Beyond Dal Batti Churma What Food To Eat In Rajasthan

Dal Bati Churma is almost synonymous with food in Rajasthan but my last trip to Rajasthan that spanned 2000 kms and 9 days was a gastronomic revelation. Rajasthani staple food I found to be quite simple and easy on the stomach and apt for the climate. We ate a lot of millets, gram flour, lentils, buttermilk and milk based products,meats and a few other vegetables that are indigenous to Rajasthan. Rajasthan being largely covered by the dessert has very few vegetable and green varieties and this reflects in the food.

 

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The winter crop of mustard in all its glory!

Breakfast in Rajasthan is mostly options like fafda, pyas kachori, methi pakodas which is fried gram flour balls with fenugreek leaves. In Jaisalmer we also saw Sindhi cuisine influences with dal pakwan and a few other interesting breakfast options. The dessert offered interesting snacks and breakfast options throughout the journey be it at a resort, a camp, a haveli or a street vendor. Biting into a methi pakoda and a fried chilly with chai on the old dessert morning was amazing.

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Yummy street food and snacks in Rajasthan
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Pyas Kachori which is quite famous in Rajasthan
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Dal Pakwan which is unique in Jaisalmer and shares its roots from across the border.

Rajasthan has quite a strong history with food, we glimpsed on this at a haveli inside the Jaisalmer fort. The kitchen and was right on top of the haveli, it looked like a constant in the palaces and havelis of Rajasthan where the kitchens were right on top of the 3-4 story buildings in some cases with the dining area adjoining it. This is a mere observation and I could be wrong.

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Dining area adjoining the kitchen in a haveli 

Note the large tiffin carriers kept in the corner which probably the men carried on long journey’s or to work. The seating was on the floor with the men and the elders being served first (which is not my jam )

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More on traditional dining

Some amazing restaurents we found on our journey across Rajasthan were Millets of Mewar in Udaipur which had a very relaxed atmosphere and had a very pleasing menu of authentic millet preparations from Mewar, Hari Ghar in Udaipur where we gorged on some amazing non vegetarian dishes, Good Hall restaurant in Barmer with mind blowing and truly yummy food. Since we are talking about amazing food one more place I can’t but mention is the home cooked meals we shared with our hosts in Siana Camps and Safari which found us in aristrocratic company in untouched rural Rajasthan.

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A vegetarian thali at Millets of Mewar (Udaipur)

Rajasthan also offers some very local delicacies such as pyas kachori, mirchi bada which is a delightful combination of mirchi, spicy potato mash which is batter fried. Another local delicacy from Jaisalmer which is not widely known is a sweet called Gotuwa which is a ladoo preparation made by one sweet shop in the inner fort area of Jaisalmer.

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Gotuwa a sweet popular in Jaisalmer
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A spicy breakfast of mirchi bada in Jodhpur

Food ofcourse is amazing in Rajasthan but the ambience, the hospitality and the settings from as different as jungle lodges to havelis, backpackers getaways to palaces to roadside pitstops, dessert camps to sparkling lakes makes one appreciate the nuances of the local cuisine and adds the magic.

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Breakfast at Kankarwa Haveli next to the Lake Palace Udaipur
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Road Trip Along Coastal Karnataka

Driving along the Karnataka coast can give you three things, an appreciation for Konkan fish fry, a tan and the cognition that beaches of the Arabian sea can be aqua marine. We recently went on a road trip from Bekal which is a coastal town on the Kerala Karnataka border till Calangute in Goa.

This road trip essential took us along the coast in Karnataka aka the Konkan aka Kanara. The beauty of the Konkan coast first came to be recognized to the uninitiated when the first train of the Konkan railway chugged along the sea coast on one side and verdant valleys and hills on the other side.

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The road trip was to start at 3:30 am as we like to start early, we planned to leave our little one in his grand parents care as we planned to do the trip on a budget. Our little one soon got wind of our master plan and clung to me, we finally appeased him by bribing him with the prospect of us bringing back a gift for him which we absolutely honored.

