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January 2014  
 
 
Special Reports
In this Issue
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 



In this issue we will focus on the Ranthambore Tiger Park with a focus on the unique Rajasthani cuisine that is found here.

 

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 look at the regional cuisine of Rajasthan with a particular focus on Ranthambore. The Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is the site of one of the largest concentrations of the Asian Tiger left in the wild.

The forests of Ranthambore were once the hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Jaipur and the history of royal hunts at the site goes back to the 12th century. Hundreds of men armed with weapons, drums, pots and pans would step into the forest and create a noisy safari to draw out the wildlife.

In the royal kitchens across Rajasthan and Ranthambore, food has always been very serious business and the local ingredients graced dishes which are Rajasthani in style but enriched with a unique flavor.

A number of chefs would accompany the royal hunting parties and the score of the day’s hunt was served to the royals and their guests. This royal repast was served in elaborately decorated gold and silver platters.

Dishes such as Laal Maans (spicy meat curry) Safed Maans (meat cooked in curd) Mohan Maans (meat cooked in milk) Khad Khargosh (wild hare cooked and roasted underground) hence became a part of Ranthambori cuisine.

Today, for visitors to the National Park, the day starts with an exciting early morning safari into the wilderness of Ranthambore.

Ranthambore FortRanthambore Fort – Standing guard over India’s most famous wildlife reserve  

The Ranthambore National Park is also a bird watcher’s paradise. The park is home to over 260 avian species.
Renowned for its magnificent Royal Bengal Tigers, Ranthambore National Park is one of the finest tiger sanctuaries in the country. Experience the majesty of the mighty predator as you explore the jungles around the reserve to catch a glimpse of these elusive big cats.

Ranthambore is also home to a host of other wildlife species. On your jungle trek you may spot Leopards, Asiatic Deer, Flying Foxes, Sloth Bears, Jackals, Monitor Lizards, Macaques, the Elusive Caracal, Blue Bull, the Snub Nosed Crocodile, Jungle Cats, Four Horned Antelope and graceful herds of Spotted Deer near the three major watering holes in the park.

 
December Dish
Ranthambore Cuisine - Eating in the fashion of the Maharajas

On your Safari you may get to see Jacanas, Painted Stork, Black Stork, Crested Serpent Eagle, the Great Indian Horned Owl, Bonelli’s Eagle, Quail, Partridge, Paradise Flycatcher, Spur Fowl, Parakeets, Spoonbills, Kingfishers, 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 get to see a male dance and have another lifelong memory of Ranthambore to take home with you.

Upon your return to your Lodge you will freshen up and revel in the exotic environment. You will certainly have worked up a healthy appetite for lunch.

Being this close to nature. You may want to try one of the mutton specialties along with the 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 to that some Murgh ka Mokul (shredded fried chicken cooked in yogurt, spices and flavored with saffron and almonds) and an assortment of freshly prepared Indian breads, and your appetite will have to be coaxed into enjoying the desert that follows.

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 jungle fort, called Ranthambore Fort, which dominates 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 vitally placed to control various important trade routes. Built in 944 A.D. and chronicling numerous tales of valor in its history, the Ranthambore Fort is still an impressive structure.

Tour its many old ruins including the palaces, temples, cenotaphs, houses and step-wells. There is an ancient functioning Hindu temple at one end of the fort complex which is still considered a sacred pilgrimage destination by the villagers of the surrounding areas.

Perched atop a cliff overlooking the park, the fort affords superb views of the park and has been a silent witness to history over the last millennium.

Among the more fascinating features of Ranthambore (and there are many of those) are some ancient Banyan trees mentioned in the religious texts of India. With their gnarled roots stretching down to the earth, some of these are over 800 years old.

On this evening you will dine while swapping tales about your experiences on the safari. Savor the succulent chicken and mutton kebabs, 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 culinary teacher was his father and his first lessons were in the intricacies of traditional Rajasthani cooking.

He specialized in chicken as well as lamb delicacies and honed his culinary skills to perfection by working over twenty years at a number of fine dining establishments. Before joining the Sawai Madhopur Lodge, Ajay was working wonders 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.

