Sunday, March 24, 2013


At the forefront of Punjab’s culinary tourism movement, the State provides food lovers with highest quality products to experience the very best of local cuisine.

Punjabis take their food rather seriously. One of the main features of Punjabi cuisine is its diversity, and it is also wholesome and rustic. They love fresh milk and milk products. When you come to this part of India, leave behind all that new-fad of calorie counting, health-conscious, and low-fat thinking. The scent of real ghee invades the nostrils all over. Every dish you partake of is part of a saga, and every recipe, a piece of gastronomic history. An unmatched selection of delectable kebabs, delicately flavoured Dal Makhni, aromatic Sarson Ka Saag with Makki ki Roti, robust curries and irresistible Paranthas makes this the perfect choice for a gastronomic indulgence.

No tour to Punjab is complete without tickling your taste buds with the inexpensive and famous street food. Every city has its own speciality, for example while driving from Delhi to Ludhiana; one has to stop by at ‘Puranchand’s’ for his decadent meat curry. The ‘Cream chicken’ by Chawla in Ludhiana has become so popular that no home party is complete without it. As you step out of the Golden temple in Amritsar, you would be greeted by the pleasant odours emanating from street food push carts. There is food everywhere running the gamut from Samosas, Chhole Kulche and even gravity-defying lassies. The ‘Dahi-Bhalla’ in Jalandhar and even Patiala is a heavenly morsel and with just the right balance of the sweet and sour chutneys will make you reach for more. Aficionados swear by the ‘Golgappas’ all over Punjab and truly they are decadent to the core and standing by the road to savour this juicy mound is an exclusive experience. The ‘Bhalla Papri chaat’- well there’s nothing like that perfect bite, the one where all the flavours on the plate come together in one heavenly mouthful! The ‘samosas’ are equally commendable, the mutter Ka samosas for instance are delicious and very different from anywhere else. The best part is that most of the street food is surprisingly inexpensive for the consistently good quality ingredients and are raucous most of the time as they are well patronized.

‘Basant kulfi’ near Gurudwara Dukh Nivaran has become an icon for its signature kulfi and is a must for tourists and locals who patronize this place. After more than a century and with a long list of loyal clients, ‘Lyallpur sweets’ needs very little endorsement. While Hero Bakery has sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, several ranges of coffee and can rustle up just about any kind of cake, it’s really their Cream Horns this establishment really shines. The marriage of the irresistible flavour of vanilla with the freshly whipped cream is the secret to these Cream Horns. If you’re ever in Ludhiana and you have a sweet tooth, you have to pay a visit here and you will not go away disappointed. ‘Lovely sweets’ in Jalandhar serving superlative motichoor laddoos without any nouveau pretension is so popular that it is definitely worth a visit. The melt in the mouth ‘Dhoda Sweets’ in kartarpur and Ludhiana are world famous, Legend has it that in 1912, Harbans Vig, a nutrition-seeking wrestler from Khushab of Sargodha district, hit upon this dish while experimenting in his kitchen. ‘Bansal Sweet House’ which has outlets in Amritsar, Chandigarh and Delhi has loyal customers flocking to his shop like hungry children to their school cafeteria as the sweetmeats are inexpensive but delicious! One would definitely want to sink one’s teeth into those luscious giant sized Jalebis all over Punjab. The Karigar fries these Jalebis in his huge wok and it’s a wonderful sight to see his old hands moving with the speed of an expert.

written for ITTP's punjab tourism booklet

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Appetite-stirring and educating, food museums offer an outstanding way to acquaint oneself with rich culinary traditions, apart from being an effective way to kill a couple hours and go touristy…I talk here of the TOP  5 offbeat ones that I have visited…

