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September 2012  
 
 
Special Reports


In this Issue
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 



In this issue we will focus on the fascinating city of Jaipur with its splendid heritage of forts & palaces and delectable Jaipuri Cuisine.

 

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 that 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.

Pinkcity

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 that 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.

The ancient princely state of Rajasthan gave rise to truly royal cuisine. The Kings who went on hunting expeditions relished the meat or the fowl they brought back. Even today, Rajasthani princely feasts flaunt culinary meat preparations to satisfy the palate of the most discerning gourmand. In direct contrast to the spicy meat dishes is the vegetarian fare of the Rajasthanis Rajputana, is undoubtedly the one with the most impressive martial record. It was a state of warring factions locked in deadly warfare. In this land, towering forts were built not only for ostentation, but also to intimidate the enemy.

To evoke the grandeur and majesty of a bygone royal era, perhaps it would be best to begin our explorations from the Amber Fort. Feel the might of the great kings as a brilliantly caparisoned elephant carries you up to the colossal ramparts of this fort. Exclaim in wonder at the gigantic 40-foot-long Jaiban canon, perhaps you hear distant echoes of its thunder!

As you move from the impregnable Amber Fort, built by Raja Mansingh, to the superbly designed City Palace in the heart of the Pink City, you will likely want a break.

 

Dish

As you sit down to a mouthwatering Jaipuri lunch. Tuck into and savor the many unique flavors of a Thali – a round platter featuring a cross-section of delicious culinary favorites for you to sample and enjoy.

prepared in pure ghee. Dry fruits, spices and yogurt are used in many delicacies and lend themselves to delectable sweet and savory preparations.

A sweet dish is never referred to as dessert in Rajasthan because unlike dessert, which is eaten after the main meal, Rajasthani sweets are had before the meal, during the meal, and after the meal. And typically, there is no rationing!

Gram flour is a major ingredient and it is used to make a number of delicacies, including the ever-popular Rajasthani dish of Dal-Bati-Churma; dal is lentils, bati is baked wheat balls and churma is powdered sweetened cereal.

Savor a typically Jaipuri Swadbhara Naashta, a delicious breakfast, in preparation for your journey. This would consist of a variety of crisp Kachoris (wheat preparations stuffed with onions, peas etc. and deep fried), and delicious Dahi Vadas – a preparation made with fermented rice and lentils, deep fried, and soaked in yogurt. Savory and refreshing drink concoctions complete the repast.

Now you begin to explore the rich Rajasthani cultural heritage. Of all the former princely states in India, Jaipur and the region around, earlier known as Suitably refreshed, resume your journey and arrive at the City Palace.

You have merely travelled a half-dozen miles at this point, but the journey you undertake as you view the impressive memorabilia of costumes, armory and miniature paintings in its many museums goes back much further in time. It reflects an era of chivalry, romance and artistic achievement inextricably interwoven into a colorful tapestry of Jaipur’s checkered past. Journey back to the time of Raja Jai Singh, the astronomer king of Jaipur, who built the magnificent stone Observatory Jantar Mantar in 1728 A.D. Or to the era of another royal personality,

Maharaja Sawai Partap Singh who built the intriguing facade of the Hawa Mahal in 1799 A.D. This innovative construction allowed royal ladies to view the city and bazaar from its windows without being seen.

Before you depart the Pink City, as it is popularly known, we recommend you enjoy a traditional Japuri repast of Lal Maans or Murg ki Kadi complemented with local breads.


    Chef of the Month
 
Chef Sumit
 

Sumit Sinha, the chef par excellence from Taj Jai Mahal Palace, displayed creative tendencies even as a child. A scholarship holder from the Ministry of Tourism and a graduate of the prestigious Institute of Hotel Management, Bangalore, Sumit is an innovative chef. An expert in the diverse cuisine of India, he has also trained under the internationally acclaimed chef, Paul Boucaise and combines a meticulous attention to detail with a passion for cooking. As Executive Chef of Jai Mahal Palace, he fulfills his responsibility by preparing mouthwatering cuisine for guests of the hotel. Given below are three of his delicious preparations of Rajasthani dishes from Jaipur.


