Saturday, January 27, 2018

From our village kitchen...

It is always a proud moment when the kids in the family make you go "wow". This Magh Bihu ( The harvest festival that coincides with Makar Sankranti) this is exactly what happened. These days when  your family and it's extended members are connected on social media, it is only natural that you get to know of things through such medium. We saw this post about " Akholor Juti " / Flavours of the kitchen rather Flavours of my kitchen on Gunjan's Facebook page. Gunjan is P's kid cousin ; his Mama's son from Tezpur , a beautiful town in Assam. 

The love for food runs in the family and it is heartening to see youngsters trying to revive traditional and forgotten cuisines.This bihu a bunch of childhood friends Bibhakar Sharma ( Gunjan) , Debojyoti Dutta, Rahul Kashyap ( who made the posters) came up with Akholor Juti with the hope of serving the people of their howetown some "not too common" but very authentic Assamese flavours like Bahor Sunga t diya Kukura or Chicken cooked inside a bamboo. Gunjan's mother and our Maami Mitali Sharma joined them too. Another friend Riya Masoom came on board to help with marketing and promotions. And thus begun the Flavours of the Kitchen or Akholor Juti.

Going by the response of their clients on Social Media, we could guess the result of this endevour.

Here's what these enterprising bunch of young faces behind Akholor Juti have to say about their venture.  

Q1) How did Akholor Juti happen. Who are involved in this?

It happens often when some ideas simply keeps piling up inside our mind and we hardly do anything about them. Well, Akholor Juti was one that broke the pile of thoughts. Starting up something was always there at the back of our mind, but what to start and how to start was not lucid. Than this idea of starting a food delivery chain suddenly followed up. The idea was to bring something to the people of our hometown who were lagging in terms of these types of services. This followed up with number of conversations with family members and close friends and ended up as an initiative which would never have been this overwhelming if it were not for the people of my town, Tezpur for their immense support. When the plan took a firm turn, we knew this for sure that our people have missed something huge in their food choices and that's when the idea to add ethnic flavours in our dish popped in. Moreover , we wanted to do it in a time where the prevalence of the dish is at its peak and what could have been better than Magh Bihu? So, without much ado, we planned the further details and thus, 'Akholor Juti's happened and our prior aim was to serve happiness at the doorsteps with flavours they have missed for long.
Bahor Sunga / Bamboo hollow

Q2) Did you already know the recipe ? Do you have any helping hands in the kitchen?

Yes, the recipe was already known to us, as it was the result of some further experimentation which we have done back in our kitchen, mostly during the wintry nights of December and January.The recipe was always simple,but bringing in something new in the form of ethnic Assamese tradition and to amplify the taste buds of the people was always our sole motive.

Yes,there were a handful of people involved in the kitchen which helped us turn this idea of serving ethnic Assamese cuisine to doorstep a reality.

The Bamboo Hollows getting cooked

Q3) How was the response?

When we started of with the idea, we were reluctant of the fact that will people actually be on the same page as that to us in terms of the quality and the taste we have promised. To begin with, the responses were limited, but as more people got the opportunity to taste our cuisine, responses and good wishes flooded up in the social media which was our portal of marketing and eventually we ended up drop-shipping over 120 orders in just 2 days .What was most satisfying for us was the fact that we were able to create a goodwill and brand image and thereby create a bond with the people that we aspired of through Akholor Juti.
The cooked chicken

Q4) Were you prepared for this kind of response?

To be frank ,we never expected the responses that we have been getting, as Akholor Juti started of as an initiative we took to put a small foot forward in realising our idea of serving people with succulent cuisine ,right at their doorstep. The responses that we received will only motivate us and keep us in good shape to work hard on our ideas in bringing up something new, which we as consumers always fancied of. More than the responses,we were actually happy about the changes that we were able to bring in this dynamic food –chain market.


Q5) What are the future plans for Akholor Juti?

Future plans are actually very hard to pen down as we are working in a very dynamic and versatile market .But with the love and support that people have shown for Akholor Juti, we are only planning to turn Akholor Juti into a complete package of fusion cuisine with the taste of both modern and ethinic food to serve the people with cuisines that will not only bring a change in their taste buds but also leave behind that lasting change. Akholor Juti has been a learning curve for us and we can promise that better days are coming in terms of all the food enthusiastic people of Assam. Here, we can promise that our plans will be very much concentrated to our people as we wish to maintain our cordial relationship with them. We will always be customer centric and will always work for the betterment of our cuisines as well our services.

