Friday, October 28, 2011


Foodies like me can’t help but marvel at the most sensitive palates and the diversity and abundance of food available in France. That said it’s also because in France chefs are not only respected but worshipped too, so much so that even streets are named after them! The cuisine certainly belongs to its chefs who are constantly improving upon the past resulting in professionalism par excellence.

My first trip to Paris a few years ago, had left me gawking at every pastry window, thinking one required super natural powers to make such perfect gems, after graduating from a cooking school , I realized it’s not that difficult after all! Interestingly during the second empire, Jeanne Souchard, Ernest Laduree’s wife and daughter of a famous hotel-keeper in Rouen had the idea to mix styles hence the café and the cake shop gave birth to “Laduree” one of the first and finest Parisian tea rooms. The menu runs the Gamut from Traditional Croissants, Pretzel, Sandwiches, salads, and short crust pastries to the best Macaroons in town. At “Dalloyau” too, the pastry chefs make pastries that look like jewels and taste like ecstasy. Macaroons are a specialty here with flavours like velvet-black currant, liquorice, raspberry, lemon, morello cherries to name a few.

Foie Gras (pronounced fwä-grä) aka French for ‘fatty liver’ is a rich and buttery gourmet delicacy made from the liver of a duck or goose. For the French, it is not just a familiar ingredient, but an intricate part of the historical and cultural heritage of the people. Pate with Melba toast accompanied with Solera sweet wine from the Champagne region makes a winning combination. You cannot talk of French food and not mention the cheese, the most popular being the delicate and salty Camembert which tastes best with the Baguette (France’s best bread!). My personal favourite cheese however is the reach creamy and flavourful Boursin, absolutely stunning and tastes great with almost everything.

It is no secret that one of the best cuisines in France occurs in some of the finest wine regions. In Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Provence, Touraine, the wine is as common in the cooking process and is cheaper than water. Interestingly in 2010 Atout France published a survey that concluded that being accommodated at and sharing meals with winegrowers are top of the wine-tourists priorities after wine, visiting wine purchase, cellar and museum visits and exploration of landscapes.

Indeed Gastronomy is an integral part of the French cultural heritage as much as the arts!


• Exploring France involves all your senses.

• Not stuck in its ways, but focused on modernity.

• A new generation of chefs are making their own passionate, original and flavoursome cuisine.

• Bistronomie is the latest concept.

• Know-how and tips are passed down from mother to daughter through the generations, maintain the tradition of “eating well” with the family!


France is the first country to be honoured by UNESCO for its national food and cuisine. In order to honour this living heritage of French Gastronomy, “Fete de la Gastronomie”, a food festival has been created which will take place on the first day of Autumn each year across the country!
Published in HT city

Tuesday, October 18, 2011




Arab food has always enticed the foodie in me and my chef husband for it sounds really exotic, so when we learnt about Indigo’s (low cost no frills airline) incredibly low rates on their inaugural flight to Muscat, we smartly planned a trip. Omani cuisine is different across the various regions and is unlike the traditional dishes of the other Gulf States. A daily meal includes a variety of soups and salads which are usually based around fresh vegetables, smoked eggplant, tuna fish or watercress.

Our first stop that night was the Bin Ateek, which is a great restaurant for those who appreciate culture and tradition. It has a few floors, divided into private rooms, usually named after various places in Oman. Every room has its own TV and air con. Guests are seated on the floor, and food is brought on large traditional round trays to be eaten community style, just like at the home of any Arab. We literally ordered all the specialities on the menu. The star of the show was the “shuwa” which is lamb cooked for up to two days wrapped in banana leaves in an underground clay oven while marinated in herbs and spices such as red pepper, garlic, cumin and coriander. Being surrounded to the south and east by the Indian Ocean, the “Mashuai” made for a great choice, this fish is spit roasted and served on a bed of lemon rice is decadent to the core. Another indulgent dish is “Maqbous”, a saffron flavoured rice dish cooked over white or red meat. The other native curry dishes, based on various meats such as beef with green beans and potatoes or spicy fish in lime and coconut milk do not disappoint either.

Dates have a significant presence amongst the Omanis and are valued for its social, religious and agricultural value; one would come across fresh juicy dates all over the country. “Lokhemat” aka deep fried cardamom flour balls, served with lime syrup; make for a traditional sweet ending. And to complete the meal, you cannot leave without trying a deep rich kahwa which is strong and bitter and flavoured with the ever popular cardamom. Another popular dessert is the halwa, a symbol of traditional Omani hospitality and is usually served in homes before drinking Arabic coffee. It is usually made by combining starch, eggs, sugar, water, ghee, saffron, cardamom, nuts and rose water from the Jebel al Akdhar in proportions and quantities known only to the skilled halwa maker, and cooked in a “mirjnl”, basically a large cooking pot used especially for halwa, for about two hours. This halwa can be preserved for more than four months without losing its quality.

