Varanasi as I saw (ate rather)

Planning to relive memories of last visit to Varabasi.

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India is considered as one of the most confounding countries in the world, but travel through its cities and you would find an unparalleled charm of love, interest and culture. Even better are its food (street food and fine dining, alike) that differ from region to region yet indulges your senses.

One such experience I had while strolling through the historic and holy city of Varanasi in North India. It was a treat to the eyes and taste buds alike and that is when I decided to publish my first hand experience, as first blog ever.

Hope this city’s gastronomic extravaganza does attract you and gets you to travel there, at least once. Do share if you have similar experiences:).

I recommend all the places below to manage your hunger craves while in the city.

Reminder: Do not let the ‘health freak’ in you turn into an Orthorexic as there…

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Solo Road Trip From Mumbai To Bengaluru

 Start: The Oberoi Mumbai | Saturday, Sep 12 | 2:30PM

Destination: The Oberoi Bangalore | Sunday 13 | 4:30PM

Total Distance: 1,030KMS | Total driving time: 13hrs 46minutes

Overnight Stay: Raysons Regency, Kolhapur

I was relocating from Mumbai to Bangalore and decided to drive down instead of sending my car with the packers and movers. I had originally planned to leave early in the morning but over slept and hence ended up leaving only after lunch.

I highly recommend this route with certain precautions and you will understand more from the narration below.

The Mumbai – Pune expressway was great as most of us know but the road after Pune, and up to Kolhapur, could have been better. The rains that afternoon had spoilt the show and a lot of muck on the road was making it difficult to go beyond a speed of 60KMPH. It was dark by the time I crossed Pune and so I missed the beauty of the scenic ghats.

I took more than an hour to cross the ghats as one side of the road was plagued with heavy-duty road construction vehicles. The ghat road was already narrow and the ongoing construction work had further shrunk the width.

It was a great drive after the ghats and I was in Kolhapur by 830PM. A friend of mine had recommended me this hotel for an over night stay, but, soon after checking in, I found there was nothing great about the hotel. Not of much relevance though, because one only had to sleep in the room before starting the next morning.

I tried the famous Kolhapuri mutton and parathas and went off to sleep after this simple, yet sumptuous, meal for my ever-starving cravings.

I started driving next morning around 930AM and very soon, I realized this was going to be one of the best road trips for me in India. The highway after Belgaum was nothing less than a paradise for anyone who loves to ride/drive. 6 lanes highway, flowers laden dividers, neatly planted trees and far ahead, a cloudy yet blue sky – what else could one have asked for. I covered the next 550KMS in less than 6hrs with two breaks – one lunch and one refueling/tea break

I do not remember name of the fuel pump station where I stopped for refueling but the experience there is worth mentioning. It was very well managed – courteous staff, functional dustbin to throw garbage, cleanest toilets of the highway and a free ginger tea. Loved the hospitality in Karnataka.

I stopped at Kamat for lunch, and they impressed, yet again. Each item in the South Indian thali was mouth watering and the offering was more than sufficient to fill the tummy of this long distance runner (people who run long distance can relate to this and will find the thali extremely attractive).

You may consider any/many of the following points while planning/driving this route:

1: Drive through the ghat area before 6pm to enjoy the sunset and avoid the never ending traffic

2: If you can tolerate spicy food, Kolhapuri mutton is a must while in Kolhapur

3: Do not get your tyres pressure checked on the highway/at fuel pumps as you will always get the reading a lot lesser than optimum due to high speed

4: If you are driving solo, like how I drove, carry sufficient music playlists with you – or simply, turn on the Apple music how I did. Believe me, you will need all of these.

5: Carry sufficient money (preferably denominations of Rs 10 for umpteen number of toll collection centers who prefer exact change). I do not think it was less than Rs 1,500 in total

6: Be aware of a few road barriers, after ghats and before Kolhapur, which may not be marked correctly. Drive very carefully after dark or else you may miss them. They are quite impactful (I experienced one such barrier).

7: Try to drive in the middle lane/extreme right lane, specifically after Belgaum as a number of cars/bikes might be coming in the wrong direction from the nearby villages – a common scene after you enter Karnataka

Final point: try to cover this route over two days (one and a half day rather) if you are not in a hurry. Starting between 11-1130AM from Mumbai is ideal to get to Kolhapur before sunset. Enjoy the evening and drive to Bangalore the next morning – the sunrise on the highway is an unmatched experience

Drive safe and drive long!

Litti Chokha: Discovery of ‘Litti’ wala in Mumbai

Every year, when mom had winter vacation in her school and whenever she was in a ‘supremely good mood’, she would cook something ‘special’ for my brother and I. She would spend hours outside the house drying cow dung to prepare ‘Litti Chokha.

For sake of clarity, Litti is made of wheat balls with a filling of powdered gram (Sattu) and several spices. The Littis were baked over the cow dung fire and then soaked into clarified butter (pure ghee).

Chokha is generally made of roasted and mashed eggplant, tomato, and potato with a fine dressing of fresh green coriander.

Litti Chokha is served with tamatar ki chutney (green tomato sauce).

After moving to Mumbai right after graduating from college, getting this ‘simple food’ became ‘almost impossible’. I craved for Littis each winter and tried to eat at a few places in the city, but disappointed. Unfortunately, this amazing food was not easily accessible in the city in its original form.

