New Bu Qtair | A Revamped Dubai Institution In Video

Things do not change; we change. Henry David Thoreau

Bu Qtair, the Dubai institution, has a new location now. A shift of 100 meters from one side of the road to the other – an upgraded location – a sea view along the fishing harbour. There are no more plastic chairs around and you are seated in posher-than-plastic cane chairs by the sea. Although the old charm of porta cabin is gone, a few things haven’t changed – the dining experience in terms of the charmingly harrowing long waits, the overdone crispy fried fish (my opinion, you might beg to differ), and the throbbing crowd. More on my latest blogpost… Bu Qtair In A New Avatar.

It was time to make a new video on the revamped Bu Qtair. Hope you all like the video of new Bu Qtair‬ as much as you liked my video on old Bu Qtair as it pushes beyond the 91K+ views on You Tube that the latter had made! Here’s presenting the video of the new Bu Qtair!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. This is not a sponsored post and while you enjoy reading the posts with visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. And do join me on my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Grandma’s Recipe Contest | Digging Out Recipes From Family Heirloom

Cooking is like love; it should be entered with abandon or not at all. ∼  Julia Child

With abandon – that’s what makes the thought of Grandmas and their cooking so so special. Last afternoon I had the honour of judging the 7th Grandma’s Recipe Contest that was recently held in Mumtaz Mahal at the Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa. A few months back I had been the judge in the Biryani Muqabla organised at the same venue. I have always supported events which inspire me and I am amazed to see how home chefs come out of the comfort zones of their own kitchens and compete in such public platforms. And what an incredible treasure trove of recipes! Move away Masterchefs and Michelin-starred restaurants… here each recipe has a story and a nostalgia attached to it, each dish is special and each dish is the winning one.

Do watch the above video that I made which captures the essence of the inspiring afternoon. The winning dish (officially) was Lubna Asif’s Muthi Kabab (Pakistani style) followed by Fahmeena Yasmeen’s Shahi Khazana and Zaitoon Hameed’s Angare Jhinge Rakhni with Raita. While for me, the Notun Gurer Payesh or the Bengali Rice Pudding that my Dida used to make still tugs my heart, do you have a recipe from your family heirloom that is very precious to you?

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: I am working as a Huawei 2015 Influencer and the videos in this post have been taken using the new Huawei P8 which has recently been launched by Huawei Arabia. However, the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. Do join me on my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Abhijaan 2015 – Bengali Film Festival In Dubai | Teenkahon (Three Obsessions)

Abhijaan - Another Bengali post that screams out my Bengali identity … even the bird who sits on my window in the morning knows my pedigree by now. From shorshe bata Maach/mustard fish to Vivekananda Park styled aloor dum/spicy potatoes, from writing my encyclopaedic post on Bengali food to the most recent showcase of my Bengali pop up, I have been talking about my Bengali heritage, specially to those who haven’t had any initiation into Bengal. A confession here – long before I started my college, I actually aspired to make films, dabbling with subtitling and spending time in the sets of Gautam Ghosh, who has many National Awards in his kitty. And this house has been a melting point of film discussions and music. So for all the discerning movie lovers, here’s an introduction to ‘Abhijaan 2015’, the 2nd Bengali Film Festival Dubai that’s taking place from the 5th-7th February, 2015 at the Knowledge Village. What is my involvement here? Our closest friends have been part of the organising team, and I have seen how a tiny idea has grown into a full blown reality. Abhijaan is gradually evolving, and each step it takes, is longer than it’s last. This is not only about Bengali films for the Bengalis. It is about watching good films from Bengal, that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to watch at other times.  Bengal has always been known for its intellectual heritage, its contribution to Indian literature, art, music, and much later on the Indian film industry (sorry folks, Bollywood doesn’t encompass the entire Indian Film Industry neither does the film City of Joy capture all the nuances of Kolkata!). The new generation Bengali directors are retaining the legacy left behind by brilliant Bengali movie makers of yesteryears – like Satyajit Ray, Rhitwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and others.

This year, Abhijaan 2015 sees a fabulous line up of 7 Bengali films with English subtitles – Chotushkone (Srijit’s Mukherji’s masterpiece thriller, starring stalwarts like Aparna Sen, Chiranjeet Chakraborty, Gautam Ghose, Kaushik Ganguly, Parambrata Chatterjee), Teenkahon (Bauddhayan Mukherji’s debut directorial venture starring Rituparna Sengupta, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, Suman Mukhopadhyay, Ashish Vidyarthi), Byomkesh Phire Elo (Directed by Anjan Dutt, starring Abir, Saswata, Usashi), Bharate (directed by Anindya Ghosh, starring Rituparna Sengupta, Arunima Ghosh), 89 (dDirected by Manoj Michigan starring Saswata Chatterjee, Raima Sen and Shataf Figar), Ebar Shobor (directorial venture of Arindam Sil, starring Swastika, Saswata, Abir) and Ek Fali (directed by Atanu Ghosh… starring Dhritiman Chatterji, Ritwik, Aparajita). While more info and snippets of the movies can be found in Facebook, grab your tickets now from platinumlist.net/tickets & itp.net/tickets.

I will be capturing some behind-the-scene angles of some of the films through my blog posts. I also stand a chance of being mentioned in the coming Academy Awards… read on to know how and why!

Starting with Teenkahon – Three Obsessions!

Meet Buddy. Bauddhayan for me. And now that his film Teenkahon (Three Obsessions) has been the most traveled and critically acclaimed Bengali film in recent times, and also because he is the first Bengali ad filmmaker to win the prestigious Silver Lion at Cannes and the only Indian to win two back to back Spikes Asia Gold, you will have to bear with my story of how our friendship goes back to those early years in school. No, honestly!!! So what if I didn’t accept his friend request on Facebook (I know that this is a downright insult, specially in today’s world. Facebook rejection is worse than rejection in love and more terrible than losing your job!), but who in their right minds would open a personal account on Facebook with the name Little Lamb? Well, that’s his film production company and one day I got a message in my inbox from this Little Lamb – hey, this is Bauddhayan… from that day onwards I have been hooked on to his ad films. For all the ad films that he has posted on Facebook and has tagged me in, and for all my generosity in letting these videos remain parked on my Facebook Timeline (a rare exception, I swear!), I can already hear my name – the last one in the long list of people that he would have to be thanking in his Academy Award acceptance speech! Now hear about Teenkahon from the horse’s mouth…
Working still 4 from TeenkahonWorking still 1 Working still 2_ Working still 3  Working still 5_ Working still 6

Some fun facts – It was while researching for the 1st and 2nd story, my team stumbled upon this amazing fact that both the films were actually happening on the same day 34 years apart. The devastating floods of Calcutta happened on the 4th of September 1978 and that was the backdrop of the second story, Post Mortem. The first story, Nabalok, was taking place on the same day on which Agnipariksha – the super duper hit Uttam-Suchitra starrer got released. That also happened to be the 4th of September 1954. We had goosebumps on our discovery, which refused to go away for weeks.

Also, the director’s daughter forced her way into one of the films. She had refused to let her dad carry on with shoot without giving her a bit role. The director had to yield finally. The first story Nabalok therefore had the gurumoshai’s granddaughter frying puffed rice in one of the scenes. That for you, ladies and gentlemen, is Aarsha, Bauddhayan’s daughter.

Talk about the 7-yr old Barshan Seal, who’s reminding me of Apu in Pather Panchali: Barshan, the little boy of Nabalok, who recently won the Best Actor for his portrayal of Shailen Junior at the North Carolina Global Film Festival was discovered from a locality in Habra, from the interiors of Bengal. Barshan had just tagged along with his friend who was coming for the screen test and ended up giving the screen test himself. The rest is history. His timelessness, innocence and smile have given him a proud and permanent place in Bengali film history and we are sure he doesn’t even know about it.

Buddy… what do you remember about me (you have to remember me, right)? “Hi, I am Ishita Bhattacharya from Birbhum” – the words came from this charming plumpish girl with an adorable dimple who was a new admission to our class. It was Indrani Aunty’s class – year was 1985 – grade 6. She was made to sit next to me since I was a good student and would help her catch up with the studies she has missed. I saw jealousy written large on my fellow friends’. And in no time Ishita and I became good friends and in no time just the way she had arrived, she suddenly left school… all of a sudden. But the memories stayed back. Cut to 1992. St. Xavier’s College. Economics Honours. Day 1. I saw a charming plumpish girl with an adorable smile enter the classroom and I just blurted out, “Are you Ishita Bhattacharya from Birbhum?” She looked at me just like Nirupa Roy used to look at Amitabh Bachchan and said, “Bauddhayan?” I knew my 3 years at Xavier’s would be fun!

The trailer of Teenkahon has left me yearning to see the film in entirety – the first part reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s style of film making. Buddy, get prepared to see a plumpier Ishita, next week – this time. Only now if somebody asks my name, I answer, ‘Hi, I am Ishita Unblogged from Dubai, Kolkata and the world beyond’. And guess what is common between the two of us. “Teenkahon started in the summer of 2011 in the sleepy town of Candy in Srilanka… “, Buddy says. And this blog was also conceived in Srilanka… sounds melodramatic? Of course, melodrama is just one ingredient that goes into films. But for right now, see you all at #Abhijaan2015 … the media shout outs have all started!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Tickets for Abhijaan 2015 are available at platinumlist.net/tickets & itp.net/tickets. Listen to SUNO 102.4 from 30th January until the 7th February and watch Zee Network for more updates.Abhijaan 2015 - Bengali Film Festival Dubai

Disclaimer: While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. All pictures have been shared with me, courtesy www.teenkahon.com and are protected by copyright. I haven’t edited Bauddhayan’s own words. You can catch my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Related Bengali Posts:

• Spicy Baby Potatoes or Aloor Dum – Kolkata Street Style!The Legend of Flurys Still Continues in Park Street
Ramadan Food Trail With Calcutta Walks | As The Muezzin Calls
Yesss, The Scoop In Outram Ghat Still Exists!
Bhapa Mishti Doi and A Food Safari of Bengal | BBC GoodFood Middle East
Shorshe Bata Maach – Mustard Salmon In This Case | A Detour From Thailand To Wish Shubho Noboborsho!
Luchi Featured In Ahlan! Gourmet | My Ode To Phulko Luchi! 
Bohemian In Kolkata | Where Food Really Does Cabaret On Senses!
Traditional Bengali Cuisine | In ‘Slight’ Details
Firni or Ferni, Ramadan or Ramzan, Mallick Bazar or Karama?
Momos in Tiretti Bazar | The Last Chinese Remnants in Kolkata!
Dilipda’s Phuchkas in Vivekananda Park | Kolkata
Notun Gurer Payesh/Rice Pudding & My Dida
Rasgulla Macapuno | When a Filipina Turns Bong! 