All in all given the natural hospitality of the Omani people, one is left with no choice, but to try everything on offer!


• The main daily meal is usually eaten at midday, while the evening meal is lighter.

• Main course has rice as the main ingredient, together with cooked meats.

• Breads rage from the plain to those flavoured with dates, sesame, thyme and garlic.

• Pork does not exist in the Omani diet as it is prohibited by Islam.

• Dining out options includes small coffee shops, occasional Lebanese or Turkish restaurants and roadside shawarma (shaved meat) stands.

Published in HT city


Friday, October 7, 2011



A robust combination of sounds and colours will light up your morning at the Mercado Central alias Central Market in true local Spanish style as I discover that Spain is a foodie’s haven and Valencia is no exception….

The market is known to have a surface area of over 8,000 square meters with over one thousand selling posts and is full of radiant stalls run by local vendors with fresh produce from near and around. In a section on the far side of the market are all the fish stalls with sea-food laid out on beds of ice. Fresh seafood is delivered here every single day. Interestingly the original paella Valenciana does not contain any seafood as it originates from the nearby marshes. Authentic paella consists of rice, saffron, garlic, chicken and rabbit. As you stroll through the scores of stalls, it is impossible not to be impressed by the selections displayed right in front of your eyes. One can find everything from fresh fruits and meat to a paella pan that serves up to a hundred people. It certainly provides a unique glimpse into the culture and flavours of the city. Tasting an Olive from a vendor or a sweet and juicy orange juice are unforgettable experiences. Obviously one cannot bring home the fresh fruits and vegetables but the Bomba rice (heirloom variety), the spices, and the special pans for making paella are delicious reminders of your trip to carry back with you.
An enormous highlight of Mercado Central would have to be the architecture. Built in the early twentieth century, now this art nouveau market is bathed in an abundance of natural light through coloured window panels and decorated with colourful ceramics and mosaics at every turn. The spectacular domed ceiling, with its sky high windows, is breath-taking beautiful. And the perfect place to buy local delicacies.

You cannot leave Valencia without eating the famed Valencian oranges. However much you might be tempted to eat an orange off the many trees in the city, be warned that they may look pretty but taste bitter and sour. Head out to an orange grove is a good idea if you must pick your own oranges. But at the Central Market you can indulge in all manner of absolutely fresh and flavourful produce.

Native to almost every Spanish household ‘Jamon Espanol’ is this giant, cured pig leg that is placed in its own special holder usually on the kitchen counter and is carved off whenever some ham is needed. If you are looking for something inexpensive then go for ‘Jamon recebo’, from pigs fed on a mixed diet. But the best and most expensive is definitely the ‘Jamon Iberico’, from pigs which have supposedly dined on nothing other than fallen acorns (bellotas) from the holm oak. You will come across many stalls of Ham at the market, offering this and Serrano as well.

For those who don’t know, ‘paella’ is not the rice meal, but the metal pan in which it is cooked. The shallow pans ensure that the rice is spread out well, and the thin metal guarantees a fine crust on the bottom. No one can pass up the array of iron and stainless steel pans at Ceramicas Terriols stall, where the owner also provides a recipe with every buy you make.

All in all exciting new food experiences will make your visit quite memorable!!

Perched high above the ornate iron and glass dome, its feet resting on a golden ball, is the Cotorra Del Mercat, the big green parrot that is the symbol of this market.

The Mercado Central was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1928.

Mercado Central de Valencia
Plaza Del Mercado, 1
46001 Valencia, Espana.
Tel: +34 963 829 100

Open Monday through Saturday from 7:30pm to 2:30pm.

Published in Imperia

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Humming away “It’s been a hard day’s night” whilst having a glass of “chateau Beaumont” along with my “Oven roasted Lamb rack” on my Emirates flight to Manchester, I thoroughly enjoyed my upgrade and was rejuvenated by the end of my journey. Indeed a perfect start to the Beatles town! It was the most scenic thirty minute drive from there to Liverpool.