Lal Maans
(Spicy Lamb).


 

Utensils:
1 Wok
1 Mixing bowl
1 Serving dish

Ingredients:
Lamb – 28 oz. (700 grams) – cut into 1 ½” pieces
Lamb stock – 3 cups
Oil – 6 oz. (150 grams)
Garlic paste – 2.4 oz. (60 grams)
Green cardamoms – 5
Brown cardamoms – 5
White onion – 1 – minced

For The Yogurt Mixture:
Whole red chilies – 30 (ground into a paste)
Yogurt – 9 oz. (225 grams)
Cumin seeds – 0.12 oz. (3 grams)
Turmeric – 0.2 oz. (5 grams)
Coriander powder (3 grams)
Salt – to taste

Preparation:

1.
Mix the yogurt with the red chili paste, roasted cumin seeds, coriander powder, turmeric and salt. Set this mixture aside.

2. Heat oil in a wok and sauté the onions until golden brown.

 

Lal Maans


3. Add the garlic paste and cook for 1 minute then add both the green and brown cardamoms.

4. Now add the mutton pieces, brown well for 4-5 minutes and add the yogurt mixture. Brown until all the liquid has evaporated.

5. Add the lamb stock and bring to a boil, cover and simmer until meat is tender.

6.
Transfer to a serving dish and serve with plain, boiled rice.

 
     
   
 
 
         
 

Dahi Keema Samosa
(A delicious savory snack with a yoghurt flavoured mince meat stuffing).


 

Samosa

Utensils:
1 Wok
1 Mixing bowl
1 Serving plate
1 Small bowl for the dip

Ingredients

The filling:
Mincemeat – 16 oz. (400 grams)
Yogurt – 1 ½ tbsps.
Dry fruits – 0.8 oz. (20 grams) – chopped
Ginger – 0.2 oz. (5 grams) – finely chopped
Oil – 3 tbsps.
Garam masala powder – 1 tbsp.
Coriander powder – 1 tsp. – heaped
Onions – 2 oz. (50 grams)
Ginger garlic paste – 0.4 oz. (10 grams)
Red chili powder – 0.2 oz. (5 grams)
Turmeric powder – 0.2 oz. (5 grams)
Salt – to taste
Garam masala (whole) – 0.2 oz. (5 grams)


The Samosa:
Refined flour – 10 oz. (250 grams)
Ajwain (carom seeds) – 1 tsp.
Oil – 8 tbsps.
Salt – ½ tsp.


The Dip:
Yoghurt – 3 tbsps.
Salt – to taste
Castor sugar – 1/2 tsp.
Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp.

 



Preparation:

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

2. Mix in the mincemeat, red chili powder, salt, turmeric, coriander and garam masala powder. Set aside for 1 hour.

3. Heat oil in a wok, add the whole garam masala and stir for about a minute.

4. Add the sliced onions and sauté until golden brown.

5. Stir in the ginger garlic paste.

6. Add the marinated mincemeat to the oil and brown well over medium-high heat. Ensure the mince mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

7. Add the finely chopped ginger and dry fruits to the mince mixture and mix well. Take the pan off the heat and set aside.

8. Add salt, carom seeds and just enough oil to the refined flour to make stiff dough.

9. Make equal sized round balls of the dough and roll into thin sheets. Cut the sheets into halves.

10. Place an adequate portion of the keema mixture on each sheet and shape into a crescent.

11. Heat the oil in a wok. When it is very hot, but not smoking, fry the samosas until golden brown.

12. Remove the samosas from the hot oil and drain on paper towels.

13. Serve hot with the yogurt dip.

 
  Murg ki Kadi
(An unusual Chicken preparation from the desert, with yogurt and spices).
 
