Tenginakayi (coconut) chutney – the taste of my childhood

This one is straight from my grandmother’s kitchen or rather, straight from her  stone mortar and pestle….paata varvanta as they call it in Marathi.

Paata varvanta

I vividly remember, she sitting with her saree tucked away on one side with one leg folded near the paata (stone platform) and the other leg stretched on the kitchen floor,  grinding this chutney to get the perfect consistency. She had an electric mixer but desisted from using it too often saying that grinding chutneys in a mixer does not impart the same yummy taste.

Tenginakayi chutney

This chutney was a regular feature  in her house as everybody just loved it mixed with hot rice and ghee. Now, I have made it quite a few times myself, using the same tried and tested recipe but in an electric mixer… and …it lacks that taste which my memory craves for. May be the secret of getting it perfect lies in the paata varvanta 🙂 Miss you avva!

 

To Grind:

1 cup fresh, grated coconut

1 tbsp chana dal

0.5 tbsp udid dal

0.5 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

Tamarind pulp – to taste

Water – to adjust the consistency

2-3 red chillies, deseeded as preferred

1 tbsp oil or as required

Salt- to taste

To temper:

0.5 tsp mustard seeds

4-5 curry leaves

A pinch of asafoetida

1 tbsp – til/sesame oil (Sesame oil is preferred but one can use any other oil as well)

 

Method: Roast the chana dal, udid dal and sesame seeds along with the red chillies in little oil till they change color. Grind the coconut with these roasted dals, chillies and tamarind pulp with  gradual addition of water till we get our desired smooth consistency. To this chutney, add the above tempering and mix it well.

It’s best enjoyed with hot rice drizzled with sesame oil or ghee.

Masala Puri Chaat

Turned out perfect!

 

I haven’t had tried masala puri till recently …even after staying in Bangalore for more than 5 years now!  This is something what I wanted to atone for. I tried going to Malleswaram and eat this chaat at a street vendor’s stall but somehow ended up disliking it.  The peas gravy had a peculiar taste to it but I was not about to accept defeat. How could a foodie like me give up on this Karnataka’s local favourite without even trying for it!

Well for the unacquainted, masala puri is a chaat item which consists of a crushed puris served with piping hot, peas masala gravy, an assortment of chutneys and sev. Many locals just vouch for its mouthwatering goodness. So what was I waiting for… I googled for its recipe and finally decided to try the recipe given on hebbarskitchen.com.

Here it is reproduced for you all with slight variations of my own:

For the Peas Masala:

To be pressure cooked:

2 cups white peas, soaked overnight

1/2 carrot ( I had a huge red carrot and so I used half of it)

1 medium potato

Salt – to taste

 

For the paste:

1/2 onion –  chopped

1 large tomato – chopped

4 cloves of garlic

1 inch ginger

2 green chillies, roughly chopped

 

Masalas to be added:

1/2  teaspoon amchur powder

3/4 tsp fennel powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp red chilli powder

1 heaped tsp pav bhaji masala

1/2 tsp garam masala

1-2 tsp jaggery powder as per your liking

oil – 2 tbsp

water – to adjust the consistency

salt-to taste

Method

Pressure cook the soaked peas with carrot, potato and salt till they are soft and ready to get mashed. In a kadhai, heat the oil and fry the onions with ginger, garlic and green chillies for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, turmeric and chilli powder and fry it more for 2-3 minutes. Once the onion-tomatoes are done and mushy, allow it cool and grind it without adding any water.

Again, using the same kadhai, add the ground paste with mashed peas and sufficient quantity of water to form a gravy. ( No need to add oil again). Add the remaining masala powders to this gravy and allow it to boil well. Adjust the consistency with water as per your liking. Usually this masala is prepared a bit thin to serve it on top of the puris.

