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December 2012  
 
 
Special Reports
In this Issue
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 



In this issue we will focus on the beautiful city of Udaipur and its rich Mewari cuisine.

 
Udaipur is home to some of the world’s most luxurious and opulent hotels like the Oberoi Udaivilas and the Lake Palace Hotel. More than 1.2 million tourists gravitate to this magical city every year.

Before beginning your exploration, a quick meal featuring Kachori (puffy, crispy bread stuffed with spices and pulses) is a popular way Udaipurians start their day. For a heavier start, some stuffed parathas with bowls of fresh yogurt and lentil soup will satisfy even the most robust appetite.

You may begin your exploration with a visit to the amazing City Palace. Standing on the East bank of the famous Lake Pichola, you will see that the palace is actually a massive complex of palaces built at different times, which began in 1599 A.D.

Udaipur Lake Palace
 
Feast your eyes on the lavishly decorated rooms with their walls of mirror, rich ivory doors and multi-hued glass windows. Move to the fabulous Peacock Courtyard featuring vibrant, vivid mosaics. Tread lightly through the amazing Crystal Gallery as you take in its exquisite crystal collection, including a complete bedroom set crafted from imported crystal.

As you absorb the decadent display of wealth you have just experienced, subject your palate to similarly lavish cuisine.

Enjoy lunch at one of the palace restaurants where an entourage of royal cooks is busy preparing traditional Mewari food to titillate your taste buds.

Choose from a mouth-watering array of authentic Mewari dishes, maybe settling for the delicious Gutte ka Saag (crusty gram flour dumplings cooked in spicy onion-based gravy twanging with cumin and ginger) savor thick golden-brown Dal Mewari (specially flavored Mewari lentils) and Makki Pullao (rice garnished with tasty corn dumplings).

Other options include flaky fish wrapped in a green mint and coriander chutney, a tender mutton curry shimmering in tomato gravy and a succulent chicken curry innovatively teamed with sweet corn.

End your meal with the famous Malai Ghevar (a spongy wedge made of refined flour and clarified butter, moistened with a splash of condensed milk and covered with a customary, edible silver wrap.)

Continue your exploration of the magical city with a boat ride on Lake Pichola and a visit to Jag Mandir island.


  Dish

Jag Mandir once served as a refuge for Prince Khurram, later known as Emperor Shah Jahan, his wife Mumtaz Mahal and their 2 sons. The prince had rebelled against his father Emperor Jehangir and was forced to seek sanctuary at Udaipur. The small sandstone palace he occupied, Khurram’s Palace, is adorned with a lofty dome. The massive stone slabs lining the interior walls were once adorned with inlaid rubies, onyx, cornelian, jasper and jade.

Perhaps Jag Mandir’s most striking feature is the spacious courtyard of black and white tiles hemmed on the northern side by the Garden Courtyard of lush, landscaped rose gardens, palm trees, jasmine bushes and frangipani trees. The courtyard is home to hundreds of peacocks, pigeons, parrots and other avifauna. Cooling fountains and pools, intersected by pathways bordered by low marble balustrades, combine to create the ideal ambience for many lavish royal celebrations still held here.

After your cruise on Lake Pichola you head to the delightful garden known as Sahelion-Ki-Bari (Garden of the Maidens). Its lotus pool, a sitting room decorated with paintings and glass mosaics, and a profusion of colorful flowerbeds, lawns, pools and fountains, all serve as reminders of Udaipur’s glorious past.

It’s now time to end your day of discovery with a delicious foray into more, unique Mewari cuisine. Safed Maans (lamb chunks cooked to a tender succulence in yogurt and almond-coconut paste) is a sure winner guaranteed to delight most palates. When teamed with a rich Pullao (rice liberally garnished with nuts and raisins) and Dana Methi Kishmish (a delicious fenugreek, raisin and yogurt preparation), accommodating the delicious desert options afterward will be a challenge.


Ranakpur Jain Temple
 
Chances are you will be spending another day in or around Udaipur. This might take you for an excursion to the amazing Jain temples at Ranakpur or you may choose to stay in the beautiful city of Udaipur itself. Either way, you’ll have the opportunity to sample any of the delectable dishes you could not accommodate on the previous day.