 

Utensils:
1 Wok
1 Iron griddle
1 Small bowl
1 Mixing bowl
1 Serving dish

Ingredients:
Boneless chicken – 32 oz. (900 grams) – cut into 1” cubes
Asafetida – a pinch
Green chilies – 0.4 oz. (10 grams)
Cumin seeds – 0.2 oz. (5 grams)
Onion paste – 4 oz. (100 grams)
Coriander – 1 oz. (25 grams)
Garlic paste – 2 oz. (50 grams)
Oil – 6 oz. (150 grams)
Red onion – 1 – Minced

The Yogurt Mixture:
Gram flour – 2 oz. (50 grams)
Yogurt – 16 oz. (400 grams)
Turmeric – 0.2 oz. (5 grams)
Red chili powder – 0.2 oz. (5 grams)
Salt – to taste


Preparation:

1. Roast half the cumin seeds on a hot iron griddle, cool and grind them into a powder.

2. Whisk the yogurt in a bowl; mix in gram flour, red chilies, turmeric and salt. Add 3 1/3 cups of water and whisk again. Set this mixture aside.

3. In a wok heat 2 oz. of oil and cook the onions until they become translucent. Remove wok from the heat and transfer the onions into a small bowl. Wash, clean and dry the wok for further use.


 

Murgi Ki Kadi


4. Heat oil in a wok and add cumin seeds and asafetida. Sauté over medium heat until the seeds begin to crackle.

5. Add the chicken pieces and salt and cook until evenly browned on all sides. Add the onions and garlic paste and brown for 5 more minutes.

6. Add 2 and a half cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until the chicken is almost tender.

7. Add the yogurt mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the gravy starts to thicken (about 8-10 minutes).

8. Add cumin powder and green chilies. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Adjust the seasoning.

9. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot with plain, boiled rice.

     
 
  Resort of the Month
 
Raj Palace

One of the most fascinating Heritage establishments in Jaipur, the Raj Palace Hotel, is a boutique hotel with three dozen tastefully decorated rooms and suites. Extensive recent renovations have transformed this already charming heritage retreat into a unique combination of an opulent palace and a luxurious modern hotel with the latest technology.

Formerly a Heritage Hotel, the Raj Palace has now been upgraded to a Grand Heritage Hotel. It offers a very high level of service and is located in the heart of the Pink City of Jaipur.

 

Raj Palace

Unusual among Heritage Hotels, it has the distinction of being completely accessible by wheelchair and 10 of its rooms are equipped with handicapped friendly bathrooms.

The various royally named room categories include the Prestige Suite, Durbar Suite, Raj Mahal Suite, Swarna Mahal Suite, Khaas Mahal Suite, Historical Suites, Superior Royal Rooms, and Royal Rooms. Luxury amenities such as hypoallergenic pillows, DVD players, and plasma screen televisions further enhance the comfort levels of the accommodations.

Included in the comprehensive renovations are upgrades such as the menu revision at ‘The Shikarbadi’ (the Royal Bar), which features some of the finest wines from 14 countries, thus catering competently to the diverse tastes of its cosmopolitan clientele; the coffee shop has been redesigned as a luxury coffee lounge. Public areas have been attractively enhanced by 50,000 sq. ft. of added open space, and The Maharani Bagh (garden) has been beautifully landscaped.

The Raj Palace was built in 1728 A.D. by the Prime Minister of the Raj (Royal family of Jaipur), Thakur Mohan Singhji, and has remained his descendant’s residence until now. Located amidst sprawling verdant gardens, the palace has been beautified by the major artistic skills of its master craftsmen with frescoes, stone carvings, artistic mirrors and hand-painted works of art which further highlight the appeal of this boutique hotel.

 
 
 Updates from our Regional offices

From our Head Office in Delhi
Kites fill Delhi skies in spirit of freedom
The spirit of freedom scaled colorful heights throughout the capital’s skies when thousands of professional and amateur kite fliers took to the rooftops and streets to celebrate the Independence Day ritual of kite-flying Aug. 15.

"Kite flying as a tradition is much older than the Olympics. In the capital, kite flying as a public sport goes back much before Independence Day, almost 80 years before the country freed itself from the British rule. Now, it is a dying tradition because the present generation does not know how to fly kites," Sudhir Sobti of Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation said.