Following are two of his favorite recipes to introduce guests to the wonders of Rajasthani cuisine.
 

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 - 4 oz. (100 grams)
Cashew paste - 2 oz. (50 grams)
Pineapple juice - 40 ml.
Red chili powder - 1.6 oz. (40 grams)
Garam Masala powder - 0.6 oz. (15 grams)
Yogurt - 7.2 oz. (180 grams)
Onion paste - 2 oz. (50 grams)
Salt - as required.
Refined oil - 6 oz. (100 grams)
Fenugreek leaves - a pinch
Salt - to taste
Green coriander - 0.6 oz. (15 grams)
Clarified butter or oil - 1.41 oz. (40 grams)

 

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 chunk of mutton, then half the red chili powder. Finally rub the ginger-garlic paste over the meat.

3. Keep aside to marinate for two hours.

4. Place yoghurt in thin muslin cloth, tie on the handle of faucet and allow draining for ½ an hour. Remove drained yoghurt from muslin cloth and place in mixing bowl.

5. Heat oil in a wok and lightly brown the cashews first, followed by the onions. The two ingredients must be fried separately. Remove from pan and keep aside.

6. Mix the rest of the red chili powder and salt to taste with the yoghurt. Now add the browned onions and cashew to this mixture.

7. Smear mutton leg thoroughly with the yogurt mixture and place in a deep cooking vessel. Cook over slow fire for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until done. Pierce with a skewer to check whether tender.

8. Place on a serving platter and serve hot.

 
     
 
 
         
 

Ranthambori Aloo:
(Special Spiced Baby Potatoes - Ranthambore Style).


 

Ranthamori Aloo

Utensils:
1 large wok
1 deep glass serving bowl
1 shallow frying pan

Ingredients:
Baby potatoes - 2.21 lb (1kg)
Lemon juice - 4
Onions - 6 oz. (150 grams) - chopped
Black Pepper - 0.6 oz. (15 grams) - freshly ground.
Butter - 0.6 oz. (15 grams)
Refined oil - 8 tbsps
Salt - to taste
Green chilies - 1 oz. (25 grams)
Mint leaves - 2 oz. (50 grams)

 

 

Preparation:
1. Wash the potatoes thoroughly and dry them.

2. Quarter potatoes without removing skin.

3. Heat oil in a pan and lightly brown the potatoes. Remove the pan from the fire 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 and fry for another minute or so.

5. Add the potatoes to the onion-green chilies-pepper mixture and add half the mint leaves and salt. Mix well and cook over low flame till done. Remove the wok from the fire.

6. Check for seasoning and squeeze lemon juice over the potatoes. Mix well and add the rest of the mint leaves.

7. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve hot.



 
   Resort of the Month
Sawai Madhopur Lodge Ranthambore
The Sawai Madhopur Lodge is a leading hotel property in Ranthambore. The lodge was built over 80 years ago and served the hunting parties of the Maharaja of Jaipur and other members of the royal family.

The Sawai Madhopur Lodge also has the distinction of being classified as the only heritage hotel in proximity to the Ranthambore Wildlife Reserve and Tiger Sanctuary and is only five kilometers away from the Ranthambore Railway station.


The Sawai Madhopur Lodge- Luxurious facilities packaged in a rustic regal retreat

The Sawai Madhopur Lodge is a Taj property and is managed under the Vivanta brand. The property is a great combination of traditional art décor with modern amenities. The pitched tents of yore have been replaced by large rooms and suites which are equipped with all modern amenities that are expected of a first rate hotel property.

For fans of heritage and a taste of regal opulence, the lodge still houses the original dining hall, bar and lounge as well as its famous veranda with all its grand style. The resort boasts 12 acres of manicured lawns and gardens as well as a full service spa and pool.

For fans of the great outdoors and the adventurous at heart, the Sawai Madhopur Lodge has places reserved for campfires as well as outdoor dining options in the fashion of the Maharajas’ hunting parties.

