Perks of work travel – Epicurean Mumbai signpost

The gourmand traveler in me feels blessed when at times my work demands tour and I take this as chance to use the time out of office for fueling my passion of travel. But, it was until my last November’s official trip that I thought of jotting down the benefits of work-travel.

  1. Opportunity for recreation

Just imagine you’re being sent on official tour to a city where your favorite rock band happens to perform in the evening !!! Cool, isn’t it? You can take this as a chance for your rollicking affairs.

 In my case, I got the opportunity to be part of India Cake Fest 2016 held in Mumbai, which gave a platform to students and local bakers to get exposed and showcase their talents in the bakery industry. It fell during the dates of my trip.

Being a passionate homebaker, what more I needed.

  1. Meeting up people

I always believe nurturing new relationships add to healthy human experiences. An official trip offers you interaction with new people.

As I think back now, travelling on a Mumbai local train or bargaining at fashion street or the kaali-peeli ride from Colaba causeway to Nariman point at midnight wouldn’t have been fun if it weren’t for my bunch of amigos I met at my official trip.

I was in my mid-twenties’ crisis when I met these people who were in their late thirties but carried themselves as jolly teenagers. I used to feel old until I met them who made me realize age is just a number.

Most importantly they gave me reasons to jot down my next two travel benefits.

  1. Introduce your taste buds to many flavours

If you’re an experimental ardent foodie, then this kind of job is a blessing for you. Visiting different places let you know the culinary trademarks of the places.

This trip of mine introduced me to different eateries and joints that formed the food culture of Mumbai.

Juhu Chowpatty – The food stalls of Juhu Chowpatty  have churned out one of the outstanding street food of India – Bhelpuri. It has set as the benchmark for all other bhelpuris in the future.

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Originated from the food stalls of Mumbai, this recipe of Bhelpuri  has spread to most parts of India

Colaba causeway – A major land link between Colaba and Old Woman’s Island in the city of Mumbai holds some of the iconic eateries.

Café Mondegar – Who says only tranquility and calm can doff the tiredness of the day. Come to Café Mondegar where you can feel the mood of cheer by the sight of bustling mixed-aged crowd and the sound of music wafting out from the jukebox.

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Cafe Mondegar is the first restaurant in Mumbai to have a jukebox.
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Mario Miranda’s murals depicting ‘Life in Mumbai’ and ‘Atmosphere in Cafe’ adorn the walls of Cafe Mondegar. And here we’re depicting both in one frame… 🙂

It was love at first bite when I first tasted the onion rings with schezuan sauce. Not to mention the hotness in chilly garlic sausages that went superbly well with my pints of beer.

Bademiya – The sight of oil dripping, hot and spicy Desi food being devoured by people holding plates in their hands or at the car bonnets is not uncommon in this eatery’s alley. Try the Mutton Keema with roomali roti and you’ll know why this tiny roadside stall, which is filled with smoke and offers no place to sit, is legendary in street food cult.

Eddies Bistro, Bandra West – The demure husbander of European viands in the heart of ‘queen of suburbs’ Bandra , Eddies Bistro is an example of ‘café meets the bar’.

The miniature lamb burger and chicken roulade were the perfect accompaniment to the fine wine served. You won’t realize how pleasantly your evening will pass just by savoring every bite of your food.

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Chicken roulade

TAP Resto Bar – Leaving Mumbai without digging into seafood isn’t possible.

Deviled prawns with two house-special cocktails – Bull Frog and Seven Wonder were my company the night before my flight departure.

A fiery yet smooth concoction of Vodka, White Rum, Dark Rum, Gin, Tequila, Triple Sec, Whisky and Orange Juice – Seven Wonder hits the back of your throat without deterring you to appreciate the irresistible drink.

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Deviled prawns
  1. Knowing places

The best part of work-travel is that you can tourist places. Besides, if you’re a history buff or shopping aficionado or a souvenir collector, exploring a new place is a bonus point for you.

