blue-city-jodhpurJodhpur is to New Delhi as Boston is to New York City.  Compared to New Delhi’s 22 million people, Jodhpur’s 1.3 mil seems downright quaint.  The traffic is calmer, the streets less crowded.  It’s often called the Sun City for its sunny climate (and a record high of 129 degrees Fahrenheit in May!) or the Blue City, because they were jealous of the Pink City and decided to paint a large number of their buildings blue.  Just kidding – they too painted their buildings for a royal visit.  You’ll see a lot of signage for military forces – Army, Air Force, Border Security, etc.  Its prime location and extra space makes it a perfect headquarters.

Below you’ll find:

  • Village Tour
  • City Sightseeing
  • Restaurant Reviews
  • Hotel Review

Village Tour

Village Tour
They were gracious enough to share the road with us

We took a package tour that promised to show us “village life.”  Not quite equivalent to a trip to Old Town Williamsburg or Plymouth Plantation, this tour was more like if you went to an American suburb in the 1950’s.  Our stops did not represent a far-distant past, but they were most certainly hiding away any modern conveniences like cell phones.  I’d say it was fun; but if I was a tour guide, I might design this excursion differently.

Pottery Stop

We visited the home of a master potter.  His family all worked there, but clearly deferred to the master of the house.  They created fun trinkets for tourists, including small authentic oil lamps. But another large part of their inventory was clay water containers that keep water cool even in the boiling Rajasthan climate.

Farming Stop

This stop was at a local Bishnoi farmer’s home.  He must be the jolliest man in all of India.  He has clearly been welcoming tourists to his farm for years and loved every second of the attention.  We has left out three piles of different kinds of grain so we could touch and taste.  The Bishnoi are a religious group in this geographic area who follow 29 tenets, many of which emphasize protecting the environment, especially trees and livestock.  In 1730, 363 men, women and children were killed protecting trees, hugging them to prevent the king’s men from cutting them down.

While the women of his family lounged in the shade of their small home, the farmer lead us to a shaded space meant to welcome visitors.  There he demonstrated the local custom of making opium tea for guests.  It sounds exciting and risqué, but honestly is tasted disgusting – like dirty water and no, I did not feel any different.  

Next he demonstrated how to wrap a Rajasthani turban – a red or red/yellow/green fabric strip that shaded their heads or could be unraveled for all sorts of emergency or everyday uses, like tying things.  I really didn’t mind that his operation wasn’t 100% authentic.  Clearly, he got a small stipend for welcoming people and putting on these demonstrations, and he did it with joy – a win-win.

Weaving Stop

WeaverA clean, orderly man sat beneath a canopy and knotted a rug while listening to the radio.  His impeccable English and good quality glasses hinted that he must not really spend his days tying rugs, but we tried our hardest to push that out of our minds.  We’re pretty sure the man he introduced as his son holding his granddaughter was just a worker.  I mean, they had an outhouse with an English toilet in it on the other side of their field… but that’s OK…  You just hope that the men and women who do tie those rugs daily get their cut of the rugs he sells as an “authentic Rajasthani weaver.”  Because no matter what system they set up, these rugs were being woven by hand by real people.  No “Made in India” sticker necessary.  Why am I over explaining this?  Because I caved IMG_5781and bought one.  Sure, I brought the price down from $450 to $300, but I probably could have pushed for $250.  I mean, he has a credit card machine.  When I saw the sea foam rug, I couldn’t resist.  Everything else in India is bright and bold or a rich rust and brown.  This rug is now in daily use at the foot of my bed.

Wildlife preserve

Our last stop was a wildlife preserve.

Evening with Camels

Osian Camel Safari

The evening camp excursion is a popular one in many desert tourist destinations around the world.  I went on one in Dubai as well.  It includes a performance with traditional dancers and musicians, drinks, a meal and a camel ride.  For me this falls into the category of “not necessary, but better than staying at the hotel.”  I preferred the one in Dubai because it included henna.  This one felt a tad lackluster because there were few people there.  If any of my fellow travelers comment below, I’ll include their thoughts.

City Sightseeing

Jodhpur Fort / Mehrangarh Fort

Because this fort is one of the only non-government kept forts, it has a few unique feature.  What makes this fort different:

  • Extensive museum collection
  • Best gift shop BY FAR
  • Some unique aspects like the widow’s wall
  • The view!

This fort was built-in 1460 and towers above the blue city.  Still privately owned by the royal family, this fort has been used in many movies and requires constant fundraising.  The fort and its 7 gates were built for battle.  As you walk through the imposing main entrance –  the Iron Gate –  you will see metal handprints sunk into the wall.  They represent the royal wives who committed suicide on their husband’s funeral pyre, a tradition known as sati.  Morbid and heartbreaking, it is good to know that the British outlawed the practice in 1867 and the last recorded sati in Jodhpur was 1953.  Unfortunately, the Indian government did not pass a Sati Prevention Act until 1987.

