Friday, August 6, 2010

Kerala - Postcards from Mattancherry

I got introduced to the alleys of Mattancherry when the husband and I went furniture shopping for the new  house. Our research had led us to this shop called Crafter's Antique which is more like a storehouse of beautiful and intricately designed furniture and other accessories for your house. The trip being a very short one, did not give us much time to gallivant through the lanes of this old town. But nevertheless, we enjoyed our trip, not to forget the sumptuous lunch at Hotel Abad.
Crafter's Antique
The world's biggest varpu - 12 ft diameter, 3184 kgs

Mattancherry is a few kilometres away from Ernakulam Town and can be reached by bus or by a boat. Yes, there are boat services available from the boat jetty near Subhash Park. Historically significant, this place is famous for it's Jew Town, synagogue, the palace, the museum, the spice markets and the streets selling antiques, providing you with plenty of opportunities to shop. 
Pallankuzhi - a traditional board game, at Crafter's

It is said that most of the items that you see here on sale are things that were left behind by the Jewish traders when they migrated to Israel. 
You can buy Chinese jars, wooden spoons, Kerala style doors, spice boxes, dowry chests, lacquer boxes, traditional cooking vessels from Kerala, furniture, murals, paintings et al.
Spices and more spices


Variety is indeed in this box of spice

Wooden cowheads

A perfect combination of busy arterial lanes on one side and serene backwaters on the other, the place exudes bits and pieces of history in all that you get to see there.  
Though a good and productive two days were spent in Mattancherry in two different trips, I am yet to discover more about this historic place. The synagogue, the samaj temples and the palace are yet to be seen. 
I only wish to say that right now I am enjoying the pace at which I am unravelling the pages of Kerala.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mumbai - Cafe Mondegar

Mondy's, that's what it is popularly known as...
:) Located near Regal Cinema, Colaba Causeway, Mumbai
:) Just a few metres away from the Gateway of India.

:) Ideal for some beer and snacks.
:( What? You walked the entire stretch and you didn't spot it? Hmmm, there's a lot of hustle and bustle around the place and hence you may have missed it. And it gets a little hidden too. So, if you are new to the city you may have to be a little alert.
:) The walls of this landmark cafe deserves some attention too. The Mario Miranda illustrated walls bring out the essence of Mumbai - the spirit of the city.

:) Another highlight is the jukebox kept in the corner. I don't know if it still works, but I remember that it had a great assortment of wonderful songs from different genres.
:) Once you are inside the cafe, you can also try Innside, yes, another restaurant within Mondy's, less crowded and less louder.

Though, sometimes I do feel that Mondy's is a little over-hyped :D 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Maharashtra - Sago saga

If in Maharashtra, do it the Maharashtrian way...enjoy their yummy fastfood.

Nah! Don't get me wrong. I'm not referring to the ready-to-eat food served at the local Chinese wala in Maharashtra. Here the term fastfood refers to 'food that you are allowed to eat when you are fasting'. 

By the way, did you know that the word Chinese can be written in different ways, well, yes, that too in English by just exchanging the places of letters in the word? No? Well, we'll look into it later. 

Let's come back to Maharashtrian fastfood. Interesting isn't it? That's what India is all fact we can boast of a culturally varied fastfood fare ;)
Ever heard of that one before?

The Marathi list would comprise sabudana khichdi, sabudana vada, potato chivda, varicha bhaat and many more. 

Let's go slow, one at a time. We shall fist scrutinize the unavoidable Sabudana khichdi - a yummy snack made of sago (sabudana). It's easy to make. But only after some practice. To be honest, sago can be a rogue if you don't handle it properly. The first time I tried making this khichdi it ended up as poppadums. 

The second time I made it, my husband sensed that there was something wrong in the preparation. The sago hadn't turned completely transparent. Now that wasn't my fault, if the sago didn't feel motivated enough to get cooked. But my hubby wouldn't understand this. So I told him that this sago is different. And I don't think he believed me.

Months later I had the same stuff at Ramya's place. From her mom I learnt that I was messing it up with the 'soaking time'. Finally, things were set right and I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I could see my family relishing the khichdi that I had made for them. I tried and now I am an expert. 


You can also make sabudana vadas out of this. 
One place where I have devoured this delicacy is at Prakash, Shivaji Park, Dadar (W). This place is quite popular for it's authentic Maharashtrian fare.

So, go! Indulge in some Sago :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kerala - Fort Kochi

    The streets of Fort Kochi were never unfamiliar to me. Though I hadn't visited the place, there was a strange connect that I experienced. A connect that I share with Dehradun too. The latter one, thanks to the several poems, essays and stories of Ruskin Bond and the former one, thanks to my father-in-law, who was so insanely in love with the place. 

    It's quite a strange thing. Throughout my life, inspite of the several visits to Kerala, I had never managed to visit Fort Kochi even once. The reason being the annual visits to relatives' houses which by itself was so time consuming and fun that we never managed to steal time to visit places. And I'm ashamed to confess that finally at the ripe age of thirty, my eyes were ready to take in the sights in and around Fort Kochi.

    And while I stood there gazing at the myriad, beautiful lanes adorned by little houses on either sides I realized why Fort Kochi was a favorite with Papa. If the place could evoke a sense of nostalgia for a first timer like me, it had to be an overwhelming feeling for him.

    He knows every nook and corner of Fort Kochi. Every restaurant, every hotel, every street. Mention the names and he has stories to tell.  

    I happened to spend three days in and around Fort Kochi. There was something magical about the place. Perhaps it was the I-don't-care attitude of people, or maybe the food, or the churches, or the quaint shops, or the by lanes that tempted you to take long walks... 


All you need to do here is to wander, sometimes glancing at the beauty of the heritage structures, the houses, the colourful lanes, the busy spice markets, the antique stores, the cafes, the signages...

...the Chinese fishing nets

Another attraction here is the local market from where you can buy fish and get it cooked at the make-shift shops across the street.

Fort Kochi is full of life. Tourists, shopkeepers trying to attract customers, residents, food courts, cafes all add to the life of this place. A very cosmopolitan culture. 

Well, an ideal place for the one with the nomadic gene...just keep on wandering. I am sure I am going back to this lively and lovely place, SOON!