Visitors at the Sawai Madhopur Lodge can look forward to a luxurious stay stylized as a rustic royal retreat coupled with the convenience of accessibility to India’s leading tiger sanctuary and wildlife preserve.

 
 
   News Update
 
   From the Head Office in Delhi

Delhi to restore British Era Town Hall as new tourist attraction

The North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has launched an ambitious plan to convert the city’s British-era Town Hall into a world class tourist attraction. The 150 year old building is located in the old city of Delhi near the iconic Chandni Chowk within the walled complex close to the Red Fort.

Under the plan, the Town Hall will have a host of facilities including a museum, a food court, souvenir shops, a library as well as an open air theatre to host performances. Furthermore the NDMC has an ambitious plan to turn the 16 acre area of the Town Hall into a hot-bed of activity with a complete calendar of events.

Delhi Town Hall- Energizing old icons with new ideas

The project has a tag line “To Live the History”. Briefing the press about this exciting new project Mayank Sharma, North Delhi Municipal Corporation's Additional Commissioner and Chairman of the project, explained that the entire project has been envisioned as an opportunity for Delhi families to connect with the history and culture of the city.

Planned as part of the events at the Town Hall are a series of traditional sporting competitions such as “Kancha” and “Gilli Danda”. Also planned are a series of regular lectures and workshops on subjects such as history, culture, museology, sculpture, poetry and art.

To support Delhi’s traditional and contemporary artisan community, a regular series of Bazaars highlighting traditional art forms, handicrafts as well as works of new artists will be regularly organized at the venue.

To interest visiting children, there will be a regular sound and light show depicting the development of Delhi through the ages along with a series of activity rooms with interactive exhibits. The NDMC is also in talks with other museums around the country to have traveling roadshows of their finest exhibits at the Town Hall museum that will be part of the new complex.

The project has received enthusiastic support from the Tourism Ministry of India as well as the citizenry of Delhi at large. A sum of INR 500 Million has been earmarked to help turn the ambitious project into reality.

The NDMC is confident that with the support of the public and the government, the Town Hall project will become yet another reason for both domestic and foreign tourists to visit the national capital.

As Mr. Sharma explained "There isn't any place in the city where people can have wholesome entertainment. We have started this project catering to people's needs and provide them a space that is international by all standards," he said, adding that the North Delhi Municipal Corporation is not replicating any international model for the project rather building its own project model while using the very best of international practices.

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   From the Jaipur Office

The Jaipur Literature Festival 2014 looks set to make waves around the World
Since its launch in 2006, the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown to become one of the largest lit-fests on the planet as well as India’s leading literature exposition. Scheduled to take place in the legendary pink city from January 17 to 21, 2014, this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival looks set to break all its previous records.

Called the lifeblood of India’s literature, art and publishing scene, this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival has a line-up of 139 world class speakers including some of the world’s leading Pulitzer and Man Booker prize winners. The festival attracts some two million visitors from across India, the South Asian region as well as from around the world.


Jaipur Literature Festival - Connecting India to Global literati circles

The Jaipur Literature Festival provides a great opportunity for authors, literature fans, academics as well as publishers to interact and be part of the global literary movement.

The festival has established itself as a heavyweight on the global publishing industry calendar.

Public interest in the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown incrementally over the years and this is not just restricted to literary circles. This year, a number of glitterati have announced that they will be making appearances at the festival. Notable celebrities coming include: Jhumpa Lahiri, Jerry Pinto, Amish Tripathi, actor Rupert Evert, theater legend Irrfan Khan and sports personality Mar Kom.

As part of the festivities this year, there is a special section called the Jaipur Bookmark. The Jaipur Bookmark will target publishers, agents, right-holders and content producers and will provide them with the necessary impetus to increase the volume of India’s literature output. Furthermore as part of the Jaipur Bookmark, there will be special sessions on managing, developing and distributing e-books and digital content originating from India.

As usual, the Jaipur Literature Festival will be accompanied by musical and traditional art performances. Venues for this year’s festival include the Diggi Palace Hotel as well as the Char Bagh and the Clarks Amer Lawns in Jaipur.

