Roz Ka Khana

A blog about everyday food. Mostly Indian. All vegetarian.

Archive for the category “Travel Bites”

Bangkok Food and Travel vlog

I mentioned earlier that I would recount my Bangkok trip in a separate post. Or save the details for a picture collage. I don’t know…I’m really behind. We traveled to Bangkok and then to India so there are numerous food stories but I’m still organizing pictures and events in my head for them to make sense. Oh well. But I’m super proud of my son Nikhil, who, (albeit with lots of cajoling) managed to update his blog about our trip on our way home. (Don’t ask why it took me 2 weeks to even write about it:).

In any case I figured his recap and the short movie I have about our food adventures in Bangkok will sum it up, not entirely but enough to give you a taste. I realize bite sized recaps will work, to at least get me caught up.

I will also add that if you do visit Bangkok for a short trip like we did (3 days and 2 nights), and want to see all you can, hire a tour company to plan your itinerary for you. I would highly recommend Tours with Tong, run by Ms. Tong, an enterprising woman who has an interesting story herself. This company comes highly recommended on top travel sites like TripAdvisor and Fodors which is exactly how we chanced upon it. And I will say it lives up to all the stars it gets on reviews.

We had an amazing tour guide called Jintana who customized our tour according to our time, our needs, dietary restrictions etc etc. 5 stars to Tours with Tong! Fascinating to see and hear Sanskrit amidst so many Thai words and phrases. Jintana, I’m sure has its roots in the Sanskrit word, Chintana , meaning thought. Jintana, she said, meant imagination which was close.

Here’s a fascinating tidbit of what Jintana told us, amidst the splendor and history of Bangkok city’s stories. Did you know that Bangkok city’s real name is “Krung Thep” meaning City of Angels. And this is only the shortened version of it’s real name which is..

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.  (Try saying that fast twice:) This is also the longest name of any city in the world, certified by the Guniess book of World records. And an impressive number of local Thais remember to recite the full name, through a song and it goes like this:)

Translated in English as – The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.

Okay so I made this post longer than I intended so I will let the pictures speak for themselves. We did a combination of a city transport tour and a hired transport/car tour and I think it was the perfect combination for 2 days to take in the local sights and flavors with the public transport (bus, train, ferry and walk) and the guide with car for the longer commutes (Tiger temple, train market and floating market).

Here’s another vlog of the Train market, another must-see. Watch how the fish, fruit and vegetable vendors throng the train tracks. When the train arrives (3 times a day), they “move back” and make way for the train. Amazingly, as the train departs, it’s business as usual:). Entrepreneurism at its best!

And there you have it. A quick recount of our trip, which doesn’t do justice to the gazillion things to see and do in Bangkok, or the rich culture and heritage it has among it’s temples, palaces, the curious connection between Hinduism and Buddhism as is evident by the names of the streets, the people, their great King and the stark contrast between the monasteries, temple monks and the bustling nightlife at Sukhamvit:)

Bangkok is a city I’d love to explore again…

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Vaghaar Idli

Two weeks of traveling have taken its toll – I’m so behind on blog posts all over again:(. They were an amazing two weeks though as we were visiting Bangkok and then India. And not surprisingly, full of gastronomical adventures. I will save the Bangkok food pictures for a later post which is an entire food album.

This was our first weekend back together at home as a family again. Home in Singapore I mean. Someone asked me what “home” really means to me these days – India where I grew up and spent all my “formative” years, the US where I spent almost a decade and a half of my “grown up” life, or Singapore where I am barely a few weeks old . Tough question, when travels take you everywhere and you aren’t sure what’s next. Truth be told, I do miss the US every single day, but remind myself that this is a short stint and I need to make the most of my experiences here in Singapore. And India of course is just a “stone’s throw away”, well, at least compared to the distance from the US. So I suppose I have the best of all worlds here:). Humor me, will you, as I call this home (for now:).