 Next morning, I started my day with a visit to the Albert Dock, which is home to the “Tate Gallery”, which was quite unique and entry free, I took advantage and whisked through most exhibits but stopped to admire ones that made me slow down, the classics such as Warhol and Picasso. The “Maritime museum” was pretty amazing too though some of it saddened me as parts of it had a focus on how many Liverpool lives were affected by the sea and by war. The Docks also housed some of the best shops as well as restaurants and bars and I had a great time. I missed trying the Duck marine tour which seemed fun. It travels around the city then goes into the dock as a boat. The dock area looks even more beautiful at night, the old brick buildings all lit up by the Mersey River.
Later I also took a guided tour of the Liverpool Football Club of its famous soccer stadium and a visit to the impressive trophy room. Later that day, I encountered quite a few people wearing Liverpool football gear and established that there was a match on that evening at the Everton football club. It was quite infectious and I really wanted to go to the match. The main shopping area of the city was closed to traffic and the pedestrians streets allowed for a pleasant atmosphere when there with tons of people eager for the match. I'm not a big football fan but I do quite like Liverpool Football Club, thanks to my crazy cousin’s update on it all the time, and though this one not at LFC, I went as my cousin kept saying, “If you are ticking off the boxes of the things you have to do before you die, then watching a football match on the ground is right up there”, and I second that now.
There is an overriding tranquility that transforms football-watchers from stress-merchants into serene smiling beings in a stadium. There were Everton shirts and hats and scarves everywhere and a feeling of excitement in the air and I too was jumping on every goal Everton made (my cousin asked me to cheer for it) and finally we won.

Next on the list was the nightlife hopping, and I must add here that the culture capital of Europe is party central in the evenings with many different areas around the city for one to enjoy oneself in.
So first went to “Alma de Cuba”, a restored 18th century Polish church, on Seal Street, which has been converted into a lavish bar and restaurant, replete with the original altar and pews and flickering candles add to the beauty of the ambience. The place oozes upbeat Cuban, Latin American and Hispanic vibes from every pore of its stonework to its exposed wooden beam rafters and I thought it was an absolutely great place to begin my night. Though I admit at first I felt a wee bit odd at eating by the church pew, but was bowled over by the food and service which were impeccable. I have never eaten such amazing fish fingers with tartar sauce in my life….trust me!

We then hopped over to “Peacock” and being a Friday got to try some free BBQ as well. And finally moved on to “The Cavern Club” where the Fab Four have played atleast 292 times. It was in the basement of an old wine cellar along Matthew Street in the market district of Liverpool and looked like a cave inside, and people still perform there. For those who don’t know the Cavern was actually a bomb shelter at one point. I could not believe how far into the ground this famous club was but there are quite a few flights down. It was pretty much because of the Cavern Club that the Beatles became famous in Liverpool (well that and the fact that the local newspaper wrote a lot of stuff about them). Live music in the cellar was full of noise, made the air pulse and throb that carried a palpable excitement that got louder with each of the flight of stairs that descend into this venue. The place is rife with memorabilia, including John Lennon's guitars, signed posters, and an original Beatles drum set. We had a few drinks and listened to the house band performing Beatles music and very convincingly at that and we immersed ourselves in the music of decades past and as we jived, I relived the memories of my college days and my youngest cousin was amazed at the brilliance of the era, just after the birth of rock and roll! Iam positive someday this Beatles Tribute band’s claim to fame will also be the Cavern Club owing to the fact that The Fab Four has long been inducted into the history books, the band’s music survives, not only in software format but played live out here just like John, Paul, George and Ringo did back in their days. Interestingly “The Cavern Pub” right across from the Cavern features a musical museum of famous guitars and instruments throughout the venue. Truly if walls could talk, they would be screaming “oh yeah, what fun”, Them Beatles changed rock and roll and then the world and we went home humming “Strawberry fields forever”!

By Rupali Dean
Published in ET Travel

Sunday, October 2, 2011


If you are ticking off the boxes of the foods you have to eat before you die, then taking a flight to these destinations is right up there. This choice is indeed amazing and overwhelming in the world…do put it to delicious use!

The Irish have some of the best meals around in my book, and if you are a meat and potatoes kind of person who has been eating pasta instead, you better try this out. Traditional Irish stew is lamb with potatoes, usually prepared with carrots, leeks, onion, parsnips and rutabaga. For those determined to continue the rich Guinness flavour in their meal, one could go for the recipe in which some stout is added along with the stock for some true traditional Irish taste. Unlike other savoury stews the meat is not first browned and therefore the broth is not dark. Also do not mistake Irish stew is not Irish Soup. It is a very thick broth, and the meal itself is heavy and filling.

BEST WAY TO ENJOY: It is an excellent meal and great with Irish soda bread, sourdough bread, Guinness or black tea.