Organizers of the Jaipur Literature Festival are hoping that with the influx of book lovers and with increased global interest, this year’s festival will become the world’s largest free literature festival.

*Elements of the above excerpted from “Illustrious guests at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2014.” – DNA

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  From the Kochi Office
Kerala organizes the 10th Annual Bamboo Festival

The 10th edition of the yearly Kerala Bamboo Fest was held in December at the iconic Ernakulathappan Grounds in Kochi.  The Kerala Bamboo Festival in its ten year history has established itself as a meeting point for the finest bamboo craftsmen and artisans from across India.

The high point of the festival this year was the introduction of a line of Bamboo bicycles that are being planned for commercial launch in India. The bicycle launch is the brainchild of the South Asian Bamboo Federation. The Federation intends to launch three models of the Bamboo bikes, one of which would be geared to perform on rough mountainous terrain.


Kerala – Home of the Backwaters now aims to become the Bamboo capital of the world

Speaking at the occasion Mr. Kamesh Salam, the President of South Asian Bamboo Federation and former President of the World Bamboo Organization stated “The bamboo bicycle is eco-friendly and light and if production is scaled up it can generate a lot of employment.” He elucidated that with their low cost, sturdy construct and eco-friendly design, Bamboo products in general and the bicycle in particular can become an icon for tourism and must-have souvenirs for the droves of foreign tourists coming to Kerala.

The Kerala Bamboo Festival is organized by the Department of Industries in association with Kerala State Bamboo Mission and Kerala Bureau of Industrial Promotion (K-BIP). This year over 90 different exhibitors from Kerala and around the world participated in the festival.

An official of K-BIP said Bamboo Fests have traditionally been the official platform provided by Kerala State Bamboo Mission for artisans and craftsmen to come together. The Bamboo Fests have also exposed the community of bamboo craftsmen, often tucked away in remote corners of the state, to the latest developments in mechanization and processing techniques.

*Elements of the above excerpted from “Bamboo bicycle displayed at the Kochi fest.” – The Hindu.com

 
  Festival Alerts
The Taj Mahotsav Festival
The Taj Mahotsav is one of the largest and most prominent handcrafts festivals of North India. The festival is held in the city of Agra every February and is a ten day affair.

The venue of the Taj Mahotsav festival is at Shilpgram near the Taj Mahal, Agra’s most iconic monument. The event is stylized in the form of the era of the Mughal Empire which ruled India from the 16th to the 19th century.

The Mughal Empire oversaw a period of cultural renaissance in India and many of the country’s most well-known monuments, art-forms and ceremonies reached their cultural zenith due to the patronage of various Mughal rulers.


The Taj Mahotsav – A cultural treat in the shadow of India’s most famous historic icon

The Taj Mahotsav Festival highlights the rich culture, arts, crafts, cuisine, music and dance forms particularly of the “Doab Region” of Uttar Pradesh which includes most major cities that served as capitals of the Mughal Empire. The festival is also known by its other name the Taj Mahal Utsav.

The festival is a great opportunity for the renowned artisans of the region to display their magnificent works of art. The festival also provides a good avenue to the visiting foreign tourists to get some authentic Indian souvenirs made through traditional processes. 

The Taj Mahotsav festival commences with a splendid procession inspired by Mughal themes. The procession is led by beautifully ornamented camels and elephants followed by folk artists, drummers and master craftsmen. The Taj Mahotsav festival also has a major showcase exhibition that includes silks of Banares, handmade carpets of Bhadohi, woodcarvings of Saharanpur, chikan work of Lucknow, blue pottery of Khurja as well as Zardozi and Marble works from Agra.

In recent years, offerings at the Taj Mahotsav festival have been broadened to include arts from other states of India as well. Visitors to the festival can also look forward to shopping for Bamboo work from South India, brass works from Moradabad, shawls and carpets from Kashmir, hand-printing from Farrukhabha, Kantha stitch saris from Bengal and weavings from Gujarat.

Throughout the course of the Taj Mahotsav festival there are some amazing performances by the folk artists from the different states of India. These include theatrical renditions, dance performances as well as process demonstrations of their various artistic crafts.



 

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