In any case, I had so much idli batter left over from yesterday’s Varalakshmi pooja (again, a separate post. Told ya I was behind:) that I tried this quick recipe which turned out great for using leftover cooked idlis. This recipe is courtesy “Sankalp” restaurant in Dallas. I tried this dish when we went to Sankalp during their first opening weeks and I know Nikhil loved it. This will be a lunch box staple for him over the next few weeks when school starts:)

Ingredients:

Red onion chopped – 1

Medium tomato chopped – 1

Green chilies – 3-5 per taste finely chopped

Mustard seeds – 2 tsp

Urad dal – 1 tsp

Jeera or cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Curry leaves – 1 sprig

Olive oil – 2 tsp

Mini idlis – about 15-20. Alternatively you can cut one idli into quarters, so you will need about 4-5 full idlis.

Method:

1. Take a heavy bottom vessel or kadhai and add the oil. When the oil is hot add mustard seeds.

2. Wait for the seeds to crackle and then add the urad dal. Saute a little and then add the jeera.

3. When the urad and jeera are lightly browned, add the chopped onion and stir until the onions are slightly glazed. Now add the curry leaves and saute for about 2 more minutes. Make sure the onions don’t get too brown. Add the green chilies and turmeric powder.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for another 2 minutes. They shouldn’t get mushy, just lightly cooked.

5. Now add the mini idlis and stir till the “masala” has completely coated the idlis. The idlis should be yellow from the tuemeric coating etc.

6. Garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve hot.

Singapore Foodie and Newbie Meet Up

I can’t help but breaking out into the (annoying) Disney song…It’s a small, small world! 🙂 But it sure is, when you are thousands of miles away from what you used to call “home” and you meet people through random coincidences that are not only from where you lived and share similar interests but are or were in the same situation as you – a newbie to Singapore (or was) and a foodie!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my family and I have now moved to Singapore. We are what one may call “expats” which is the term this country is very used to by now, what with a majority of the nation being made up of them. Singapore is not strange to me by any means, in fact this is the first country I visited outside of the US when I was in high school – my very first “foreign” (phoren?) visit as we used to say in India:) My uncle and his family have lived here for over 2 decades now and I used to visit them during my summer break. But the Singapore then and the Singapore now is vastly different. For one, I don’t remember it being so crazy expensive (not that I used to really care about what others spent on me when I was a teenager) and I don’t know if I ever noticed how many expats lived here. Again, I probably didn’t care to notice then. I didn’t notice how jaw-dropping expensive owning a car was and yet how many Ferraris and Maseratis were on the street (beats Dallas hollow).

In any case, here I am in week 3 and a half of this “new” city/country exploring it like a tourist in some ways or just trying to keep my tween-ager busy.

So it was just last week that I was doing a Google search for the local wholesale fruits and veggie market to begin my juicing regimen. Google served up this blog entry from another inspiring blogger that I mentioned earlier. Well, its been 7 exact days after that search and I can proudly say that I now have 5 new friends in Singapore and believe it or not, half of them are from Texas:), and one actually happens to be from WI, which incidentally is where we lived before TX!! What else can you say but “IT’s A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL”….

So after my initial email exchange with Andrea Stunz, the author of Our Family Adventures – she was gracious enough to invite me to a shopping and dining shindig with “the girls”. Little did I know that the others were all relatively new or had moved to Singapore within the past year!  So we hit it off and were soon chatting like long lost girlfriends….there was so much to talk about. And so this is how I met Randi, JoAnn, Karie, Staci and of course Andrea, the social butterfly that brought us all together.

We walked around the famous Arab Street, supposedly the haven for textiles, Persian carpets, wicker, beautiful lamps, and did I mention amazing food:)

We strolled along, chatting, exchanging information, buying some tchotchkes, admiring the beautiful shops, imagining what we would do with the ornate lamps we would buy before we left Singapore back to the US:) and so on. No, can’t use them in the condos here – rooms are so much smaller than what we are used to.