Delhi Tourism organized a day's kite flying festival at the Garden of Five Senses at Mehrauli in the capital, where kite fliers from Old Delhi, the birth place of the tradition, came to show off their ability to fly multiple kites on a single thread.

Kite flying as a tradition grew out of Old Delhi where artisans still make a variety of kites. The oldest and biggest kite market is Lal Kuan, where kite flying originated as a sport.

Some historians say the tradition dates back to the days of the Mahabharata, one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. Kites were not only used for receiving messages but also for measuring distances during war.

Kite fighting is the most exciting feature of flying kites. The Indian fighter kites are crafted from thin paper, which allows the kites to fly higher. The thread hoisting the fighter kite is strengthened with crushed glass, egg, pigeon droppings and wax so it cannot be snapped or cut by rival kites.

Kites to most new fliers in the capital have deeper symbolism. "The kite is a symbol of our freedom and the height at which it soars is a message to the world of what we can achieve," Diksha Gulati, a college student, said.

Marketplaces were packed with people, including foreign tourists, who bought kites by the dozens.

*Elements of the above excerpted from “Kites fill Delhi skies in spirit of freedom” – The Times of India

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 From our Agra Office
Rains boost Agra's green cover
Heavy showers have come as a big boost to afforestation efforts in the Taj city. The Taj Mahal is now adequately insulated against air pollution by a thick green cover. Behind the Taj, the Mehtab Bagh area is densely green. The Taj Nature Park is equally lush. Work on landscaping and recycling waste drain water is progressing well, officials say.

Saplings planted in June in half-a-dozen stretches in the district have grown. "The most spectacular will be the long stretch along the Yamuna River in the city until Haathi Ghat near the fort where thousands of saplings are now five to six feet tall," said District Forest Officer N.K. Janoo.
  Agra Office

He said the greening work on the controversial Taj Heritage Corridor will begin soon with landscaping and laying of pathways. "The Taj Corridor will be a shining green jewel between two world heritage sites, the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal.” Janoo said.

Ten years ago, the green cover in Agra district had fallen to just 7.38 percent. A recent report of the Forest Survey of India says this has risen to 8.25 percent. Estimates suggest the green cover in the city area has gone up 17 percent.

Several NGOs have also planted saplings in a big way. At St. Peter's College, a vast Neem Vaatika has come up on a wasteland. Harvijay Bahia, a shoe exporter and sportsperson, has planted saplings in blocks and provided managerial backup to ensure the project doesn't die.

The Taj Nature Park Project, 500 yards from the Taj, is now a green buffer. Waste water from drains has been treated and used to irrigate the green cover in the ravines of the Yamuna. This has helped bring down the suspended particulate matter in the eco-sensitive zone around the Taj Mahal. At Mehtab Bagh, a green cushion has insulated the Taj from air pollution.

*Elements of the above excerpted from “Rains boost Agra’s green cover” – Indo-Asian News Service


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 From our Jaipur Office
Palace on Wheels begins first journey of the season

Easy Tours of India offers the very best values and itineraries for the Palace on Wheels, India's famous luxury train. The Palace on Wheels rolled on its first commercial journey for 2012-13 to Rajasthan and other destinations from the Safdarjung Railway Station in New Delhi. During the first trip, 54 tourists from different parts of the world traveled on the train for its unforgettable weeklong journey.

The Palace on Wheels starts its journey in Delhi every Wednesday between September and April.

The train features 23 cars comprised of 14 saloons, one spa coach, two restaurants, Maharaja and Maharani and one reception with bar.

The itinerary for the season is Delhi-Jaipur-Sawai Madhopur-Chittorgarh-Udaipur-Jaisalmer-Jodhpur-Bharatpur-Agra-Delhi.

In 34 rounds from September to April, 3,100 passengers are expected to travel on this royal train.

*Elements of the above excerpted from “Palace of Wheels begins first journey of the season” – HindustanTimes

 
 
 
 From the ETI Wildlife Desk
Experts throw new light on tiger tourism
A report produced by India’s two leading tiger experts - Prof. K. Sankar and Prof. Wamar Qureshi - belonging to the Wildlife Institute of India throws interesting light on the contentious issue of tiger densities in tiger and non-tiger reserves.

