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Monday, July 21, 2014

Great Thai Cuisine at ‘Cabbages and Condoms’

While in Bangkok, there was this interesting restaurant I went with my family for an authentic Thai cuisine. Didn’t realize that the mannequins that I saw at the entrance were dressed in colorful condoms until I touched the rubbery strips.

The safe sex message was loud and clear and screamed from every article displayed at this Sukumvit eatery, in the lampshades, flower bouquets, wall hangings, dinner plates, toothpicks, and even in the different articles sold in the souvenir shop at the entrance of this restaurant.

While Bangkok is renowned for sex trade it also has an incredible spiritual side with beautiful temples at every junction. This place is a brazen shrine to all things safe sex.

While in Bangkok, coconut water is must. It’s so sweet and delicious. I have relished it almost every day. So this was the first drink that arrived at our tables as soon as we settled down for a cool drink

The Thai cuisine served in this restaurant is excellent and authentic. Steamed crabmeat with vegetables and basil, satays in peanut sauce, spicy tom yum soup, sticky rice, stuffed fish, and there was wide selection of vegetarian Thai cuisine for my pure vegetarian family.

I specially loved ‘Mieng Thum’, that had lemon, dried shrimps, peanuts, deep fried coconut, ginger, green chili, shallots wrapped in betel nut leaf. 

On out way out I was most amused by this

It turns out that the story behind ‘Cabbages and Condoms’ is a fantastic one; it is actually an organization that has spearheaded the safe sex movement in Thailand, saving thousands of life in the process.

Do visit it when in Bangkok…..

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Lot Can Happen Over a Cup Of Coffee at ‘The Square’.

The invite at ‘The Square’ was to explore the world of ‘Single Origin’ coffees with Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal and Rhicha Sinha for an interesting session of historical journey of coffee in India. Naturally I was curious, because last year, during my visit to Canary Island, I had done the study of the coffee culture in Spain and I wanted to know how it differed from India.

The Square’ Café Coffee Day specializes in single origin coffee

Single Origin Coffee, as explained by Rhicha Sinha, is the one that is specific to one particular origin. It could be entire geographical region, a small village or even one particular hill. What makes it so special is that aroma and the taste of the beans differ depending on the specific mix of tangible and intangibles characteristics of that particular area in such a way that it is impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world.

The four different beans that were displayed at the cooking station in jute bags had very strong and sweet aroma. But the actual taste of the coffee was from freshly roasted, ground coffee that was in the plunger. Rhicha Sinha, who is the senior manager and beverage consultant at Coffee Day, explained that the right method to brew the coffee was with hot mineral water. She spoke about how much research they had done to distinguishing the taste of different beans and the number of coffee cups she consumes per day..

The session started with brief talk by Rushina who expressed her love for coffee and her involvement with the company since last two years. Rushina, being a foodie, has great ideas for matching food with beverages.

We all know that food and wine can be incorporated and there are lots of other food and beverage match that people have tried to do- sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work- for eg whisky and food, I think whisky should be had on its own. What is interesting is that we can also match the coffee with food. With coffee it actually works. You can drink coffee to wash down a snack, it can be spicy n cheesy, it could be sweet and nutty, you can pair it and it compliments with the food and it’s worth exploring. The idea is to taste them and take them where you will, with your personal coffee experience and your personal coffee story.” She said.

Rhicha on the other hand took us through the journey of coffee by making us experience the different brewed coffee and their accompaniment with the snack. The journey started with ‘Ethopian Sidamo’ the birthplace of coffee, which is harvested by hand to deliver a bean of exceptional quality and this was served with delicious tacos. This was followed with coffee of Indian origin, Mysore Nuggets extra bold, Indian Kathlekhan superior and Rajgiri pearl with accompaniments such as nutty pastry, pizza and cookie.

It involves many years of blending and brewing. In fact, the launch of The Square is the revolution since five years and it was very apt for us to have café that serves single origin coffee and we truly believe that single origin coffee is not just about selling a cup of coffee to our guest but also creating awareness about what these special coffee are.” Says Rhicha

Rushina used coffee in cooking of BBQ sauce (she did live demo at the end of the session) and it tasted delicious. One of these days I plan to make this sauce.

Signature Recipe specially created by Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal for CCDSquareUP

Katlekhan Barbecue Sauce.


