Seeking Kanchenjunga around Kalimpong Part 1: Deolo Hills and Lava

Both my wife and I have almost a lifelong love for the mountains, and we make a conscious effort to frequently travel to locations close to the Himalayas, multiple times in a year. Our friends often question whether this gets repetitive and boring, but only a lover of mountains will understand what the snowcapped peaks, hilly roads, altitude, clouds, and mist bring to you.

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Plum Cakes for the Christmas Celebrations in Hyderabad

Winter is here in Hyderabad, and many of us are looking forward to the year-end festivities. For food lovers, Christmas celebrations kick off a week of enjoying sumptuous food culminating all the way to the New Year. A special cake that marks the Christmas festivities along with the Christmas tree and singing of carols is the humble plum cake, rich in fruits and nuts and soaked in alcohol. The dark colour and the enticing aroma beckons you to this cake even before you actually taste it.

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Hyderabadi Chicken 65, a Variant of the Signature South Indian Dish

Perhaps the most popular chicken snack that you find all over South India is Chicken 65. The spicy chicken dish is popular in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, though the recipe differs significantly from place to place.

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Exploring Diverse South Indian Cuisines through Food Promotions

lovers have shown interest in finer nuances of the cuisine, diversity of the ingredients and even the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in food across a single state. It is said that food changes every fifty miles, and even within that area, it often differs as per community, caste, and religion.

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A Wine Trail in Nashik

To start with I am not a major wine enthusiast. In fact, I side more with whisky. My exposure to wine is more because it is one of the preferred drinks of my wife. While I love to sip it once in a while, my knowledge about the spirit is pretty rudimentary and my palate is not discerning enough.

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Dum Ke Roat: The Muharram Special Cookies

Hyderabad has some popular dishes which are savoured specifically during particular Islamic months. The most famous of these is the haleem, which for a food lover is the highlight of the month of Ramzan. A specially baked cookie Dum ke Roat is another such item which is a rage during this month of Muharram.

There is a reason that the baked cookie is associated with Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.  Roat was traditionally a homemade cookie with wheat, sugar, and ghee. It is said that Mir Osman Ali Khan, the Seventh Nizam had offered the roat at Naal-E-Mubarak Alam at Pathergatti for the well-being of his grandson. Since then, many Shia Muslims have this practice of distributing roat during this particular month, praying for the well-being of their family. The demand is maximum around the tenth day of the month when the mourning procession of Muharram is taken out in the city.  

Flavourful Dum ke Roat has a special taste, with a crunchy crust and soft inside. The ingredients of Dum Ke Roat are many – it has semolina, wheat flour, sugar, honey and milk as well as ghee. The cookie has a distinct flavour from the cardamom added to it and is usually topped with an almond.

This bakery whose name comes up immediately as you talk about Dum Ke Roat is Subhan Bakery. The bakery has been credited with popularizing the cookie over the last 45 years. Come Muharram, you can find customers waiting patiently in huge queues from the morning in front of their outlet in Nampally for their share of Dum Ke Roat. As per Syed Irfan the owner of the seventy-year-old bakery, they have a special recipe developed at their home which they use to prepare these cookies. Earlier this delicacy was only available during this month, but due to the high demand for the roat they have now made it available at their outlet from Muharram to Ramzan. A few other bakeries in Hyderabad like Pista House and Karachi Bakery and some small outlets in the Old City prepare this delicacy too.

Dum ke Roat has now been embraced by one and all enjoying the patronage of people of all religions, castes, and creed. The item should not be confused with another popular dish from Chennai, the Dum Ka Roat Halwa from Basha Halwawala, which is essentially a halwa prepared from semolina, khoya, and dry fruits. With the month of Muharram setting in, do grab a pack of this favourite cookie from Hyderabad.

Note: This is an updated version of the article originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 22nd September 2018.

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Hyderabad’s Best Restaurants 2019

Hyderabad is seeing a lot of new entrants in the food and beverages scene in the city. There is a feeling among people that starting a restaurant is an easy way to make a quick buck. For some of them, cooking good food looks like the only criterion in success, with scant attention paid on promotion. For some others, the quality of food does not matter, it is just getting some so-called “influencers” to talk about the restaurant in social media is seen as the path to glory. There are very few who have got the mantra right in terms of good food, good service, good location and good buzz. Informed people say that while there may be a lot of restaurants opening every month in this city, the same number may be actually closing down.