 


Opening Up My Bengali Kitchen For Dima Sharif

Traditional tea kettle or the *kettly*Ramadan Kareem! As I leave Dubai for the summers and settle down in Kolkata for almost two months (my summer hibernation as I like to call it, and probably for a lot of Dubai expats as well), I am overcome with tremendous guilt. Guilt for leaving my adopted home for far too long and also the guilt for feeling excited and longing to update my nerves and soul on what I might have missed out in Kolkata in the last two years… and in effect cheating my beloved Dubai! Although, I have left the shores of Bengal for long, Bengal hasn’t left me. The more I have tried to be neutral about my roots and heritage, I have ended up seeking more of my Bengali roots, Bengali food etc. So when my friend and food blogger Dima Sharif, wanted to capture some moments with me on video, I had been utterly confused as to where I should begin. There were so many stories to tell – stories about my journey as a food blogger and how I am trying to showcase my regional cuisine to the international audience, how we are raising our two girls – the Z-Sisters, in a cosmopolitan city like Dubai and infusing a bit of Bengaliana in their subconsciousness, of course in a subtle way without overwhelming them with the knowledge of a culture that they are not growing up in. And then there is Mela, my Lady Friday and how both of us are trying to adapt to a new home in a different city, different culture, different country –  as expats living far away from our respective homes and how our lives become intertwined.Bengali Cookbooks

If I write one more word, it will not do justice to Dima’s tremendous efforts in creating a video (above)  in which I have opened up my Bengali kitchen and lay my soul bare with the dilemmas of expat living. You want to be international, and at the same time aware of your roots. The menu for Dima had been simple (I wish I could feed her with more dishes) but a very traditional Bengali one – Luchi, Daal, Begun Bhaja/fried Eggplant, Roshogolla, Mishti Doi/Sweet Yogurt, Aamer Chutney/Mango Chutney, Shorshe bata Maach/Mustared Fish and Masala Thumbsup! I took out all the Bengali cookbooks and coffee table books on Kolkata I had, and all the inherited family tableware, put on a CD playing my Ma’s songs – just so that I could create a Bengali ambiance for Dima. My Ma's RabindraSangeet CDBefore signing off, let me mention the significance of this video. Dima’s blog has a tradition and in her own words… Every Ramadan I have a Ramadan Special, which is daily posting of recipes and stories throughout the Holy month (30 days). This Ramadan Special, I am posting daily recipes and cultural stories to explore with you the Culture of Ramadan, its various colours and the now and then of Ramadan Traditions. About how and why she started this Ramadan special blog postings, she tells me… In the beginning it started more like sharing recipes. I knew that most practicing women like to cook at Ramadan, specially when the whole family is fasting the whole day. They are looking for recipes or inspiration. Ramadan to me is a time for self introspection, contemplation and reflecting on how we are living and how we want to continue living. This is also the time when we have a bit more time in hand and I though why not give back something more to my readers and give some ‘food for thought’. I thought of taking the Ramadan practices and incorporate that in my blog. At the end of the day we all have different triggers that inspires us and there will be something or the other that will connect to people, make them nostalgic, remind them of their roots or make them feel inspired. This year, she has made videos on each person that she has met on the path of food. I do feel humbled and honoured for being part of her special webepisodes. Hope you join in her special journey and mine too and enjoy the trailer as well as the actual video. And for those of you who have stayed back in Dubai, here’s a roundup of a few Iftars and Suhoors that you shouldn’t be missing and may your lives be blessed by the holy month of Ramadan!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

PS: A few days back too, I had created a Bengali Gourmet menu and I feel very privileged to have been surrounded with the love and support of media and blogger friends, including Dima. The event had been aired on Zee TV ME.

The table settingMy Dida, an inspirationMasala ThumbsupThe traditional spreadRecipes from the Kichen of the TagoresUntitled-21Shorshe bata Maach Moonger DaalRoshogollaRoshogolla Luchi in the making Dima capturing the Luchi Dima Sharif Dima Sharif Dima Sharif Dima Sharif

A few Bengali posts in my blog:

Traditional Bengali Cuisine | In ‘Slight’ Details – An etymological explanation of my food-fetish
Shorshe Bata Maach – Mustard Salmon In This Case | Shubho Noboborsho!
Luchi Featured In Ahlan! Gourmet | My Ode To Phulko Luchi!
Dilipda’s Phuchkas in Vivekananda Park | World Famous In Kolkata!
♦ Pickles | Mother (-in-law) Of All Pickles!
♦ Momos in Tiretti Bazar | The Last Chinese Remnants!
Khichuri As Harbinger of Hope & Kolkata Soaked In Rains
Firni or Ferni, Ramadan or Ramzan, Mallick Bazar or Karama | It’s The Same Festive Sentiment!
Terraces and Beyond – Kolkata
Shiraz Golden Restaurant, Dubai | From Lucknow To Kolkata And To Dubai!
Rôshogolla (রসগোল্লা) | Bengali’s Own Sweet
Stories of Love, Nostalgia And Memories – The Ingredients To My Cooking

Disclaimer: While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. Please note that this blog is not a sponsored blog and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. You can catch my daily travel and food journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

 

How Did I Fare In Showcasing My Bengali Cuisine? | On Zee TV Middle East

Bengali Gourmet Dinner for #CookTheBooks @BookMunch

The Bengali Gourmet evening at BookMunch was very important and special to me. This was the first time I had attempted to showcase Bengali Cuisine in a bit more elaborate way – a modern menu that had been created with all the nuances of traditional Bengali cuisine. It was for the ‘Cook The Books’ in BookMunch, an unique monthly event where the host Chef talked about his/her cookbook or some recipes from their favourite cookbooks, followed by a dinner where the menu had been created by the host Chef. I wanted to create a dining experience where Bengali puritans would nod their heads in agreement – ‘yes, the food had all the Bengali flavours that one would expect in traditional Bengali cooking’ and the non-Bengalis who were tasting the food for the first time would certify – ‘this was delicious food and something we haven’t tasted before’. I am told that I have passed with flying colours. With important media personalities, food critiques and bloggers around, I was aware that I would have only one chance. If I didn’t cracked it that night, no body would be giving me a second chance and a ‘gourmet’ Bengali Cuisine in Dubai shores would remain just a dream and my shout outs on Bengali cuisine simply another popular post in my blog.Bengali Gourmet Dinner for #CookTheBooks @BookMunch

As all of you are aware, I have left no stone unturned in telling the world about my roots, where I come from and how delicious Bengali food is. But it had been important for me to explain to my family, close friends, blogger friends and my readers that the concept that I was proposing, was not just a regional cuisine for a regional audience. It would appeal to everyone, irrespective of their country of origin – because at the end of it, it was a rich cuisine we were talking about. In the future, I have plans to make films on Kolkata so that the diner is surrounded by the noise and sound of Kolkata as he/she is transported to the kaleidoscopic city itself. All of that in my next leap of faith. But for the time being, I am glad that the first hurdle has been crossed. The curiosity and the response to the event had been phenomenal – we had to turn down many guests from the morning. I basked in the spotlight throughout the evening, guiding the diner through each dish and shared stories of how and why I started my food blog, my Bengali heritage, how my Kolkata nostalgia shaped my current living, what stimulated my food senses and how the menu for that evening had been inspired by both traditional Bengali cuisine and Kolkata street food. And most importantly, how food connected me to each and every diner attending the dinner that night. Unfolding the evening as has been captured though the eyes of my husband (oh, how I wish the Z-Sisters were there – Big Z being such a foodie and a supporter in all my endeavours), my blogger friends and their social media shares on Instagram. I am also waiting for Ross Saldanha from Ross MediaWorks who has filmed the evening and Zee TV Middle East, who covered the event – I will be sharing the videos with you once I have them in hand.

Table decoration with personal silver bowls, folk artefacts from BengalCoffee table books depicting the art of Bengal, including those from the Tagore family

To all those who were present that evening, I can’t thank you enough. Although I was sure that the food will connect with you all, I hadn’t expected such an overwhelming share on social media. I feel very privileged to have been surrounded by your love and support… Sudeshna Ghosh of BBC Good Food ME, Arnab and Manoj of Zee TV Middle East, TV chef and cookbook author Suzanne Husseini, my blogger friends… Shaikha Ali of When Shaikha Cooks, Sarah of The Hedonista, Debbie of Coffee, Cakes and Running, Dima of Dima Sharif, Sandy Dang of Ginger & Scotch, Minna of Naked Plate Blog… all those who have seen my blog evolve… Kanaka, Keka, Sumona – Samyo, Brinda, Darryl and Jason… and my better half S (he has taken a lot of brilliant pictures here)… virtual supporters whom I met for the first time that evening – Mita and her brother and his wife (who cancelled their Oman plans)… readers like Jonathan with whom I have connected through our love for food... and the others with whom I was interacting for the first time. Also to many others who couldn’t join in but had always supported me. Huge thanks to Chef Alfred and Dareen from Book Munch who made this possible – an incredible feat from their end to come out of their comfort zone and create the menu exactly as I had perceived. A small dream materialised, paving the way to a bigger dream!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Table decoration with personal silver bowls, folk artefacts from Bengal
Table decoration with personal silver bowls, folk artifacts from Bengal
The menu and Jhaal Muri or Puffed Rice Masalafied
The menu and Jhaal Muri or Puffed Rice Masalafied; Photo Courtesy: Dima
The Gourmet Starters - Shrimp Churmur or Crumbled Panipuri, Kalojeere Asparagus (Asparagus with Black Cumin), Potoler Dorma stuffed Parval); Photo Courtesy: Dima
The Starters Platter – Shrimp Churmur or Crumbled Panipuri, Kalojeere Asparagus (Asparagus with Black Cumin), Potoler Dorma stuffed Parval); Photo Courtesy: Dima
Traditional Cholar Daal with Arabic Fatoush bread
Traditional Cholar Daal with Arabic Fatoush bread; Photo Courtesy: Dima
The Gourmet Main Course - Mustard Salmon wrapped in Banana leaf
The Gourmet Main Course – Mustard Salmon wrapped in Banana leaf
Mishti Mukh or the sweet signoff - Mishti Doi and Aamer Chutney Sorbet; Photo Courtesy: Dima
Mishti Mukh or the sweet signoff – Mishti Doi and Aamer Chutney Sorbet; Photo Courtesy: Dima
Dareen from BookMunch introduces me
Dareen from BookMunch introduces me before the menu is revealed
Ross Saldanha from Ross Media filming the evening and I am doing what I love the most - talk about how my blog started and my food quest
Ross Saldanha from Ross Media filming the evening and I am doing what I love the most – talk about my Bengali heritage, my food quest and my Kolkata nostalgia juxtaposed against Dubai living; Photo Courtesy: Debbie
All the diners fo rthe Bengali Gourmet dinner
From top: Sudeshna, Sumana (pic1); Devjani (pic2); Jonathan (pic3); Debbie (pic4); Sarah, Mina, Dima, Suzanne Husseini and me (pic5); Kanaka (pic8); Minna, Kanaka, Mita and his brother and wife (pic9), Daryl, Jason, Sandy and other diners (pic10), Manoj, Arnab, Brinda in striped top (pic 11); Photo Courtesy: Dima, Debbie and S
The evening via Instagram
The evening captured via instagram; Courtesy – BBC GoodFood ME, Coffee Cakes And Running, The Hedonista, The Naked Plate Blog, When Shaikha Cooks and Suzanne Husseini

 

Disclaimer: While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. Please note that this blog is not a sponsored blog and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. You can catch my daily travel and food journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Ginger Lotus Sea Bass | Recipe From Blue Jade, Ritz Carlton

Ginger Lotus Sea Bass

Category – Fish/Main Course; Cuisine type – Vietnamese

Courtesy: BLUE JADE, Ritz Carlton, Jumeirah

Ginger Lotus Sea Bass where the Sea bass is cooked in Vietnamese Ginger Lemon Sauce, all the way wrapped in Lotus Leaf! Chef Ta Van takes us through a journey through the East, by picking up this dish, the recipe of which is passed on to him by his grandmother. So here’s a heritage dish, as I have experienced in my Masterclass in Blue Jade!