We finally stopped for food at this simple no frills cafe called Cafe le Caire. And I have to say that was the highlight of this place. Plates of Mezze – hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, tahini, olives, hummus bil tomato (soft chickpeas with tomato sauce), foul (fava beans in gravy), eggplant in yoghurt and of course, pita bread.

I have to say this was the highlight of the day. The dishes were flavorful and light and (as anyone who knows me well knows), had so many vegetarian options that my day was made:)

We had such a good time that we parted promising to make this a weekly lunch group. Our next stop is to savor Dim Sum in China Town, so more on that next week.

Thank you Andrea for making it feel “like I was back in Texas” in your words:). It truly felt like we had all known each for ages, so I guess our meeting was meant to be in some ways. Looking forward to more such outings and a continued friendship. To the “Lunch Bunch”!

Soup, Salad and Fresh Fruit Juice!

Singapore’s local farmer’s market located in Pasir Panjang was a treat! Rows of local fresh veggies and fruits and the best part – there was no “wet market” to go with it:) This is the typical meat and seafood market that borders most produce markets in this area. If you are a vegetarian the wet market ambience is usually a turn off. They did have a separate section for dried goods which included dry fish, shrimp and dry fruits but instinctively they seemed to separate these from the veggie and fruit rows. The result – we came home with enough produce to last us two weeks:) Most of this was the excitement at finding a wholesale produce market coupled with the interest to introduce juicing into our daily eating regimen. It also seemed like a fairly inexpensive alternative to the otherwise expensive produce and grocery shopping I was slowly getting used to around here. This may be a “hidden gem” for expats here as there wasn’t much of a crowd and you could negotiate if you bought enough from a single vendor. So overall, a win win:)

And so this was our lunch yesterday – carrot ginger and tofu soup, sprouts-lettuce-orange salad with orange salad dressing and fresh orange and guava juice. Can you tell we bought too many oranges:)

For the juice, we used a juicer which is a neat contraption, though my only peeve is that several pounds of produce yields two to three (if you’re lucky) 8oz cups of juice. Until I figured we could use the fruit mush or the “waste” from the juicer into our smoothies for breakfast the next morning! And if you have the Vita-mix, you can’t tell the skin from the pulp anyway:)


Carrot Ginger Tofu Soup (from the Vita-mix recipe cookbook)

4 medium carrots, peeled and halved

1/4 small onion, peeled

4 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp salt

pinch of white pepper

1 tbsp fresh ginger root or ginger paste

1/3 cup light silken tofu

2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (I used Knorr vegetarian cubes but I would recommend the low sodium broth minus any MSG)

Method:

1. Place carrots, onion and garlic in the Vita-mix container and secure the lid.

2. Select Variable 1, turn the machine on and quickly increase  speed to Variable 4 or 5.

3. Blend for 10 seconds until coarsely chopped.

4. Heat oil in a pan and sauté chopped ingredients until the onion is clear and the carrots are tender. Add a little broth if needed.

5. Place remaining ingredients in the Vita-mix container, add the sautéed ingredients and secure the lid.

7. Select Variable 1, turn the machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to high.

8. Blend for 3-4 minutes or until heavy steam escapes from the lid.

9. Garnish with celery leaves and enjoy!

Sprouts, lettuce and orange salad

1 cup whole green gram (mung) sprouts

1 cup butter or romaine lettuce leaves (spinach leaves are preferred but that was one leafy green I didn’t buy that day:)

1/4 cup cabbage grated or coarsely chopped

1/4 cup boiled green peas

1 carrot, grated

1 firm orange, peeled and cut into bite size chunks

Dressing –

3 tbsp orange sauce

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

salt to taste

Method : Take about 1/2 tsp olive oil, add 1/2 cup orange juice and about 2 tsp of orange rind. Add some agave syrup to taste.