As far as I’m concerned, sighting the historical Gateway of India at my company’s expense is what my work gifted me.

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Quick fact: Erected to commemorate the landing in India of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, the Gateway of India was designed in Indo-Saracenic style.
  1. No run-of-the-mill weariness

Once in a while you need a break from your routine chores of your humdrum existence. There is no need to worry for food to be cooked or dishes to be cleaned or laundry to be done.

My life couldn’t be better when my evening is spent reading my favorite book and getting my food and wine served at my table while my manager sings to me instead of switching to boring motley TV soaps.

  1. Whet your adaptation skills

The quality that is admired profoundly by your employer, family and friends is your ability to adapt with different situations. Your work-travel does put you in some unwarranted and uncalled-for situations like – your flight being cancelled or have your luggage misplaced during transit ( and end up going to office in ripped jeans and T-shirt that you wore on flight !!!) and much worse, inhale ‘fart-induced’ oxygen inside an airplane.

If Charles Darwin would be alive, he would have mentioned ‘work-travel’ to be one of the key points in his evolution theory of ‘survival of the fittest’. 😛

  1. Frequent Flyer Points

Oops! How can I forget the obvious perk of work-travel – the opportunity to augment your FF points?  If you’re invariably flying from one location to another and you’re adhering to your preferred airline, the points will bucket up. What ensues is an opportunity to exchange them for upgrades and free flights, just like I did while flying from Dehadun to Delhi at only ₹900 and from Kolkata to Jorhat at only ₹1400.

  1. Stories to tell

Last and not the least, you would come back not only rich in professional skills but in travel experiences. Soak up those experiences – they’re memories in the making. And that’s what life’s all about.

Tangy fish curry with ridge gourd ( Assamese cuisine)

My culinary journey is incomplete without preparing my homeland’s popular authentic recipe – the maasor tenga ( tangy fish curry) – the epitome of Assamese cuisine. Khar( Alkaline) and Tenga ( Acidic) characterises an Assamese traditional meal. The knowledge of this recipe is one of my family heirlooms – my great-grandmother taught my grandmother, my grandmother taught my father and my father taught me.
Actually there are several ways to prepare the masor tenga depending upon the souring agent used. It could be lemon ( citric acid) or tomato ( citric acid ) or chuka xaak/ Sorrel ( oxalic acid) or outenga/ Elephant Apple ( betulinic acid)   or thekera/ Mangosteen ( a sour fruit indigenous to Assam). Season also affects the way of preparing it. For example, in the summers, the recipe calls for ridge gourd and lemon ( jika-tenga-maas) and in the winters, the recipe calls for bottle gourd and tomato( lau-bilahi-maas). Other variations are chuka-paleng-maas( Sorrel and Spinach), Dhekia-outenga-maas(Fiddlehead fern and elephant apple ), Kosu-konbilahi-maas  ( Colocasia and currant tomato).

I’ll share all the recipes that my grandmother knew in my forthcoming posts. But right now, let me share one of my favourite dishes – which happen to be my ultimate comfort food.

Ingredients                                                 Prep time:30 min    Serves:2

200 gms fresh river fish, cut into 1- inch thick slice
2 tsps turmeric powder
2 tbsps cooking oil ( I prefer mustard oil)
1/2 tsp paanch phoran ( It is a mixture of equal quantities of five spices: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds)
1 ridge gourd/jika – cut into small cubes
1 cup boiled potatoes
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 green chilli ( slited)
1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions
1. Marinate the fish with salt and turmeric powder for 10-15 minutes.
2. Heat oil to smoking point, reduce to medium heat and then add the fish slices. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side. Drain on absorbent paper and set aside.

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3. Add paanch phoran and coriander seeds in the remaining oil of the pan. When the seeds crackle, add ridge gourd. Add turmeric powder and salt and sauté for few minutes till tender.

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4. Add the slightly mashed boiled potatoes and green chilli and sauté for two to three minutes.