For the printable recipes →

Ingredients
Sea bass fillet – 200g, cut into half
Lemon grass – 20g, finely chopped
Onion shallot – 20g, finely chopped
Garlic – 25g, finely chopped
Galangal – 35g, finely chopped
Corn oil – 15ml
Oyster sauce – 20ml
Coriander – 20g
Mint leaves – 15g
Lime juice – 10ml
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Fresh lotus leaf – 1pc
Corn flour – 15g
Ginger – 20g
Shrimp paste – 10g

Method of Preparation

For the Vietnamese Ginger Lemon Sauce
• In a hot pot with Corn Oil, sauté the Lemon grass, Onions, Garlic, Ginger until it achieves a golden color
• Add in water or Fish Stock and bring to boil for 20 minutes
• Add the seasonings – Galangal, Fish sauce, Oyster sauce, Turmeric powder, Mint leaves, Lime juice and Shrimp paste
• Add in the Corn Flour for a thicker consistency
• Turn off the fire, set aside and let it cool down

For the Sea bass
• Marinate the Sea bass in the Vietnamese Ginger Lemon sauce
• Wrap the Sea bass using the lotus leaves
• Place the wrapped Sea bass in an oven pan and grill for about 8 minutes 250° Celsius
• Place the wrapped Sea bass on a plate serve alongside steamed Jasmine Rice

Notes on using Lotus Leaf
I’ve been fascinated by the way the Lotus leaf has been used in this dish (I’ve ended up making the above video as well). Once they have been washed in the running water, just hold the Lotus leaf over the fire (the rough side) for some time. This will prevent the leaf to tear up along the veins once it is folded to wrap up the filet. The use of leaves in different types of cuisine is not uncommon. Banana, Lotus, and even Tobacco leaves are used popularly as wrappers in Asia. Leaves make a wonderful insulator for cooking food. They seal in moisture and nutrients, yielding hot, flavorful dishes. Some leaves, such as cabbage, kale, romaine, and lotus leaves, influence the flavor of the food cooking in them, while others, such as banana leaves, remain neutral. While many leaves are edible, Lotus leaves are generally too fibrous to eat. {Some info from the web}

Note on Vietnamese Cuisine
While other Asian cuisine is considered to be spicy, traditional Vietnamese cooking is generally milder, focusing on fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, fragrant herbs and vegetables. It is also considered to be one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. I find Vietnamese dishes to be sweeter than other Asian dishes with the fragrance of sweet Basil leaf playing a very prominent role – even in terms of taste. {More on Vietnamese Cuisine}

Chef’s Note and Secret Tips
Is it really possible to try and recreate these dishes at home and where can I source these authentic Asian sauces and the Lotus leaf in Dubai for an authentic Vietnamese experience at home? Yes, it is possible. Chef Ta Van, gives out more tips –  one can buy some of the ingredients here in Dubai such as Sunflower supermarket in Karama (why am I not surprised? Even in my last recipe from ZUMA, Chef Reith had mentioned Karama!), where they sell many Asian ingredients. Can we substitute the Sea Bass for any other fish? Perhaps Cream Dory? According to Chef Ta Van, Cream Dory is too soft and the flesh will break up. The fish shouldn’t be too flaky once it’s cooked in the Ginger Lemon Sauce. {Sunflower Supermarket/Sunflower Thai grocery store – +971 4 396 4611, Google search throws up this location – Al Shafar Building located on Street 12D, off Kuwait Road and opp Dubai Municipality, in Karama}

{A complete listing of the recipes that I’m going to share over this period}

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Masterclass at BLUE JADE, courtesy Ahlan! Gourmet

Blue Jade is a talisman of peace and serenity. It calms and restores, like a veil of slow moving clouds covering the moon. It is spiritual. It ranges in color from pale to mid-blue, sometimes a pale bluish-green, and is widely used to temper emotional upheaval and to restore equilibrium. {More here}

If I have to describe the Ginger Lotus Sea Bass in two words, it will have to be – stunning and beautiful. And it does restore the senses to an equilibrium! And I am thrilled that I have learnt to cook this ‘heritage’ Vietnamese dish as well. The first time I had tasted it, it was when the restaurant had just soft-launched. I joined in late for an exclusive ‘sit-down’ dinner at the restaurant – feeling very apologetic, only to be overwhelmed a few minutes later by the warmth and hospitality shown by Chef Eric Meloche, the Executive Chef and his team. I had missed out on the cooking demonstration given by Chef Ta Van earlier. Destiny favours them who are consistently persistent. So what I missed out on the other night was compensated by an invite from Olivia Spadavechia, the lovely editor from Ahlan! Gourmet, to join a Masterclass at Blue Jade. I am very fond of this lady – she is not only a passionate foodie, but also open to new dishes around the world. Otherwise, how would a relatively unknown Bengali food called Luchi be featured in the magazine as Luchi, and not some Bengali puffed up flatbreads deep fried crispily {Luchi Featured In Ahlan! Gourmet | My Ode To Phulko Luchi!}? So here I was, in a Masterclass where Chef Ta Van took us through a journey into the ‘authentic flavours’ of Asia, by showcasing a few of his favourite dishes. We learnt to cook (and of course eat) the Tempura Maki, Chicken Dim Sum with Bok Choi and Shitake mushrooms, the Ginger Lotus Sea Bass and finally the Vietnamese Banana Sago served with Coconut cream and Pandan Ice cream. I was almost besotted by the Lotus leaf as you can see from the above pictures. And what a beautiful way to present the dish, once the Sea bass was cooked – chop off a bit of the leaf so that each fillet seats snuggled up in individual leaf parcels. The thing I like most about Masterclasses is the opportunity I get to enter the kitchen of a hotel or a restaurant, see the way the expert Chefs cook and the little tips and the •secrets• that I get to snatch at moments. Moreover, the stacked up spice jars on the shelves and the home-made sauces, the pots and pans, the washing and the chopping, the stirring and the running – all these make me feel very comfortable, as if I am in a bigger version of my own kitchen.

Signing off from Blue Jade
The restaurant is open only for dinners. While it is very stately in it’s appearance in the night, entering the restaurant during the daytime for the Masterclass made me realize that it’s a shame that the regular diners would be missing the daytime grandeur of the restaurant. The huge verandah overlooking the sea, the branches of the date palm tree swaying in the breeze – oh, please open up the restaurant for lunch. While fusion food is the fashion of the day, tasting some simple, authentic flavorful food has it’s own charm. I am sure my food blogger friend Debbie, who writes Coffee, Cakes and Running, and who had attended the Masterclass with me, would agree to that. This was like déjavu – doing a Masterclass together. The last time had been in a very contrasting kitchen – the kitchen of a floating restaurant in the fishermen’s village, in a small island called Koh Klang in Thailand {Baan Ma-Yhing Restaurant In The Fishermen’s Village | Recipe of Thai Red Curry As We Cook ‘fresh catch’ Baramundi!}, where the cook cum owner – Bao taught us some exotic Southern Thai food.

Blue Jade, Ritz Carlton: –  A fine dining Pan Asian restaurant
Location: Ritz Carlton, on The Walk
Tel No: 971 4 318 6150; E-mail: dine.dubai@ritzcarlton.com
More info: Website, Facebook

Ramadan offering in Ritz Carlton
Al Waha Tent: The Ramadan tent is set amidst the new lush gardens of the resort, overlooking the the Palm Jumeirah and Arabian Gulf. The Iftar buffet consists of International dishes as well as traditional Arabic dishes such as Lamb Ouzi, Manakish and live Shawarma stations. {Iftar Buffet starts at sunset until 8:30pm and is priced at Dhs 200/person. An a la carte Suhour menu is available with minimum spend of Dhs 100/person from 8:30am upto 2:00am. Call +971 4 399 4000. More info here}

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My previous post chalks out all about Ramdan in Dubai | Where All You Can Eat. During this entire month, I will be sharing special Ramadan recipes, gathered from many signature restaurants of top hotels in Dubai and around the region. I know that many people do not go out during Ramadan and prefer to cook at home. Most would like to cook special dishes, but they don’t have access to these restaurant recipes. Each hotel that I have contacted has graciously sent me the recipes. I have been inspired by Dima Sharif, who has a tradition of posting daily recipes on her blog during Ramadan. This year, she explains the tradition of Ramadan as it is observed in different countries. Do join her in her journey as well – Ramadan Special 2013 – A Focus on Ramadan Culture & The Spirit of Ramadan. Also, my blog giveaway – Theme Night Dinner invite for two’, courtesy, The Address Marina, runs throughout the month of Ramadan.

Click here to enter the Giveaway!

Do join me as I post special recipes from the various signature restaurants in Dubai – each hotel I have contacted have been really gracious and have handed over their special recipe. I hope you try out these recipes (assuming that a restaurant recipe is not difficult to cook!), send me pictures and do keep connected over Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Enjoy your summers and yes, do show off a BLUE JADE recipe to your guests. Happy Cooking!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The opinions stated here are my own and are independent. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. Please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.

More on the various aspects of Ramadan from my blogger friends

Spirit of Ramadan – Dima Sharif
• The many sides of Ramadan and Iftar in Dubai – My Custard Pie
• My Ramadan: Suhoor through the Years – Arabic Zeal
• Where can I lunch over Ramadan in Dubai?…oh and breakfast too please – FooDiva
• Ramadan and iftar – what it means for the food traveller – The Hedonista
• Ramadan 101 – Coffee, Cakes and Running

Masqouf in Bait Al Baghdadi | Tasting Iraq’s National Dish

This must be one of the fishiest moments of my life – of course in the most awesome way. Tasting the Masqouf, also known as the Masgûf, is a culinary journey by itself. Located on Al Muteena Street, Deira, Bait Al Baghdadi is not very difficult to find. Bait, which translated into English means ‘home’, leads to the peculiar English name – Al Baghdadi Home Restaurant. The Maskouf here is a must-try for all fish lovers. And for non-fish eaters – if you happen to be a foodie, this is a culinary experience that you shouldn’t miss. Considered the National dish of Iraq, this grilled Carp is genuinely unique. The fish is cut in two identical halves from the belly up while leaving the back intact, opening up the fish. Usually, a marinade made up of olive oil, rock salt, tamarind and ground turmeric is generously brushed inside the fish and then grilled for 3-4 hours, with the fish locked in a standing position. But here in Bait Al Baghdadi, the fish is simply salted and then placed in a locking position in an open wood pit, inside a glass room to contain all the smoke and the heat. The fish then gets smoked and grilled in the heat for about 45 minutes to an hour, with the open side facing the fire. Then it is placed directly on a pile of open coals, while the underside gets singed. How only a simple ingredient like salt makes the Maskouf so tasty is beyond me. It has to do with the ‘smoke’ that goes into the flesh of the fresh fish. While we waited for our fish to arrive, Arabic breads with various dips like Hummous, a ‘Tahina‘ based yogurt dip, an amazing mango pickle and a Fattoush salad kept us occupied. Another thing that kept us occupied was a thick lentil soup that was more than just ‘comforting’.

Words of caution:
1) Please don’t get carried away by these frills and fill up your tummy because the fish is going to be quite big as the minimum weight of the fish with which the Maskouf is prepared is 2 kgs
2) Please ask the staff to serve you – scooping out the fish flesh can be an art in itself and a dish prepared so craftily ‘deserves’ to be served craftily as well. This is a tip that has genuinely saved us from eating disgrace and massacring the beautiful presentation of Masqouf and I have food blogger Arva to thank. The other thing that Arva’s post had urged us, was to order a Fish Stuffing – a salsa kind of tomato dip made with chopped onions, peppers, garlic and other •secret• ingredients. This dip was finger licking good and complemented brilliantly with the fresh hot grilled fish.

Heritage and history of Masqouf
What the locals call the roasted fish, Masqouf can be found all over Iraq – from North to South, especially in the regions near the Tigris-Euphrates Basin. Though the famous Ebû Newâs district on the shores of the Tigris river is dedicated to this dish with more than two dozen fish restaurants, it is the Iraqi capital Baghdad which makes the best Masqouf. Outside of Iraq, the Masqouf is very popular in the rural parts of Syria, especially in the regions bordering Iraq. The Time Magazine recalls brilliantly how the Masqouf or the Iraqi fried fish has fed many American soldiers on their Iraq stay. Nate Rawlings writes from Baghdad – As the sun set over the city, families and bands of teenagers strolled along the river, an unthinkable activity only a couple of years ago. Children hopefully too young to remember the war played in a large pool, racing one another in bumper boats, spinning in circles and crashing with glee as their mothers looked on. We walked to an outdoor pavilion with a large tank in the back. By leaning over the side, I could see that the cistern was full of carp — thick, oily, 2-ft. (70 cm) fish straight out of the Tigris. TIME’s former bureau manager Ali al-Shaheen pointed to the specific fish he wanted, and the merchant wrangled the carp out of the water. Al-Shaheen inspected the fish closely and then said, “No, not this one. That one,” and pointed to another fish. When al-Shaheen was satisfied with his choices, the carp wrangler became a chef of sorts. He dumped the fish onto the pavilion’s concrete floor and, as they leapt into the air, bashed them over the heads with a wooden stick. The chef then slit the fish up the back, cleaned the guts out and flattened the bodies so that they resembled soft tacos lying open on a table. After sprinkling sea salt onto the fish, the chef carried them over to a fire pit, plunged two stakes into the ash and propped the fish on their sides to roast against the flames. This cooking technique is known as masgouf, a Baghdad specialty loved by Saddam Hussein. By roasting the fish vertically with the open side facing the fire, the oil seeps into the ashes, leaving salted, seasoned fish meat. After roasting the fish for nearly an hour, the merchant singed the undersides directly on a pile of open coals.

