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March 2013  
 
 
Special Reports


In this Issue
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 



Beneath a lush, green canopy, Kerala flows with lakes, canals, delicious cuisine and exotic drinks. Keralan cuisine is unlike any in the entire world.

 

Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews have all left their mark on Kerala's history and cuisine. In the beginning of the 16th century, Cochin was the main hub of the spice trade, and ships docking there would be filled entirely with spices before departing.

While Cochin was busy filling the world with spices, other cultures settling the area were bringing in their own cuisine. The Muslim kebab, Portuguese chili and European potato are all staples of today’s Indian diet.

After you have been exploring India for a few days, you might think you have already had a taste of Indian cuisine, but Keralan cuisine offers a distinct flavor to things you may have already tried.

Sambar, delicious vegetable gravy, served with dosa or idli is a popular dish throughout India, but in Cochin you will find the Sambar unusually sweet. This is the result of the base being made from coconut cream. You can find Sambar on the menu at every meal, but if you have it for breakfast, be sure to try to some famous Keralan coffee, the beans are likely grown close by.

Coconut will be found in many recipes while you are here; after all, Kerala famous Chinese fishing nets at Kochi beach, you will be able to fulfill your tea craving. Sip gourmet teas and chais as the sunlight filters through the glass panes of a teahouse. Indulge your taste buds as you sample some Indian treats such as Indian rarebit and samosas.

The beaches of Cochin are very tranquil and relaxing, yet full of character. A stroll along the beach, particularly at sunset, with the Chinese fishing nets and sailing ships in the background, will make a perfect romantic ending to your day. The smell of freshly caught fish being cooked right on the beach fills the air. It is not uncommon to see many locals operating cooking stalls along the coastline.

Coconut will be found in many recipes while you are here; after all, Kerala means “Land of Coconut." With that said, coconut will not be the only fruit you’ll find melting in your mouth.

 


This area of Kerala is perfect place to grow pineapples, mangoes, and several other fruits and vegetables you have already come to enjoy. You can’t find these foods any fresher; most of your food was picked that very day.

The many fruits in the area will make a wonderful breakfast before you set out on a sightseeing tour of Cochin, including Fort Kochi. Fort Kochi is massive and full of historical delights.
 
The Portuguese church of Santa Cruz Basilia should be your first stop in the Fort. The original church was burned to the ground by the English, but the current structure has been raised in the last century.

After seeing Santa Cruz Basilia, you will make your way toward St. Francis Church, the first European church in India. On the way, as you walk down Bugher Street, your nose will find the thick, sweet smell of baked breads and cakes. This will lead you down a road adorned by quaint Dutch houses in search of a café for tea.

After visiting the beautiful St. Francis Church, while on your way to the Kerala is well known for its seafood. Many restaurants will cook the fish for you, spice it delicately and serve it to you. Your mouth can't help but water as the appetizing aroma fills the air.

Your favorite night in India will likely be aboard a houseboat sailing the Kochi backwaters. While on the vessel, your personal chef will see to your every need, all while preparing a decadent dish of traditional Keralan cuisine following an array of appetizers consisting of Banana Fry, Onion Pakkavada and Potato Bujjy.

The curries prepared for you are quintessential of the area, and are spiced sophisticatedly and abundantly. Your taste buds will mourn your departure. The captivating city of Cochin is a destination your eyes and stomach will never forget.




    Chef of the Month
 

Amit Ghosh of the Taj Malabar Hotel in Cochin introduces new cuisine without sacrificing his guests’ pleasure. His training from the Taj Bengal and under the internationally acclaimed Chef Burgess in Britain, has left him with a vast repertoire of culinary preparations. He can inject Caribbean, Mongolian, Lebanese and Japanese Cuisine into his menus while maintaining a reputation for rewarding taste buds with delicious Indian food. As Cochin is famous for its seafood, you will find his favorite recipes all come from the sea. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to try duplicating one of his favorite dishes with the recipes below.