Arrange the lettuce/spinach leaves and orange segments on a platter. Spread the salad mixture over the orange and spinach. Spoon the orange sauce over the salad. Chill for a couple of hours before serving.

To new beginnings…

So much has happened in the last few months that I’m not sure where to begin. For one, this blog now comes to you from Singapore! Yes, the land of orchids, the Merlion, Little India and Orchard Road. And that does not sum up Singapore. That’s just what comes to mind for someone who has lived here for a week and a half. What’s hitting me is that this time, we are here to stay unlike our other vacation/visits to Singapore. And despite initial mixed feelings, I think I will love it….I already do:)

I thought about possibly changing the look of this blog and its address and give everything a fresh start but then again, Singapore is known as a foodie’s heaven for good reason, so the essence of my stay here is and will be food related. I just might digress now and then to give you a taste of life in Singapore, possibly as a resource for other expats, as some inspiring bloggers like this one, have done before. There aren’t too many of these out there and I find a void for vegetarian foodies travelogues in general, so keep checking for some food and other updates as I begin to chronicle our life in this city/country and wherever else life takes us.

Mughlai, Dallas

I’d heard about this place from several folks, mixed reviews since it opened in Dallas about 2 months ago, but a recent review from another foodie friend got us intrigued enough to venture out Friday night for dinner. Located in  the heart of North Dallas, this is a fine dining Indian restaurant, and Dallas has had its share of fine dining Indian restaurants that have unfortunately been short-lived so we didn’t have a lot of expectations to begin with.

The ambiance was quite contemporary and modern, with a full bar and an atypical decor for Indian restaurants which also didn’t really go with the name . Interestingly, the greeters and the waiters were all non-Indian as well, and from what we heard from the owner later, most hailed from London. We started off with some “Nimbu Paani” or fresh lime juice, and ordered samosa for appetizer. Samosa arrived before the Nimbu Paani which was good as we were famished. I have to say it was a pretty good start. The samosas were not re-heated in the microwave, seemed to have been fresh out of the frying pan, and were quite crisp and spiced right. The waiter came by to let us know that the Nimbu Paani was taking some time as it was being “freshly made”. We joked that they had probably gone to buy the fresh limes, but when the Nimbu Paani arrived, we had to eat our words, it was truly fresh and refreshing. So a good start to our dinner.

The menu was a pretty typical, traditional Indian restaurant menu, the usual vegetarian dishes, Dal Makhni, Bhindi fry, and non vegetarian dishes with chicken, lamb and goat. I have to say that when I saw that they had a lunch buffet, I had a biased opinion about what was to come. When a specialty restaurant introduces lunch buffets, I’ve noticed that it somewhat “cheapens” the menu. It’s probably the idea of “big batch” cooking that makes it lose it’s specialty charm. But most Indian restaurants tend to thrive on the concept of lunch buffets which is probably what sustains them.

Anyway back to the food. We ordered pindi chana, bhindi fry, and balti dal along with Laccha Paratha and Alu Kulcha. They asked for spice level of mild, medium, spicy and “Indian hot”. Of course we picked Indian hot and the servers were quite knowledgeable to gauge what we would have liked anyway. The owner soon came by to greet all his guests which also added a nice touch. We learned from him that this was their first restaurant in Dallas though they had been open in New York and New Jersey for a couple of years with the namesake (Mughal in New York and in Edison, NJ). He left us with the comment that he wanted feedback on what he could do to improve on the food . I liked that he was being genuine and open to feedback and criticism – something you don’t find often with restaurant owners and chefs, who are rightfully opinionated. So I was all ready with my food critic hat before the food arrived:). And of course, Girish, who has been to quite a few Indian restaurants in the US, thanks to all his travelling, was all set too to chime in. So we thought he was in for some pretty serious feedback all right:)

To our surprise – and I say that probably because of our low expectations to begin with – our experience was quite good. At the end of it, we would give the food 3 1/2 stars out of 5, 4 for the service and ambiance.
Now on to each of the dishes. I thought the pindi chana and the laccha paratha were the best items of what we ordered. The Balti dal needed some more “kick” to it but was tasty and the Bhindi could have been sauted a little longer.  The best part was when we actually provided this feedback to the owner at the end of our meal. He ordered the kitchen to re-do those dishes and sent us a “to go bag” with the bhindi, dal and a made to order kulcha for us to try at home. And he did take our feedback seriously which we gathered from our lunch the next day.