DISCLAIMER : All the images are provided by the team of Akholor Juti on my request. All images are copyright protected.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mekhela Chadars and Sarees - My To Do in 2018

Guilty Guilty - Of being THIS lazy that my last blog post was in September 2017. I know; extremely shameful. I have noone else to blame but I, me and myself for this. This year I promise to be more regular. Ok now, does that sound like a resolution? I did not intend it to be though. But this year i.e. 2018 I hope to do somethings that I always wanted to do; but never actually did.

One I already mentioned about try and being more regular with my Dear Diary. The other is, this year I will bring out the Sarees and Mekhela Chadars out of the suitcase and almirah and WEAR them. Yes, enough is enough. I have to wear them before they get "damaged" lying there or before I leave the world and cry in front of Yamraj that I could not even wear this saree or that mekhela chadar. By the way mekhela chadar is the traditional dress from Assam. It looks like a saree but this is not a saree of course. For easier understanding ; it is a two piece saree comprising of a mekhela ( the long skirt) and a chadar ( the long dupatta type cloth worn over the mekhela).

So going towards that "resolution", I have worn mekhela chadar twice in a month. Yay, am I happy or am I happy. I know it sounds stupid, but I am ecstatic. The other day I saw a small AV of Anju Maudgal Kadam one of the 2 ladies behind the massive 100 Saree Pact . This AV was made for promotion of Poorna, the film and it featured Rahul Bose. Though I knew about the 100 Saree Pact, I never had the time to really find more about it. But that AV intrigued me and my respect for the 2 ladies ; Anju Maudgal Kadam and Ally Matthan grew. They managed to create a movement and many women took the courage to bring back the sarees lying in some corner of their closets. It is very simple actually; you have to wear a saree 100 times a year. I don't think I am ready for that yet. But still a small step to bring back my sarees and mekhela chadars from oblivion.

The First One :

This is a black and blue Assam Paat silk mekhela chadar. This was actually a gift by a very dear friend. That was hers but since she hardly wears mekhela chadars; she decided to give away some. She gave me 3 saying " I know you will wear them." Now that's a lot of expectation. After I think 5 months of the gift, I found an occasion to wear that. It was the Navjote of my boss's daughter. I had never been to an Navjote function before. So I had to find out from my other Parsi friends about the dress code. He suggested " Wear a saree". My colleagues also decided to go with sarees. Thus I wore that wonderful pair of mekhela chadar and rocked the dance floor too. What to do; I cannot stop whenever DJwale babu plays some oh so danceworthy numbers!

The Second One :

This pair of Mekhela chadar is a cotton one. This is again a gift. My sister in law gifted me this one about 8-9 months ago. What happened was I saw her wearing a very bright pair of mekhela chadar in one of the family functions. I complimented her as I really loved the mekhela chadar and she was looking very nice too. The next time I visited Assam was when my nephew was born and sister in law was at her parents house. I went there to meet them and I came back with this pair of mekhela chadar. So in Mumbai , when I received an invitation to a Malayalee wedding, I brought out this one. Even though I have one Kerala Kasavu saree, I wore this simple white and red mekhela chadar because that was my kind of tribute to the Kerala Settu Mundu.

Just twice I wore traditional wear and I am writing a blogpost. Is wearing the traditional drape makes my mind think and write more? Hmmm something to ponder for sure.

Tell me what do you think.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Khajuraho - An Incredible Experience

The train U P Sampark Kranti from Delhi pulled into the Khajuraho railway station by 7.30am, about  an hour late from it's  scheduled time. P and I got down and as expected someone already asked " Auto Chahiye? 100 Rs. lagenge dropping ki liye" ( do you need an auto? Rs. 100 to drop at the market." We stepped out of the station only to be hounded by more men asking the same thing. We chose a random auto and sat.
Once out of the small station, it is a long straight road till the main area where the Western Group of temples are located. About 7 kms.  We crossed the Airport and our hotel Ramada on the way. P and I had already decided that we would do a recce sort of a walk around these temples on the day we arrive. Then we would decide what to do and how.
Khajuraho Railway Station

August is still " not the season". There were sporadic rains too. But that had made the whole temple premise lush green. As we crossed the security gates and entered the garden area, it was love at first sight for us. We were impressed with the way the whole premise was maintained; even during this " off period".