For assembing the masala puri plate, you will need the following:

Flat fried puris – I used the store bought ones or you can even use the puffed-up puris which we use in pani puri

Sweet and sour dates and tamarind chutney

Green chutney

Chaat masala and chilli powder – to sprinkle

Thin Sev

Finely chopped onions, tomatoes and coriander leaves

Method

Crush around 5-6 puris in plate. Pour a ladleful or two of peas masala gravy on top of it. To this, add generous quantities of sev; chutneys as per your liking, garnish it with finely chopped onions, tomatoes and coriander leaves. Finally, sprinkle the chaat masala for that typical yummy taste!

Enjoy!

Note: One can even use dried green peas for this recipe.

 

Toasted Hummus and Veggie Sandwich

Hummus, hung curd and veggie sandwich

 

“Mamma! My friend’s mom makes sandwiches for him almost everyday. I too want a sandwich tomorrow after school“. I was a tad disappointed that my son didn’t approve of the ever-appealing aloo paratha I had made for him that day. Instead it was a sandwich that he craved for.

It’s interesting to see how food habits of a child are influenced by his peers. Earlier he never had any demands on the food front and making him eat was a task. Now, cooking a variety of dishes for him, especially for his after-school snack is a big task! 😀

So with hummus and garlicky hung-curd dip sitting in the fridge, I decided to make this quick snack for him today:

 

Recipe:

Whole wheat bread slices – as required

Hummus  ( I used home-made hummus) – as required

Garlic Dip  ( I used Wingreens farms’ hung-curd & garlic dip bought from Nature’s Basket) – as required

Finely chopped onions and capsicum – as required

Thin Tomato slices – as required

Thin Cucumber slices – as required

Fresh, grated mozzarella cheese or processed cheese works fine as well. ( I prefer fresh cheese) – as required

Coarsely crushed pepper powder – to sprinkle as per taste

Garlic bread seasoning – to sprinkle as per taste (optional)

Salt- to sprinkle as per taste

Method:

Spread a spoonful of hummus and the hung-curd dip on one bread slice. Arrange the onions and capsicum on it. Next, arrange the cucumber and tomato slices on it. Season it with salt, pepper powder and garlic bread seasoning. Grate cheese on top of it and cover it with the other bread slice and press it slightly. Toast it in a sandwich grill or on a heated tava with some weight on top like a chakla or a polpat (the roti-making platform) for a nice, crusted sandwich 🙂

Enjoy the healthy goodness!

Note: Also, feel free to experiment with the veggies; however, cucumber goes very well with hummus and curd – so try and incorporate it.

 

Nimona – a winter specialty from Benares

A delectable winter goodness from fresh peas…

Come winter and there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in our country. Red carrots, fresh pearly peas, grapes, amla and so the list goes on. In my family everybody loves green peas. In fact, since it is available all the year round in its frozen form, it is consumed almost daily in our diet in some form or the other.

My husband makes lovely peas kachoris (on the lines of Gujarati lilva kachoris) on RARE ocassions 😉 (Hope he is reading this and gets the message!) Hare matar ki sabzi, Maharashtrian usal, matar paratha, matar pulao are all tried and repeated recipes.  I already made amla pickle, gajar halwa this winter to enjoy their seasonal goodness and wanted to try something unique with fresh peas. Nevertheless, I chanced upon this article on NDTV on 10 Best Winter Foods and there I spotted Nimona. And then soon again I saw its recipe on TV as one of the special dishes of Benares. It looked really good and tempting. Served on a thali with numerous other traditional heirloom dishes, it looked rich green and inviting. It is supposed to be had with pooris, rotis or piping hot rice (as one of my UP-bred friend pointed it out).

So yesterday, I ordered 1kg of fresh peas, sincerely shelled them and got this lovely dish made. Some people make it with aloo, or moong dal wadis or simply plain without any additions. Onions, tomatoes and garlic too are optional. I googled and got many recipes for it with all these variations and then decided to get it done the satvik way – without onions – without garlic and with minimum spices – to enjoy the robust, earthy and mildly sweet flavour of peas, the way it is traditionally prepared in our City of Gods.