Keralan Spiced Lobster on Curried Tapioca Cake
(Serves 4)

 

Ingredients:

Lobster meat - 70.5 oz. (2 kg)

Spice mix:

Red chili — 3 1/3 cups (500 gm.)
Ginger-garlic paste — 3.5 oz. (100 gm.)
Vinegar — 5 tsp. (25 ml.)
Salt — to taste
1 Egg
Crushed pepper — 2 1/2 tsp. (5 gm.)
Coriander powder — 5 tbsp. (20 gm.)
Turmeric powder — 1 1/2 tbsp. (10 gm.)
Chopped garlic — 3 1/3 cloves (10 gm.)
Chopped shallots — 1 tbsp. (10 gm.)
Shredded curry leaves — .35 oz. (10 gm.)
Coconut oil — 1/5 cup (50 ml.)
Refined oil — 5.1 fl. Oz. (150 ml.)
Tapioca — 28.22 oz. (800 gm.)
Crushed chili flakes — .7 oz. (20 gm.)
Shallots — 1.4 oz. (40 gm.)
Mustard seeds — 3 tsp. (10 gm.)
Curry leaves — .35 oz. (10 gm.)
Coconut oil — 1 tbsp. (15 ml.)

Preparation:

1. Boil the red chilies in water to remove impurities.

2. Let the chilies cool and grind into a fine paste.

3. Mix in rest of the ingredients and set aside.

 



4. Apply the marinade to the lobster meat.

5. Shallow fry or grill on a griddle until done.

Tapioca cake:

1. Boil the tapioca in water with salt and turmeric.

2. Once boiled, lightly mash it.

3. Heat coconut oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. Allow the mixture to crackle.

4. Add sliced shallots, curry leaves and chili flakes.

5. Add the mashed tapioca and mix well.

6. Mold the tapioca on a plate and place the cooked lobster on top.
 
 

Keralan Fish Curry
(Serves 4)

 


Ingredients:

Fish — Cubed 17.6 oz. (500 gm.)
2 Coconuts — Grated
Chili Powder — 2 tbsp. (15 gm.)
Turmeric Powder— 2 1/4 tsp. (5 gm.)
Coconut Oil — 3 1/3 tbsp. (50 ml.)
1/2 Raw Mango — Diced (skin removed)
Green Chilies — .5 oz. (15 gm.)
Ginger Juliennes — .5 oz. (15 gm.)
Sambar Onion — Peeled and Sliced .88 oz. (25 gm.)
Red Onion — Sliced 3.5 oz. (100 gm.)
A few curry leaves
Mustard Seeds — 1 1/2 tsp. (5 gm.)
Salt — to taste

 


Preparation:

1. Thoroughly wash the fish. Rub the fish with salt, pinch of turmeric and coconut oil. Set aside.

2. Grind grated coconut, turmeric powder, chili powder and half of the shallots to a fine paste.

3. Heat half of the oil. Add sliced onion, salt, green chilies and sauté. Sauté until the onion slices are soft.

4. Add ground coconut paste, the raw mangoes, and a little water. Slow cook on a low heat.

5. Once the mixture has thickened like gravy, add marinated fish cubes and simmer for 5 minutes.

6. Heat the remaining oil and add mustard seeds, curry leaves, sliced Sambar onions and a couple of whole red chilies. Fry until the onions are a golden color. Temper the curry and adjust the seasoning.

7. Serve hot with steamed rice or Appam

   
 

Shrimp Ularthu Dosa
(Serves 4)

 

Ingredients:

Shrimp — 20 small (100 gm.)
Onion — Chopped 3/5 cup (100 gm.)
Garlic — Sliced 10 cloves (30 gm.)
Green chilies — Chopped 1/4 cup (30 gm.)
Ginger juliennes — .88 oz. (25 gm.)
Curry leaves — .07 oz. (2 gm.)
Coconut oil — 1/5 cup (50 ml.)
Tomato — Chopped 1/4 cup (50 gm.)
Kashmiri chili powder — .7 oz. (20 gm.)
Turmeric powder — 2 1/4 tsp. (5 gm.)
Coriander powder — 2 1/2 tbsp. (10 gm.)
Fennel powder — .18 oz. (5 gm.)
Garam masala powder — .18 oz. (5 gm.)
Dosa batter — 3.4 fl. Oz. (100 ml.)


Preparation:


1. In a pan, heat coconut oil, add ginger juliennes, chopped green chilies and curry leaves. Add the chopped onion and sauté until golden brown.