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5. Add 1 cup of lukewarm water and fried fish to it and simmer for 4-5 minutes in medium-high heat.
6. Lastly add lemon juice and simmer again for 2-3 minutes to let the fish absorb the tangy flavour.

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7. Remove from fire. Serve hot with rice.
Happy eating!!!!

The Golden Dragon – a taste of authentic China in Mumbai

Celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme once said, ” You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food” 

My gastro-travelling friend proved it right when she reached the height of food indulgence by pampering me with a delectable and mouth watering four course meal at the Golden Dragon – one of the jewels in the crown of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel,  Mumbai (India).
As we entered the hotel and made our way to the Golden Dragon, our eyes fell on the quaint historic treasures as well as contemporary ones being showcased behind the glass panels. Recollection of the splendour makes me feel so naive to describe more about the Taj Mahal hotel. All I can say that the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is the perfect amalgation of nostalgic classiness, rich history and modern facilities.
Our host of the evening was a cheerful and chubby gentleman. He made us comfortable with seats near the window overlooking the majestic Gateway of India. I looked out over the lively street with people enjoying the gentle sea breeze. The moon seemed to be playing hide-and-seek with the clouds in the sky. Everything around me perfectly set the tone for the luxurious evening.

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Rejoicing moments of indulgence. Pic courtesy: Dhriti Das

For the starters, our host lead us to order chicken sui mai & flying fish roe and pepper and salt crispy prawns. While we waited for the starters to come admiring the decor that spoke of the oriental trend, he served us with cocktails, names of which slipped out of my mind. 😛
For the uninitiated, roe is basically a mass of fish eggs. I love it specially when my mother deep fries it in mustard oil with sliced onions and green chillies with a dash of turmeric powder. However, I was quite skeptical about flying fish roe steamed cooked. My doubts were cleared when the succulent steamed dumplings came in a small and pretty bamboo steamer. The roe and chicken together wrapped in wonton skin had a mild smoky flavour and crunchy texture. I didn’t become quite a fan of it, still relished it.

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Sui-mai(Dumpling) and Prawns served on our plates. Pic courtesy: Dhriti Das

Being a prawn lover, pepper and salt prawns became my instant favourite. They were beautifully served in edible baskets with hot and spicy dip.
The Golden Dragon became our absolute sea-food haven when we tasted our main course – Chinese sticky rice and jumbo crab meat.Subtle tastes and fresh ingredients cooked in relatively mild sauces were highlights of these delicacies.

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Showcasing Sichuan and Cantonese food- Jumbo crab meat and Chinese sticky rice. Pic courtesy : Dhriti Das

A fitting finale to the meal was mango fruit flambé with vanilla ice cream topping. Interestingly, this dessert has only three major ingredients – mango, sugar and dark rum. It was quite a spectacular display when our host ignited the rum and sugar mixture in the glass and poured, still flaming blue, over warm mangoes.

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Toothsome mango flambé. Pic courtesy : Dhriti Das

I got the ultimate foodgasm when I tucked a spoonful of that dessert in my mouth. My friend could see my eyes gleam with delight as I was living one of the moments of intense gratification.

” There is no sincerer love than the love of food. “ – George Bernard Shaw’s felicitous quote defined my moment.
Our evening ended with a hot cup of Taj signature tea. We bid aideu to our host and the golden dragon placed over a soothing water feature – a perfect vignette to end my culinary journey with.

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My friend and I posing with the Golden Dragon

 

Quick facts:
1. The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is a “Heritage Grand” class five-star hotel located in the Colaba region of Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, next to the Gateway of India. It first opened its doors to guests on 16 December 1903. And the Golden Dragon – whose live kitchen plating of authentic delicacies like Peking Duck and Beggar’s Chicken is crowd-pleasing – was opened in 1973. Cost for two ( with alcohol) ₹7000- ₹10,000
2. Flying fish roe / Tobiko( in Japanese) are very nutritious due to high vitamin and protein content and large ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids
3. Flambé is the cooking method where alcohol is added to a hot pan and then ignited to create a wonderful display of blue-hot flames. The term comes from the French verb flamber, meaning to burn or flame. Flambéing burns off the alcohol, leaving the dish with the flavour of the spirit, but eliminating any harsh bite.
Chemistry behind it:
Alcohol boils at 172 degrees F. While water boils at 212 degrees F. And sugar caramelises at 338 degrees F. When flambéing, you combine all three of these reactions at the same time, since the surface burning the alcohol can reach 500 degrees F.

