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November 2012  
 
 
Special Reports
In this Issue
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 



 This month we will focus on Ranthambore Tiger Park and the unique Rajasthani
  cuisine found there.

 
We would like to begin with a short note about hot food and spicy food. Contrary to popular belief, Indian cuisine is not meant to be hot. There are a great variety of herbs and spices used in Indian cooking. These may add flavor, aid digestion, have medicinal properties, or just bring color to the food (usually it's a combination of a few qualities).

The types and flavors of herbs and spices vary as you travel from one place to another within India. Just as anywhere else, there are people who cook and eat really spicy food however, almost all Indian restaurants will ask for your preference while taking your order. If they forget to ask you, please do let your waiter know.

This month we will savor the unique Rajasthani cuisine of the rural areas around Ranthambore National Park. The Ranthambore forests were once the King of Jaipur’s hunting preserve. The history of royal hunts goes back to the 12th century. Hundreds of men armed with weapons, drums, even pots and pans would step into the forest and create a noisy safari to draw out the wildlife.

In the royal kitchens of Rajasthan, including Ranthambore, food was a very serious business, and local ingredients were used in Rajasthani dishes to give them a unique flavor.

Scores of chefs would accompany the royal hunting parties. The results of the day’s hunt were served to the royals and their guests. On the evening of your arrival at Ranthambore, you will be served one or more of the following delicacies. Although, unlike the royals of old, you will not be served in elaborately decorated gold and silver dishes, your royal repast may contain dishes such as Laal Maans (spicy meat curry), Safed Maans (meat cooked in curd), Mohan Maans (meat cooked in milk), and Khad Khargosh (wild hare cooked and roasted underground).

The next morning you will enjoy Pyaz ke Kachori (a spicy mixture of onions and dough), a dish most Rajasthanis start their day with. Your visit to the National Park begins with an exciting early morning safari into the Ranthambore wilderness.

Ranthambore Fort  
Renowned for its magnificent Royal Bengal Tigers, Ranthambhore National Park is one of the finest tiger sanctuaries in the country. Experience the majesty of this mighty predator as you explore the jungle. Other wildlife you may spot includes: leopard, asiatic deer, flying fox, sloth bear, jackal, monitor lizard, macaque, the elusive caracal, blue bull, the snub-nosed crocodile, jungle cats, four-horned antelope and graceful herds of spotted deer.


  December Dish

With more than 260 avian species, the park is also a bird watcher’s paradise. You may see jacana, painted stork, black stork, crested serpent eagle, great Indian horned owl, Bonelli’s eagle, quail, partridge, paradise flycatcher, spur fowl, parakeet, spoonbill, kingfisher, geese and white necked stork among others.

Perhaps the most brilliant of all the fowl is the amazingly plumaged peacock, the national bird of India. If you are fortunate, you may see a male dance.

Upon returning to your lodge you will freshen up and bask in the exotic environment before lunch. You may want to try one of the mutton specialties along with delicious Dal Panchmeli (a mix of five types of lentils cooked together and seasoned with a mouth-watering blend of mild spices and clarified butter).

Add some Murg ka Mokul (shredded chicken cooked in yogurt and spices) and an assortment of freshly prepared Indian breads. Your appetite will have to be coaxed into enjoying desert.

After lunch, you will return to the forest for another safari. At the end of this safari you may want to explore the ruins of the 10th century Ranthambore Fort dominating the hills above the park and after which the Park has been named.

Epitomizing the ancient Hindu concept of vana-durg (a fort protected by a jungle), the Ranthambhore Fort was a citadel of power vital to trade route control. Built in 944 A.D. and chronicling numerous tales of valor in its history, this is still an imposing structure.

Tour its many old ruins including the palaces, temples, cenotaphs, houses and stepwells. There is an ancient functioning Hindu temple at one end of the fort complex still considered a sacred pilgrimage destination by the villagers in the surrounding areas. Perched atop a cliff overlooking the park, the fort affords superb views and has been a silent witness to the last millennium.

Among the more fascinating features of Ranthambore, and there are many of those, are ancient Banyan trees mentioned in the religious texts of India. Their gnarled roots stretch to the earth and some of them are more than 800 years old.