2. Add chopped tomatoes, chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder and fennel powder.

 



3. Sauté and until well done.

4. Add the shrimp and mix.

5. Finish by adding a pinch of garam masala powder.

6. Make small dosa on a hot plate. Stuff with the masala and roll into cigars.

7. Serve hot with coconut chutney.

     
 
 Resort of the Month

Taj Malabar

The extraordinary craftsmanship of the Taj Malabar can be envied even from the still, soothing Keralan backwaters. As soon as you step into the lobby, you immediately feel calmed by the dark mahogany wood ceilings and soft lighting. The room's design will remind you of a romantic 1940s film.

The hotel’s pool is a mixture of water and garden. The negative edge pool appears to melt seamlessly into the languid Cochin bay. From many angles, seeing where the pool ends and the sea begins is impossible. This pool paradise is the perfect place to read a book or bath in the sun.

Whether enjoying yoga poolside in the morning, or a romantic sunset dinner with a loved one, the Taj Malabar is a sanctuary of peace.

The restaurants make you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world. Whether snacking at the hotel bar, Mattancherry, or sipping an exotic drink and listening to the soothing sounds of a live pianist, you are guaranteed to be surrounded by luxurious ambiance.

 

The contemporary rooms, with wooden floors and aranmula mirrors, fashion classic luxury at every corner. Many rooms are living works of art. The sculpted archways and Dutch ceiling beams emphasize the height and generous space of the Victorian interiors.

The energy provided by these rooms will fuel your body for the next day’s activities. At Taj Malabar you can treat yourself to the ancient healing art of Abhyangam or take the Cinnamon Coast, the hotel’s luxury yacht, out to cruise the backwaters.
 
 News Update
 
 From the Head Office in Delhi

Pratham USA receives Times of India Social Impact Award
Using philanthropy to positively impact the children of India was cited as the reason Pratham USA is this year’s winner of the Times of India Social Impact Award in the International Contribution to India category.

Pratham USA was represented at the ceremony by President, Dr. Atul Varadhachary. A former student, Mahima Maluja, who attended a Pratham pre-school in New Delhi presented the International Contribution to India Award to Varadhachary. The star-studded ceremony attended by the President of India, as well as many other prominent leaders within the Indian community and the Indian Diaspora, was held at the Ashok Convention Hall in New Delhi.

With 14 volunteer-run chapters across the United States, Pratham USA raises more than $10 million annually. More than 90 percent of the money raised by Pratham USA goes directly to Pratham and its partner organizations in India.

This award not only recognizes the efforts of Pratham USA, but most importantly, it recognizes the continued generosity of its donors, both large and small. Every Pratham USA donor believes education provides the foundation for individuals to raise themselves socially and economically. Everyone at Easy Tours understands they have succeeded because of education and this is why we actively support this organization to support the children of India on their path to success. We offer guided visits to Pratham facilities on nearly every tour package we offer.

The International Contribution to India Award is given to an organization based outside of India making significant contributions to address key challenges within India. Social issues of concern include poverty, access to quality education, poor healthcare, social inequity and limited employment opportunities among others.

In presenting the award, by the unanimous decision of its jury, the organizers recognize Pratham USA for the seminal role it has played in supporting the activities of Pratham in India.

“Pratham USA should serve as a model for many communities in the U.S. as they support global social and economic transformations,” said Dr. Molly Easo Smith, Executive Director of Pratham USA. “The Indian American community understands the concept of organized and impact-focused philanthropy as a basis for significant social change globally.”

This is the first time Pratham USA has been recognized by a national organization in India for its fundraising efforts within the United States.

*Elements of the above excerpted from “Pratham USA awarded the Times of India Social Impact Award” – Pratham.org

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 From the Agra Office

To save Taj, state will convert Agra into solar city

wah taj The Uttar Pradesh government plans to develop Agra as a solar city to reduce pollution affecting the Taj Mahal.

The proposal was approved by the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in 2009, and Agra Nagar Nigam made a master plan approved by the government of India in 2012.

The solar energy policy is scheduled to be implemented this year, and generating 500 MW via solar energy by 2017 has been set as a goal.
 
 From the Jaipur Office

5 Rajasthan forts recommended for world heritage status

The final decision wah tajto approve these sites will be at the world heritage session in Saint Petersburg June 24 – July 7.

More forts from Rajasthan, like Jaisalmer fort, will be submitted to the evaluation committee for World Heritage status.

All five monuments have unique features. While Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajsamand has the second-longest continuous wall after the Great Wall of China, Gagron Fort in Jhalawar is the only fort surrounded by water on all four sides.