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Bait Al Baghdadi – an Iraqi Restaurant
+971 4 2737069, Al Muteena Street, Deira (just after Sheraton Deira)
+971 6 5598844, near Al Majaz Park, Sharjah
Opening hours: 7:00am -1:00am

The Masqouf is charged according to the weight of the fish and it costs Dhs 69/kg. We were served a fish that weighed around 3 kgs. The Arabic bread, dips, mango pickle, the regular salad comes free with the dish. We had ordered the Fattoush salad and the Hummous separately. You can see the menu here.

Service is very prompt (pardon the Maskouf, it’s going to take time to prepare it!) in Bait Al Baghdadi. The staff is very helpful and more than willing to share their knowledge on Maskouf – please hear them out as the dish carries a lot of legacy. The fire alter or the ‘sauna’ room is a subject for painting and is absolutely fascinating. Quite obviously, it is extremely hot. I went into the sauna room for my video and came out dripping in sweat, from head to toe. The Masqouf definitely enters my list of must-eat fast feasts or ‘no-chandelier’ eats in Dubai for the Chowzter application. And this could topple my top favourite Bu Qtair fish joint for the King’s crown. Though, the Masqouf hogged away all the attention that evening, another item that put my Instagram on fire were the custards – sitting pretty on the shelves like red poppies. It’s amazing how different dishes originate from different regions and countries, and my next post documents exactly that while I eat through a variety of dishes from around the world. And a blog giveaway too, as promised!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The bill for our dinner was Dhs 410 for six persons which also included water and diet cokes. This isn’t a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. And do join me on my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Posts that you might like:
• Arabian Pilgrimage Food Tour With Frying Pan Adventures

• Feteer Meshaltet In Video | Talking To Celebrity Chef Joe Barza

• Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant | Capturing A Hidden Gem In Jumeirah. A Video Too!

• Sense On The Edge @ZighyBay | Slow Life, Sustainable Menu & Fattoush Recipe

• Bikers Cafe | Emirati Breakfast Followed by Emirati Desserts (Only A Bengali Desires For Desserts In An Over-filled Tummy!)

• UAE National Day… Making Aam Pana/ Green Mango Drink | My Dubai My City

• Semaiya Kheer/Vermicelli Pudding, Eid in Dubai | Eid Mubarak!

• Firni or Ferni, Ramadan or Ramzan, Mallick Bazar or Karama?

• An Iftar Preview in Address Marina | Countdown To Ramadan In Dubai

Feteer Meshaltet In Video | Talking To Celebrity Chef Joe Barza

Feteer Meshaltet, Fetir or Fateer is the Egyptian layered pastry meaning ‘cushion-like pie’ – the stuffing or the filling coming in the form of chicken and cheese, sausage and cheese, tomatoes and olives, cream and honey or traditionally the simple Kraft Cheese! Had as a sweet or a salty savoury, the making of Feteer is an art in itself – a dramatic, action packed act in an opera. The video shows Chef Takrori making Feteers in the recently opened Helio Lounge in Dubai Marina. He is an expert hailing from a family where 3 generations have engaged themselves making Feteer. These Feteers are a modern day, but a fine adaptation of the traditional Egyptian Feteers under the guidance of Celebrity chef Joe Barza, who is one of the top chefs in the Arab world and the creator of the menu of Helio – an Egyptian fusion menu with an international twist.

We watched in awe while Chef Takrori (above right) gave a classic performance while making these modern Feteers. Traditionally, Feteers are one of the most traditional dishes in Egypt – layered pastries with stuffing or filling. Served in bite size forms and a myriad of exquisite fillings, the Feteers, here, take the name Helios. There is an interesting mix of savoury Helios – minced beef with labna (also called Labneh or Greek yogurt, Süzme yogurt, yogurt cheese) in a crunchy mix of walnuts and pomegranate molasses; minced beef and Egyptian foul (fava beans) mildly spiced with garlic; chicken and spinach with cream sauce and cheese etc. And then there are some sweet Helios – the Choco – Halawa where the semi-dark chocolate is melted along with Halawa (what is Halawa?) and pistachio; caramel glazed apples with almonds and cinnamon; crushed almonds mixed with icing sugar; Khoshaf (Khoshaf is a dried fruit salad served at the end of most family meals in the Middle East) with an exotic mix of dried apricots, dates, prunes, figs and raisins, mixed with honey and cottage cheese; and finally, Coconut mixed with icing sugar. All Helios, whether savoury or sweet, are served with an interesting mix of dips that complement each filling. Of course, the menu has more than just Helios. The pictures below show the long rolls of Feteer before they went into the oven; after they came out of the oven; the traditional Halawa filling with Pistachio; and the Chocolate – Halawa filling.

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Talking to Chef Joe Barza

Chef Joe Barza is a celebrity chef, well known television personality (co-host of the Middle Eastern version of the TV program Top Chef) and a culinary consultant. Our tête-à-tête revealed how interesting his career and his life has been (from being the personal bodyguard to the President of Lebanon to becoming the top Chef in the Arab world – a very interesting journey that you can read here), despite the hardships that he had to face in his early years. Because of time constraint, my blogger friend Debbie, of Coffee Cakes and Running, and I shared the Chef for the the interview. So some of our questions naturally seem to overlap and some the questions are hers.

You are originally from Lebanon. And your repertoire reflects your expertise in Lebanese cuisine and showcases Lebanese cuisine to the world. So how did the Egyptian fusion food happen? You see, if you love food and you have the technique and the imagination, then it is not difficult. I brainstormed with the owners many times and tried to understand what they have been visualizing. At night I scanned all these in my brains. And with 24 years of culinary experience, I created and conceptualized a menu that is exactly what the restauranteur had imagined. For me, Sugar is not just sugar. I respect the ingredient. For me – whether it is Japanese or Vietnamese, I respect the differences in each cuisine. Right now I’m working for a Vietnamese restaurant. For me, it’s all about passion. I did a lot of research as well. Lebanese Cuisine is vast – there are thousands of different dishes. But there’s not such a wide variety in Egyptian cuisine. I started looking at the backbone of traditional Egyptian cuisine – the Breads, the Rice, the Koshari (traditionally this is a rice-stuffed pigeon dish), the Tahmeya etc. and came up with a menu that is contemporary and modern, at the same time works around traditional Egyptian cuisine. A good presentation, a nice Salad, a bit of French fries and special dips – I think I tried to give the food it’s value.

Do you source the ingredients locally? Are they organically produced? No, they are not always organic. But yes, the ingredients are all sourced locally. There are very good markets with good products in Dubai. They are a bit expensive but the quality is amazing. A lot of world class restaurants have opened up here. I’ve run promotions all over the world and I’ve realised that to make any venture commercially viable, one has to work cleverly with whatever options are available to him, how to be flexible while at the same time understanding the local culture.

You have been showcasing Lebanese cuisine to the world. Do you think that it is very easy or it is is very difficult to showcase one’s regional cuisine? It is actually my pleasure to demonstrate my country’s cooking. I wouldn’t say that it is easy and I wouldn’t say that it is difficult. Once I was demonstrating Lebanese cuisine in Venezuela. There were 400 people – no one spoke in any common language, nor had any idea about Lebanese cuisine – Humous etc. But everybody loved what I served. You know the result.

What is the signature dish or your favourite dish in the menu here? Isn’t the menu very vast? A lot of them actually. I like the Feteers – specially the stuffing of the Fateers because it is an achievement for me. I love the wraps as well. The menu is not vast at all. There are 50 to 60 dishes but people love more options. And we do have plans to add a few more dishes. How often do you think you would change the menu? I feel that one has to give any menu a chance. And you have to educate the diners as well. People have to have the culture of the food in their mind and they can then pass on the message. For me cooking is a pleasure – I have fed 21,000 people at the end of the day. So in one way, the entire process is industrial. And in another way, it is not industrial – you are in direct contact with people.

The Dubai diners want something new all the time and the dining culture is very different. How do you plan to cater to their wants? There are lots of tourists in Dubai. Also, there are lot of professionals working here who don’t want to cook at home. They want to go out and try different types of food. I am not sure how loyal the Dubai diners are. In Lebanon, I use to run a chain of international restaurants (The Chase, which had 9 outlets in Lebanon, and many around the world). There were diners who would come for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday for 10 years! I also had to make the same dish over and again – this is very difficult!

As a Consultant, you must be cooking less and thinking on strategies more nowadays? No, cooking for me is like sport. It is distressing. What do you cook at home? I don’t cook so much at home nowadays. But even two years back, I would take my son to the markets and come back and cook for the whole week. So, you cook at work? Yes, I have big kitchens in my company where I cook. What about cooking on TV shows? I was co-hosting Top Chef. Now I am helping with the preparation for a food program in a big format with MBC1 in the US. But I do not want to go on stage and cook – not because I feel that the people may not understand what I will cook but because even I don’t understand what I cook! (Here, we all burst out laughing) Either, I record each step that I’m cooking or I have assistants who write that down.

In what way do you maintain an ongoing involvement with a restaurant where you’ve lent your signature? All the way. It’s not as if I’ll create a menu and am only present during the restaurant launch. Even after months if there is a problem with the working of the menu, I’ll be there and I shall work on it. You see, there should be something more than the business. What’s the use if I create a menu and it doesn’t work? Where is my achievement then?

Some interesting projects that you are working on and if you’d like to share with us. I‘m doing another restaurant in Kuwait, a Vietnamese restaurant in Beirut. I’m also signing up with a premium magazine here to provide recipes. I have a large catering company in Beirut where I’m a consultant. But what about a restaurant which will have your own label? In my mind, I’m doing all that I am doing is because I’m not chained to a place – I’m not going to sit in the restaurant the whole day and follow a routine. Right now, I’m doing promotions in different hotels (Atlantis, Park Hayat etc), meeting people like you, cooking Egyptian, learning Vietnamese food, travelling the world – Jakarta, Australia, India… I’m living my dreams.

Well, a free spirited man there. Chain him down with a routine and he says – ‘I can die! Right now I sleep happy, I wake up happy.’

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Helio Lounge (Middle Eastern)
Location: Mezzanine Floor, Trident Bayside Tower, Marina Walk, Dubai Marina
Tel: +971 4 432 9457; Email: info@helio.ae
For more info, you could visit their Website; Facebook Page; Twitter

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Hallucination on Feteers is inevitable. My blogger friends have touched upon this subject with much love and obsession. Sarah in her blog, The Hedonista, declares Fateer, Feteer, Fetir – by any other name, it’s still quite orgasmic; Arva who writes on eating holes in Dubai in her blog I live in a Frying Pan, writes about her Feteer obsession in The National; Debbie writes on her Feteer experience in  Before signing off, I have only one thing to say – when you bite into the crunchy pastry flakes of a Feteer which is piping hot, freshly out of the heaven and the the delicious filling oozes out, I can only think of what Sarah has defined Feteer to be. Orgasmic!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The opinions stated here are my own and are absolutely independent. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals but please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here. It does take lot of effort to capture a food experience in text and pictures. While it’s meant for you to enjoy them, I request you not to use them!

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My other posts with Chef talks:

• Sanjeev Kapoor | Talking To The Chef Extraordinaire• Asha Bhosle | Cooking With Her & Sharing Her Chicken Keema Recipe!• Violet Oon | The Singaporean Food Guru & Her Recipe Of Chilli Crab!• Chef Abhijit Saha | Is There Heart And Soul In Molecular Gastronomy?• Chef Sanjay Bahl | Flavours And Flavours And Flavours of Patiala!

Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant | Capturing A Hidden Gem In Jumeirah. A Video Too!

Bu Qtair has shifted to a new location, just across the street… here’s the new story.