The drive to Goa from Kundapur was legendary  with the Arabian sea changing its colors from black to aqua marine on a whim.

This was the first time I was travelling for close to 10 days without my little one and my constant companion, we hardly take a leak without accompanying each other.  After all our early morning excitement we left for the trip at around 7 am and promptly got stuck in Bangalore traffic (I know..).Our first stop was at Bekal, we drove to the Bekal beach park and called our hotel where we had our first reservation, turns out the reservation was cancelled without letting us know. Hence we were at Bekal beach park seemingly homeless, eating egg bhaji and coffee while trying to call up other hotels. Finally we got a reservation in a five star hotel (so much for our budget trip).

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The second day I fell ill and thankfully had very fluffy pillows to sleep in, the third day I got some of my energy back and we went to the iconic Bekal fort of Tu hi re fame. It turned out to be one of the few well maintained forts in India, though I wish a little more of the history was explained at the site. Our next stop was Udupi and enroute we feasted on a new  Arabic delicacy that has invaded north Kerala named Kuzhimandi biriyani. At Udupi we halted at the Krishna temple after the GPS decided to take us around a few other Krishna temples. Udupi ofcourse has amazing restaurants and equally amazing coffee.

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Our next pit stop was Malpe beach which I would recommend very enthusiastically to water sports and beach enthusiasts. We watched a jatra competition which was open to the public at the beach, saw some amazing display of kites and then decided to try our hand at the one minute para sailing sessions. The para sailing team and their turn around time was simply wow, they were pretty professional and valued the safety of their patrons. I just wish the people on the beach understood that safety is an important part of life and being alive.

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After spending the evening at Malpe beach we drove to Kundapur to a Confluence hotel and dug into some well deserved Mangalorean dinner. Kundapur was the half way point on our road trip to Calangute and back and it was here that we discovered that Shetty Lunch Home has the best akki roti, ghee roast chicken and the most succulent fish fry. At the hotel we looked up the things to do section and decided we would drive to Kodachadri, we had not done much research and made some discoveries along the way and an impromptu trek after a horrific drive up Kodachadri in a local jeep.

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After we left Kondapur with its many waterfalls, hills and historic temples and forest reserves, we drove down Maravanthe – the prettiest beach I have seen. The next town Murudeshwar  surprised us with its iconic Shiva statue and well developed tourist hot spot and water sports. We planned to reach Calangute, in Goa to ring in the New Year and bid adieu to the old man. The drive to Goa from Kundapur was legendary  with the Arabian sea changing its colors from black to aqua marine on a whim. Goa of course was a different story but coastal Karnataka is worth hyping about and deserves applause for the beautiful beaches preserved here.

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Pictures credited to co navigator and driver Razor Rasu.

The Vanishing Post Boxes of India

” You received a Speed Post Article for delivery. Thank You for Using India Post. Please track further status here. Download “Postinfo” India Post Android app at Google Playstore.” This is a message I received today morning and it brought me immense happiness because other than shopping deliveries and junk mail I rarely receive snail mail these days.

Growing up I used to religiously write letters to my friends who lived in other parts of India since I kept moving around and receiving a letter was one of those moments that defined a good day. It invariably started with ” How are you doing? I am doing fine” but for a 9 year old that is good prose. I have most of these letters kept safely tied with a red ribbon. In recent years I have progressively seen post boxes and post offices in India almost vanishing, hence I took it upon myself to start clicking them wherever I see them much to my husbands chagrin. Here are some of my best clicks so far.

Kolkata the city of Joy
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The post box inside Rabrindra Bari (Rabindranath Tagore’s house) in Kolkatta. This was a hot and humid day when my brother, my sis in law and me decided to explore Kolkatta without any itinerary. Most of the time hence was spent seeing locked museums, tram rides and following random strangers who asked us to follow them to the nearest metro station through the crowded and narrow lanes of old Kolkatta.