The Amber Fort in Jaipur is known for a distinct architectural style featuring both Mughal and Rajput influence. Chittorgarh Fort is famous for its history, and Sawai Madhopur Fort in Ranthambore is completely surrounded by forest.
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 From the ETI Wildlife Desk

Ranthambore tiger sent to Sariska reserve

The Sariska Tiger Reserve received one more tiger when experts from the Wildlife Institute of India(WII) were able to tranquilize and shift a feline from the Ranthambore National Park to raise Sariska’s total number of the big cats to eight - six adults and two cubs.

ST-2 gave birth to two cubs last August ending speculation about the success of the first tiger relocation in June 2008.

Wildlife Park officials have been targeting two young tigresses, orphaned by the death of T-5 in Ranthambore National Park, for shifting.

The new tigress in Sariska has been named B-1 after Rajasthan Minister of Wildlife and Forest Bina Kak.

At two years old, the tigress has been released in the park and killed its first prey, which is a good sign said officials.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority has given permission to shift two tigresses from Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
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 From the Kochi Office

Kalaripayattu, the martial art form of Kerala

Kalaripayattu, the martial art form of Kerala, is regarded as the oldest and most scientific of its kind in the world.

Training in combat is given at a kalari (threshing floor or battlefield).

The principles of kalari dictate that training begins with an oil body massage until the body is agile and supple.

Feats like chaattom (jumping), ottam (running), marichil (somersault), amongst others, are taught, followed by lessons in weaponry such as daggers, swords, spears, maces and the bow.

 

Kalaripayattu training is designed to create ultimate coordination between the mind and body.

Traditional training also includes specialization in indigenous medical practice. Kalaris are also religious worship centers.

The general guidelines in kalaripayattu demand once the course is complete, a person should undergo oil massage and practice the feats regularly to help maintain physique.

A Kalaripayattu demonstration can be arranged for most of our guests who visit Kerala.
 Festival Alert

Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooram is the most colorful temple festival in Kerala and one of the most interesting festivals in India. The festival is celebrated in Thrissur at the Vadakkunnathan (dedicated to Lord Shiva) temple in the month of Medam; this year’s festival will be April 21. Situated on a hillock in the city center, the spaciously laid out temple attracts thousands of devotees and tourists from around the world during the festival.

Thrissur Pooram is a magnificent spectacle with fireworks, colorful 'Kudamattom' (a parasol and peacock-fan performance), the famous 'Elanjithara Melam' (traditional Indian orchestra) and a splendid elephant procession. The best looking elephants from the various temples in Kerala are sent to Trichur to participate in the grand eight-day Pooram Festival.

The 36-hour celebration to end Thrissur Pooram commences with a fifteen elephant procession marching from the Thiruvambadi temple to the nearby Vadakkunnathan temple in the morning. The main elephant of the group carries the idol of Lord Krishna. At the same time, another fifteen elephants begins a similar journey from the Paramekavu Bhagavathy temple. The leader of this group carries the idol of Devi (Goddess). The thirty decorated elephants face each other in the Tekkinkadu Maidan (grounds surrounding the Vadakkunnathan temple) while a melam (orchestra) plays traditional music.

The melam includes about 80 drummers and many musicians playing nadaswarams (flute like instrument) and other traditional instruments. In the early afternoon, a crescendo of music lasting for three hours resonates from the area under an Elanchi tree called the 'Elanchithara Melam'. The artists compete spiritedly with each other during this time. The elephants are a fascinating sight during the Elanchithara Melam as they seem to follow the music by shaking their ears to the rhythm of the drums.

In the evening, participants carrying beautifully embellished parasols and 'Venchamaramas' (peacock-fans) stand on the elephants and the parasol competition called 'Kudamattom' begins. A captivating performance created by moving the parasols and fans in rhythm to the music is a festival highlight.

At the conclusion of this performance, the Krishna and Goddess statues are returned to their temples. At nightfall, lamps are lit all over the grounds creating a serene yet festive atmosphere. In the very early morning, a spectacular display of fireworks begins and lasts for three hours. The display of fireworks is a competition between the two groups representing the two divisions of Trichur, Paramekkavu and Tiruvuvampadi. Each year the display becomes more spectacular as the two groups try to outdo each other.

 

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.