We started with the Chitragupta temple and then walked around the Kandariya Mahadev and Devi Jagdamba Temples. There were very hardly about  5 - 6 tourists inside and we were the only Indians. P and I already knew that we would need a guided tour for sure to learn more about these exquisite structures. Sometimes rather than reading or googling, the magic that a local guide can weave with his words makes the place more fascinating. We spent about an hour and came out to have breakfast right in front of these monuments; at Raja Cafe. This one features in almost all the travel guides and you cannot miss this. Sitting in their rooftop area under a huge neem tree overlooking the temples, we enjoyed a sumptuous English breakfast.
Kandariya Mahadev Temple
As we came out to get an auto to our hotel finally by 11.00am ; we found the same Auto driver, Dipak, who took us from station. This time we asked him about his charges to show us around. Dipak brought out a whole rate chart. Whenever I and P travel somewhere like this on weekend breaks, we completely take things slow. We do everything in our own pace the way we like and that not necessarily mean going everywhere "recommended". Both P and I could not sleep well in the train. So we  planned to take some rest before heading out. We asked him to come pick us from the hotel by 4 pm and show us the Eastern group and Southern group of temples.

Dipak came exactly at 4pm. The weather was gloomy with an  overcast sky. He took us to Chaturbhuj Temple first.There were the guard, 2 women cutting the grass around the temple and 2 tourists besides us. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and this is the only temple, among all Khajuraho group of temples, that do not have a single erotic sculpture. From there we went to the Duladeo temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Again here except for the security guard, we were the only visitors. This temple is located just next to Khodar river. But we were told that this year it still had not rained properly. Hence there was less water in the river. The overcast was growing stronger by then and we knew it would rain any moment. P and I were really keen on the Sound and Light show at the Western group. But weather was sure to play a spoilsport.

Jain Temples

The Jain temples are in the Eastern part of Khajuraho. By the time we reached the Jain temples, the sky opened up. It was pouring heavily. We sat inside the temple premises till the time the rain stopped. After about 20 minutes the rain got lighter and we continued our "sight seeing"to the Vamana temple. This temple dedicated to the Vaman incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Again we were the only ones along with the security guard. Seeing our interest, he started describing the sculptures on the walls. There is a sculpture of Varaha another of Lord Vishnu's incarnation. It was already getting dark and was the time to officially close the gates. So we left hoping against hope the Sound and Light show will be on for the evening. But alas! It was just not our evening. We sat at Raja Cafe and munched something before heading back to our hotel.

Varaha Statue
Next day our train was only at 6.20pm and we were hoping for a late check out. But the hotel was completely full on Saturday because of some conference and we had to change our plan a bit. We had a leisurely breakfast and packed all our stuff and left for the Western group of temples by 11am. This time we wanted a detailed tour with a guide. We met Mr. Narendra Jain near the gates and fixed on a charge of Rs. 800 for a detailed tour of the Western group of temples. Mr. Jain kept his word and showed us around thoroughly. He said that the erotic sculptures make for only 3% in the whole lot of sculptures. That's strange considering how Khajuraho is known for the erotica mainly. The walls of the main temples Kandariya Mahadev, Lakshmana temple , Devi Jagadamba temple etc are adorned with exquisite sculptures depicting regular life during those days and of course the very famous erotic sculptures. There is a huge Varaha statue in a small temple in front of the main and most intricate temple of them all - Lakshmana temple. The statue is made of stone and there are some intricate sculptures cut in the whole body. That was surely one impressive sculpture.

The Temple Garden
The walls of the temples and with the description by Mr. Jain, it dawned upon us that those days women had such a strong role in the society. They were educated, strong,into sports, not afraid of their carnal desires. There were many sculptures of women with a scorpion over their thighs and in Mr. Jain's words " Scorpion or bichchu is the symbol of sexual desire. Remember the song "Daiya re Daiya re Chadh gaya paapi bichchua"." Suddenly the song from "Madhumati" had a whole new meaning for us. P and I were most amused. After a complete tour, we came out thoroughly content.