 
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   Chef of the Month
 

Chef

 

Corporate Chef of the prestigious HRH Group of Hotels, Vimal Dhar is a highly experienced chef with a passion for perfecting culinary specialties. With an impressive list of achievements to his credit, this astute and result oriented professional has been featured among India’s top chefs in the book My Last Supper by Melanie Duna. The soft-spoken Vimal also holds the distinction of having been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA magazine by Mr. Stan Sessor and in the Discovery Channel by Tony Bourdain.

Featured below are three of his favorite recipes.


Padampuri Murg :
(A delicious boneless chicken and yogurt dish cooked purely in clarified butter and liberally seasoned with spices)

 

Padampuri Murg

Utensils :
1 Mixing dish
1 Medium-sized wok
1 Serving dish

Ingredients
Chicken – 1.9 lbs. (30 oz.)
Garlic paste – 2 tsp.
Whole red chilies – 6
Onions – 7 (small)
Garlic – 1 pod (coarsely chopped)
Coriander seeds – 1/2 tsp.
Cinnamon – 2 sticks

 

Cloves - 5
Salt – to taste
Yogurt – 1 1/4 cup (10 oz.)
Ginger – 1/2 tsp. (finely chopped)


Yogurt Mixture:
Clarified butter - 2 tbsp
Cardamoms - 2

Preparation:

1. To prepare the yogurt mixture, thoroughly mix together all the ingredients except the chicken, cloves, cardamoms and cinnamon with the yogurt and set aside.

2. Heat the clarified butter and add cloves, cardamoms and cinnamon.

3. Add the yogurt mixture and stir till the masala leaves the clarified oil.

4. Now add the chicken and cook until tender preferably no water should be added.

5. Transfer to a transparent glass serving dish and serve hot.

 
     
 
 
         

Maans Ka Soweta :
(An unusual mutton and corn preparation with capsicums and lemon juice, in rich tomato gravy)

 

Utensils :
1 Large wok
1 Large serving dish

Ingredients
Mutton – 1.9 lbs. (30 oz.) – cut into 1 1/2" pieces
Refined oil – 13 1/2 tbsp. (200 ml.)
Garam Masala (whole) – 1 tbsp.
Broken corn kernels – 1/2 cup (4 oz.)
Ginger garlic paste – 1/2 cup (4 oz.)
Red chili powder – 1 tbsp.
Capsicum – 1/2 cup (4 oz.) - cubed
Tomatoes – 1/2 cup (4 oz.) - cubed
Tomatoes – 1 cup (8 oz.) – chopped
Lemon – 1

 

Onion – 1/2 cup (4 oz.) – cubed
Onions – 1/2 cup (4 oz.) - sliced
Turmeric – 1 tbsp.
Salt – to taste

Preparation:

1. Heat the oil in a wok, add the garam masala and stir until it crackles.

2. Now add the onion slices and fry until golden brown. Add the ginger garlic paste and continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir well, and add the remaining spices and sauté until the clarified oil appears on the surface.

4. Add the mutton and stir for 5 minutes. Put in approximately 3 glasses of water, broken corn kernels and simmer until mutton is tender.

5. Add the tomato, onion, capsicum cubes, and the juice from the lemon. Mix well.

6. Transfer to serving dish, garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

 
     
 
 
         
 

Malai Ghevar :
(A delicious dessert consisting of a spongy wedge made from refined flour and clarified butter, generously splashed with condensed milk)

 



Utensils:
1 Wok
6 Small, ring molds
1 Serving plate

Ingredients
Maida (white flour) – 1/2 cup (4 oz.)
Ice – as needed
Water – as needed
Clarified butter (cold) – 8 tbsp. (4 oz.)
Clarified butter (hot) – 2 cups (16 oz.)
Milk – 7 tbsp. (100 ml)


 

Preparation:


1. Whisk the cold clarified butter with ice and water.

2. Add the white flour to this mixture.

3. Whisk the above mixture vigorously.

4. Add chilled milk to it and whisk again taking care to avoid lumps.

5. Heat the clarified butter in a large, shallow wok.

6. Place the ring molds into the wok.

7. Gradually pour the mixture into the ring molds.

8. When the ghevar (the sweet being prepared) is half done, make a small hole in the center of the ghevar.

9. When golden brown, remove it with a skewer.

10. Transfer onto a serving dish and generously splash with condensed milk before serving.


 
 
 
 Resort of the Month
Fateh Prakash Palace
Located on the eastern shore of the picturesque Lake Pichola in Udaipur, the Fateh Prakash Palace seems to have floated straight out of a fairytale. This palace was constructed during the reign of one of the greatest Maharanas of Mewar, Maharana Fateh Singh. The palace was constructed as an exclusive venue for royal functions and has been meticulously preserved and managed by the HRH Group of Hotels for discerning guests.

