Do you recall that warm holler of ‘Chai Garam‘ at Indian Rail junctions? Chai, tea, chaa – it’s a beverage that I cannot function without. A detoxifying lemon tea first thing in the morning, a tight milk tea toward noon, green tea or iced tea in the afternoon and finally a lightly spiced or flavoured milk tea in the evening. Yes, that’s my daily tea routine. And I love spiced tea, especially cardamom or cinnamon. I had mixed and ground a few whole spices together to make my own spice mix, but it was way too addictive to be consumed daily.
I’ve won this hamper of 500 cups of tea from Vahdam Teason Twitter. It came as a big surprise and is a blessing for a tea lover like me. They have sent a wonderful box of Cardamom Spice Tea, packed in airtight pouches and one sample each of Assam Spice Tea and Kashmiri Kahwa Spice Tea. I love the effort they implement on packaging the tea and send ziplock pouches to store them. I’ve tried all three varieties and loved each of them. They are different, exotic and very fragrant.
Cardamom spice tea
Cardamom Spice Tea – First things first, I have 500 cups of this beauty, yay! When you open the sealed pack, the aroma will instantly hit you. It is extremely organic as there’s no chemically added essence, but only crushed cardamom mixed with black tea. The aroma is so heady that I kept sniffing the airtight pouch till it was time to discard it. About half a tea spoon is enough for two cups of creamy cardamom flavoured tea. You just need to boil this flavourful mix with milk (adding a little water if you wish to dilute it). The black tea that is used in this mix has round crumbly grains and is strong. Crushed green cardamom pods and husk enhance the flavour to a blissful heaven. It’s a must try if you’re a spice tea lover or enjoy the Elaichi Chai at your local chaiwala’s.
Ilish is the elixir of Bengali cuisine, it is the epitome of all fishes, a delicacy that is looked forward to by everyone. There are only a few rare fish haters among Bengalis spread worldwide who don’t revere Ilish – I know a few such people, can’t say I’m proud of them though. Much has been written about this enigmatic fish around the globe, and about an average Bengali’s obsessive compulsive disorder in buying the best Ilish for their family. Have you heard of people serving Ilish to goddess Saraswati to worship her on Basant Panchami? Multitudinous families in Bangladesh and West Bengal follow the tradition of serving the goddess with a pair of good stout Ilish on Saraswati Puja. Similar rituals are followed on Kojagari Laxmi Puja right after Dusshera. While rest of the country is content in worshipping Laxmi with laddoos and other sweetmeats, few Bengalis carry the legacy of serving the goddess a whole, consummate Ilish later to be cooked and consumed as bhog. A good harvest of Ilish looks somewhat like the image below, with red/purple streaks vertically along its spine and glittery silver scales.
Did you know? Ilish grows and thrives in the sea, but travels all the way to fresh water in the estuaries to lay eggs.
At Gariahat Market, Calcutta.
My earliest memories of Ilish obviously dates back to childhood when we lived in the Ministry of Defence staff quarters at Ishapore (about 25 km from Calcutta, in the suburbs) near the banks of Ganga. While my in-laws’ house is within 500 metres from the river, we lived a little away in the staff quarters. Those days, about 20 years ago, Ilish was still harvested from Ganga and it tasted better than its other river contemporaries. My father used to reach the river bank at dawn where fishermen would be ready with freshly harvested Ilish, gleaming in the rising sun. Due to global warming, water distribution issues between India-Bangladesh and heavy export, Ilish has become rare in Bengal now. They don’t flock to Ganga anymore, I believe, as the Farakka Barrage diverts the water. The availability of Ilish mostly depends on Kolaghat (Rupnarayan river) and Diamond Harbour (estuary at the Bay of Bengal). This year though, has seen quite a bit of supply from Bangladesh, probably illegally. My parents have bought some of it in Calcutta, where the seller informed them in hushed tones that his father in law sent a lot from Bangladesh though channels. We have seen an Ilish weighing 3 kg here in Pune, which looks like import from Bangladesh too, priced at Rs 1800 per kg.