2 tbsp oil                                        1 ¾ Onions        chopped           
6Garlic cloves chopped                 4tbsp green chilies      
½ cup brown sugar                       2tbsp chili powder
2tbsp fresh coriander leaves                  1tsp cumin ground
200gms tomatoes, chopped          100gms tomato puree
1 stock cube                                  1cup strong Katlekhan coffee freshly brewed


Heat oil in heavy, large saucepan over medium-high heat
·      Add onions, garlic and chili and sauté until onions are tender, about 7minutes
·      Add brown sugar, chili powder, honey, coriander and cumin, stir until sugar dissolves
·      Stir in tomatoes with puree, crumbled stock cube and coffee, bring to boil
·      Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until sauce thickens slightly and is reduced.
·      Stir often while on the heat for about 35minutes
·      Check seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed.

I found Katlekahn Coffee candied nut mix (made by Rushina) in the foodie bag that I brought back home, and I couldn’t stop eating.

It was a fun afternoon meeting with other food bloggers and other persons from social print media. There were many ideas exchanged and the conversation was mainly around ‘food’ I think I had too many cups of coffee during the session, and then a feast over coffee infused candied nut mix, which kept me high for a long time and kept me awake much longer than my normal sleeping hours.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Food Hunt At Nature Basket in Bandra Organized by FBAI

It was a fun Sunday morning at Nature Basket in Bandra. All the food loving people gathered to participate in a game called ‘FoodHunt’. The participants were divided into ten groups, with each team comprising of 3-4 persons. There were eight venues where the teams had to hop, playing different games at different venues. For e.g.- at Mangi café they were guessing the 3 ingredients of the pizza, at Maroosh they were putting shawarma together, at Coo they were blindfolded and had to taste test 3 bite size desserts.

There were field marshals posted at each venue, who helped guide the participants during the game.
We had to help the participants do an activity, tell them to take a selfie, post it on FB and then give them the next clue” says Mohit Chotrani, who was a field marshal at the venue at Maroosh

The whole event was organized by ‘FoodBlogger Association of India'. Sameer Malkani, the co-founder of this association, is the one who has brought the social media to a new level by building a platform where he co-ordinates the food bloggers with the restaurants and with other food enthusiasts. He has great ideas and is very compassionate about his work.

I did not take part in this event, but since the event was held closer to my house, I decided to go for a while. And I was in for a surprise

There was so much energy in the room, with some of the teams already having completed their task, were enjoying the variety of food displayed at the tables. I spoke to few of the participants and they were eager to share their stories. Some of them had hopped the different venues by car and some by autorickshaw. But travelling by autorickshaw was a better options, they said, because some of the lanes in Bandra are narrow and it is easier to move quickly in a smaller vehicle.

The atmosphere was vibrant with participants clicking group pictures. I was happy to meet some of my food bloggers friends like Rushina and Kalyan and they were to distribute the prizes to the winners.

The gifts hampers were attractive too and there were four team winners.

At the end of the session, some one shouted, 
We want this event in South Mumbai too”.
 So, I won’t be surprised if we have such events on a regular basis. Everybody likes to have fun and with food and gifts, it gets even more interesting!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Vietnamese Food Festival at Pondicherry Café at Sofitel

Friend said that I must try some good cuisine at various restaurants at Sofitel. 
There are some good restaurants tucked away at different level of the hotel and all are worth trying.” She added. She spoke about the kitty party she had with her friends at Jyran on the fourth floor. She had loved the North Indian cuisine at Jyran. She had also dined with her family at Tuskers that serves Gujju and Marwari cuisine, although she does not like the rich taste of Marwari food, she said that her family loved it. At Pondicherry café she said that she had the best meal because there is multi-cuisine buffet at all hours of the day, with Indian cuisine clubbed with International fare and she was specially happy because she had some beautiful moments on Valentine day at Pondicherry cafe with her spouse. I asked her if she would re-visit those restaurants and she replied in affirmative. Being a true foodie, she is a frequent diner and often eats out with her family and friends.