Did you know that fries originated from Belgium? That said, there is no scientific or historical proof relating to the origin. The museum tells you all you want to know about a potato and I also learnt a lot of fun facts. Legend has it that people ate fried fish but when winters were harsh and there was no fish, they cut their potatoes, resembling small fish and fried those…and hey presto fries arrived in the culinary world. Interestingly I was told that it was christened ‘French’ when American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I, tasted Belgian fries, but called them French as it was the official language of the Belgian Army at that time. I visited the museum at lunch time. There’s a “frituur” (fries shop) where I bought these Belgian fries and even got a discount with my entrance ticket. Freshly peeled and cooked potatoes are cooked in two separate phases. I won’t say that they were much better than what we get at home, but the Andalusia sauce (sweet and spicy, mayonnaise based sauce) that covers it is fantastic…and I am converted. 
Formal Name: Fret Museum
Where? : Vlamingstraat 33, 8000 Bruges, Belgium
Opening hours: Daily between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Closed: 10-21/01.
Entrance fee : Individual: 6,00 euro, Groups, students, seniors : 5,00 euro
Children (6-12 y.) : 4,00 euro.

I recollect many instances when cup noodles saved me from instant hunger when I was in the hostel and ran out of money or after working till late when there weren’t any options left to eat out! A museum dedicated to Cup Noodles? I simply had to go! This museum is really fantastic and tells the inspiring story of how Mr Ando (legendary founder of Nissin foods) invented Cup Noodles and many other products. Extremely artistically designed and beautifully exhibited, I loved the display of cup noodles from across the world.
Interestingly there are two workshops, one is My Cup Noodle, where you get to design then choose your own flavour & ingredients for the cup noodle. The other one is Chicken Ramen workshop (needs prior reservation mind you) where you get to make a pack of chicken ramen from the scratch like kneading the flour to packing the ramen into a packet you designed. I would say it was quite like Charlie and the chocolate factory where you could design you own noodles cups and the kids could play in a very cool (kids only) play area. As for me, I really enjoyed making my own noodles, choosing my ingredients, designing the cup and going through the whole process. Finally, if you want to get some noodles after staring and learning about cup noodles for the entire hour, you can head up to the noodle-themed cafeteria on the top level of the facility. Make sure you eat in the restaurant like me as you can try noodles from 8 different countries out here. What set off as a tourist sightseeing, ended up with an admiration for Mr Momofuku, the founder of instant ramen for his entrepreneurial spirit, creative thinking and determination.
Formal name: Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
Where? 2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0001 Japan
Telephone: General information: 045-345-0918, Ramen Factory reservations: 045-345-0825
Museum hours: 10:00-18:00 (last admission 17:00)
Admission: Adults: 500 yen (tax included) / high school age children and younger admitted free

One of the must have culinary experiences on Swiss territory is the ‘Vacherin Mont- d’-Or cheese’ a seasonal soft cheese, made with cow’s milk and contains 45 to 50 percent milk fat. It is enclosed in a wooden box and is bound in a strip of red pine tree bark, thus giving it a unique smoky and interesting resin flavour. I learnt this all at the Vacherin Mont-d’-Or museum. The part about the milk content sounded overwhelming since I had become chary of any food even listing its fat content and any cheese whose consistency was not hard at room temperature. I had heard that Mont d'Or was often served as fondue, something I had sworn off of long ago after I had eaten a dinner of raclette at the home of some Swiss friends, but soon I changed my mind. The best part was the tasting session after the visit and I thought this AOC cheese is very pungent and nutty, yet it is quite mild and had a mature and runny texture, extremely friendly to the Indian Palette. In fact we were also made to try a spiced version and it was rather difficult to lay my hands of it so I finally bought 250 grams lest I gave the impression of being greedy.
Formal Name: Musée du Vacherin Mont d'Or
Where? 1343 Les Charbonnières, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 (0)21 841 10 14
Museum hours: 10:00-18:00 (last admission 17:00)