I hoped to eat good Littis this year and thus had been trying to find a good place for last few months. In Nov last year, my vegetable vendor (and a friend who gives me 50% discount on all vegetables and also serves free chai and dosa) suggested me to try this place in Andheri West. The next two weekends, I traveled to Andheri West to search for this place but failed.

Sohini and I left earlier yesterday with a pledge to find it anyhow, this time. We soon figured out that this place was not in Andheri West but rather in Vile Parle. We were finally there and were staring at Littis, hungrily.

He fondly explained to us, while serving the second plate of Littis, of his good customer base from almost all over the city. He also told us the story of how someone requested him at midnight to make special Littis so that he could impress his female friend/s.

The Littis were fresh, the smell of Sattu was aromatic and the texture – almost right. He does not serve it with the ghee (a must for Littis), but the freshness nearly compensates for it. I would suggest you carry some ghee with you while going there (foodies would do that, happily).

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The Chokha reminded me of the ones made by mom in our childhood and I guess, by now, you would have imagined the taste of bhuna hua baingan.

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The green chutney was spot on with a texture of garlic and ginger which left our taste buds, active.

We ended our feast with two glass of chai and three plates of ‘take away Littis’.

I would say, this was my paradise where food was served straight from, aanch to heart. Go there to eat please, NOWJJ. And yes, carry change – 30 Rs per plate (works well even if you have new year resolution of saving money)

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This gentleman is ‘THE LITTI WALA’!

Address: this place is a road side stall(without a name) in Vile Parle W/Irla, and is located right opposite Gagandeep bus stop. While driving from Mithibai college to the Juhu circle, it is right after the shoe maker’s shop and you may easily miss it.

Varanasi as I saw (ate rather)

India is considered as one of the most confounding countries in the world, but travel through its cities and you would find an unparalleled charm of love, interest and culture. Even better are its food (street food and fine dining, alike) that differ from region to region yet indulges your senses.

One such experience I had while strolling through the historic and holy city of Varanasi in North India. It was a treat to the eyes and taste buds alike and that is when I decided to publish my first hand experience, as first blog ever.

Hope this city’s gastronomic extravaganza does attract you and gets you to travel there, at least once. Do share if you have similar experiences:).

I recommend all the places below to manage your hunger craves while in the city.

Reminder: Do not let the ‘health freak’ in you turn into an Orthorexic as there is no calorie counting allowed while in North India:)

1)  Ginger Tea (Nukkad Wali Chai) – this is a very familiar site in North India and Varanasi is no exception to it.  We started our day with a hot ginger tea at the nukkad (corner of the street), just before Kashi Chaat Bhandar.  The kulhar (a terracotta cup typically unpainted and unglazed) tea was a perfect way to start the day that chilly morning.  The ginger tea is very common in the city and you will find equally good tea shops at almost every nukkad.

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2)  Puri Sabji and Jalebi for breakfast:  we were hungry and wanted some hot breakfast after the tea.  We walked past Kashi Chaat (I am mentioning this street food shop repeatedly because this is a famous landmark there), towards the ghat and here this breakfast place was, right at the next nukkad.  The smell of hot puris ( also known as pudi, buri and luchi is an unleavened deep fried bread) made us even hungrier as we sat in that tiny restaurant impatiently waiting for our food to arrive.  The sabji (vegetable curry) was as hot as the puri and worked well in the winter.  Our feast ended with a dose of jalebis which tasted as sweet as the sweetness of a canister full of sugar condensed into a tea spoon.

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3)  Chaat for lunch @ Kashi Chaat Bhandar:  we had walked for more than four hours by now and had clicked pictures of almost everything that we saw (a gentle reminder to go easy with your camera and enjoy the sight of ghats, sadhus, animals and yes, food).  We needed a food break to oil (literally) our joints and there could not have been a better way than gulping 100ml of mustard oil per dish at Kashi Chaat Bhandar. I do not want to explain what all we ate there but rather let you enjoy through some of the visuals below:

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4)  Dinner from Annapoorna:  we were on an eating spree almost all day and had walked/traveled for the remaining period.  Our feet were aching exactly how they do after completing a marathon, each time.  We were too lazy to move! Yet hungry!  This is where Annapoorna restaurant came to our rescue.  I meekly called the restaurant nearly when it was about to close. Yet, we expected it to deliver the food to our hotel.  Yes, you read it right – they do deliver food in your room in any hotel in the city.  The gentleman who picked up the phone, was the owner of the restaurant and had gone home by then.  I was amazed to hear how welcoming he was even though we had called that late.  He not only accepted our food order but also followed up with his staff to make sure that the food reached us without any delay.  Such a relief to us, hungry souls!   May God bless him with many such calls:)

You must try their ‘Thali’ to believe what ‘perfection’ means.  You do get good food almost every where in the city but it is not usual to find wet tissues, packed water, top quality mouth freshners etc without asking for it. But, this thali was ‘equipped’ with everything you could think of for a dinner.

A 5star for their service, a 5star to their food, a 100star to their planning and a 500stars to their hospitality.  I wish I remembered the gentleman’s name to send him a thank you letter.

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5)  Travel back home with some sweet/s memories: Ksheer Sagar is a famous sweets shop and we decided for a brief break there, the next day.  It is, without a doubt, a top class sweets shop and has some most amazing sweets to offer.  However, I want sweets to remain a necessity and affordable and NOT become rare and luxury.

I would certainly go there next time but only after they have slashed their prices by 50%!

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