Recipe:

1 cup fresh, shelled peas

1 inch ginger

2 green chillies

1 tsp Jeera

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp ghee

1 pinch asafoetida

Water – around 2 cups

Salt- to taste

Chopped coriander leaves and lemon wedges to serve along with.

Method:

Grind the fresh peas along with the chillies and ginger to a coarse paste without adding any water. In a kadhai, heat the ghee and temper it with jeera and asafoetida. When the jeera starts changing colour, add the turmeric and peas paste to the kadhai and fry till the peas get cooked and its raw smell is gone. To this paste, add sufficient water and boil it till the mixture starts thickening. Add salt and boil it a bit. Adjust consistency with water as per your liking.

Serve it with chopped coriander leaves and a lemon wedge on the side. We had it as a soup and paired it up with veg biryani for dinner.

Happy Burping!

 

Aamti (A Maharashtrian toor dal preparation)

In my mom’s house, we call this aamti – “Kusum tai’s aamti”. Smt. Kusumtai Kshirsagar, was an elderly neighbour of ours in Kalyan when I was a little girl. She always used to give us a vaati  (bowl) of this aamti whenever she prepared it. Being South Indians, we hardly ever made this Maharashtrian aamti. However, I and my brother grew very fond of her aamti, and till date, we remember her whenever we make this type of dal. Aamti + bhaat + toop = Heaven 😀

My simple yet delicious lunch of aamti, bhaat, toop and karela fry

 

Aamti bhaat with toop (ghee)

In those days, it was quite common to see neighbours drop by to share their culinary preparations with us. Be it the everyday aamti, exquisite puranpolis to home made masalas; sharing food was a popular way of expressing camaraderie. Borrowing too was quite common and a neighbour  eventually turned up every now and then at our house  with an empty vaati in her hand asking for saakhar (sugar), or salt, and also sometimes green chillies! Well, those memories are definitely cherished by me now when I live in a world of super convenience where every single thing gets delivered to my door step. I still remember how our immediate neighbour used to come to our house asking for a little helping of sambar when its aroma  wafted from our kitchen window over to her house. Those were the days of sharing and caring 🙂

The Marathi word for sour is ‘ambat’ and thats the origin of the word aamti. Well, aamti is a dal preparation which is supposed to be slightly sour and sweet. Some like it sour, some like it sweet but both the tastes are strictly required to make it a delectable dish.

Here goes the recipe:

Toor dal – 1 cup cooked and mashed

1 small finely tomato chopped

Kokum concentrate* or tamarind pulp – 1 tsp or as per taste

Sugar or jaggery – as per taste

Goda masala – half to 3/4th of a tsp

Salt – to taste

For the tempering:

Peanut Oil – 1 tbsp

Mustard seeds – 1 small tsp

Hing – a pinch

Haldi – half a tsp

Chilly powder – half a tsp

Green chilly chopped – 1 to 2 or as per taste

Kadhi patta or curry leaves – 4 to 5 in number

Method:

Prepare the tadka and when the mustard seeds start spluttering, add the other ingredients under tadka and let their flavours seep in the oil for a minute or two. Immediately, then add the chopped tomatoes and let it get cooked for another couple of minutes. Then add the mashed toor dal along with the other condiments of sugar, kokum and salt. Add water to adjust the consistency and let it boil. Finally add the goda masala and again allow it to boil for another few minutes. Switch off the gas and garnish it with chopped coriander leaves.

Note: Kindly do not substitute goda masala with any garam masala, for that is the ingredient which imparts that authentic taste to this dish. One can add onions, ginger, peanuts to this dal as per their liking. Peanuts when added here should be boiled along with the dal initially.

*Make sure the Kokum concentrate has no sugar added to it.

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean pizza

A good after-school snack for kids with the goodness of hummus, vegetables and cheese! Not only pretty but yummy too. My son comes home from school and smells around saying -“something nice is baking in the oven!” I am a bit apprehensive if he would like this twist in the pizza with hummus and olives in it…and he loves it!