I had a blast in the museum gift shop.  Reasonable prices were fixed and clearly marked.  They had a large selection of hand-printed “old” documents. The quotations are because I’m not sure how old or authentic the paper was, but the paintings are exquisite.  I bought adorable cards with hand painted auto rickshaws and parchment bookmarks with painted elephants and horses for 100Rs each ($1.50).  There were books, purses, jewelry and more.  All proceeds go to keeping the fort maintained.

The Hermit’s Curse

I absolutely love a good story, and curse-stories are some of the best.  When Rao JJodhpur curseodha, the chief of the Rathore Clan, needed to establish his dominance after traveling 15 years in the desert, he knew he had to build a fort.  The current location was the most strategically advantageous, but a local hermit was furious that he would be displaced.  He cursed the king and the fort, saying that it would never have water.  Rao Jodha believe the hermit had the power but could not stop his plans.  So he built a temple near the hermit’s prayer spot.  But at the time, it also seemed necessary for a human sacrifice.  A local man Rajiya Bambi offered himself to be entombed in the wall – alive.  In return the royal family promised to take care of his descendants.  To this day, the family lives on the property bestowed by Rao Jodha.  To the right is his headstone along the fort’s wall.

Jaswant Thada

Jaswant-Thada-JodhpurThis mausoleum built in 1899 is covered with intricate carvings.   It gleams white in the sun and is surrounded by impeccable landscaping.  I could have sat there for hours if we didn’t need to get my aunt, sister and BIL to the airport.  There is an extra charge for cameras so we opted not to bring.  This photo doesn’t do it justice.

Umaid  Bhawan Palace

This palace, completed in 1943, was the last palace built-in India.  It was constructed to employ thousands of people during a famine.  Owned by a royal family, it is one of the largest private residences in the world.  You can visit a relatively small but interesting museum that focuses on the 20th century, but the majority of the palace is run by the Taj Hotel.  There’s a significant fee to go into the hotel if you are not a guest. The museum includes models of the hotel and photos of the portions you can’t walk through, as well as many gifts given to the family throughout their reign including rare jewelry boxes, pottery, clocks, art deco paintings and more.  I liked it particularly because you get to see the recent past, including photos and paintings of the family in recent years.

The Jodhpur Jinx

4a3c39136438037a8501c4eeae21f25dThis is a story straight out of a movie.  I would love it, if it didn’t actually involve real life tragedy.  As it was told to me, the hermit who cursed the fort also cursed the Maharaja’s family, but online it seems that most think it is a simply an unfortunate jinx.  The jinx: a Maharaja will never live to see his grandson.  Shockingly this has proven true for 5 generations.  The jinx began in 1895 when Rao Jaswant Sing II died while his eldest son was only a child. That son died at 21 and his heir at 20.  Maharaja Umaid Singh lived to see his granddaughters, but his son died in a tragic plane crash at the age of 29.  The jinx almost continued when young Shivraj Sing nearly died in a polo accident.  However, he was able to partially recover and his family welcomed a son this November (2015)!   The last Maharaja of Jodhpur Gaj Singh met his grandson, breaking the jinx. At least it has a happy ending!

Restaurant reviews

Lunch – On the rock

National Highway 65, Ajit Colony

The guide brought us to a relaxing lunch at a mid-priced restaurant called On the Rocks.  The ambiance is its strong point as you’re nestled away under a large tree in an enclosed patio.  The menu includes Indian, Italian and Chinese a la carte.  The price adds up, but the quality is good.

 Dinner – Indique

Hotel Pal Haveli | Near Clock Tower, Gulab Sagar

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 10.52.53 AM

Indique is the open air terrace restaurant at the Pal Haveli Hotel, the converted former residence of a wealthy local family.  There’s a beautiful view of the lit -up city and clock tower.  I don’t have many pictures because we arrived when it was dark (I stole this one sorry!).  This was possibly the first and only time my family got to experience auto-rickshaws – and so glad they did!  Warning: you have to walk up a few flights of steep stairs.  The ambiance was charming and romantic, though I do suggest you bring a jacket just in case.  We had thalis with a choice of veg or non-veg.  It was delicious!  Every dish was fantastic.  I knew immediately that this would be a food highlight of the trip.

Lunch – Winds

Near Ncc BhawanJodhpur, India

A nice local restaurant under tent on a lawn, tucked away from the street.  They’re clearly used to foreigners.  Trip Advisor reviews say the locals recommend it.  We only found it because out guide knew of it.

Winds Restaurant


Park Plaza Jodhpur

park plaza suite

This mid-level price hotel was a perfect choice.  The rooms were large and clean.  We were given one suite with a large seating area.  The breakfast in the morning was a large spread with manned egg station.  And we had dinner there one night as well, which was also delicious.  There’s even a roof-top bar that is trying very hard but doesn’t quite hit the mark with ambiance and drink prices. In general, this is a very safe choice for foreigners.  If you’re back-packing through India, this is not where you’d stay.  If you’re traveling with parents, this is perfect.