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The Biryani Journeys at Hyderabad with Celebrity Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

If we have to name one pioneering person who has revolutionized food shows on Indian TV, it has to be Celebrity Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. Food lovers like me used to wait eagerly for the episodes of his legendary show Khana Khazana on Zee TV. The show ran for seventeen long years  and was the pathbreaker for many more food and cookery shows in the country. Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s contribution to the Indian food scene was rewarded with the Padmasri award in 2017.

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A Short Weekend Break at Novotel Hitech City Hyderabad

Both I and my wife are used to travelling extensively. Last year, we had been going out almost once every month to different corners of the country. However, certain exigencies at home are temporarily holding us back in Hyderabad for the last few months, leading to a bit of frustration especially in me. So, we decided to explore the resorts of Hyderabad for a quick break instead. My Accor Plus membership comes in handy at these times, with the Weekend Getaway feature allowing us to park ourselves at any Accor hotel in the city for a day. This time, our stop was the Novotel Hyderabad International Convention Centre, close to Hitech City, but ensconced in a lot of greenery inside the Hitex Exhibition Campus.

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Patthar Ka Gosht: The Hyderabadi Meat delicacy from the Nizami Era

The Hyderabadi cuisine has many popular dishes whose preparation methods are markedly different from those in other regions. Apart from haleem which comes to mind first, another dish in this category is Patthar ka Gosht, where a heated stone is used to cook pieces of boneless marinated meat. A favourite from the days of Nizam Asaf Jahi VI, this dish is still much sought after by food lovers on any visit to the city.

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Ramzan Food Map around Charminar

For a food lover, a visit to the old city is a must during the month of Ramzan especially in the evenings after the Iftar prayers. A huge number of makeshift stalls add to the permanent shops in the bustling Charminar area, where all kinds of Iftari food items are sold apart from clothes and ornaments. Quite a few Ramzan food trails are organized in this area by food experts, but with a little bit of knowledge and information, even the common food lovers can plan their own food walks with their friends and family.  Most of the food walks touch almost the same places will very little variation.

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Food Lovers Look Forward to the Haleem Season during Ramzan

Ramzan is the month of prayers and fasting for the devout Muslims, but the food lovers in the city look forward to a special delicacy which is best relished during this period. Haleem, the wheat and pounded meat preparation rich in ghee as well as select spices and lentils are typically consumed in the evening, breaking the day-long fast after Iftar prayers.  A complete food, it helps to gain strength and energy after a long period of fasting. The dish has its origin in Central Asia. In Ain-I-Akbari, Abul Fazal mentions about the dish being served in Emperor Akbar’s court. Haleem came to Hyderabad with the Yemeni soldiers in the Nizam’s army and has over the years become one of the most popular dishes from the Hyderabadi cuisine.

Cafe 555

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Gourmet Tea from Karma Kettle

Readers of my blog know that I have a deep connect with Kolkata, the city of my birth, where I had spent the first seventeen years of my life. I still visit the city quite a few times every year, and through firsthand experience as well as via food lovers there, maintain my strong interest in the food and beverages scene out there.

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Random Food Rants from Darjeeling

Regular readers of my blog are aware of my recent trip to Sandakphu (Read about it here). The trip was tough but immensely enjoyable. At the end of the hectic trip, we decided to relax for a few days, and which can be a better place for that than Darjeeling, the Queen of the Hills. It is just 50 kms away and a place which has lots of fond memories for me.

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The Road To Sandakphu

Summer was about to set in at Hyderabad, and we wanted to run away to somewhere cooler for a few days. There were many places on our bucket list, but topmost was the Silk Route belt of Sikkim with Zuluk and Gnathang Valley. However, as we started talking to the people of the region, we were told by a friend that there was a chance that the roads to Silk Route may not be open in mid-March. Feeling that we were getting disheartened he went on to suggest Sandakhphu at 12000 feet, primarily a trekking destination about 60 km from Darjeeling. The place is known for the complete view of the Sleeping Buddha mountain range consisting of four of the five highest mountain peaks of the world including Kanchenjunga and Everest. We had heard of the terrible roads to Sandakphu but were assured that a large part of the road is now in concrete due to an initiative of the Bengal government, and journey by road is no longer that difficult.