Here is the recipe from a happy mom:

Hummus:

Chickpeas (kabuli chana) – 1 cup. To be soaked overnight and cooked soft

A dash of lemon juice – as per your liking

Thick curd – 4-5 tbsp

Olive oil – 1 tbsp

Red chilli-garlic paste (the one used in bhel puri) – 2-3 tsp (as per your liking)

Jeera powder – 1/2 tsp

Salt – to taste

Method:

Add all the above ingredients in a mixer and grind it smooth. The hummus  should be smooth and of this consistency:

Hummus

Ingredients for the pizza:

  1. Hummus – to apply on the pita bread as the base sauce
  2. Pita breads – 6 in number. I used the ready-made ones
  3. Juliennes of red, yellow and green capsicum –  1-1.5 cup
  4. Sliced onions – 1/3 cup
  5. Black pitted olives, sliced
  6. Grated mozzarella cheese (Amul, Milky Mist) – around 2 cups
  7. Sesame seeds – to sprinkle on the pizza ( I did not use it)
  8. Garlic bread seasoning OR oregano powder
  9. Red chilli flakes

Assembling the pizza:

Spread the hummus on the pita breads in generous quantities. Top it with veggies, onions and olives. Add the grated cheese, again in generous quantities. Sprinkle the seasoning, chilli flakes and sesame seeds on the top. Bake it in the oven for around 15 minutes at 180 C till the cheese melts and starts changing colour a bit. Towards the end, broil/grill it for a couple of minutes.

 

Enjoy!

 

Sihi Kootu

Sihi Kootu

Sihi means sweet in Kannada. No, this kootu (curry) is not sweet literally but it refers to the inherent sweetness of the coconut and moong dal used in its preparation. It’s a mild preparation with the minimal use of spices so that the true flavours of the original ingredients stand out. It is a super healthy dish with proteins, vegetables and coconut all cooked together in minimal oil.

As I have been documenting recipes on my blog all this while, it struck me that I need to document all the traditional recipes used by my grandmother before they are long forgotten. My paternal grandmother used to follow the Madhwa Brahmin Kannadiga style of cooking. However, it was heavily influenced by the palate of the neighbouring temple town of Kumbakonam in Tamilnadu from where my grandfather belonged.

To add to this diversity, my grandfather migrated to Mumbai for work. I was born and brought up in the suburbs of Mumbai. My mother is from the western state of Goa and my husband is a Kokanastha Bramhin from Gujarat. So, one can imagine the diverse tastes I have developed over all these years. I will definitely add some traditional dishes I have learnt from the other regions as well.

But for now, here is the recipe for Sihi kootu:

Portions:   Two servings

Ingredients:

0.5 cup moong dal

2-2.5 cups water

1.5 cups finely chopped french/ring beans. One can also use padwal (snake gourd), ridge gourd, cucumber, or any vegetable from the gourd family

1 small chopped tomato  (This is not used in the traditional recipe as tomatoes were considered to be foreign food then :))

For tempering:

1 tbsp oil

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

turmeric – 1 tsp

Curry leaves

hing – a pinch

For grinding into a fine paste:

1/4th cup fresh coconut (grated or small pieces)

2 tsp jeera

Green chillies – 2 or more as per your taste

very little water, as required

Method:

In a pressure cooker, heat the oil and temper it with mustard seeds, curry leaves and hing. To it, add the ground coconut paste and fry it nicely for 3-4 minutes on a moderate flame. To this add the finely chopped vegetable of your choice. I have used green beans in the pic above. Add the moong dal, tomato and water and allow it to pressure cook for 5 minutes. I usually keep the flame on sim and allow it to cook for 5-10 minutes till the dal gets cooked.

Allow the pressure cooker to cool before opening the lid. Garnish it with coriander and serve it with rice or roti.

Alternatively: For better results, the tempering (of oil, mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves) can be added to the dish after it has been cooked. In such a case, one can start with frying the ground coconut paste in little oil and proceeding as mentioned above.