Dal tadka – A protein packed meal

Dal/ Lentil is one of the staple dishes in Indian meals, and for most Indian vegetarians, it is a frequent source of protein. It’s a common weeknight meal. The manner which it is cooked and presented varies by region.
I’m presenting you my variation which is a hit among my vegetarian colleagues and friends.
Ingredients                                      Prep time: 20+20 min      Serves:2

2/3 cup mixed dal ( I mixed equal quantities of masoor, arhar, chana and moong)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 large onion (thinly sliced)
1 large tomato ( chopped)
1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
3/4 tsp chilli powder
1/8 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsps whipped cream*
2 tbsps cooking oil
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves( finely chopped) for garnishing

Instructions
1. Soak the dal for atleast 20 minutes. And then, boil in 1 cup water with salt and turmeric powder.

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2. Heat oil and add coriander seeds and mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, add onion and fry till golden brown.
3. Add ginger and garlic paste. When oil starts to separate, add tomato.

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4. Add cumin powder, garam masala powder, chilli powder and coriander powder and stir fry till the tomato turns dry.
5. Reduce heat. Add whipped cream and stir continuously on low flame till masala turns red again and oil separates.

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6. Finally add the dal and keep on low flame for 5 minutes.
7. Remove from fire, add freshly chopped coriander leaves.
Just eat it the traditional way, served piping hot and mixed with hot fluffy Basmati rice.
* You can opt for yoghurt instead of cream for more healthier option without compromising the rich creaminess of the dal.

Salami breakfast cup – Bachelor’s breakfast hack #2

Morning exercise demands protein packed food whereas you’re running late for office. So this recipe is your saviour as you take your shower and get dressed up while it gets baked in 20 minutes. Just grab and go…
Ingredients                                     Prep time: 5+20 min         Serves : 1

5 salami slices
1 egg
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp grated cheese
1/8 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
Oil to spray
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly spray a oven-proof bowl with oil. Place one salami slice on the bottom of the bowl, then arrange four more slices around the sides, overlapping.

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2. Break an egg into the resulting basket.

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3. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, chilli flakes and grated cheese.

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4. Bake about 20 minutes, until set.

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5. Gently run a knife around the edges, then release the basket from the bowl.
* Don’t forget to thaw the salami slices in microwave high (900W) for 2 minutes before breaking the egg into it.

Poha – Bachelor’s breakfast hack#1

Breakfast is an important meal of the day – nevertheless it breaks the fasting period of the prior night. But, most of my lazy bachelor friends skip it to avoid the pain of collecting lot of ingredients and preparing it :P.
So, here I’m sharing with you a carb-rich morning recipe made of an easily available breakfast cereal – Chira/Poha/flattened rice.

Ingredients                                                  Prep time:20 min   Serves:1
3/4 cup poha
5-10 cashew nuts ( or any nuts of your choice )
1 tbsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 medium potato ( finely chopped)
1 medium onion ( finely chopped)
1 green chilli ( finely chopped)
1 tsp dried basil
A small sprig of curry leaves
Salt to taste
Instructions
1. Rinse the poha in hot water 2-3 times. Drain the water and set aside for 10 minutes.

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2. In the meantime, fry the cashew nuts in little oil and keep separately.
3. Fry the potato in remaining oil and sprinkle salt and turmeric powder.
4. When the potato is almost done, put onion and green chilli and curry leaves. Sprinkle dried basil. Stir fry for a minute or two.

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5. Put the cashew nuts and poha and mix well. And voila, you treat yourself with nutritious food.

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