This is perhaps the only restaurant in Dubai that hasn’t changed over the years, despite it’s soaring popularity and its enormous media publicity in recent times. The first time I had visited Bu Qtair, it must have been in 1999. We had just arrived in Dubai and went all over the moon discovering a run-down small shack in the unexpected of places – on Jumeirah beach, serving lip smacking fried fish. In-fact, the only change that must have taken place over the years, is the change in the name from Bu Qtair Cafeteria to Bu Qtair Restaurant (with an additional tagline – Fish Restaurant, in their modestly printed visiting cards). The charm of Bu Qtair lies in the contradiction in its location – the sudden discovery of a modest porta cabin selling fried fresh fish on the beach, with the 7-star hotel Burj Al Arab acting as the unusual backdrop. As such, a fish shack on a beach is not a novel concept, it’s probably the most common organic development in beach-front cities and places. But for a city like Dubai, it is a novel concept for sure, specially when the location is the posh Jumeirah beach. My humble attempt at making a time-lapse video has failed where I wanted to capture the change in the Bu Qtair landscape throughout the day. I’ve captured this nevertheless in several video footage with Z-Sisters and the wind howling through and I’ve managed to make an amateur film, which already has more than 75,000 hits on YouTube.

The seating arrangement in Bu Qtair is basic – plastic dining tables and multi-coloured plastic tools (the later is an investment that the restaurant has done in recent years. No more investments please – the charm of the place would be gone completely!). There is a long queue while placing the order inside the tiny porta cabin which also holds the kitchen area. Once the order has been placed, there’s a long wait outside. As the number of people waiting outside, after having placed their orders (below right) increase, so do the number of cars that drive in and park by the pavement. The restaurant staff serves the waiting diners simultaneously while they attend to honking cars demanding their take-aways. It’s a manic rush but all’s well that ends well – everyone gets their right orders (no goof -ups there) and each person goes back a happy soul with an overfilled tummy!

It’s all in the fish, the fresh fish, the deep fried fresh fish, the deep fried spicy fresh fish!

The menu is unwritten, and is flexible depending upon the catch of the day which is limited to mostly Sheri, Hamour (belonging to the Grouper family and very popular in the UAE. Dear restaurant, please note that Hamours belong to the ‘overfished’ category!), Pomfret, Snapper and Shrimps. In colder months, King Fish is sometimes included in the menu. My favourite in Bu Qtair, are the fried Shrimps (below). Marinated in Salt, Turmeric and a *secret* ingredient which Moosa, the owner is hesitant to share, these insanely tasty fried Shrimps have to be accompanied by a bowl of spicy Fish Curry prepared in the Malabari (Keralite) style with fresh Sardines and Coconut Milk and some soft Malabari Parathas (Indian flat breads fried in oil) to dip into the messy curry. Half a kg of fried Shrimp costs Dhs 75/-. The other fish ranges between Dhs 35/- Dhs 80/-, depending upon the size of the fish and the type of fish. Sheris would be the cheapest while the Pomfret or the Hamour can cost you a bit more. A bowl of Fish Curry comes at Dhs 5/- while a Paratha would cost a Dirham each. Water and soft drinks are the only beverages available here. Though no one is complaining, but I definitely can hear silent whispers from the diners, almost every time I visit Bu Qtair – if only this place was licensed and served some Chilled Beer!

1/2 kg of Shrimps, 2 medium sized Sheris, Parathas, a bowl of Fish Gravy cost us Dhs 155/- and fed 3 hungry adults and 2 equally hungry kids sumptuously. While the above images show the food that arrived to our table, the following is a behind the scene image of the marinated Shrimps before they went into the frying pan.

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Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant

Fresh Seafood Budget Restaurant; Out door sitting and Take away

Telephone: 055 7052130; Opening hours: Saturday till Thursday – 12:00pm – 2:30 pm and 6:30pm – 11:30pm, Fridays open after afternoon prayers.

Location: Umm Suquim 2 (Jumeirah 5). As you are heading towards the Burj Al Arab from Union House, take the right exit at Street 35a, off the glamorous Beach Road. Look out for an Emarat Petrol Station before the Umm Sequim Park which houses a small McDonald’s. Once on Street 35a, approach left when you hit Street 2b and you’ll find the Bu Qtair amidst the boat sheds.


Once the evening sets in, the place becomes so crowded that it’s impossible to speak to Moosa, the Arbab – the owner, or any other staff, to the point that one starts to feel that the staff is really rude. But hang on there for some time and you’ll realise that they are busy, working in a fairly synchronized rhythm to tackle the crowd that pours in. Everybody is attended to. The place has garnered a lot of media attention lately and this shack-eatout has become a hot place to visit. My estimate is, there would be 100 diners on a regular weekday. Moosa deserves all the attention. He’s been hanging on here for the last 23 years. While in the initial days, he would be buying in from the local fishermen who would anchor their fishing boats by his shack, now he resorts to a regular supply from bigger fish markets. He also has more staff who work for him. They speak in broken English – ‘Enjoy your food Madam’ and ‘It’s my pleasure’. Well Moosa, it’s been my pleasure writing about you. I should have done this long back. Sometimes one remembers to give attention to strangers and acquaintances while friends and family remain unattended. It happens when we are in a trance and forget to look inwards. Thankfully, I’ve shaken myself off that trance.

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: After I came out with this post, Emirates 24/7 has published this video and the post on their website. Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can catch my daily travel and food journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

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Related articles from my blog

• A Connoisseur’s Guide To Eating Out In Dubai

Masqouf in Bait Al Baghdadi | Tasting Iraq’s National Dish

Arabian Pilgrimage Food Tour With Frying Pan Adventures

The 7 Tastiest Fast Feasts Of Dubai | Introducing Chowzter to Dubai

Other Related article

• Where to take visitors to eat in Dubai – on a budget (mycustardpie.com)

Bu Qtair Dubai (Pear tree Diaries)

Dubai :: Bu Qtair: Fried fish worth waiting for (The World according to Mitzee Mee)

Baan Ma-Yhing Restaurant In The Fishermen’s Village | Recipe of Thai Red Curry As We Cook ‘fresh catch’ Baramundi!

A few days spent in South Thailand and I feel that I’ve spent my entire lifetime there. That is how inspiring travelling can be. It can change moments, perspectives, individuals and lives. Co-living in the ecosystem and incorporating that in daily lives – that’s what the farmers or the fishermen of this island has done. They have embraced the environment they live in. And are proud to introduce their culture and lives to the tourists. Baan Ma-Yhing Restaurant, situated by the fish farms, on a canal shooting out of the Krabi river – where the fresh fish is caught and cooked and served – all in a span of 45 minutes – is one such fresh culinary experience not to be missed. I’ve ransacked it’s location on Google Map and have frantically searched the net for their website, if at all it exists. I genuinely feel that this small restaurant is worth more than just a visit. It might seem very complicated but in effect there’s only one main road running through the island and there are only a few restaurants located in the fishermen’s village along the canal district. The Google translator literally translates the restaurant’s website, hence please apply your own IQ while deciphering that translation! You might have to read some weird English as Home straight Ma (grandmother) our which probably means House (Baan) of the Grandmother (ma-Yhing). Or the tagline reads as Cages as other seafood which probably means freshly caught Seafood!

Koh Klang is a small fishing island on the Andaman Sea and is covered by thousands of acres of mangrove forest. Koh means island, Klang means middle and Koh Klang is situated in the middle, just at the mouth of the Krabi river as it opens up into the Andaman Seas. Located in the Krabi province on the west coast of southern Thailand, this is an idyllic island with smiling locals overwhelming the tourists in an inspirational way. The Baan Ma-Yhing restaurant is located in the fishermen’s village on in the historic canal district. The restaurants here have their own fish farms located at a distance and barricaded mini farms on the canal waters (fifth image below). Fish is caught fresh. And cooked. The fisherman below catches the crab which is served minutes later on to our table as Crab stirred in Oregano!

Baan Ma-Yhing written by curling a rope on a wooden plank, hangs by the canal. This is also the same place from where we set off for Kayaking the next day. Humidity soars on the day we visit the restaurant. The morning had been jampacked with a learning on Shallow water fishing and Shell fish hunting – just a few of the activities that we have partaken in during our stay in Koh Klang. My earlier post recalls the island life of Koh Klang, pictorially {Koh Klang in Krabi, Thailand | A Photo Essay of An Island Life}. As we settle down in the wooden benches, the restaurant staff promptly brings in the portable standing fan and focuses it towards us. Ice buckets reach the table. This is a major subject of controversy – to have them or not to have them? As mentioned in an earlier post, many suggest that one should only take ice if it is one of the round, cylinder type cubes that has a hole in them as these type of ice cubes are supposedly commercially produced in hygienic conditions. Whatever it is, I think it is the heat and the humidity that makes one forget the logistics and ask for ice, whether it’s in a restaurant or while ordering a drink off a street vendor. Ao nam keng?/Do you want ice? I don’t remember saying Mai ao nam keng/No, I don’t in my entire stay in Thailand. It only takes a while before you get addicted to the ice itself!

The Thai way of eating – all together, at the same time!
As we spend more and more time in Thailand, I realise – whether it’s a small restaurant or a big one, all the food that has been ordered is served at the same time to all tables. There’s no concept of Starters or Main course. And cooking starts once the guests pour into the restaurant so that food can be served freshly cooked. But not necessarily hot. This is because they’ll cook everything and serve only when the last dish has been cooked. The Thai people like to mix their food while they eat. One spoon of soup probably gets mixed up with a munch of crunchy starters, only to be wrapped up in noodles and then gets slurped in. I also asked the my co-diners, specially the locals who were sitting at the same table as me, whether it is the usual thing to cook so many items for regular meals at home. It seems that the food we ate is not spectacularly different from what they ate at home. The more dishes on the table, the happier they are. And the number of dishes increase as the number of family members increase. As I came back to Baan Ma-Yhing in the evening for a cooking class with Bao, the cook whose mum owns the restaurant, I realised that Thai cooking is elaborate in the numbers of spices and herbs that go into the dishes. But the cooking as such takes very little time (provided all the pastes have already been made before and the herbs and the vegetables have been chopped).

My first Thai food experience in Thailand had been brilliant {Ruen Mai Restaurant In Krabi | A Tantalising First Experience Of Thai Food {In Thailand, That is!}. A few days and some of these fishes became very familiar to me. I also feel in love with the above – the Clam soup with Lemongrass or the Hoi Talab Lai Tom Takrai. I’ve fallen in love with this dish – completely and absolutely. This is a very light clear broth with the clams boiled in. The strong flavour of ginger and lemongrass is very comforting. Even in Baan Ma-Yhing restaurant, the spread was very extensive. And I definitely got used to the Southern Thai style of cooking.

Goong Makham: Prawns in Tamarind Sauce (above and below) – this is also another dish that I was eating for the second time and I did come across many times in this trip and yes, you guessed it right – I ended up falling in love with. This is an easy preparation (yes, I’ve made this at home post-Thailand). Palm sugar is added into a wok over a low heat and stirred continuously until the palm sugar starts to melt and turn a little brown. Tamarind juice, fish sauce and pepper is added and stirred in for a few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Finally, the prawns are added and simmered for about 2 minutes and served with a garnish of fried onions and garlic…  such a simple but tasty recipe that can be easily recreated at home.

Pla Kao Rad Prik: Grouper topped with Chilli (above)… I learnt a variation of the same dish but made with the Baramundi later in the evening. These fish were also caught fresh infront of us before they were plopped into the pan. Another dish that was served to us was the Pla Krapong Nung Manao or the Snapper steamed with Lemon. This dish looks plain – the steamed fish but the sauce makes the taste buds go ballistic. It’s made with chopped green and red chillies only. This is really really hot! Bao, the cook has trained under a Chef working in one of the bigger hotel chains. He’s got a penchant for stylish presentation (as you can make out from the pictures – this is not a huge restaurant but the presentation is sophisticated and very stylish). The Crab stirred in Oregano (below) is his creation. Poo Pad Oregano, as is called, is not like the Singaporean Pepper crab though it looks very similar. The strong taste here comes purely from the Oregano.