A Post Woman at a one room post office
Coorg

 

A Post office and the post woman which is next to an Anganwadi in Coorg, Karnataka. This was on a road trip to Coorg and driving through the hills and coffee plantations around Coorg. We had gone to buy spices at Gonicopal and crossed this small hamlet, when I got down to take a pic of this post office this lady came out and inquired where I was coming from and we exchanged some small talk as the children in the anganwadi next door chanted rhymes. She then posed for this pic for me the strange city dweller.

Post box on top of Nandi Hills on early misty morning

Post box on top of Nandi Hills one early misty morning. This was clicked on Republic day on Nandi Hills and apparently a quarter of Bangalore also had the same idea that morning. We saw the flag hoisted on top of this hill as the clouds swept over the hill. It was a lovely morning with friends after which we gorged on parathas from the Indian Paratha House which is en route.

A Post Office closed for the Navratri festival at Gokarna.
A Post Office closed for the Navratri festival at Gokarna.
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Cherrapunjee

A post office in the misty mountains of Cherrapunjee.

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The post office in Leh market at 14,000 Feet. Rarified air and rare letters from far a wide connecting this mountain abode with the rest of India.

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I took this pic inside the ISB campus on an official trip as a speaker at ISB. This is my first pic shot of a PO inside a campus.

 

Traveling with a Baby the Journey So Far

I recently spoke about these experiences at a travelers meet here in the city hosted by an enterprising travel company called F5 Escapes which along with group tours for families and individuals specializes in travel for women. They always seem to have a list of compelling tours for women planned in their dossier. It was also exciting to hear other stories at this #JustGo event from other women travelers on their journeys and travel experiences.

It is true that I expected to have traveled as much as I could before my baby was born and then probably stay in one place and ‘ settle down’. But the truth is that since he was born we have traveled more and much further. So far since my kid, we have managed to tick 7 countries from our list and have actually lived in 4 of these countries for a couple of months. Not bad for a 2 and half year old rt? Now the next milestone we have is when my toddler will start school and as friends with good intentions tell me that once the kid starts school we will have to put away our suitcases for the next 10 or more years. This of course remains to be seen.

You will need  a lot of enthusiasm as you will in evidently end up chasing a toddler around an airport.

We gave birth to a born traveler who happens to be more at ease and amicable on the road than anywhere else, home seems to be the last place he wants to be in. We aren’t strangers to long haul flights, sleeping at airports and making the best of the available food though I do follow some basic rules like always keep three things handy eats, entertainment and enthusiasm. You will need the last one a lot as you will in evidently end up chasing a toddler around an airport.

It has been our experience that kids adapt fast and sometimes better than adults and we experienced this first hand as my then 9 month old baby fell in love with noodles in Singapore, waddled in his thick fleece jacket with us around China and charmed many locals, hmphrrd like a hippo in Kenya and trekked with us in South Africa at Cape Point. Traveling with my kid has been quite different from traveling solo or as a couple as our first thought before we travel to a new destination is his well being.

Young ones are sturdy they managed the difficult trip down the birth canal didn’t they.

The reactions from different people in these various countries have also been very welcoming. We have posed for umpteen photos with strangers in China, have always managed to get special service at restaurants as my kid managed to charm waitresses and sometimes cooks. Have had staff at hotels give us small gifts for the kid and many interesting conversations with locals. We have had some small scares on the road too like being stuck on the road with four consecutive flat tires in Kenya, being pulled aside by the authorities at the airport because the kid was running a slight temperature, falling sick in China even after ensuring that he ate only hygienic food. Our positive experiences out weigh any small bumps we might have on the road. I would quite wholeheartedly recommend that families travel with young children beyond theme parks, you never know what adventures you might run into.

At an airport in China when traveling alone with my kid
At an airport in China when traveling alone with my kid