People never believed us when we insisted that the main agenda of our Bangkok trip was going to be food. Being a lover of Pan Asian cuisine, it was imperative that a holiday in Bangkok meant trying a lot of Thai food. Even with millions of tourists flocking every month and season, Thai and Chinese cuisine is more popular in the city than Global fast food chains for people who wouldn’t venture out of their comfort zone. Does that imply we didn’t try the amazing Samurai Pork Burger in McDonald’s or Beef Whopper in Burger King? Of course, we did! They were cheap and totally unavailable in India, which made themselves land into our list of items to try. But they aren’t eligible to be featured into these 5 must eats from Thai cuisine. These are nutritious, delicious and well within your budget if you’re a traveller like me and M. We love to explore the local cuisine of any place we visit, rather than sit in boutique hotels and sample gourmet food.
Eat all Thai 🙂
We recommend these must eat treats once you’re in Bangkok –
Spring Roll and Pad Thai – These two aren’t served together, but they’re often in close proximity. Thai Spring Rolls are probably one of the few vegetarian appetisers that we love. Crisp on the outside with a moist filling of veggies, always freshly fried and served with a sweet chilli sauce – Spring Rolls are a must on the streets of Bangkok. They provide a quick snack break, satiate your taste buds and come as cheap as 30 THB per plate. We’ve had the best ones at a stall on Khao San Road and it’s the best way to fill your stomach before you start partying.
Tomorrow is Vishwakarma Puja in Bengal. While every other festival appears on different dates each year depending on its tithi, Vishwakarma Puja has rooted itself deeply on 17th September and never budges. It’s an enigma created many decades ago and Bengal has been following it religiously since. Vishwakarma has been considered as the divine architect, the God of Engineers and machines. If you are in Bengal on 17th September, you’ll easily spot this good looking deity being worshipped in every factory, press, manufacturing unit and even in rickshaw stands. While other idols sport some weapon or the other in their hand(s), Lord Vishwakarma is proudly flanked by a kite! His arrival brightens up the autumn sky with vibrant kites (that have a name each based on their designs) that look like confetti spread all over the canopy.
But this is not an article about Vishwakarma Puja. It’s about an age old custom associated with the festival – Arandhan (no cooking). It is celebrated in the month of Bhadra, on the auspicious day of Vishwakarma Puja. Typically, the custom involves no cooking on heat for the day. Every item was cooked the day before and stored in earthen utensils to protect them from rotting in the autumn heat. The culmination of the month of Bhadra implies the end of monsoon and onset of autumn in the next month of Ashwin. Arandhan serves the purpose of cleaning up the household after rains and offer a platter of the choicest foods from monsoon to Ma Manasa (goddess of snakes). I think this ritual originated in rural Bengal to protect people from the wrath of Manasa and her army of snakes. Until my generation came into being, our families used earthen stoves (unoon/chulha) before the advent of LPG. After cooking up a storm for Arandhan, the stoves and kitchen were cleaned to perfection. A platter was served on earthenware and offered to Ma Manasa, symbolised by a clay pot placed beside the stove.
We love Chinese food. Well, who doesn’t! I think every ‘Chinese’ restaurant in India should add a disclaimer in their menu or decor that the food served there is unmistakably Indo-Chinese. Rather than a pungent and bland authentic Chinese fare, the food that has gained popularity in India has been influenced to an extent by local tastes. For instance, the Schezwan variety of spiced dishes served in Indian Chinese restaurants is quite a few notches fiery in hue and palate than native Sichuan food from China. Being a lover of the red hot Schezwan food, me and M had opted to try an authentic Chinese restaurant called Sichuan in London. As we sat ourselves and scanned the menu, the overwhelming odour of steamed greens and fish sauce from hot bowls served around killed our appetite. Not only was it very strong and organic in flavours, the items didn’t look very appetising either. We realised that Sichuan is not our cup of tea, but Schezwan definitely is.
Since then, each city where we have lived for a considerable period has gifted us a decent Chinese restaurant nearby. From Sizzling China and Shang Dynasty in Bombay, Shanghai Chef in Hyderabad, China Buffet in Belfast, The Golden Empire in Calcutta to Kimling Rush in Pune – we’ve found our calling and made these restaurants richer with frequent visits. Here’s a comprehensive account of Kimling Rush in Pimple Saudagar, Pune.
Address: Shop 1, Sai Ambience, Opposite NKGSB Bank, Pimple Saudagar, Pune – 411022
Kimling Rush is a quaint little cosy place amidst huge residential complexes. Since it’s a Chinese & Thai restaurant, the decor has a lot of Buddha motifs, busts, Chinese symbols and lanterns. The wall paints and mosaic tables are done carefully and are soothing to the eye. I liked the coloured glass water bottles at each table. They added a little colour and vibrancy while you eat, chat and relax. There are wooden dividers around the corner tables.