Sangyod Rice: Most of the population in the island are engaged in either coastal fishing or agriculture, specially in growing the organic Sang Yot or Sangyod rice. Originally growing in Pattalung, now there are only two places in Thailand where the Sangyod rice is produced and these are Koh Klang and Pattalung. The canals on the island of Koh Klang make it ideal for rice cultivation. Sangyod Rice is a purple coloured, high quality, fragrant organic rice, having a very high fibre content. Traditionally, Sangyod rice used to be cooked during special occasions or to usher in important guests. A bit of pounding (indigenous milling) leave us drained while the women who are engaged here, do such arduous pounding throughout the day – all with a pinch of smile! We were served Sangyod rice in one of our lunches (pic further down) – it tastes a bit salty because of the salt water in which the rice farms are sometimes submerged in. Do hop into my earlier post to see us toiling in the Rice farms (over dramatic, I know. But whatever sells!).

As in the Ruen Mai restaurant, here too the desserts consisted of only fresh fruits – mostly Watermelons and Pineapples. Delicious, fresh, chilled and generous amounts of these sliced fruits. Actually, It in Ruen Mai that we tasted a few more fruits like red Papaya, Mangoes and Wood Apple. 

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Baan Ma-Yhing Restaurant

Seafood restaurant located in the fishermen’s village; Practices Halal 

Location: 10 Moo 1, Klong Muang Krabi 81000, Thailand; Co-ordinates on Google map (below): 8.056278,98.932807; Email: Bdml111222@gmail.com

If you visit their Website, please remember that the Google translator literally translates the Thai into English! More on Koh Klang island from the web.

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Thai cooking lesson with Bao – fresh fish from the net to the frying pan!

Bao, the cook or the Chef of Baan Ma-Yhing became our tutor when Debbie (my #FoodieOnTour partner in this Thailand Academy trip and a fellow Fooderati blogger) and I came back later in the evening for our Thai cooking lesson. The lessons learnt:
1) The Red Thai Curry in Southern Thai Cuisine is not red in colour: This was one revelation that practically shocked me initially. The dishes in Southern Thailand had thick curries (mostly) that are poured on the top. Whole Turmeric or Kamin was grounded along with red chillies, thereby diluting the red colour of the Thai red curry. A bit of study into the Southern Thai curry reveals that there is a prevalence of coconut milk and fresh turmeric in most dishes here, as compared to other regions.
2) Oil is not put into the Wok first to make the Thai Curry: The curry is made as the Thai pastes are mixed into the Coconut milk as it boils in the Wok while the Chilli Oil (below right) is poured into it once the paste cooks itself in the Curry and the Curry itself has been thickened.

Bao’s sister, beautiful wife Sun (her name that is!), his 8 year old daughter – everybody joins in the cooking. The Baramundi fish that will be cooked is brought into the kitchen sink – alive! Before it goes into the Wok (below). Bao pours more than half litre of Palm Oil into the Wok for deep frying the Baramundi. What impresses us is that the oil left in the Wok would be recycled into lighting the stove. The Baramundi is deep fried and the Red Thai Curry that Bao’s wife makes (above left) is pored on top of the fried fish. Bao fine-tunes it again with pouring some thickened Coconut milk (third pic below).

Chopping the salad for each dish takes some more time. As I’ve told you that Bao loves gorgeous presentation of food. He makes a Clam Salad with Tiger Prawns. He just puts the clams onto the pan and adds chopped fresh lemongrass, garlic and butter onto each clam. The clam cooks by itself, each clam carefully holding the delicious juice that come out of the mussels (below). Tiger Prawns are just placed on heated pans and is covered with a Wok turned upside down. No oil, no salt – the prawns gets cooked on its own. Bao presents them with tomatoes, chopped coriander leaves and the mussels, accompanied by a spicy dip.

Another thing that he cooks is the Prawn cakes – very different from the ones we have tasted. He chops fresh chicken and prawns (uncooked) and minces them in the food processor. He adds chopped garlic, onions, lemongrass, spring onions and pepper into the mince. He rolls them into large pattice and puts a piece of Salted Egg Yolk (Pla Meuk Pad Kai Kem – salting eggs in brine is a way of preserving eggs in Thailand. The weather can be very hot and eggs could only be kept for a short time unless salted. As with many cultures, the Thai’s acquired a taste for the salted product, and created recipes around it {More here…} in each pattice and fries them slightly. Then he takes them out of the oil and cuts them into two and deep fries the pattice halves in oil.

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Baramundi in Thai Red Curry

Category – Fish/Seafood; Cuisine type – Southern Thai

Following are the characteristics of all recipes doling out of our little hands, big hearth

Easy to cook
♥ Regular canned products off the shelf may be used (However, we advocate using fresh products)
♥ Goes well both as a regular or party dish
♥ Children can easily help in making the dish (My two little sous-chéfs are aged 8 and 3 years 4 years)
♥ And lastly, guaranteed to be tasty!

For the printable recipe →

Serves 4 persons

Preparation time – 45 mins maximum (Cooking time – 30min; Remaining time is for the preparation)

Ingredients
Barramundi fillets or any whole fish – deep fried in oil (Bao didn’t put any salt but I did put a bit of salt to the fish when I made the same recipe at home)
White Oil – 2 cups, for frying the fish
Thai Red Curry – 1 cupCoconut Milk – 1/2 cup, thickened to pour over the top
Basil Leaves – 20 pieces, deep fried in White Oil
Lemongrass – finely chopped, for garnish
Thai Kaffir Lime Leaves – for garnish

Once the fish is fried, the Thai Red Curry is poured on top of it and the thickened Coconut Milk is added on it. It’s served with the fried Basil leaves on the sides and garnished with Kaffir Lime and chopped Lemongrass.

Thai Red Curry Paste or the Kaeng Phet

Ingredients
Shallot – 1 medium, chopped
Garlic – 4 cloves
Galangal or Thai Ginger – 1 inch in size, skin peeled
Red Chillies – 10 medium sized
Lemongrass –  1 fresh stalk, chopped finely
Kamin or Whole Turmeric – 1 inch in size, skin peeled
White Pepper – 10 whole pieces
Nam Pla or Fish Sauce – 2 tbsp (For vegetarians, you could substitute the Fish Sauce and the Shrimp Paste with 2 tbsp of dark Soy Sauce)
Kapi or Shrimp paste – 1 tbsp*
Thai Red Chilies – to taste (optional)
Kaffir Lime Leaves – 4 to 5  or Lime peel
Sugar – 1tsp

Method of Preparation

Grind all the ingredients with a pestle and mortar or in a food processor. Add 2 tbsp of Coconut Milk in order to loosen the paste, if required.

*(In Thailand Kapi or the Shrimp Paste is an essential ingredient and is used in Thai dips, sauces, curries and paste. Very popular in Thailand is Nam Phrik Kapi, a spicy condiment made with fresh shrimp paste and most often eaten together with fried Pla Thu/Short mackerel and fried, steamed or raw vegetables. In Southern Thailand there are three types of shrimp paste: one made only from shrimp, one containing a mixture of shrimp and fish ingredients, and another paste that is sweet. More here)

Though Banu didn’t use, but many standard Thai Red curry pastes call in for Kaffir lime or Thai lime peel, Coriander root, Coriander seeds, Cumin seeds along with additives such as Thai eggplant, Bamboo shoots, Bai horapha or Thai basil leaves. Also, there are lot of regional differences in Thai cooking. Whereas in the North, in the Chian Mai region they don’t use ground Turmeric in the Red Curry, in South Thailand, whole Turmeric is ground along with the red Chillies.

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Islanda Eco Village Resort

Thai Village styled Eco Resort; On Koh Klang, Krabi

Islanda Eco Village Resort is an eco-resort, with the accommodation originally styled after Thai village huts (conical structures) that wouldn’t require any air conditioning. Submerged mangroves, loud chirping of birds, the lazy sunset over the Andaman seas and the water seeping through the fishing traps and bamboo fences into the resort grounds – the resort blends into the entire island, which practices sustainable tourism. In the recent years, we have been trying to travel responsibly and checking into the Islanda Eco Village Resort just adds to the gradually growing list of the Eco Resorts that we’ve visited so far.  All fresh produce that is required in the Resort’s kitchen, is bought from the local markets on the island, (a tick mark on my current favourite topic of Locavorism) and fish is brought from the local fishermen. This is the only resort in the island and it completely blends into the surrounding environment without disrupting the island’s unique eco-system.

Tel No: 083-636 7887; Location: Moo 3 T. Klong Pra-Song (Koh Klang) A. Maung Krabi, Nong Thale, Mueang Krabi, Krabi 81000, Thailand

Islanda Eco Village Resort: Website; Facebook Page; Instagram

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Debbie has written beautifully about our Koh Klang island experience. All throughout our trip we realised how much of a social traveller we had become. I had to Tweet, Instagram (above) and post on my Facebook Page and although I was travelling without my family leaving behind the Z-Sisters, I was not travelling alone. I was constantly in touch with my readers and friends through LIVE interaction over social media. This perhaps is the new phenomenon in travelling as is evident by the super amazing travel series of the two Emirati brothers in the Peeta Planet. I love these two guys. They are dare devils and hilarious and are out to something that no one has done – see the world the way their followers want them to see. Although my travel decisions might not be dependent on those who are following me on social media, but I have been sharing my stories and taking many cues from suggestions left behind. I started blogging because I wanted to share my stories. While previously I could share my travel and culinary stories only when I blogged about them, now I share them LIVE while write my blogposts in detail much later. What do you have to say about this kind of social travelling? Would you rather make your own travel plans or will you fly to a place on the basis of a comment left on your Social media page?

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The Thailand Academy trip was an invite from the Tourism Authorities of Thailand Middle East and Aviareps Group. However, the opinions stated here are my own and are independent. I do hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. Please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.   

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My other Thailand posts:

Other posts on my Oriental Journey:

Posts from other members who were in the trip:

UAE National Day | Making Aam Pana/ Green Mango Drink For My Dubai My City

Today is the 41st UAE National Day or Al-Eid Al Watani as it is called in Arabic. The above picture is a personal favourite of mine. It might look like a canvas but is actually a special drink that I’ve created as a tribute to the UAE National Day. The lovely Jihad and Sajith from My Dubai My City, the first video guide to the city of Dubai, came home the other day to shoot the video. So many things to learn from them as they effortlessly went on with their job. I hope you will like the video as much as I do!

2nd December marks UAE’s formal independence from the United Kingdom and the eventual unification of the seven emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain) in 1971 which combined to form the modern-day UAE that is today. Here’s wishing everyone residing in the UAE the 41st UAE National Day!

Us‘This is my Kitchen’ is a segment in My Dubai My City (@MyDubaiMyCity) where the main aim is to highlight how UAE – specially Dubai, is a beautiful hub of all sorts of cultures. The host of each episode shows us how to make a traditional dish with a story – any kind of story, for example the meaning/origin of the name or if it’s associated with any personal experience.

I was fortunate to have hosted an episode where I showed how to make the Bengali Aam Pana or Green Mango Drink in the traditional way. At the end I twisted this traditional recipe to make frozen pulps of Black grapes and watermelon and created a special drink for the UAE National Day (above)!

Jihad (the smiling lady to my left) transformed my dining table with her little feminine touches here and there – the candle stand, the table cloth and the white crockery and elegant cutlery – thank you my dear! And yes, Sajith (the smiling and humble gentleman above), the next time you come home I’ll try to blink less and probably wear my glasses instead of wearing my usual set of contact lenses and blinking all the way through the shoot!

I’ve written about the Frozen Aam Pana where I’ve frozen the pulp scooped out of smoked Green Mangoes in an earlier post of mine – Frozen Aam Pana/Green Mango Pulp… The Change Initiative! The idea of frozen fruit pulps had been inspired from a visit to The Taste Initiative, the first sustainable café in Dubai.DSC_2141

For the UAE National Day Drink, I froze pulp of Black Grapes, pulp of Watermelons and the green Mango pulp. The Watermelon pulp required some additional sugar. And I added roasted Cumin Powder and a bit of rock salt. Garnish it with fresh green Mint leaves if you prefer and a delicious blend of sorbet-melting-into-a-drink is ready! I do hope you enjoy the pictorial journey of this beautiful drink inspired by the UAE flag colours. The colours on the UAE flag represent the following: white for peace and honesty, red for hardiness, bravery, strength and courage, green for hope, joy, love and optimism and black for the defeat of enemies or strength of mind. You may read more about the UAE flag here.DSC_2109

Frozen Aam Pana/Raw Mango Pulp Drink

Category – Drinks & Beverage; Cuisine type – Traditional Bengali, Indian

Following are the characteristics of all recipes doling out of our little hands, big hearth
♥ Easy to cook
♥ Regular canned products off the shelf may be used (However, we advocate using fresh products)
♥ Goes well both as a regular or party dish
♥ Children can easily help in making the dish (My two little sous-chéfs are aged 8 and 3 years!)
♥ And lastly, guaranteed to be tasty!