 

 

Raw mango chitranna (Mavinkaai chitranna)

Chitranna is another wonderful Madhwa brahmin recipe that calls for mixing cooked rice with a tangy ‘tadka’. Today, I made raw mango chitranna and the tanginess of the mango stood out exceptionally well along with coconut and other spices in this typical south indian delicacy.

One can have this as a one-pot meal any time of the day 😉

Here goes the recipe:

1 cup cooked long-grained rice (left-over white rice can also be used)

Salt to taste

To be ground into a paste (without addition of water):

1 medium-sized raw mango

5 tbsp of fresh grated coconut,

1-2 green chillies (One can skip this and increase the quantity of red chillies in the seasoning)

1 tsp sesame seeds

0.5 tsp mustard seeds

Seasoning:

3 tbsp peanut oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

2-3 de-stemmed red chillies,

A sprig of fresh curry leaves

1.5 tsp udid dal

1 tsp chana dal

0.5 tsp methi seeds ( I skipped it)

2 tbsp peanuts

1 tsp haldi powder

Asafoetida – a pinch

Method:

Make sure that the rice you are using is cooled and that the grains are not sticking to each other. Start off by preparing the paste and keeping it ready. The paste should be of the following consistency and thick:

Next, in a kadhai, heat the oil and add the udid dal, chana dal, peanuts. When the dals change color, add the remaining ingredients under seasoning and fry a bit. To this oil, add the ground paste and cook it for 3-4 minutes till the masala gets cooked. Add rice and salt and mix well.

Perfect dish to try out this mango season!

Dabeli Urff Double Roti

Dabeli is a famous street food, originating in the Kutch region of Gujarat. It’s also known as Kutchi Dabeli for obvious reasons and sometimes as Double Roti. The term ‘Dabeli’ literally means pressed in Gujarati. The delicious filling is pressed between the two sides of the pav and is toasted in (Amul) butter to give that wonderful taste.

I first got introduced to this dish in Mumbai. We had a dabeliwala who dished out delicious dabelis in our locality. The sweet and sour potato filling, highlighting the yummy flavour of the masala and chutneys bring on a craving for this dish. His dabelis were such a hit with us, that we gorged on it at least twice a week. Even now, whenever I visit my parents, eating his dabeli is a sacrosanct ritual for me 😀

 

Dabeli or Double Roti

 

Recipe:

Pav buns – 6

For the filling:

Potatoes, boiled and mashed – 4 to 5 medium sized (Approx, 2 medium potatoes can fill 3 dabeli pavs)

Dabeli masala – 2 teaspoons or slightly more to your liking.

Cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Oil – 2 tbsp

Salt- to taste

Dabeli masala (for around 4-6 portions of dabeli):

Coriander seeds – 1 tsp

Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp

Chilli powder – 1 tsp

Nutmeg – a pinch

Cinnamon – 1/2 inch stick

Cloves – 2 in number

Sesame seeds – 1/3 tsp

Black pepper powder- 1/4 tsp

Dry roast all the above ingredients for 2-3 minutes. Grind to a fine powder and store in an air-tight container.

Chutneys:

1)Green coriander chutney 

-> Take a handful of coriander leaves, 2-3 garlic pods, 1 inch ginger, 2-3 green chillies, 1 tsp peanuts (for consistency), a tsp of lemon juice and salt to taste. Grind it to a smooth paste using little water. Adjust the consistency and condiments to your liking.

2)Red Garlic-chilli chutney

-> 8-10 peeled garlic pods and a big handful of red Kashmiri chillies. Soak the chillies in warm water for around 30 minutes and then grind the chillies with the garlic and some salt to a fine paste. Adjust water as per the consistency desired. Note: do not deseed the chillies.

3)Sweet and sour tamarind and date chutney

-> Take a cup of soaked and deseeded dates; to it add 2-3 tblsp of thick tamarind pulp, 1 tsp cumin powder, and rock salt to taste. Grind it to a smooth paste using water. Add more tamarind or dates/jaggery as per your liking.