A true foodie will normally go to a restaurant either on invitation, or through recommendation or simply walk into a restaurant and take chances expecting some good food. I had made a mental note of visiting this hotel some time soon whenever I would be in that area of Bandra-Kurla Complex

The opportunity to visit this hotel came in the form of invitation. I was invited by Pooja Vaswani for the Vietnamese food festival at Pondicherry café, which is on till the first week of June. I found myself walking into Sofitel with a friend to a warm welcome of “Namastey’ and smiling faces of everybody at the entrance. Large chandeliers resembling the frilly skirts of French dancers stood prominently from the high ceiling of the lobby. (These Chandeliers are inspired by the beaded dresses of Parisian dancers of Charlestown.) The décor of the Sofitel is in the blending tones of French and Indian culture as it is visible everywhere, In the culture, in the cuisine, in the architecture, in the design of the hotel and restaurants, for example: Tuskar: elephant motifs everywhere, on the furniture, walls, on door knobs and a big carved wrought iron elephant(with a beautiful story behind it) in the open space at 4th floor, Artisan at the ground level had an interesting concept. Early morning its a coffee shop with tea and coffee, afternoon one can walk in for cakes, salads and sandwiches and late evening, there is live music and jazz. A small store tucked away in the corner sells some beautiful handicraft items.

Chef Dao Van Son, Head Chef at Hotel Sofitel Saigon Plaza, Ho Chi Minh has specially come to conduct this festival. I was happy for the invite to Vietnamese food festival mainly because I was hoping to revive the taste of Vietnamese food that I had during my last visit to Loas. 
It has been able to maintain the five elements of life in its cooking; wood, fire, earth, metal and water through the usage of its various spices and ingredients. Hence the taste of the food has to stand out with minimal spices. Vietnamese cuisine is influenced by Thai, Burma, India, French, Chinese, Malaysian and all the other migrant travellers who brought in their spices.
 Confirmed the Chef who gave the brief account of the Vietnamese cuisine and what to expect.

I had really enjoyed the local cuisine of Loas and during my three days stay in the city some years ago; street food had been my prime focus amongst other things.

The first thing I looked for when I went towards Vietnamese cooking station at Pondicherry cafe was Cha gio, a minced pork/shrimps/veggies rolled up in rice paper and deep fried, served in the bed of greens with chili-vinegar, and peanut sauce

But deeply disappointed, Cha gio was not on the menu. The second best thing that attracted me was the plate of seafood of clams, shrimps, octopus, squids, steamed veggies and mushroom. I dressed it up with basil sauce and it tasted great.

The soup was a disappointment. The stock tasted like bland warm water with shredded chicken, pasta and greens floating apart. Neither was there any taste of the herbs nor any spices. Even on adding salt, lime and chili, I couldn’t alter the taste.

However, the main course that was served in clay pots was very fresh. I saw the chef at the cooking station churn out the dishes in small portions, refilling the clay pots as soon as they were empty. The broccoli and vegetables were crispy and tasty but roasted chicken coated in sauce was hard and chewy. However, I loved the shrimps in sweet and sour, fragrant, succulent and fresh, cooked to the perfection, it was the winner.

The sweet dish of fresh fruits soaked in coconut milk tasted well. I am not much fond of desserts but I tasted in small portions, nibbling on it while deep in conversation with my friend across the table.

The ambience of Pondicherry café is very vibrant with live music, an attractive tinted glass wine enclosure at the entrance, with winding staircase leading to the wine cellar upstairs that was very impressive. Being in the vicinity of diamond market of BKC, the architecture of the hotel resembles the cut-glass diamonds and this design can be observed in the pillars and in different angles of the building.

It was the enriching experience. To escape the heat of Mumbai, spending a lazy afternoon at Pondicherry café and enjoying a Vietnamese cuisine seems a better option.

Here is the recipe that Chef at Vietnamese shared with me.

Raw Mango Salad
Inspired through the magnificent mango onset, the recipe will blow you away with its taste bud-awakening flavours and mix of textures. Extremely healthy and low calorie the dish is designed to keep you upbeat.

150gms Raw Mangoes
50gms Shallots
20gms Green chillies
30gms roasted cashew nuts
50gms Tomatoes
20gms    Coriander
15gms Palm Sugar or Castor Sugar
10ml Fish Sauce
40gms Lemon
50gms Desiccated coconut      
1.    Peel the Mango and make julienne.
2.    Slice the shallot. Julienne deseeded tomato.
3.    Toast the cashew nuts and keep ready.
4.    Make nice sprigs of coriander and keep it ready.
5.    Make a dressing of Palm sugar, fish sauce and lemon Juice.
6.    Mix all the ingredients.
7.    Garnish with desiccated coconut.
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