So overall, I’d say Mughlai was a good experience and we will go back again to try it. Hopefully the restaurant will survive unlike some others in the area. If they continue to strive for improvement like the owner’s mantra seems to be, I think they are here to stay.

Notes from a dreamy and yes, a gastronomical vacation…

We just returned from a 7 day cruise in the Western Mediterranean…7 days of blue and sunny skies,  sun-kissed sands, gourmet food, pampering, lounging on the magnificient Meditteranean Sea with stops in Florence, Naples, Rome, Palma Mallorca. The best part, no phones, no laptops and no access to the world. I dont remember the last time we had ever done that in our grown up lives. I did have some Facebook and Twitter withdrawals as I would have loved to tweet and check in to the amazing places we visited, but in the larger scheme of things, I was so more relaxed and calmer that this was an eye opener in many senses. To top it all, this was all in Spain and Italy, a feast not just for the eyes but for all the senses and for the foodies out there. As you can imagine, this was as much a vacation as it was a culinary fest. Tapas in Spain, Limoncello in Sorrento, Pizza and Gnocchi in Naples with Tiramisu and “Baba”…I was in food heaven.

Our first stop in Madrid was at this vegetarian restaurant called Artemisa. Great reviews from Frommer and Chow hound placed this at the top of my list. Let’s just say it wasn’t a great start to our holiday. They had sime interesting dishes like quinoa burgers and eggplant lasagna like contraptions which were edible. The quinoa burger caught my attention as I thought it was a unique and creative way to use quinoa as an appetizer and in a sandwich. But overall the food was bland and quite overpriced. Almost €100 for the five of us which by far was the most expensive meal during the course of our trip.

Quinoa Burger at Artemisa, an all vegetarian restaurant in Madrid

After a day’s stay in Madrid we reached Barcelona, the city of Picasso, Gaudi, the Segrada Familia, Montesserat, and the Tibidabo. We didn’t get to see all the sights in two days of course, but we did walk around the city to take in the local smells, and tastes. The Market at La Rambla, La Bouqueria was one such. To describe this market on thier own words, “La Boqueria is a gastronomic temple, a place that congregates all the phases in the food chain, from the producers, harvesters, butchers and fishmongers who provide the food, to the individual and professional clients who wander through this magnificent, characteristic maze of traders in charge of the market stalls.”
The pictures don’t do much justice to the lively ambience that exuded from the local markets.

Entrance to La Bouqueria, Barcelona

We boarded the cruise from Barcelona and the first stop after being at sea was in the “architectural” city of Pisa and Florence or Firenze as the locals call it. I don’t mean to be satirical when I use the word architecture and Pisa in one sentence, but we heard an interesting anecdote about the city of Pisa as we were being driven by our driver/guide. Pisa is a University town as the University of Pisa is widely known for its academic excellence. However there is one course that is not offered in this University and that is architecture. Apparently after the Leaning Tower of Pisa became the way it stands today (which is due to the shifting nature of the soil in this part of Tuscany), they decided that architecture was not the city’s panache and excluded the course from the University’s list:). I don’t know if the guide was just being glib but it was an amusing tidbit for a city so well known for its landmark.