Essential add-ons 🙂

Onions, finely chopped

Pomegranate pearls/Chopped grapes

Sev, the fine or barik variety

Masala peanuts (peanuts toasted with chilli powder and salt in some oil)

Amul butter – to toast the pav

Method:

Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds to it. To it add the mashed potato, dabeli masala, 2 teaspoonful of tamarind-date chutney and salt as per taste. Mix well and the filling is ready! Do adjust the additions of masala, or chutney as per your liking.

To assemble the dabeli:

Slit the pavs and keep them ready. Next, apply the date-tamarind chutney to one side of the pav and the green coriander chutney to the other side. Press a big spoonful of the potato mixture on one pav. On it, add some chilli-garlic chutney and spread. Add pomegranate pearls, chopped onions, masala peanuts on the potato mixture and press it a bit.

Add sev on it and cover it with the other side of the pav. Again, press it firmly and toast it on a griddle on both sides with oodles of butter!

 

 

 

Singapore – The Jewel of South East Asia

Dec 2016

This Christmas, we visited Singapore – the Lion City of Asia. When I googled about Singapore, I was pleasantly surprised to know that Singapore stands for Singapura (‘Singa –lion, pura – town), a name it derived from Sanskrit. It is said that ancient India (before 1000 CE) exerted a profound influence on South East Asia, including Singapore and that it was a part of the Indianized kingdoms of Srivijaya empire, Majapahit and others.1  Apart from its ancient Indian connection, Singapore’s recent ‘rags-to-riches’ success story with its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, impressed us greatly nonetheless!

 

Singapore Parliament House

We had an awesome week-long vacation exploring the city country and its diverse culture. Singapore, truly, is a lovely city in everything it offered to capture our imagination – from its towering skyscape to its neat, tree-lined streets; interspersed with beautiful open vistas of the Singapore river; its colourful, busy ethnic quarters full of zest and energy; to its daily refreshing rain showers – this little city country has much to offer to any wandering tourist.

Here in this blog, I am not going to write about the various touristy places, parks and zoos that we explored there. Singapore is quite a popular tourist destination and there is already loads of information on the net about which places to visit and sightsee.  It is also easy to move about in Singapore using their efficient Metro Transit Rail (MRT) system and Uber cabs. So, here I am going to focus on our cultural, gastronomic and shopping experiences that we enjoyed and are going to cherish for a long time to come!

Little India and Chinatown are the major cultural hubs of Singapore. Both these neighbourhoods are great places to hang out, shop and eat!  Squeaky clean streets, cheap food and lots of roadside shopping along with historic landmarks, lend its charm to these places. We wanted to visit Little India for all that we had heard about it; that this little district in Singapore is a miniature and sanitised version of the real India. And we were not disappointed! We were rather pleasantly surprised to see a mini Tamil town ensconced in there.

The moment we stepped out of the MRT into Little India, we were greeted with State Bank of India on one side and a line of Indian shops on the other – selling everything from vegetables, flowers, incense sticks, Kanjeevaram sarees, banana leaves, pooja items, etc. etc. The vendors were sprinkling water on their vegetables to keep them fresh and eventually wetting the footpaths in the process – just like in India :D. Loud Tamil songs were blaring from another shop! Komala Vilas and many other south Indian restaurants in the vicinity were buzzing with crowds. The familiar and delicious aroma of sambar was wafting through the air and whetting our appetites!

A typical lane in Little India

 Photo credit: http://www.10best.com/destinations/singapore/singapore/little-india/

We had not eaten Indian food for the past 3 days ever since we had landed! Coming from Bangalore, we visited Little India mainly to satisfy our cravings for Indian food.  We decided to go to Swad, a Gujarati thali place that proved true to its name. Armed with directions on our phone, we walked across the neighbourhood to this tiny vegetarian restaurant. We opted for the limited thali which served 3 different sabzis, dal, farsaan, khichdi/rice, and phulkas directly off the stove. Ravenous as we were, the food tasted super yummy and was gobbled up in no time.