On this evening you will dine and swap tales of your safaris. Savor the succulent chicken and mutton kebabs and the fresh Indian breads along with other delicious Rajasthani accompaniments.


 
   Chef of the Month
 

Chef

 
Ajay Kumar is the soft-spoken chef of the Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge in Ranthambore. Ajay developed his passion for cooking at an early age. His first teacher was his father and his first lessons were in the intricacies of traditional Rajasthani cooking. He specialized in chicken and lamb delicacies and honed his culinary skills to perfection (over twenty years) at a number of fine dining establishments. His last tour of duty was in the kitchens of the exquisite Rambagh Hotel in Jaipur. The Taj Group then moved him to The Sawai Madhopur Lodge in Ranthambore where he now delights patrons with mouth-watering preparations from his vast repertoire of delicious recipes.

Given below are two of his Rajasthani preparations.
 

Sabat Raan:
(Whole Leg of Lamb).

 

Sabat Raan

Utensils :
1 Large, deep cooking vessel
1 Wok
1 Medium-sized mixing bowl
1 Large serving platter

Ingredients
Leg of lamb – 2.2 lbs (1 kg)
Ginger-garlic paste – 8 tbsp. (4 oz.)
Cashew paste – 4 tbsp. (2 oz.)
Pineapple juice – 2 3/4 tbsp. (40 ml.)
Red chili powder – 3 tbsp. (1.6 oz.)
Garam Masala powder – 3.5 tsp. (0.6 oz.)
Yogurt – 1 cup (7.2 oz.)
Onion paste – 4 tbsp. (2 oz.)
Refined oil – 3/4 cup (6 oz.)
Fenugreek leaves – a pinch
Salt – as needed and to taste
Green coriander – 3.5 tsp. (0.6 oz.)
Clarified butter or oil – 2 3/4 tbsp. (1.4 oz.)

 

Preparation:
1. Place the whole leg of lamb on a large
flat surface. Make deep slashes in it with the point of a sharp knife and squeeze pineapple juice into the cavities.

2. Rub salt liberally over the entire piece of mutton. Rub 1 1/2 tbsp. of red chili powder over the mutton. Rub the ginger-garlic paste over the meat.

3. Set aside to marinate for two hours.

4. Place yogurt in thin muslin cloth and hang to drain for 30 minutes. Remove drained yogurt from the muslin cloth and place in mixing bowl.

5. Heat oil in a wok and lightly brown the cashew paste, then the onions. The two ingredients must be browned separately. Remove from pan and set aside.

6. Mix the rest of the red chili powder with the yogurt and salt to taste. Add the browned onions and cashew paste to this mixture.

7. Coat mutton leg thoroughly with the yogurt mixture and place in a deep cooking vessel. Cook slowly over heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until done. Pierce with a skewer to check tenderness.

8. Place on a serving platter and serve hot.

 
     
 
 
         
 

Ranthambori Aloo:
(Special Spiced Baby Potatoes from Ranthambhore).


 

Ranthamori Aloo

Utensils:
1 Large wok
1 Shallow frying pan
1 Deep serving bowl

Ingredients
Baby potatoes – 2.21 lbs. (1 kg.)
Lemon – 4
Onions – 3/4 cup (6 oz.) – chopped
Black Pepper – 3 1/2 tsp. (0.6 oz.) – freshly ground
Butter – 3.5 tsp. (0.6 oz.)
Refined oil – 8 tbsp. (4 oz.)
Salt – to taste
Green chilies – 1 oz.
Mint leaves – 2 oz.

 

 

Preparation:
1. Wash the potatoes thoroughly and dry.

2. Quarter potatoes without removing skin.

3. Heat oil in a pan and lightly brown the potatoes. Remove the pan from heat and drain potatoes on absorbent paper towels.

4. Heat the butter in a wok and lightly sauté the onions for a minute. Now add the green chilies and freshly ground pepper—sauté for another minute.

5. Add the potatoes, half the mint leaves and salt to the mixture. Mix well and cook over low heat until done. Remove the wok from heat.

6. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Squeeze lemon juice over the potatoes to taste. Mix well and add the rest of the mint leaves.

7. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve hot.



 
Resort of the Month
The Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge
Located among 12 acres of lush gardens, the Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge exudes historical, rustic old-world charm. Built in 1930 by Jaipur royalty, Sawai Man Singh II, this 79-year-old hunting-lodge is one of the finest hotels of the prestigious Taj Group.

Conveniently situated 20-minutes away from Ranthambore National Park, this charming retreat has played host to royalty such as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

The royal couple used the lodge, which features a rich history as it was the accommodation for the King of Jaipur and his personal guests.
 
Resort of the month

The Sawai Madhopur Lodge’s charms and guest amenities include mouthwatering Rajasthani specialties prepared by chefs who have honed their culinary skills to an art. You will also enjoy the enchanting experience of seeing your cuisine prepared on an open Chula (cooking fire).

Apart from the rewarding wildlife safaris, the Taj offers nature walks in the countryside and its private gardens.

Ayurvedic massages and yoga are available to provide guests even more relaxation and rejuvenation.

 
 
News Updates From Our Regional Offices
 
 From Our Head Office in Delhi
Humayun's Tomb gets 16th century makeover

Nearly 100 master masons with chisels have begun to recast the weathered stones and crumbling lime facades of the 16th century mausoleum of Mughal Emperor Humayun, a royal family tomb that is home to 160 graves.

The tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is getting a makeover to resemble its original state with a unique not-for-profit conservation project. At the core of the structural renovation project is the restoration of 42 arched bays on the enclosure (outer ramparts) of the tomb, which have collapsed, and 68 arched alcoves on a lower level.
 

Updates Head Office

The stonework of the terrace and the elevated plinth in the forecourt have been relaid as well. The tomb was known to be have been commissioned by Emperor Humayun's wife Hamida who is also entombed in the mausoleum along with five Mughal princes.

The red-and-white tomb cast in sandstone and marble was constructed 1565 – 72 A.D. on a bank of the Yamuna. Its impressive design and facade are typical of symmetrical Timurid architecture.

The work has been inspired by a 19th century photograph of Humayun's Tomb, which shows the original structure.

The project has trained conservation professionals and craftsmen from the countryside and has generated livelihood to nearly 700 people in the Nizamuddin neighborhood of New Delhi.

*Elements of this story excerpted from “Humayun’s Tomb gets 16th century makeover” – The Weekend Leader



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 From our Agra Office
Taj Mahal to get uninterrupted power supply from solar plant

A solar plant will be set up near the Taj Mahal to provide uninterrupted power supply to the heritage monument and areas around it.

The proposal has been approved by the district authorities and money will be drawn from the Taj Heritage Fund to cover the plant installation cost.

The Department of Tourism made the proposal as result of frequent power supply interruption to the Taj.

 
Taj Mahal
The plant will be built on a hillock east of the Taj. The plant is slated to provide power to the Taj, Taj Nature Walk and Shilpagram areas during evening power failures.

*Elements of this story excerpted from “Taj Mahal to get uninterrupted power supply from solar plant” – The Economic Times


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 From our Jaipur Office
Excitement builds as Pushkar approaches
Anticipation has been building in the Jaipur office as the 2012 Pushkar Camel Festival approaches. The small town of Pushkar is about a two and a half hour drive from Jaipur. As the only private sponsor of activities at the fair, Easy Tours is the preeminent tour operator at Pushkar.


Located on the banks of the holy Pushkar Lake, the sleepy little town of Pushkar comes alive in the beginning of October when elaborate preparations begin for the fair, which runs Nov. 20 – 28 this year. Sponsoring the main camel race and other fair activities Nov. 21 and 22, the premier fair dates, the Easy Tours Jaipur office has been actively preparing for our guests’ arrivals. With almost 100 guests (and more than 20 Tour Directors, guides and other staff members) between our small group tours and independent tours, Easy Tours provides the best opportunity to enjoy the fair.
 
Jaipur

The unique events, spectacles, and sights that can be experienced during the fair can easily become the highlight of a trip in India. Events include a number of cultural demonstrations, such as colorful and vibrant Rajasthani dances. During the fair, villagers bring more than 100,000 cattle, including 50,000 camels, to trade and sell. The fair also includes a plethora of activities such as horse shows, camel races, camel and cow beauty contests, acrobatics, camel safaris and much more.