I don’t have much to say about Firenze’s culinary offerings and not because there isn’t any, we just didn’t pick the right place to go to eat..the margherita pizza we had in Florence was worse than one I’d had in Texas:) Gelato, however, was amazing. So we knew it wasn’t Florence…it was just our choice of restaurant. The next stop was Rome, and all I can say is that, we didn’t do justice to Rome in one day. There is so much to this city that I will leave any description of Rome and of course it’s culinary delights to a separate post, when we visit Rome again:)

Naples, Sorrento and Positano, our next stops were one of the most beautiful and breathtaking sights as we drove alongside the Amalfi coastline. We stopped at Sorrento and walked through its bustling little street markets that boasted of everything from culinary treasures, olives, olilve oil, pesto, the famous limoncello, and everything else lemon, to clothing and jewelry.

A Lemon Specialty store in Sorrento

Pizza in Naples was actually an itinerary on our list, which we made quite clear to our driver/guide. I’ve got to say he was not only very resourceful but very observant… he obviously knew where to take us. We were driven to this apparently famous restuarant in Naples that sits by the Naples port, Antonio & Antonio, famous for its woodfire grilled pizza, gnocchi and dessert.

I’ve got to admit, this was THE highlight of our trip. I’ve never tasted as fresh a buffalo mozzarella and margharita pizza as this one before. We noticed the Mayor of Napoli (as the locals call the city) exiting this restaurant as we were arriving so we knew we had “arrived” as well:) This wasn’t a very fancy restaurant but had some elegance, nevertheless. Our driver/guide did very well with this recommendation and this was enough for us to tip him well. Can you tell we are all a bunch of foodies in this family?:) Bruschetta, Buffalo Mozzarella Caprese-like dish, and of course Pizza Margherita. We topped this off with their famous melt-in-your-mouth Tiramisu and the famous “baba”.

Napoli Baba

I had not tasted “baba” before until now and am hooked. These are sponge cake like brioches in syrup ( reminded me slightlyof tres leches but even better) of either rum or limoncello. The one we had at Antonio & Antonio was more like a limoncello syrup and was heavenly. This was by far our best pizza in Italy and probably my best Margherita ever so far. 

And that brings me to the end of this long post on this scrumptious note to savor the flavors that we had experienced. This was definitely a sampler of Europe’s finest gastronomic trips, only to leave us yearning for more. I’m already thinking about a longer vacation to Rome and Naples to take in everything else it has to offer, the sights, the smells and the exquisite tastes.

Mother’s Day Brunch @ Sutra in Dallas

A very Happy Mom’s day (slightly belated) to all those wonderful loving mothers out there! How did you celebrate this Mother’s Day?

Sutra is the newest Indian restaurant in town owned by the now famous Indian born Dallas chef Vijay Sadhu. I write this with no bias and despite the fact that Chef Sadhu happens to be a good friend of ours and we have been following his restaurant stints ever since he moved to Dallas a few years ago. All I can say is that Vijay Sadhu continues to excel. We have visited Sutra about 3 times now as a family since it opened in February and I’ve been a couple of times from work for lunch, and that says a lot:) There is a dearth of good Indian restaurants in Dallas and Plano, specifically, where Sutra is located and I believe this one is here to stay.

So for Mother’s day, we decided to head to Sutra for their first Mother’s Day lunch/brunch. This was an occasion where Nikhil had two generations to celebrate with, so he and dad decided to take me and my mom out to lunch.

Sutra’s decor is minimalist yet modern, an open kitchen where you can see tandoor bread and kababs being made. You don’t hear the usual sitar or Bollywood music but a more techno vibe. So not your usual Indian ambience, quite fitting for the area it is located in within the Shops at Legacy. An impressive bar greets you as you enter and the cocktails feature a full array of interesting names – Bollywood Martini, Sutra, Jaipur, Tamarind Margarita.

Mother’s Day Lunch included a 3 course menu with champagne for $15.95. A very reasonable price point for all the items included, probably the best price in the area. Appetizer, Salad, Entree and dessert.