Have you heard of Gondhoraj? Of a scent that has allured people all around the globe and inspired restaurateurs to create amazingly fragrant dishes. Gondhoraj is literally ’emperor of aroma’ and there’s not a soul that would refute its nomenclature. Recent articles have termed the Gondhoraj as a distant cousin of the Kaffir lime. While K lime is found in tropical Asia, including India, Gondhoraj originates in Rangpur, Bangladesh. Anjan Chatterjee, founder of the Speciality chain of restaurants, fondly calls it ‘Rangpur Lime’ and asserts that it has failed to grow in climates and regions beyond far-eastern Indian subcontinent. Much has been written about this (sub)lime citrus fruit that has totally ruled Bengal and beyond.
Photo courtesy: Neha Banerjee
I’ll leave behind the history and background of Gondhoraj at this point as I’m not much aware. Growing up in Bengal, it is quite impossible not to be swayed by the whiff and tang of this lime. It represented summer all throughout my childhood, but global warming has made summer the ruler of all seasons in Bengal now. As a result, Gondhoraj is grown all over the year for its use in posh Bengali restaurants and even mid-tier ones that serve Gondhoraj mocktails, while the lime is still available for Rs 5 at Gariahat Market. I haven’t tasted those mocktails, but I’ve had the luxury to use Gondhoraj juice into a pot of tea, chucking the milk. Trust me, it tastes as good as plain lemon tea, and even better, if you’d ask me.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored/paid review. Visit to this property was purely personal.
I’ve been on a few holidays recently and mostly appreciated the lovely hotels I’ve stayed at. In fact, hotels serve an important tool for comfort and rest during a holiday. Me and M (my better half) have always been those kind of travellers who would get off the hotel post breakfast each day and come back only for showers and a good night’s sleep. While we were young travellers, a hotel was never meant for poolside reading or leisurely afternoons watching random foreign channels on television. We treated hotels as merely a shelter with a good washroom and an air conditioner. This time, a resort treated us well and I felt the need to start sharing my views of both luxury and budget hotels. The first one goes on to be Mystica Resort in Khandala, Maharashtra. The long weekend of Independence Day called for a mini holiday to Lonavala/Khandala, where we hadn’t been yet. So, we packed a mini bag and started off our journey from Pune to Lonavala.
The distance from Pune to Lonavala is 50 km and from Mumbai it’s around 100 km. If you’re visiting Lonavala/Khandala from any other city, you can hop off to Pune/Mumbai and use the easiest route via Yashvantrao Chavan Expressway. There are petrol pumps, washrooms and food courts on the expressway around 1 km before the Lonavala exit. Once you take the exit, you will enter the sleepy little hilly twin township of Lonavala and Khandala. The main town/bazaar road is around 3 km from the expressway and you have to turn left and traverse a narrow road for 1 km to Mystica Resort. The road leading from Lonavala town to the resort is narrow but not damaged.
Address:Survey No 133/134, Old Khandala Road | Nagpal Society, Opp Tata Prive, Khandala, Lonavala – 410401, Maharashtra, India
If you have read any of my reviews on Bangla books, you might be aware that Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay is one of my favourite authors. My admiration and awe for his writing cannot be described by just ‘favourite’. The author’s USP is his characterisation – you’d be amazed to get into their psyche peeling off layers from apparently mundane characters. They are people around us, but each with a different story to convey through their eyes or words. Have you ever read an entire novel on dialogues, without a single paragraph of narration? I’ve been learning not only the nuances of fine writing, but more about life in general from this octogenarian author’s works. There’s rarely been a story where he has failed to impress me as a reader.
Jao Pakhi (Fly away, Birdie) is one of the more tender stories with lesser shock value from its characters. It’s the story of a young man named Somen. He’s a rookie just out of college with his dreams still shaping up. His father, a man ruled by his ideals, lives in a village building his own hut and growing his own crops. His mother, however, didn’t leave the city as she raised her two sons and a daughter, married them off and still lives with her family. She wants Somen to begin working and establishing himself in the world like his elder brother Ranen. She wants their father to hand them his money from a policy that is going to mature soon.