Aam Pana or Green Mango Drink is a great summer combat and is made in most regions in India. The Bengali Aam Pana is however a bit different in the sense that the green mangoes are first smoked (right below) and then the pulp is taken out. So while the taste of the mango is intact the smoky smell is strong and lends this drink an unusual charm. While in other places in India, the green mangoes are boiled and then pulped. You may get the recipe from my earlier post Frozen Aam Pana/Green Mango Pulp.

Enjoy the photographic journey of the special UAE National Drink…

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As everybody joins in the celebrations, I love the way Google Doodles join in each country’s festive celebrations. Google joins UAE in celebrating the country’s 41 National Day with an artistic doodle highlighting the occasion on Google’s homepage on the UAE domain on December 2.https://i0.wp.com/gulfnews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1113026!/image/3272725916.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_475/3272725916.jpg

The doodle shows four flying falcons carrying banners in the colours of the UAE flag: red, white, green and black. Each of the six banners features a letter from the Google logo, with the second ‘o’ in the word depicting one of the ancient tombs found on the island of Umm Al Nar. You can read more about the concept here.

An interesting timeline of events for the UAE starting from the 1820’s can also be found in BBC Middle East. If you prefer to watch videos, then don’t miss out these string of videos that The National had come out with last year – ’40 historic objects that shaped the UAE’… for example a Foetal heart monitor – early 1960s,  Etisalat phone – 1987, Royal invitation cards- 1979, A Grundig radio used by Sheikh Shakhbut and many more. You’ll get to watch all the videos here.DSC_189612554_501641649869264_1799755918_n

As UAE flags dot each and every shop located in each alley of Satwa, Karama or in the other emirates, UAE is probably the only country where patriotism is marked by how dressed up your car is! So it’s not surprising that UAE residents may win Dh100, 000 in prizes for decorating the best vehicles on the National Day parade. More on such patriotic fervour here!

I’m signing off with two of my Dubai posts – The Diary Of A Dubai Resident… As Home Turns Into An Inn! and Things to do in Dubai – Like a tourist in my own city! The latter post is perhaps one of the most ‘shared’ post in my blog. I am digging out this post from the archives only because I had spent lots of humorous hours penning it down and now it’s time to showcase my love for Dubai with the 41st UAE National Day lurking around the weekend. Also, I have been nominated for the Expats Blog Awards. If you like reading my posts, do show some love for me by leaving your comments here.

Updating my post with a video shot right now (12:50am on 3rd December) at the JBR Walk… the National Day celebration continues with full fervour!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. While you enjoy seeing them please don’t use them as some of them have been taken from our personal albums just to make your reading experience more pleasurable. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.

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My Dubai Diary in this blog:
♦ Things To Do In Dubai – Like A Tourist In My Own City Showcasing the city I love to call my home!
My First Authentic Emirati Food Experience! – Al Fanar Restaurant, Dubai Festival City
Al Maha Desert Resort & Twitterati Lunch – Al Maha Luxury Eco Resort
An Evening of Wine Tasting at Asado Wine Club – Asado Wine Club, The Palace Hotel, Old Town
♦ The Label Project – Wines Tasted Blindly! – Invite to a Global Wine initiative from Jacob’s Creek
TRIBES Celebrating South African Heritage Day! – TRIBES, the South African Restaurant in MOE
Locavorism in UAE, Friday Market
The Change Initiative Inspiration!  – Dubai’s first sustainable store, restaurant & café
Zatar Lamb, Crushed Lemon Potato with Chef Ron Pietruszka – Treat 2012, Burjuman World Food Fest + a Recipe
♦ Back To Dubai, Back to Costa –A nostalgic recount of favourite coffee haunt
Searching for Shiraz – Lucknow to Kolkata to Dubai – Nostalgic search for Kolkata’s famous Shiraz Restaurant ends with Siraz opening in Bur Dubai. Exploring some Awadhi/Lucknowy Khana!
♦ Down To Earth Organic Store In Dubai & Mutton Chick Peas Curry – An event + a Recipe
Mums Who Share @JBR A charity initiative
♦  Deep Sea Fishing & Fish Barbeque – Persian Gulf off Dubai Coast
♦  The Million Street, in the middle of nowhere – Rub Al-Khali Desert, UAE

Rasgullas made for Dubai One

Rasgulla Macapuno On TV & Shubho Bijoya to all!

Shubho Bijoya to all of you!

A few months ago my Rasgullas or Roshogollas was aired on Noor Dubai TV and Dubai One during Ramadan (above video). And I got the video in hand today just as I had sat down to write a festive post wishing all of you a Shubho Bijoya! And whoosh by some sudden act of magic, came up the video at the perfect junction when I was ransacking my photo albums to write a very, very Bengali post.

If you are hopping into my blog for the first time and wondering why you are being pulled into such a Bong (colloquial term to Bengalis) post – well, I am at this moment on a massive overdose of Bengali nostalgia and elation. Nostalgic because sitting here on the shores of Dubai, I am reminded continuously of the moments that I’ve grown up with… specially Durga Pujo. But at the same time Elated because here I am – a Bengali when I’m outside and an outsider in Bengal – sharing my stories with all of you coming from so many different parts of the world or coming from the same country I come from but living in different parts of the world!

Screenshots taken by Reem for Noor TV Dubai
Screenshots taken by Reem for Noor TV Dubai

Rasgulla Macapuno & Essence of Living in Dubai

In the month of May this year I had written a post – Rasgulla Macapuno – When a Filipina Turns Bong! Yet another fusion recipe on Rôshogolla – perhaps the most famous of all Bengali sweet and definitely my favourite subject to write on and to experiment. It’s a tribute to my my Lady Friday (LF) without whom my endless photographic sessions on food experiments would never have materialised. LF hails from Bikol, a region in Phillipines which is known for it’s spicy fare. Filipino food is cooked on a regular basis in our kitchen along with traditional Bengali or we end up cooking some Bengali Fusion food!

When I eat some traditional Filipino dish, I talk about how we could use and adapt it to our Bengali palate. When LF eats some Bengali dish she talks about how similar dishes exist in her cuisine or may be how a little addition here and there would make it quite easy to pass off as a Filipino dish.

If staying with a person from a different culture for a long time doesn’t inspire us, we must be devoid of all emotional sensibilities. The real essence of living in a city like Dubai is that for a Filipina who’s turned into a Bong, there is a Bengali me who’s turned into a Filipina!

Rasgulla Macapuno from my earlier post

Reem, Ramadan, Akl el Bait… and the Emirati woman of today

A very young, elegant lady (though I would like to say girl) by the name of Reem from Noor Dubai TV comes home to make a film on akl el bait or homemade food for Ramadan. Not writing anything on her would be wiping off some very essential facts about the modern generation of Emirati women. Sweet and almost shy but insisting on carrying her cameras and other props all by herself, Reem seems absolutely determined. She bowls me over – ‘I love Rabindra Sangeet and I love watching Bengali films’!

While the shoot was on in the living room, I had almost locked my Mum (my parents were incidentally visiting us at that time) inside. Mum being a typical Mum would otherwise start being her usual self… ‘Orokom kore Channata makhish na/Don’t knead the dough like that’ or ‘Dekh bhalo kore shirata phutlo kina/Check whether the Sugar Syrup is boiling properly’.

Sorry Mum, I’m a food blogger trying all I can to be caught in the right ‘social’ radar, please don’t snatch my thunder away from me, not yet. And definitely, not in-front of this sweet, young girl who’s called Reem!

Behind the Scenes shots

Reem not only listens to Rabindra Sangeet but actually requested my mum to sing ‘Bodhu kon alo laglo chokhe‘ pronouncing the word in perfect Bengali. Reem loves listening to Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya (official site – here), the very famous Rabindra Sangeet exponent from Bangladesh. Dear Reem, this is for you as my Mum stumbled with the words while she sang for you (Forgive me Mama, for stealing your thunder away slightly – tit for tat!) singing. The least I owe you is a complete hearing of the song. Do click here to listen.
Bodhu-Kon-Alo-Laglo-Chokhe (webmusic.in) by Ishita Saha

Love for World Cinema has shaped Reem’s knowledge, exposing her to different cultures. She converses on Bengali Cinema and Rabindra Sangeet just like a proud quintessential Bengali would in a typical Bengali cultural meeting or a friendly dinner get-together. Her request of ‘Oh I can’t remember that song in Chokher Bali… can you sing that Mama?’ or ‘Give my regards to Mela’, my LF, every time we interact is absolutely touching.

‘There’s one condition when you mail me’, she tells me ‘and that is you’ll have to send me a Bengali song every time, preferably Rabindra Sangeet’!

And yes, Reem, I love the film that you have made on my dish and a few others I know for your Ramadan special episodes. You are a brilliant representation of modern generation Emirati women who are shaping up Dubai with their well manicured hands and a treasure chest full of knowledge and awareness in your brains. Professional yet humane, articulate yet coy, opinionated yet subtle.

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Historically, the Emirati women had been responsible for looking after the day to day needs of their families as the menfolk who had been primarily engaged in pearl diving and fishing, left for work for many long months.

As the late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said, “Nothing could delight me more than to see the woman taking up her distinctive position in society … Nothing should hinder her progress … Like men, women deserve the right to occupy high positions according to their capabilities and qualifications.”

The right of UAE women to take part in the development of all areas of their society is laid out in the UAE Constitution, adopted when the federation was founded in 1971. It states that social justice should apply to all and that, before the law, women are equal to men. They enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles and access to education. They have the right to practice the profession of their choice… More here.

Today, Emirati women are significantly contributing to the nation’s progress – in all spheres of life – be it in the private sector or the public sector. The following articles are interesting reads on the roles that Emirati women play in the development of today’s UAE… The role of Emirati women in the UAE (The National), The Women in the UAE (Wikipedia)

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Rasgullas

Back to Rôshogolla or Rasgulla

This Bengali sweet is amazingly versatile – made from balls of Chhana/Paneer/Indian Cottage Cheese or Ricotta Cheese and Suji/Semolina dough. Then these soft and spongy balls are cooked in a sugar syrup. In Dubai, there are many Indian sweet shops selling good Rasgullas. We get our Rasgullas from Chappan Bhog which is located opposite Centrepoint on the Karama side of the Trade Centre road. Rasgullas from Chappan Bhog are soft and meets all the Bong sweet-satisfying criterion though it’s completely a subjective issue. Some prefer their Rasgullas from Puranmal and others from Bikanerwala, all located in Karama and details can easily be found over the internet.

Making the Channa/Indian Cottage Cheese for the Rasgulla
Making the Channa/Indian Cottage Cheese for the Rasgulla

The following Rasgulla recipe is from Cook Like A Bong. I have used the same recipe with stupendous success. The Rasgullas came out soft and round and absolutely crack-less!

Ingredients

For the Gollas or the round Channa balls
Full Fat Cow’s Milk2 litres (will make about 24 Rosogollas)
Juice of 2 limes
Suji/Semolina – 1 tsp
Maida/Plain Flour1 tbsp
Sugar1 tsp
Muslin Cloth/Fine strainer

For the Shira/Sugar Syrup

Water – 5 cups
Granulated Sugar – 3 to 4 cups  (depending on whether u have a sweet tooth or not!)
Green Cardamom – ½ tsp Crushed
Rose Water – 2 tsp
Saffron – 1 small pinch

Method of Preparation

For the Gollas
– Heat the milk in a deep bottomed sauce pan and bring to boil
– Add the lemon juice slowly to curdle the milk
– Once the milk is fully curdled and the green whey has been released. Place the muslin cloth on a strainer and slowly drain – the whey out
– Keep the Paneer under cool running water for a few seconds (this will remove any smell of lime)
– Tie the ends of the cloth and hang for an hour. In a large bowl start kneading the Paneer
– Add the semolina and flour and knead for about 5-10 mins till the dough is soft and smooth
– Divide into equal sized round smooth balls (Note: Keep an eye on the size of the balls as they will get bigger-about double the original size!!) Make sure the balls are crack free!