World renowned for their sweetness, size and extraordinary colour, as a result of the unique colour of the juice many bottled orange juices are made from Valencia oranges (also known as Murcia) because people love the bright colour of the juice from these oranges. Although now grown throughout the world, you can still not better Valencia oranges grown and harvested in their native soil. This is because Valencia has enough sunlight and well-drained and acidic soil.

BEST WAY TO ENJOY: Honestly they look too perfect to eat , but then the chances of them remaining untouched, once you see them, are slim indeed…

King of piedmonts’ gastronomy is undoubtedly the white Alba truffle, rare and precious, characterized by an unmatched intense aroma and taste! These truffles are sold at a high price tag throughout the European continent are generally the most sought after. Interestingly it is at times also referred to as the ‘Diamond’ of the culinary world, also because truffle is a seasonal product and it fruits only during the two autumn months. As they are to be dug from below the ground level it is not easy to hunt these tubers. Farmers use dogs that are naturally skilled to sniff well and make excellent hunters of truffles.

BEST WAY TO ENJOY: It is excellent to enhance the flavour of dishes such as fresh home-made pasta prepared in the old-fashioned way.

A panoramic westerly aspect over the gardens and surrounding jungle affords spectacular views- Don’t forget your camera.Every effort is made to find ingredients of the highest quality and have them delivered to the island as pure and fresh as they might have been served at their place of origin. Also I guess they benefit from the abundance of fresh fish available in the Maldives. The majority of vegetables are grown on the island itself. 100% of produce harvested from the gardens of Soneva Fushi is organic.

BEST WAY TO ENJOY: With the organic vegetable garden, Six Senses Soneva Fushi complements all menus with the freshest possible leaves and herbs.

Brugge a beautiful, romantic little medieval town, could possibly be described as a mix between Amsterdam and Venice, with many waterways and stone bridges Swans swim through all the canals and horses with carriages trot down the streets- it’s so cute! Belgium is famous for its chocolate and 'The Chocolate Line’ is known as one of the best chocolate shops in Bruges (if not Belgium). It does come at a cost but the quality and combination of flavours are brilliant. Every flavour imaginable seems to be represented in some way, even Wasabi which was fabulous. Additionally to pralines the chocolate line offers different kinds of chocolate from different countries from South America. One can find white, milk and dark chocolate with different amounts of cocoa.

BEST WAY TO ENJOY: The chocolate line does a variety of spice based chocolates, I particular loved the cinnamon one but they also had lemongrass, chilli all bringing out a complex and fascinating symphony to play on the taste buds.

These tasty crustaceans are almost Singapore’s national dish. You would get the best ones at Long Beach (on Dempsey Hill). This restaurant stands out from the numerous sea-food specialty restaurants dotting the city. Live crabs will be weighed in front of you and then taken in for cooking. Seeing you ponder how best to attack the shell, the waiter will promptly slid on his plastic gloves and deftly dissected it for you. The exact sauce recipe is a closely guarded secret, but usually it consists of garlic, ginger, fresh red chilli, honey added to a rich tomato sauce, finished with chicken eggs.

BEST WAY TO ENJOY: with steamed buns.

Made from unraised flour, the dumpling skins appear almost translucent. The broth is in gelatine form and when the dumplings are steamed, it becomes juicy and hot, pouring flavour into your mouth when you bite into its delicate, doughy skin. It is fun to watch the chefs make tons of dumplings through a big glass window and the dumplings even came with instructions which are rather helpful. One is supposed to poke a hole in the soup dumpling and drain the broth into their spoon, sip on the broth, and then eat the dumpling. All in all the dumplings are top notch, with the perfect ratio of meat filling and soup, and a super thin dumpling skin. These “Soup dumplings” (Xiao long Bao) at the legendary “Din Tai Fung” restaurant In Taipei are a must try. Although there many branches of Din Tai Fung worldwide, this original branch in Taipei cannot be beaten.

BEST WAY TO ENJOY: Steamed dumplings filled with pork or shrimp dipped in vinegar soy sauce; it makes me still pucker with joy just thinking of it!

The pancakes here are somewhere in between a pancake and a crepe, but delicious, very large, and come with a mouth-watering variety of toppings. On offer are all types of flavours you can choose from like strawberry, blueberry, apple cinnamon, chocolate and strawberry, etc. The savoury ones are with eggs, meats and cheeses. The star of the show however is the one with ham and cheese or try the one with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

BEST WAY TO ENJOY: with a steaming hot cup of coffee.