The history-soaked interiors, dotted with miniature paintings, portraits, and royal artifacts transport you to legendary times. The Durbar Hall Sabhagaar and Crystal Gallery, resplendent with rare paintings and objects, will connect you to a rich and authentic heritage.

The suites and rooms are decorated with original paintings and period furniture from the toshakhanas (royal storerooms). Cocoon yourself in velvety luxury as you soak in the ever-changing hues of the lake from large arched windows.

Enjoy the dramatic views of Udaipur’s most famous landmark palaces from the Sunset Terrace, consistently rated as one of the top restaurants of India. The restaurant offers a varied menu to choose from while taking in the magnificent natural scenery. Live musicians add to the charm of this exquisite vantage point.

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News Updates
 
From the Head Office in Delhi
Mini strokes paint Taj Mahal story
Twenty five years ago when Naveen Sharma was 17 years old, he visited Agra with a few friends. At that time he did not realize that setting his eyes upon the iconic Taj Mahal would change the course of his life. Captivated by the beauty of the white tomb, Sharma decided to replicate its grandeur on canvas. And what followed is a work of art that has fascinated many across Delhi who visit the trade fair.

Occupying a small area in the Rajasthan pavilion of the trade fair are two paintings that have grabbed the attention of many. It is confusing to see passers-by scanning a painting with a magnifying glass, which on face seems like a regular painting of the Taj Mahal.

Encased in a 20-inch by 24-inch wooden frame using the Mughal School of miniature painting is the iconic monument with brush strokes pictorially documenting the series of events that occurred around the construction of the Taj Mahal.

There are 20 tablets bordering the main structure. Each painted tablet connects with each other to tell a story. Beginning with Emperor Shah Jahan, the story shows the artists’ designs. Then it proceeds to the foundation laying, consultation with elders, kiln construction to tax implementation by the emperor in order to cover resource shortage.

The hand-painted story ends with his son Aurangzeb rebelling and imprisoning Shah Jahan who later died gazing at the white marble tomb.

All this along with 10,000 micro Taj Mahals, six Great Mughals and 230 other buildings constructed by the dynasty were hand painted by Sharma using a one-hair brush. He started the piece in 2006 and completed it in 2010. It took Sharma 4,900 hours to complete this intricate work of art.

*Elements of this story excerpted from “Mini strokes paint Taj Mahal story” – The Times of India

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 From the Agra Office
ASI starts e-ticketing trial run for Taj Mahal

After witnessing a sudden surge in the number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has begun a trial run using e-ticketing.

Before the Taj, the ASI had started an e-ticketing trial run for Qutub Minar. The month-long trial run ended October 31. Public entry into 116 monuments throughout the country is through tickets. ASI wants to introduce e-ticketing at all monuments in a phased manner. This will not only help visitors but also ensure better accounting of revenue collection, store data on visitors and minimize the possibility of malpractice in the current manual system.
 
Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is the most sought after monument on the list. In 2011, it saw more than 2.15 million Indian visitors and more than 340,000 foreign visitors.

Results of the trial run at the Qutub Minar will pave way for implementation of the program in Agra. After initial teething troubles, the system has picked up at the Qutub Minar.

The number of footfalls at the Taj Mahal has registered a substantial increase since the August opening of the Noida-Agra expressway.

Initially, the authorities in the Agra circle had set up additional counters near the monument but even they proved inadequate.

*Elements of this story excerpted from “ASI starts e-ticketing trial run for Taj Mahal” – The Times of India

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 From the Jaipur Office
All set for Jaipur Lit Fest 2013

The much-awaited sixth edition of the annual Jaipur Literature Festival has been scheduled January 24 to 28, at Diggi Palace in Jaipur.

The five-day festival will encompass a wide range of activities including debates, discussions, readings, music and workshops.

Like previous editions, the 2013 Festival is open to all. A new venue, the Char Bagh, has been added to the existing venues at Diggi Palace to expand its capacity by another 5,000 people per hour.

The Jaipur Literature Festival continues to be the largest free literature festival and among the five largest such festivals in the world, with a unique visitor registration of 57,000 and a footfall of more than 122,000 in 2012.