We started off with the Cauliflower Kathmandu, the appetizer which has become a staple already. This is the third time I’m trying this Cauliflower Manchurian inspired dish – cauliflower sauted with Asian inspired spices. The spice level was just right for us, and of course, Vijay does know that we love our food spicy:)

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The salad came next – mixed greens with mango kachumber and cardamamom vinegerette. Interesting taste though I couldn’t quite taste the dressing. The combination of raw mango pieces with ripe ones added an interesting flavor though.

So far so good. We were already nodding in approval and the entree hadn’t arrived yet. There were a choice of 3 vegetarian entrees to choose from the lunch menu that day – Lauki Lazeez, Baby eggplant with gravy and Malai Kofta. Since we were five of us we ordered all three. Nikhil, being the “brat” he is, asked for Dal Makhni. Yeah, right, was my response…stick to the menu. To my and of course, his pleasant surprise, Chef Sadhu suggested he could get him a sampler of his dal, menu or not. I was impressed though I did mutter that he was spoiling my son. And I do want to add that I’m not mentioning this here to imply that you can go in to Sutra and expect to be catered to your whim every day, I’m sure there is a reason why they have a menu, but it exemplified the great service we got from the Chef.

We had tasted the Hyderebadi eggplant and the Malai Kofta before, and they were great, but the Lauki Lazeez and the Dal were the highlights. I mentioned to Chef Sadhu that I was going back to try the Dal again when it was a regular on his menu:). Flavorful and authentic would be the two words to describe the food thus far.

The best was yet to come. We had a choice of two desserts – kulfi with mango sauce and falooda noodles and a “bread pudding”.

I decided to be adventurous and try the bread pudding and I can safely say that this was the best adventurous decision I have made. In my humble opinion, this “double ka meetha” inspired dessert with saffron cream sauce and caramelized sugar topping was one of the best tasting Indian desserts I have had in a while. I had to take a picture of this as soon as it was garnished by the Chef himself.

Overall, a truly satisfying Mother’s Day lunch and a fitting way to celebrate. We would definitely go back to Sutra again.

Travel Bites – Mumbai Spice, Houston

Mumbai Spice!  Houston has its share of Indian restaurants – Kiran’s (reviewed here), Udipi, Bombay Brasserie, Mughal, Nirvana, and Mumbai Spice. The two that stand out are Kiran’s and Mumbai Spice. Mumbai Spice, my home away from home as Malini calls it, has some great treats. The food tastes great and the service is fantastic. Mr Bakshi, the owner is almost always there, taking care of every little detail and making sure that the patrons walk out feeling special. He has his repertoire of jokes and shayari (Hindi or Urdu couplets) that can keep you entertained.

Now about the food. The food at Mumbai is quite the traditional Indian food that you find at most Indian restaurants. His chef Buta Singh is from Punjab and he specializes in North Indian cuisine. His specialties are Tandoori Chicken, Dal Makhani, and Paneer Do Pyaza. Last night, my colleague/friend Anil and I walked in to Mumbai Spice and asked the chef to surprise us with his favorite dishes. He brought out Paneer Do Pyaza, Bhindi Masala and Tarka Daal with some White Rice and Naan.

One of my pet peeves about Bhindi Masala at restaurants is the amount of oil they use and how much they fry it. The Bhindi Masala at Mumbai Spice was done just right – not too green and not too fried – the way mom used to make it.

Paneer Do Pyaaza was good and had the right amount of spices in it. The paneer was soft and moist with enough of the spicing to add flavoring to it.

The one let down was the dal, I prefer my dal light and not thick! This dal was extremely thick and looked like it was picked up from last evening’s buffet;)

Bottomline- Mumbai Spice is a good place to eat good Indian food, though not as sophisticated as Kiran’s. But the quality of the food and the host make it a must try place in the Houston suburbs.

PS: If you do make the trip ask for the Mirchi Pakoras if you like really spicy Indian style Pepper tempuras.