At the National Palace Museum in Taipei there are all the treasures from the Forbidden City in Beijing. However, what caught my fancy were the Jade baby bok choy and a piece of delicious looking fatty stewed Pork. The cabbage looked rather real, and had two small insects on its leaves. Legend has it that while the cabbage is a symbol of purity, the insects suggest fertility and the sculpture was part of the dowry of a Cing Princess. It was interesting to see how the colours of the jade were used from white to dark green. Foodie that I am had booked ourselves at the wonderfully designed and interestingly yummy ‘Banquet of NPM Imperial Treasure’ at ‘Silks Palace’ (official restaurant at the museum) where they create a replica of the food displayed at the museum….superlative indeed!
Formal Name: National Palace Museum
Where?: No. 221, Section 2, Zhìshàn Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
Telephone: 02-2881-2021
Museum hours: 8: 30 Am to 8: 30 pm

A thirty minute drive from Amsterdam took me to Zaanse Schans, a quaint Village (read artificial town for tourists) in Northern Holland on the banks of the river Zaan with characteristic green wooden houses, charming gardens, small curved bridges, tradesmen’s workshops, historic windmills and little shops. I stopped by in the cheese shop where I got to try many different flavours; it was like a cheese lover’s paradise. Cheese with herbs, with garlic, with cumin, smoked, goat cheese, porcelain, souvenirs….absolutely stupendous. I also found an unmistakable whiff of chocolate in the air as there was a large chocolate factory nearby in the town of Zaandam. For lunch I stopped by for some famed Dutch pancakes (spelt as ‘Pannenkoeken’) which are quite like pizzas with a delicate crust (like a crepe) and then one can lavish a lot of winning combinations to top things off.
Formal Name: Zaanse Schans Museum
Where? Zaans Museum, Schansend 7, 1509 AW Zaandam, Amsterdam, Holland. Just 10 miles northwest of Amsterdam the Zaanse Schans is easily accessible by car, train or bus.
Telephone: +31 (0)75 681 00 00
Museum hours: 9 Am to 5 pm
Admission: Free. Car parking facilities on the premises; the parking fees are used for the maintenance of the historic buildings at the Zaanse Schans.

published in FNL 

Sunday, March 10, 2013


“Anyone who's visited a city tries out various food outlets, given that he or she's a foodie…and those are usually the well-known restaurants of that city, but only someone who's lived in a city for a considerable period of time especially in his growing up years can recommend its little nooks n corner joints!! Which is exactly what I propose to do in this column”, shares Rohit Roy, Actor, Director and producer
Gf-1, White House, Panchwati Circle, Navrangpura, CG Road.
It is the best in the world and I can challenge anyone who can beat it. It melts in your mouth quite like the dollop of butter that tops it!
Shivranjani Cross Rd, Arjun Tower, 132 Feet Ring Rd, Ambavadi.
Shreyas Colony, Navrangpura.
Shivalik Building, Near Krishnabaug, Maninagar, Mani Nagar.
For people who are fans of North Indian cuisine, I highly recommend the Chole bhature at Havmor!! It is outstanding and the accompanying gaajar ka achar is to die for! Of course if you are on a no oil diet, forget about it!! The bhature has more oil than flour!!
3, Shivam Complex, Near Red Rose Cafe, Navrangpura.
I've eaten dal wada in Ahmedabad and many other cities but nothing gets even remotely close to Ambika. It is their special recipe which is unbeatable. Many of you cynics out there must be thinking; a dal wada is a dal wada, how different can it be?? I’ll say… Try it and if you don't like it, sue me!!
The House of MG, Opposite Sidi Saiyad Jali, Lal Darwaja.
A roof top restaurant that serves gujju food! It is definitely a not to miss, run by the famous Mangaldas family of Ahmedabad. It has a typical village setting and the quality of food is top drawer. Of course slightly more expensive than the other places I have listed.
Century bazaar Ambawadi.
Shop No 13 Municipal Market, C G Road, Navrangpura.
Only, there's nothing Italian about a pizza in Ahmedabad!! It’s the Indian version!! Jasuben or Wah pizza bhel?? They are both superb cheap thrill pizza’s….Just heaps of cheese and tomato sauce on a pizza base!! But tasty as hell and unique…Tough call!!
Vishram Park Apartments, Shubhlabh Society, Aastha Bunglows.
And finally, desert!!! My favourite part of any meal; what can I say?? The ice cream here is everything that an ice cream should be ... Full of cream, it’s like 2 women in a house are trying to outdo each other with their flavours. You’ll thank me for this one!!
As told to Rupali Dean
published in India Today Travel Plus

Saturday, March 9, 2013


There is much more to Seattle than just the Space Needle & coffee mega chains….Drive over to the ‘Boeing Factory’ which is good fun and you can’t help admiring this technological marvel.