During our numerous rides across Singapore, many Uber drivers had suggested that we visit Mustafa shopping centre situated on Serangoon Road in Little India. The 24-hours open, crowded shopping centre gave us some delightful shopping experience.  Chocolates and electronics were really cheap there as compared to those found in India!

However, unlike Little India, we visited Chinatown mainly to explore the culture and ethos of the Chinese immigrants there. Right at the entrance of Pagoda street (one of the main shopping street in Chinatown) is the Mariamman temple, the oldest Hindu shrine in Singapore. I covered my knees with a sarong wrap to enter the temple, but was not allowed to go close to the sanctum-sanctorum as visitors to the city were not allowed beyond a point.

The Pagoda street next to it is a line of Chinese shophouses on both sides of the street selling everything under the sun – right from trinkets, clothes, crockery, decorative items, spa treatments to exotic food. It also houses the Chinatown Heritage Centre depicting memories and stories of Singapore’s early forefathers.

 

In Chinatown

 

Again, a crowded street in Chinatown

 

The walk across Pagoda street led us to a MRT station and beyond that a flight of stairs took us to People’s Park Complex shopping centre. It is a modest mall as compared to the ones on Orchard Road but it did give us what we were looking for – Chilli oil and chilli paste. Yes! We absolutely love these condiments and wanted to buy it. We looked around in the mall and finally found it in a Mandarin-speaking shop on the ground floor. With a little help around the shop, we soon discovered them in one of the aisles. I incidentally found some pu-erh tea as well (the Chinese tea which supposedly has many health benefits) which we picked.

 

Chilli oil and chilli paste on the shelves

 

Pu-erh tea

 

Happy with our finds, we further wandered around the mall to reach a crowded little place serving hotpot to its customers. Hotpot, as I found out, is a simmering stew of vegetables and meat served along with noodles or rice. The dish looked super healthy and quite popular too. The wee-little shop was overcrowded! A little across the corner, we came across a shop selling dumplings of various kinds. Although I am a vegetarian, these exotic foods surely fascinated the foodie in me 😀

Hotpot

 

At the People’s Park Complex

 

At the People’s Park Complex

The Chinese New Year (which fell on Jan 28, 2017) preparations had already begun and the streets in Chinatown were a picture of colour and gaiety. Paper lanterns and decorations in red and yellow hues were all around us. We were also lucky enough to see a lion dance unfolding on the busy streets there. Our Uber driver told us that such functions were held not only during the new year celebrations but also at business-opening ceremonies to usher in prosperity and good luck. How cool is that!

A lane in Chinatown

Our day in Chinatown concluded with a visit to the famous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. People were offering incense sticks at the entrance as a mark of respect. Again, I covered my shoulders and knees with sarongs kept in a box outside the temple.  Though this time, I wrapped myself up quite tightly with the sarong before entering the temple (it’s a pain if you have to keep on fixing the sarong time and again lest it slips :D). A holy ritual of some kind was going on with monks standing near the altar and singing prayers. The atmosphere inside the temple premises was soothing and calm. The museum on the top floor is worth a dekko too.

 

 

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Inside the temple premises

 

Orchard Road, a well-known shopping destination, was a picture of festivity on Christmas Eve. Decorations and lights adorned the shops and the atmosphere was one of joy. We shopped in Daiso and a couple of other Japanese outlets before calling it a day. After shopping, we decided to try some authentic Chinese food. Indo-Chinese food with all the manchurians and spicy flavours that we get in India is totally Indian!  Being in Singapore, we wanted to taste the ‘authentic’ Chinese (read vegetarian :p) cuisine….And thanks to my husband’s buddy and his wife, we  dined at Din Tai Fung, a popular Taiwanese restaurant ranked as one of the Top Ten Best Restaurants in the world.

Orchard Road on Christmas Eve

 

 

 

Chefs busy making baos and dumplings in Din Tai Fung

We patiently waited for a good 45 minutes before we could enter the restaurant. We were supposed to order while waiting outside and were given the menu and the ordering card. Our friends helped us order all the right vegetarian dishes –soups, baos, dumplings, fried rice, noodles and the amazingly delicious mango pudding and yes! – not to forget the ‘gratis’ supply of green tea! The food was extremely low on fat and spices and was delicious. We really enjoyed the food, the company and the overall authentic Chinese/Taiwanese (One-China policy 😉 )experience.