Tantra – Indian food with a Latin twist?

Its barely our second day back from a 4 day vacation to St. Kitts in the Caribbean. Four lovely days of sun, sand and siestas…of picture perfect sights and the not so wanted tan (not for our already brown skins, that is). You could say that this was a good enough break to get me back to write again, but it was actually the one evening spent in San Juan that got me quite inspired enough to write home about. And San Juan wasn’t really the actual vacation destination. I started writing this on my phone as I was sitting at the restaurant waiting for the food to come, so I was on a roll:)

We didn’t really expect to find Indian food in St. Kitts and in Puerto Rico. Let’s just say I didn’t. I should’ve known better. There’s always an Indian restaurant where there is Girish. This is my foodie husband who has acquired this unusual skill of practically “sniffing” down Indian food from miles away, in the remotest of destinations. It must be the business traveller in him or the craving for home-cooked food , that has evolved into this unique species (Iphone toting and Google maps led) who can find himself a desi restaurant  in the middle of a desert. That was just a metaphor, but we actually haven’t experimented that in a desert yet so Girish, gear up for your next challenge:)

Anyways, to make a long story short, we had a night’s layover at San Juan, Puerto Rico enroute from St. Kitts. We decided to make the most of our one night by renting a car and driving around San Juan and of course, to find a good restaurant for dinner. A quick Iphone search yielded Tantra and this other interesting place called Bangkok and Bombay. Tantra was the farthest from our hotel so we decided to pick that just to drive around the city and take in what little we could in those few hours. An Iphone menu search for Tantra yielded an interesting description of a restaurant with an Indo-Latin inspired menu. We were intrigued and made our way to what we found out was the “restaurant row” in the heart of old San Juan. What followed was an interesting culinary experience. Not bad at all for something we stumbled upon over one night in PR.

A unique decor with a blend of East Indian, some Oriental (Buddhist?) mix, a large Ganesha, a humongous cobra atop the bar countertop, various Thai or Vietnamese inspired statuettes, ancient Indian artefacts and Indian culinary utensils on the walls, and a very inviting hookah bar like lounge area greeted us. Bollywood music videos were playing on the plasma TV which is probably a common sight in many Indian restaurants but there was something attractive about this particular setting given the ambience.

I am a vegetarian but love browsing menus just to sample the creativity of the evolved food conoisseurs out there. Shark Tikka, Seafood Rasam, Plum Duck Taco sounded very intriguing and very, very creative, so we made our way through perusing the vegetarian fare. We ordered the Artichoke tempura with a Madras-chili (rajma) accompaniment, and an Avocado uthappam (which we later realized was fish-based) and had to politely return it. So much for reading the menu:)

The presentation was equally interesting so I went ahead and included it here.

For the main course, Girish and I ordered the vegetarian sampler for two, which included, palak paneer, rajma, chana, masala dosa and sambar rice.

I asked if we could substitute the sambar rice for the kerala veg kurma with khichdi, and to my pleasant surprise, they gladly obliged. Four stars for service and flexibility, I thought. I’ve always wanted to review and savor good food but at times feel that my vegetarianism comes in the way of sampling all that I want to try… the service here put me at ease. Great service and flexibility with the menu in restaurants speaks a lot about their philosophy and practically opens up a whole new world for foodies, vegetarian or not. I was impressed, to say the least.

Sure enough, the kerala kurma and khichdi was the highlight of the meal. You could tell by the food that the chef’s specialty was South Indian cuisine, the Venn pongal or Khichdi had that authentic South Indian flavor and it was impressive that the chef had maintained that homely flavorful taste in a fusion cuisine such as this .

We learnt later that Tantra supposedly has the best martinis in San Juan, we didnt sample any that evening, but I was intrigued by a “blue cheese martini” on the martini menu..again the creativity was brimming.

Overall, a great find for us tourists and a place I would recommend and visit again when we travel to San Juan next.

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