For the Shira/Sugar Syrup and the Rosogollas
– Heat water and sugar in a wide mouth stock pot
– Add the rose water and cardamom powder after the water starts boiling and the sugar is dissolved
– Lower the heat and add the balls one at a time
– Cover the pot and cook on lowest flame for about 40-45 mins
– Remove lid and add the saffron strands and cook for another 5 mins
– Take the pan off heat and let it sit for 5 mins. Garnish with roughly chopped pistachios and serve warm

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There is a superb conversation going on here regarding the making of Rôshogollas. It is a definite read for those who are attempting to make Rôshogolla at home. An excerpt from my essay on Roshogolla – Rôshogolla or Rasgulla – Bengali’s Own Sweet…

Importance of Chhana
Chhana is fresh, unripened curd cheese widely used in India and Bangladesh and is a crumbly and moist form of Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese or farmer cheese or curd cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids). This Cutting of the Milk to make Chhanna ie Acidification is the most important factor affecting the quality of Rôshogolla. Chhana is created in a similar process to Paneer except that it is not pressed for as long. Though the Paneer can be traced back to the Vedas dating back to 3000 BC and has an Indian origin, Chhana that is the base for most of the Bengali Sweets has been imported from Portugal and can be traced back to the Portugese settlements in Bengal during the 16th Century AD.

Important Factors Affecting the Quality of Rôshogolla
– The Cutting of the Milk to make Chhanna ie Acidification is the most important factor affecting the quality of Rôshogolla
– Rosh or Chasni ie the thickness or BRIX of Sugar Syrup
– The temperature and the way the medium ie the previous day’s whey water, vinegar, lime is introduced to cut the milk (the best results are produced when you slowly introduce the acid medium into the milk)

Please watch (though technically I should be asking you to read) a brilliant and beautiful post from Journey Kitchen on How to make Paneer at home.

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Macapuno

Hailing from Philippines, this is a variety of coconut which has more flesh than the regular coconut. They are extensively used in making Filipino sweets, fruit salads, ice-creams with Macapuno flavours etc. Bottled or canned Macapunos are easily available in regular supermarkets in Dubai (Choitram’s, Al Maya Lal’s, Spinneys etc) and are available in different colours – green, red etc. I prefer to buy only the white Macapuno to complement the sanctity of my white Rasgullas!

It is also very easy to make Macapuno at home from regular coconuts. Coconuts are always available in the Lulu supermarkets or many other Asian supermarkets in Karama. Try to get a coconut which is very tender and will be having a lot of soft flesh inside – Shansh as it is called in Bengali.

Method of Preparation of Macapuno
Slice the soft kernel of a young coconut – the Shansh into thick strips. Mix it with white sugar and a small amount of water. Simmer in a pan for a while until it turns into a sweet syrup without dissolving the kernel strips completely.

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Rasgulla Macapuno

Category – Dessert; Cuisine type – Bengali Fusion (Bong/Filipino)

Following are the characteristics of all recipes doling out of our little hands, big hearth
♥ Easy to cook
♥ Regular canned products off the shelf may be used (However, we advocate using fresh products)
♥ Goes well both as a regular or party dish
♥ Children can easily help in making the dish (My two little sous-chéfs are aged 8 and 3 years!)
♥ And lastly, guaranteed to be tasty!

For the printable recipe →

Serves 5-6 persons (maybe less if they happen to be sweet-toothed Bengalis!)

Preparation time – 1 hr 30 minutes maximum (Making the Macapuno – 45-50 minutes; setting up – 10 minutes; Refrigeration – 30 minutes) or 10 minutes if you use bottled Macapuno

Ingredients
Rasgullas – 15 pieces (you can also get canned Rasgullas from Haldiram’s or other known brands. These are readily available in most hypermarkets like Carréfour, Lulu and other supermarkets like Spinneys or Choitram’s in selected locations)
Fresh Coconut Water – 1 glass
Macapuno – 1 cup (if prepared at home) or 1 Bottle
Saffron – 1/2 tsp, soaked in Milk
Pistachios – 4 tsp
Milk* – 2 cups

Method of Preparation
– Prepare the Macapuno (described earlier)
– Pour the Rasgullas into a deep glass bowl (it’s amazing to see them through the transparent glass when it seems like they are floating – there’s one photograph above!)
– Add fresh Coconut Water, Milk, Macapuno and the soaked Saffron
– Refrigerate and serve chilled
– Garnish with Pistachios just before serving

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Durga Pujo around the world & I’m on a desi trail in Meena Bazaar!

On a desi trail... walking around Meena Bazaar
On a desi trail… walking around Meena Bazaar

As Bengalis celebrate the Pujo all around the world, I hit the roads of Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai area on the rebound… on my own little Desi trail! Contrary to the glitzy shopping malls in Dubai, Meena Bazaar has a different charm altogether. From glaring lightnings to the blaring horns from cars struck in perennial traffic, from the snaky lanes and by-lanes to the crowded main-road, from Indian and Pakistani stores selling traditional clothings to Iranian spice shops, from haute-couture fashion Boutiques (selling mainly traditional Indian and Pakistani ethnic attire) to stores selling high-street fashion, branded watch-houses to shops – the ’10 Dirhams shops’ selling inexpensive models, from electronics to home products, from computers to spare-parts, from quick-fixers like cobblers and menders to expensive tailoring shops – I love Meena Bazaar. Specially when the narrow dark alleys suddenly open up and you are hit with the bright sunlight and the sparkling sea-green waters of the Dubai Creek!

The alley that leads to the temple
The alley that leads to the temple

The alley leading to the Hindu temple is a sudden revelation – I love the cultural aspects of any religion – the strength in the spiritual beliefs and traditions of people believing in their respective faiths. The faces of people going into the temples with their flower offerings laid out on plates says it all – smitten with the belief of the submission to some strength above – however that may be defined in each individual’s respective religion.

Pujo Celebrations in the Sindhi Hall & scouting for Bindis

Facebook reminds me of how forlorn and starved I am sometimes. Though I try to be generous and feel happy when my friends have the pleasure of some materialistic glory that I haven’t got myself but this is one moment when I break down, a little bit. Forget about the different cities in India that are celebrating Durga Pujo, the Facebook updates from my friends is testimony to similar celebrations the world over – Bangkok, Singapore, different cities in the US, UK and Europe, even Oman. Excepting the UAE. I would be lying if I said that Durga Pujo is not celebrated here. It is celebrated in Abu Dhabi, also in Dubai. The Pujo celebrations in Dubai takes place in the Sindhi Hall tucked into an alley in the Meena Bazaar area. Though this cannot be compared to the scale and the grandeur with which the celebrations occur world-wide. Yes, faith is in the mind but unfortunately celebrations aren’t!

Traditional Bengali Attire
Bengali tradition is reflected by two colours – Red & White

The last entire week the Bengalis world-wide were caught up in a festive frenzy celebrating their biggest festival – the Durga Pujo. Today is Bijoya, the last day of the worship and the celebrations come to an end as everyone greets each other, the younger ones seeking the blessings of the elder ones. The Bengali married women wear their traditional white saris with red borders and perform the Sindoor Khela where the married women smear each other with Vermillion. The men engage themselves in embraces – the Kolakuli. Bengalis feed each other, gift each other and share with each other – yes, you guessed it correctly – Sweets!

As I binge on the Pujo pictures downloaded from the Facebook albums of my friends (with permission ofcourse) and inundate my desktop the following have been some Bong food posts that I’ve been drooling on –

– Aloor Dum
– Durga Puja Ashtami Bhoger Khichudi
– Feasting during Durga Puja
Mishti Doi/Sweetened Yoghurt
– Mitha Chawal/Sweet Rice
Mutton without Onion Garlic
Rasgulla/Roshogolla

Durga Pujo Card collaborately made by the Z-SISTERS
Durga Pujo Card collaborately made by the Z-SISTERS

Tomorrow is also Eid. This indeed is a festive season and I’ve only one thing to pray for – May your lived be filled with peace, prosperity, health and happiness. And may peace prevail everywhere!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

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Disclaimer: I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. While you enjoy seeing them please don’t use them. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here. Chappan Bhog, Bikanerwala, Puranmal are just a few examples of very good sweet shops in Dubai. Most are located on Trade Centre Road in Karama and you may find all details from the internet.

My Dubai diary in this blog:
♦ Things To Do In Dubai – Like A Tourist In My Own City Showcasing the city I love to call my home!
My First Authentic Emirati Food Experience! – Al Fanar Restaurant, Dubai Festival City
An Evening of Wine Tasting at Asado Wine Club – Asado Wine Club, The Palace Hotel, Old Town*
♦ The Label Project – Wines Tasted Blindly! – Invite to a Global Wine initiative from Jacob’s Creek
TRIBES Celebrating South African Heritage Day! – TRIBES, the South African Restaurant in MOE*
Zatar Lamb, Crushed Lemon Potato with Chef Ron Pietruszka – Treat 2012, Burjuman World Food Fest + a Recipe
♦ Back To Dubai, Back to Costa –A nostalgic recount of favourite coffee haunt
Searching for Shiraz – Lucknow to Kolkata to Dubai – Nostalgic search for Kolkata’s famous Shiraz Restaurant ends with Siraz opening in Bur Dubai. Exploring some Awadhi/Lucknowy Khana!
♦ Down To Earth Organic Store In Dubai & Mutton Chick Peas Curry – An event + a Recipe*
Mums Who Share @JBR A charity initiative
♦  Deep Sea Fishing & Fish Barbeque – Persian Gulf off Dubai Coast
♦  The Million Street, in the middle of nowhere – Rub Al-Khali Desert, UAE

Bengali Food Banters you’ll find in my blog:
Traditional Bengali Cuisine… In ‘Slight’ Details! – An etymological explanation to the Bengalis’ food festish
♦ Pickles… Mother (-in-law) Of All Pickles! – My Pickle Nostalgia
♦ Momos in Tiretti Bazar – The Last Chinese Remnants! – A chinese Bazar near Poddar Court
♦ Phuchkas in Vivekananda Park – An ode to Dilipda’s ‘world-famous’ Phuchka
Bengali Sweets That Came By Parcel! – Gujia, Jibe Goja, Abaar Khabo & Jolbhora
Rôshogolla (রসগোল্লা) – Bengali’s Own Sweet – An essay on the most famous Bengali Sweet

Bengali Food Recipes you’ll find in my blog: (Do click on Recipes, Reviews, Events for a complete list of all food banters)
Mutton Kassa With Red Wine And Red Grapes – Bengali Fusion
♦ Khichuri As Harbinger of Hope & Kolkata Soaked In Rains – Traditional Bengali/Indian
♦ Hot Garlic Pickle… The Pickled Diary – Episode 1 – Indian Pickle
♦ Firni or Ferni, Ramadan or Ramzan, Mallick Bazar or Karama? – Indian Dessert
♦ A Tale of 2 Cities & Naru/Coconut Jaggery Truffles – Traditional Bengali
♦ Phuchkas in Vivekananda Park – Indian Street-food/Snacks
Kaancha Aamer Chutney/Green Mango Chutney – Traditional Bengali
Notun Gurer Payesh/Rice Pudding & My Dida – Traditional Bengali
Rasgulla Macapuno – When a Filipina Turns Bong! – Dessert; Bengali Fusion
Mango Lentil Soup/ Aam Dal – The Summer Combat – Dal; Traditional Bengali
Easter Egg Curry – Side-dish; Bengali Fusion/Traditional Bengali/Continental
Mashed Potato Bengali Style/ Aloo Bhaaté – Side-dish; Bengali Fusion
Yoghurt Aubergine with Pomegranate – Side-dish; Bengali Fusion
Purple Haze Yoghurt with Purple M&Ms – Dessert; Bengali Fusion
Icecream Rasgulla with Blueberry Sauce – Dessert; Bengali Fusion

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