The report zeroes in on both tourism and non-tourism zones of the Pench Tiger Reserve located in Madhya Pradesh, along with its buffer zones spread across Seoni and Chhindwara districts. Using a variety of methods to track the tiger population, including pugmark tracing,
Wildlife

scat DNA-based identification and camera traps, 11 tigers were found in the tourism zone while 13 tigers were located in the non-tourism zone, thereby confirming that there was no significant difference in tiger densities in these two areas.

The experts found that a radio-collared breeding female tiger used 19.3 percent of the tourism zone to raise four cubs from her second litter and 18.7 percent of the tourism zone to raise five cubs from her third litter. In all, this tiger used 12 breeding dens while raising her nine cubs, a practice followed by female tigers.

Belinda Wright said it is tourism zones of Bandhav-garh Ranthambore Tiger Reserves which have witnessed a higher reproduction of tigers. “Strictly-controlled tourism does not interfere with their breeding.”

*Elements of the above excerpted from “Experts throw new light on tiger tourism” – Deccan Chronicle

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 From Our Desk at Kochi - God's Own Land

The Madurai Float Festival

Madurai city is one of the oldest cities of the Indian Peninsula. It is situated on the banks of the Vaigai River and dates back to the Tamil era, which is more than 2,500 years old. It was once the capital city of the Pandya Kings and has a rich cultural heritage.

Here they celebrate several festivals throughout the year, but the most spectacular of these is the Madurai Float Festival, also known as Teppam. The festival's origins date back to 17th century when King Thirumalai Nayak would take the divine idols of the Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwarar for a boat ride around the lake on his birthday.

The Madurai Float Festival is a spectacular scene to behold. The deities are taken in golden palanquins escorted by elaborately decorated elephants and horses, along with musicians and devotees who sing songs all the way from the main temple to the lake at the break of dawn. The Madurai Float Festival procession stops on the bank of the lake and the deities are taken to Mandapam (a make-shift temple raft). Devotees throng in thousands to offer their prayers, and the cold winter morning seems to have no effect on their faith.

The raft in which the deities are enshrined for the day is decorated with colorful flowers, silk flags and papers. After taking a couple of tours around the lake, the raft is moored to the central island where it remains until evening. Throughout the day, a large number of boats ferry devotees over to offer prayers and worship to the idols on the central island.

The most spectacular sight of the Madurai Float Festival is during the evening when the lake water is filled with thousands of floating oil lamps and the banks glow with florescent tubes of light. The reflections cast along the lake from the oil lamps look like a mirror image of the radiant stars in the night sky above. The Madurai Float Festival celebration continues into the night and is topped off with an impressive fireworks display to conclude the festivities.

The Madurai Float Festival is celebrated on the full moon between mid-January and mid-February. The next Madurai Float Festival will be celebrated on Jan. 27, 2013.

 
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 Festival Alerts
Pushkar Camel Fair 2012: Nov. 20 – 28

The small town of Pushkar is about a two and a half hour drive from Jaipur. The town is the venue for the world renowned Pushkar Camel Fair and is located on the banks of a holy lake with the same name.

Pushkar Fair

The sleepy little town comes alive in the beginning of October as elaborate preparations begin for the Pushkar Fair. These activities result in many unique events, spectacles, and sights that can be experienced during the fair. These include a number of ethnic cultural events, such as colorful and vibrant Rajasthani dances, to coincide with the fair. During the fair, villagers bring more than 100,000 cattle, including 50,000 camels, to trade and sell.

It 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 has it that when time began, Lord Brahma (creator of the universe) dropped a lotus (pushkara) on this spot. This lotus turned into the lake Pushkar is built around. 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, the whole year round.

The Pushkar Fair is 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 premier year-round resort Pushkar Bagh, and these are made available to our guests.

 

 

Easy Tours of India
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India Offices: Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Ranthambore, Varanasi, Cochin, Bangalore, Chennai.


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