil (or the foiled baking tray if you are using a foil). Place the eggplants in one layer in the tray. Add some chillies in between the eggplants and grill for 10 minutes.
  • Take out the tray and pour a generous amount of mustard oil on top of the eggplants. Sprinkle coriander powder, cumin powder and red chilli powder over the eggplants. Put the tray back into the grill for another 30 minutes or until the eggplants are well cooked.
  • In the meantime, prepare the spice tempering. When the pan is hot, add the remaining mustard oil (leaving aside 1 tsp for a final sprinkle). When the oil is hot, add the whole spices. Start with the whole red chillies, bay leaves and green chillies. Then add the mustard seeds and coriander seeds. Stir in order not to burn the tempering as this will make your dish taste bitter.
  • Add the tempered spices over the grilled eggplants once they are done. Pour 1 tsp mustard oil over the eggplants one last time for a fresh burst of strong aroma of mustard oil.

+ Homemade Awadhi Biryani

Perfecting the legendary Kolkata Biryani at home

The potato in Kolkata Biryani is my favourite part of the dish. In this Awadhi style of cooking, the dum pukht technique allows the the aromatic juices from the mutton to ooze into the fine grains of rice.

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It’s certainly true in my case, but if I were to be specific about the kind of food, it would be Biryani and Mughlai food. Not any Biryani, but the Awadhi/Lucknowy style Mutton Biryani that we grew up eating in Kolkata. The Bearded Biker’s love for Awadhi Biryani made us hop into Lucknow for an evening, only to eat. His Biryani love has now been transmitted to the Z-sisters and myself too in a big way… so much so that Big Z wanted us to take the first flight out to Lucknow, once her GCSEs got over!

Kolkata Mutton Biryani

If I may coyly declare, I think have perfected the art of cooking the Biryani in the style of Shiraz Golden Restaurant. To celebrate the Bearded Biker’s birthday, we had a chef who used to work in Shiraz Golden Restaurant, come home and cook. The menu was as per his liking – Mutton Biryani, Chicken Chaanp, Galawati Kababs and Lachha Parathas. While the chef cooked everything at home, we ordered the Lachha Parathas from Arsalan (located in Karama), another popular Mughlai restaurant from Kolkata. I learnt from the chef as he cooked, while noting down every single ingredient and technique that went into making each dish. This was a Pakki Biryani where the rice and meat are semi cooked separately and then arranged in layers in a pot and cooked in the Dum Pukht style. As I had expected from Mughlai cooking, the process was elaborate and time consuming. But if you are a keen cook, making the Kolkata Biryani at home would be quite engaging and stimulating. Before this Biryani hangover is over, I promise you that homemade Lachha Parathas and Galawatis are coming your way!

Shiraz Golden Restaurant style Awadhi Biryani

Kolkata Biryani can spark a huge debate – who serves the best Biryani in Kolkata? Did the addition of aloo, potato in the Awadhi Biryani downgrade its status? The Nawabs were known for their culinary indulgence and some argue that they certainly wouldn’t have approved of the humble aloo and attribute it to the financial difficulties of the Nawab in his later years. However, the great-great-grandson of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (Kolkata’s Mughlai food heritage is attributed to the Nawab), thinks otherwise. As this article indicate, in those days potatoes were considered exotic and addition of potatoes in the Biryani was a result of one of the many kitchen experiments that the Nawab indulged in. The addition of aloo was approved heartily by the Nawab and has since then become Kolkata Biryani’s culinary heritage.

Kolkata Mutton Biryani

Royal Indian Restaurant in Kolkata (set up as early as in 1905) always considered aloo in the Biryani, a culinary blasphemy. I remember meeting Gulam Nabi, the head chef of Royal, a descendent of the direct lineage of the khansama of Wajid Ali Shah in my Ramadan food trail with Kolkata Walks. I was told that ‘Royal would die out rather than introduce aloo and deem in their Biryani. A total no no!’. Well, it seems that Royal too had to succumb to the Bengalis’ love for aloo… and introduced the versatile ingredient in their legendary Biryani for the first time when they opened a branch in Park Circus in 2015.

Kolkata Mutton Biryani

Although the Awadhi cuisine has travelled far and wide, nowhere has it settled down strongly as it has in Kolkata. Mohammed Wajid Ali Shah Bahadur (1822 AD-1887 AD), the Nawab of the princely Indian state of Awadh or Oudh (which is modern day Lucknow), was a well-known food aficionado. Kolkata Biryani is cooked in the Dum Pukht style, where the meat, rice or vegetables are covered and sealed in a copper or an earthen pot with a dough of flour. Everything is then let to cook in its own juices on a very slow flame. This Dum Pukht style of cooking can be traced to the Nawabi kitchens of Awadh. Exotic nuts, herbs and aphrodisiacs went into the Dum Pukht meals that were cooked for the Nawabs.