The Bichchu / Scorpion

Apart from the temples, one can go to nearby water falls too like Raneh and Pandav. We thought of going to Raneh; but then we were so overwhelmed by what we just learnt that we wanted to sit and enjoy lunch rather than again going somewhere. This time we went to Indiana for lunch. Since Khajuraho is frequented by foreigners, most of the cafes offer international cuisine and really good dishes. We had pasta for lunch. Even after lunch we still had time; we had to decide between 2 museums ; Archaeological museum or the Tribal art museum. We zeroed upon the Tribal art museum. There was no one in the Tribal Art Museum. The lone person / security guard / care taker opened the doors and switched on the lights and fans when he saw us coming. It was free entry and we wanted to click some photos. But the care taker said there was a fine since the entry fee was removed. There were some interesting tribal arts were on display. we covered the exhibits in about half an hour. I strongly recommend one should visit this small museum to get a glimpse of the different tribes of Madhya Pradesh.

As the train pulled out of the Khajuraho station exactly at 6.20pm that evening; it carried in it 2 very impressed travelers. We enjoyed this short trip to Khajuraho, a UNESCO World heritage site. Both of us would love to be back for the famous Khajuraho Dance Festival.

The Royal Emblem of the Chandelas

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A train ride to remember

WOW post

"It is the same train going back. So no pantry. Better we get something packed" - We were taking the overnight train from Khajuraho to Hazrat Nizamuddin , Delhi. This train comes from Delhi as U P Sampark Kranti and reaches Khajuraho in the morning 6.30 am. The same train goes back in the evening 6.20 pm. P and I got chicken sandwiches and some tetra packs of juices for dinner.

We had the side lower berth and one upper berth. From Khajuraho there were not many people. The train started right on time. This train stops at Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh and from there it gets connected to a bigger train and then continues the journey to Nizamuddin. While coming we knew what to expect in this train. Everyone around had opened tiffins of Puri and Aloo ki sabji with aromatic achars for dinner. We had taken the train after having an early dinner at the ever reliable Comesum at Hazrat Nizamuddin station. So we were not hungry. But somethings are done because they form a part of the whole experience.

As the train pulled into Mahoba, I told P to go find some "Indian" dinner. He came back with the "oh so typical" Rail Janta ahar from the canteen. All for Rs. 15, 7 small puris , one katori aloo ki sabji and a packet of Nilon's achar.  The compartment was full in Mahoba. As the train pulled out slowly everyone started opening their dinner boxes. They all were carrying the same thing. This time we also had that. It may not have tasted the same as those home cooked dinners, but it was the experience of having that spicy aloo sabji with the puris with everyone else was fun.
Our train journey was complete. After that we ate the cold sandwich and drank the juice too. We were happy.

It had been a while that P and I travelled by train. This trip to Khajuraho made it possible. Even though we have not travelled in one for a long time, both of us firmly believe that to experience real India, Indian Railway is the best. One train carries a whole world within. For us this time it was just an overnight journey. We still have fond memories of longer journeys of 2 -3 days where the co passengers become your family. Everyone shares not only the space for those days, but also their food and loads of stories. Until then we are content with this one.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’ 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Monsoon Potluck

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” 
― Mark Twain

Meeting friends for a potluck during monsoon or Bihu or any special occasion has become a ritual since last few years now. This year was no exception; but this year we decided to get surprised items but surely "not desi"  but try to keep it as Asian as possible. 
Of course we decided on who was getting starters or main course or dessert. The result and the spread was simply super. 
Bonding over good food with varied conversation with good company make all the difference. 
Here are the photos of what we ate..

Starters : 

We had Devilled Eggs with a Mayo and Tuna twist.
Noodles with stir fried vegetables and chicken in orange juice.
Grilled Chicken with Kaffir Lime
Garlic and Orange Mint prawns with Avocado and Wasabi Guacamole.

My plate of Starters

Main Course :

Main Course
Chicken Rendang
Nasi Lemak
Malaysian Sambal
Roasted peanuts, salads and boiled egg.

Dessert :

No bake cake with Icecream and Mascarpone Cheese
Coconut Macaroons


Every dish was simply delectable and the love that had gone behind preparing and presenting shone through each one. 

One Confession : Both the starters; Grilled chicken and Prawn with Guacamole were prepared by my better in kitchen half. I just ate.