No Singapore trip can be complete without visiting Sentosa, the Singapore Zoo and the famous Jurong Bird Park. Sentosa (again derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Santosha’, meaning happiness ) is an island-resort replete with theme parks and resorts. A couple of our days in Singapore were mostly spent in Sentosa, enjoying Universal Studios, aquarium, and the thrilling, ziplining ride to Siloso beach.  On one of the days, we decided to take the cable car from Mt. Faber to reach Sentosa, taking in the beautiful sights from above; and on another day we took an Uber through the underground roads of the island to reach there. Clicking pictures with the exotic birds, eating delicious coconut ice cream served in coconut shells, spotting a man taking a selfie with a huge snake around his neck; all made for wonderful, happy memories of this place.

 

Cable cars crossing over from Mt. Faber to Sentosa

 

 

Coconut icecreams

 

Inside Universal Studios

 

The Monorail of Sentosa

A visit to Jurong bird park and the Zoo were a must-do for our little one and we were equally glad that we did it. Impeccably maintained with a variety of trees and animals/birds, these places reminded us of the once lush green cover of equatorial forests, this island would have had!

Another place deserving a mention is our visit to the Gardens by the Bay. The Cloud Forest Dome in there is a cool, moist observatory showcasing plant life at different altitudes. It has the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, cascading against a mountain. The dome periodically creates an artificial but refreshing mist to mimic the natural environment. The flower dome next to the Cloud dome is equally fantastic. It is the largest glass greenhouse in the world and has an amazing, informative display of flowers and plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid regions. Gardens by the Bay was a one-of-its-kind experience for us. It was an evening well spent. I would strongly recommend this place for all visitors in Singapore.

Exiting the gardens, we decided to dine at Clark Quay (Boat quay). We entered one of the pedestrianised lanes that curves itself along the Singapore river. The lane was buzzing with lights and crowds. It was packed with bars and restaurants set in iconic, multi-storeyed houses with the famous Fullerton hotel standing tall on the other side of the bank. We preferred the open-air seating by the river. The cool, refreshing breeze passing ferry cruises, the hearty dinner served, and my lovely family as company, all made it a night to remember!

We spent almost a week in Singapore and yet felt that there is much more left to explore. We visited all the major landmarks and tourist places and felt that we could have easily spent more time in these places. But, time and flight wait for none ;). Thoroughly impressed with Singapore, we packed our bags with an intent to return soon. Adios!

 

 

Recommended restaurants:

1)Piedra Negra – Mexican cuisine

Address: 241 Beach Rd, Singapore 189753 Phone: +65 6291 1297

2) Swad – Indian cuisine

Address: 70 Desker Rd, Singapore 209593 Phone: +65 9890 0061

3) Maharajah Boat-Quay

41 Boat Quay, Singapore 049830 Phone: +65 6535 0122

4) Din Tai Fung – Chinese cuisine (it’s a chain all over the city)

Address: 290 Orchard Rd, #B1-03, Paragon Shopping Centre, Singapore 238859 Phone:+65 6836 8336

5) Sawasdee – Thai cuisine

Address: 32 Pagoda St, Singapore 059191 Phone:+65 6327 1733

 

Recommended shops/malls:

1) Bugis Street – One of the biggest and cheapest places in Singapore to shop for clothes, souvenirs, accessories, electronics, cosmetics and houseware.

2) Daiso department store – It is a Japanese variety-store chain selling stationery, toys, decorations, gifts, etc. Items are sold for S$2 each.

3) Mustafa Centre – the 24-hour shopping centre/supermarket located in Little India

4) Orchard Road – a 2.2 km shopping stretch for high-end retail therapy

5) VivoCity Mall – located in Harbourfront precint of Bukit Merah

 

 

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Singaporean_Indians