The Pushkar Fair is organized and celebrated at Pushkar and its precincts to commemorate its sanctity and fabulous riches. Apart from being a city of 400 temples, Pushkar prides itself on being the site of the only Brahma temple dedicated solely to the Hindu God of Creation.

Legend tells us that when time began, Lord Brahma, creator of the universe, dropped a pushkara (lotus) on this spot. The lotus turned into Pushkar Lake. There are more than fifty ghats around the lake, built by various rulers over the centuries. Hindu pilgrims visit the many temples located in Pushkar year-round.

The largest cattle fair on this planet, the annual Pushkar Fair is also considered to be one of the most unique fairs in the world. Visitors throughout the world come to witness this fascinating event, as well as thousands of people from within India. Easy Tours of India secures the best air-conditioned Luxury tents and cottages at Pushkar’s two premier year-round resorts, and these are made available to our guests.

 
 From the ETI Wildlife Desk
Sariska set to get three more tigers

The Sariska Tiger Reserve (located near Ranthambore National Park) in Rajasthan is scheduled to get three more tigers in the second phase of a translocation project. After the first phase of the tiger translocation project, two cubs were born.

One tigress will come from Ranthambore and two more, one male and one female, will be relocated from outside the state either Madhya Pradesh or Maharashtra. The Wildlife Institute of India will conduct a compatibility study before the new tigers are relocated.

Wildlife
Conservationists have voiced some concerns. Until now the forest department has exercised policies to keep the Ranthambore breed of tigers pure. Moving one to Sariska represents a departure from this policy and has caused some confusion. Moreover, just two cubs may be too early to call the experiment a success.

*Elements of this story excerpted from “Sariska set to get three more tigers” – The Times of India

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 From Our Desk at Kochi - God's Own Land
Periyar Tiger Reserve gets No.1 tag

The Periyar Tiger Reserve has bagged the India Biodiversity Award 2012 given by the United Nations Development Program. This award marks the reserve as the number one tiger reserve in the country.

The award, in the Protected Area category, recognizes the Periyar Reserve as a place where tigers are protected on the basis of global standards. The Kanha Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh was the runner-up.

The PTR walked away with the rarest honor after passing all the tests conducted by a special UN team. The team screened aspects related to eco-development and tiger protection in major tiger reserves across the country.

All potential visitors to Periyar need to know that, unlike Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh National Parks, tiger sightings are virtually unheard of at Periyar. The parks incredible natural beauty and other inhabitants, such as wild elephant herds, are the main attractions of the park.

*Elements of this story excerpted from “Periyar Tiger Reserve gets No. 1 tag” – The New Indian Express


 
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 Festival Alerts
Chennai music and dance festival Dec. – Jan.

The Chennai music and dance festival is a celebration of South India classical music (Carnatic Music) and dance held from mid-December to mid-January in Chennai. The city comes alive with the festival, which has developed into a cultural extravaganza with more than 2,000 participants in venues throughout the city.

Besides the auditoriums, well-known temple premises and heritage bungalows are used as venues. The month-long dance and music extravaganza features performances of famous artists from India.
 
Festival Alerts
The festival was started in 1927 to commemorate the anniversary of the Madras Music Academy and was later adopted by other organizations holding art festivals in different parts of the city. The Tamil month of 'Margazhi' is a sacred month for Hindus. Carnatic Music has its roots in devotion to the gods and has been a traditional form of worship from time immemorial.

Performances include vocal and instrumental music, and solo and group dance. Musical performances feature a variety of South Indian languages such as Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. Culturally unique instruments can be heard such as the Veena (a large string instrument), Goottuvadyam (similar to Veena but without frets), Nagaswaram (pipe), Thavil (percussion instrument), Mridangam (drum) and even Ghatam (a mud pot).


 

Easy Tours of India
US Office : 12885 Research Blvd., Suite 208, Austin, TX 78750, Toll Free – 888 597 9274
India Offices: Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Ranthambore, Varanasi, Cochin, Bangalore, Chennai.


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