More than 16 languages will be represented, including Hindi, Urdu, Rajasthani, Tamil, Telugu, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Punjabi, Bangla, Malayalam, Gujarati, Sindhi, Kannada, and Kashmiri. A special emphasis will be on the transition of Maithili and Bhojpuri literature from the traditional to the contemporary.

The themes and session strands at the festival will focus on a wide range of topics including The Buddha in literature, Republic of Ideas, Re-imagining the Kama Sutra, Hindi-English Bhai Bhai, Alternative Sexualities, Lok Geet Folk Geet, Bollywood ki Nayi Sanskriti and Bibliodiversity Dialogues.

International sessions at the festival will explore Russian literature, the Jewish novel, Shakespeare, Kipling, cricket writing, the New Africa, Iran and writing on the contemporary art scene.

Some of the authors who have confirmed their presence at the Festival in 2013 are Diana Eck, Elizabeth Gilbert, Erica Jong, Frank Dikkoter, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Howard Jacobson, Kancha Ilaiah, Linda Grant, Madeline Miller, Michael Sandel, Orlando Figes, Pico Iyer, Reza Aslan, Simon Armitage, and Zoe Heller.

*Elements of this story excerpted from “All set for Jaipur Lit Fest 2013” – The Deccan Herald


 
 From the ETI Wildlife Desk
Sundari spotted with her three cubs

Ranthambore’s famed tigress Sundari, also identified as T-17, was sighted along with her three cubs in the Thamba Khan area on the way to Jogi Mahal in the national park.

She was apparently acclimatizing the young ones with her territory in the forests.

The tigress and the litter have been spotted on rare occasions in the tiger reserve since May when the offspring were born. There was elation among wildlife enthusiasts in Rajasthan over the cubs’ birth.

State Forest and Environment Minister Bina Kak had asked officials to remove the radio collar fitted on Sundari in 2008, as it had become non-functional two years ago.

After the radio collar was removed from her neck, Sundari conceived and delivered three healthy cubs. The pictures taken by Kak were the first capturing the tigress in all her grandeur without the gadget. The cubs are seen frolicking around their mother in their natural habitat.

Sundari’s movement is usually observed in the terrain around Padam Talab, Rajbagh Talab, Malik Talab and Kachita Valley in the park. Kak is considering the creation of a corridor from Ranthambore to adjoining Kailadevi to ensure smooth movement of the big cats in view of their increasing population.

*Elements of this story excerpted from “Sundari spotted with her three cubs” – The Hindu

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 From the Kochi Office
Cruise tourism picks up steam in Kochi

The expected increase in arrival of cruise tourists might offer a respite to Kerala’s tourism stakeholders who are concerned about the lackluster arrival of guests from places like Europe.

The Kochi Port foresees an increase in number of cruise liners arriving in the city. This will have an added impact on the regional economy since cruise tourists are generally high spenders. In 2011, the arrival of nearly 58,000 cruise tourists to Kochi generated revenue worth Rs. 60 million to the state.

 

Interestingly, more shipping companies are showing a preference to berth vessels there overnight. This is seen as a marked difference from the past when the vessels used to come early in the morning and leave by evening.

The port expects more big vessels this financial year and is equipping itself to play the host. More similar-sized vessels would make port calls at Kochi if the ship’s captain is happy with the navigation channel and services

The port is also encouraging vessels to use Kochi as a turnaround port.

Though cruise ships are berthed in different port areas, the length of the boat-train-pier berth is slated to be increased along with improvements to the shipping channel in an effort to attract more ships.

Kochi is the most-preferred cruise destination in India because of its international shipping route proximity.

*Elements of this story excerpted from “Cruise tourism picks up steam in Kochi” – The Hindu


 
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 Festival Alerts
Christmas in India

Christmas is celebrated with great fervor in India. As with most cultures that celebrate Christmas, preparations gain significant momentum in Christian homes throughout the country during December.

Christmas trees are lovingly decorated by entire families. Trees can be covered with traditional US trappings including artificial snow and a delightful variety of colorful, glittering Christmas baubles such as gold and silver stars, bright red figures of Santa Claus, delicate angels and bright red, emerald green, blue and gold balls.

However, Christmas celebrations vary in different regions of India. In some regions, small clay oil-lamps and mango leaves are used as Christmas decorations. Instead of an evergreen, mango and banana trees are decorated.


The festivities culminate on Christmas Day with people attending mass and then enjoying a sumptuous Christmas lunch. Families and friends get together while an air of celebration permeates predominantly Christian communities such as those in Kerala.


 

Easy Tours of India
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