One can’t reach out and touch a plane that is in the process of being built, but imagine being able to actually see an airplane being built? For any aviation enthusiast, would love this tour. As we all know Boeing is the ‘Number One Aerospace Leader in the World’, so obviously I had to tour the factory where they build and test their aircraft. The factory itself is north of Seattle at Everett is a world full of superlatives (no photos are permitted though). It is the world’s largest single building ... so large that it can hold all of Disneyland and still have room for it to rattle. This is where 747’s, 767’s and 777’s are built. My tour began with a professionally trained driver picking me up from my hotel. It then kicks starts off in the Aviation Center Auditorium where a short film about Boeing is played. Our tour guide also gave us a quick rundown on what we would see, and we were lucky since this was the first day the employees were back at work after the holiday, so lots of activity in the factory. The guide also gave us interesting trivia about cost, payment process, and how planes are tested and delivered. Inside the huge space, we could see cable machinery running along the roofs, sections of planes and the assembly machines, and bikes for employees to get around. The best part, undoubtedly, is seeing the assembly line. Getting to see the various 787s and other aircraft as they trundle on down the line are special. I was able to see how the intricate system of cables carried entire sections of planes and wings throughout the factory and was lucky to score a tour of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner Gallery. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the newest aircraft being built by Boeing, with airline deliveries coming soon. The tour ended with a bus tour around the runway area and the parking lots of planes waiting for delivery. We also witnessed an Emirates Airline jet land after a test flight. All in all I could not help but marvel at the sheer elegance and was amazed at how one company gave the world a set of wings.

WHERE? : The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour is located in Mukilteo, Wash., 25 miles north of Seattle. Public tours of Boeing’s Everett factory are available seven days a week.
1.5-hour guided tour of Seattle’s Boeing factory
See 747, 767, 777 and Dreamliner aircraft
Largest building in the world
Future of Flight interpretive center and Boeing Tour
Transfers included from downtown Seattle hotels
FOR RESERVATIONS: call +1 360-756-0086 or toll free, +1 800-464-1476, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Pacific Time).
CENTER HOURS: - The center is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm year-round except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 1/2 day on New Year’s Eve
TOUR HOURS: Tours of Boeing is run every hour on the hour from 9 Am to 3Pm daily except holidays
HEIGHT: One must be 4 feet tall to take the factory tour (safety precaution).
PRICE: $15.50 for general Admission; seniors (65+) = $14.00; Children under 15 = $ 8.00.
MUST KNOW-There is NO tour of the inside of any planes being assembled on the factory floor (747-8, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner) for security reasons.
NOTE: Visitors to the Museum can take a flight around Seattle in a vintage biplane; this is offered during spring and summer only.

VISA & CURRENCY- Indians require a US Visa to enter Seattle and the currency used is the US Dollar (approximately 50 INR)
BEST WAY TO REACH- Emirates has a direct flight to Seattle via Dubai. It is the cheapest and the quickest way to reach from India. A good idea is also to stop at Dubai enroute to make the most of your trip. An economy class flight by Emirates from India to Seattle will cost you approx. INR 54,000 Fares may vary; check on while making a booking.
BEST PLACE TO STAY-Hotel Sheraton…so you can be the closest to the Downtown.
BEST WAY TO MOVE AROUND- Getting around the city is very easy whether by car or public transportation, so I would definitely recommend exploring Seattle and see where you end up!