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The Culinary flavours of Ugadi

Like few other states of southern and western India, the first day of the month of Chaitra brings the New Year in Telangana.  The day is celebrated as the Ugadi festival. The word Ugadi is derived from yuga (era) and aadi (beginning) in Sanskrit, which loosely translates as the beginning of a new period.  Apart from visiting temples to seek divine blessings, giving gifts and decorating the entrances of the houses with floral designs or rangoli and fresh mango leaves on this auspicious day, the locals also indulge into some special food specifically prepared for the occasion.

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Mandi, the Yemeni Delicacy from Barkas

The Barkas area in the old city is home to many Hyderabadis whose forefathers were from Arab countries. The name of the place originated from the word “barracks”, as the area served as the barracks for Nizam’s army. The then army had a large number of Arabs, especially Hadhramis from Yemen. Thus, it is no surprise that the cuisine of the area is replete with localized versions of Yemeni food.

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The Great Outdoors: An Unforgettable Outstation Getaway with Marriott Hyderabad

On a Saturday afternoon in Hyderabad, a motley group assembled around noon at Okra, the buffet restaurant of Marriott Hyderabad. Each of them was carrying a small bag containing an overnight change of clothes.  The team consisting of journalists, food and travel bloggers and Instagram influencers had all been invited to experience “The Great Outdoors with Marriott Hyderabad”.

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Anokhi Kheer, The Unique Hyderabadi Dessert

The cuisine of the Nizami Sultanate had many variations with curious ingredients as well as culinary techniques.  In some dishes, it was extremely difficult to guess the ingredients even after tasting it. Anokhi Kheer, an old Hyderabadi dessert is one such recipe.

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Innovative Indian Cuisine at Once Upon a Time, Green Park Hotel

Once Upon a Time, the restaurant at Green Park Hotel has quite a loyal fan following in Hyderabad. The restaurant has been serving Hyderabad for more than two decades with signature offerings such as Midnight Biryani and Sunday vegetarian breakfast. After being closed for renovation for a few months, the restaurant is back in a new avatar, serving exclusively Indian cuisine with more than a contemporary touch.

Khatta Jhinga

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The Divine Cuisine of the Tirupati Temple

In recent times there has been a lot of interest about the dishes offered to the deity and subsequently served as prasad in the temples. Times Passion Trails had organized a “Temple Food Trail” led by Pushpesh Pant for experiencing the temple food at Mathura, Vrindavan, and Nathwada. The dishes served in the Mahaprasad of Lord Jagannath at Puri are pined for not just for the divine blessings, but for their taste too.  Lord Venkateshwara temple at Tirupati is known for its epic laddoo prasadam, but beyond that, there are many other delicacies that are cooked in the temple kitchen and offered to the Lord. The recent food promotion “A Cuisine So Divine” at The Dining Room at The Park Hyatt, Hyderabad brought some of these offerings from Tirupati into the limelight by presenting them as part of the hotel buffet.

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Dastarkhwan-E-Khas at Kebabs & Kurries, ITC Kakatiya

Kebabs & Kurries at ITC Kakatiya has always been my go-to place for quality Indian food. The restaurant rechristened back from K&K recently is known for its gourmet dishes, from Awadh, North-West Frontier as well as Hyderabad. On offer are kababs from the tandoor, angeethi, and tawa as well as a myriad of Royal curries such as qorma, salan, and qaliya.

Patthar Ke Gosht

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The Special Delicacies of Makara Sankranti in Hyderabad

The festival Makara Sankranti is celebrated with pomp and fervor in most parts of the country.  It is a major festival in Andhra Pradesh and well celebrated in Telangana too. As with all Indian festivals, celebrations of Sankranti is never complete without the lip-smacking snacks and sweets, which are served in the family homes.

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