Exports – Maharaja Art & Craft

13th Mile Stine, Near Nissan Show Room, Pali Road, Jodhpur | +91 – 98280 – 82100

This was sold to us as an “export house,” which we thought would mean name-brand items.  But what they meant was they ship out the traditional Indian crafts and textiles to American corporations like Pottery Barn and some bed covers to European designers.  As before, the man laid out his many options, including pashmina shawls.  He had the air of honesty, and truthfully, he had the best prices so far.  He wouldn’t go too low, because it wasn’t in his interest – he was a wholesaler primarily.  We bought shawls for gifts, including a thank you pashmina for all my mom’s help with the wedding.  If you wanted to do all your textile and handicraft shopping in one go, I’d suggest this place.  But don’t expect a Louis Vuitton outlet.



Oh, Jaipur. The Pink City.

Jaipur holds a special place close to my heart (Coincidence, it’s called the Pink City?).  I’ve been to India three times.  Each time I’ve gone to Jaipur, and each time I’ve appreciated it more.  First, this is the city closest to Udayan, the home for street children where I spent 5 weeks in 2006. I flew to India by myself as a 19 year old girl to experience a different culture and help other people.  But let’s be blunt — While I taught English, Drama and Painting, it was really I who learned a life’s worth of lessons.  I gave them the love that I could, and I hope it helped.  But the perspective and resilience I witnessed on the trip changed me for life.  I plead to whoever wants to volunteer in another country – stay for a significant amount of time for a greater chance at making an impact, as well as experiencing more immersion.

But back on topic!

Founded in 1727, Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan.  It is called the Pink City, because the entire city was painted pink, the color of hospitality, for a visit by the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria in the 1800’s.  The population has maintained the practice ever since, which may be one of the contributing factors to making the city one of the most visited by foreign tourists.  In some ways it has resisted modernization and therefore is a bit more charming than New Delhi.  But with close to 7 million people, it’s still on the crowded side.

Public works… no orange cones here

Clothing Store

clothing shopOn Day 4 we arrived in the evening.  One of our goals on the trip was to get some clothes tailored.  This was under the guise of having Indian clothes to wear at future events, but let’s be honest – they’d essentially be souvenirs.  And why not!  I highly recommend you engage a tailor for a salwar or even a man’s button up shirt.  Just make sure they have enough time to make it and deliver it to your hotel (24 hours preferred).  If you want a sari, I suggest using the time for this, because unless you want a stretchy, one-size-fits-all blouse, you’ll need it sewn (blouse material is included in price of sari).  Warning: They will take every bolt of cloth off the shelves to lay out in front of you.  You will feel awkward and guilty as you know someone will have to fold it all again.  But there’s little you can do.  It’s how they like to do it.  Just be clear with what you want.  And try not to get frustrated when you say “blue” and they show you red, green, and black.  It’s not a language barrier thing, it’s their theory that they’ll magically inspire you to want all of them.

Having eaten Indian food for several days, that night we took a break with an Italian restaurant.  To our confusion, despite looking like an Olive Garden type chain, they were out of half the things on the menu.  I’ll never take endless pasta for granted again!


Hotel Mansingh | Sansar Chandra Road | MI Road, Jaipur 302001, India

A large step up from the Hotel Mansingh in Agra, this hotel was clean and spacious with greater sense of grandeur.  The quality of breakfast was measurably better and included a manned egg station.

Concierge Doctors!

After all my worrying about my family getting sick, it was I who ended up needing to check in with a doctor.  I’d experienced stomach issues on a previous trip; a case in which the prescription diarrhea pill did the trick.  However, a trip to the bathroom the morning of our only full day in Jaipur seemed a tad different.  Asking the front desk for the best local urgent care facility or doctor, they offered to call a concierge doctor.  About 30 minutes later, a well dressed, middle-aged woman arrived with a leather briefcase.  Up in our room I described my symptoms.  Accustomed to travelers like me, she didn’t seem the least bit alarmed.  Out of her magical leather briefcase, she produced dozens and dozens of different colored pills.  I had to start writing the dosages and timings down and pleaded with my husband (who has a much better memory) to try to catch it all.  There were medications to every symptom and then medications to deal with the side effects of the medications.  She drew up the bill and I think her visit plus the medications came out to about $22.  I don’t even want to think about how much red tape and cash I’d have to go through to get the equivalent service and medications in America.  I popped some pills and grabbed an auto rickshaw to meet up with my family.  India may have been the source of my ailments, but she also made the solution just as quick.  We’ll get into the consequences of over medication, particularly antibiotics, another day…


Amer Fort

An encapsulation of Jaipur’s history, this amber sandstone and marble fort is built above its water source, the Maota Lake.  More palace than fort, this site had a huge impact on me on my first trip.  It was unfortunate that I missed it, but at least my family got to go.  As many guide books will mention, you can choose an elephant ride or jeep ride up the long stone path to the gates.  Inside, the opulent rooms will bring palace life alive in your imagination.  Like most forts, it also has a public and private audience hall, plus a mirrored room.  A personal favorite is the peacock mosaic artwork.  Watch out for the number of hawkers that will be there since it’s such a hot tourist spot. You may need a guide to appreciate all of the history, but make sure you can understand them before you hire them!  Also, some say this could take a day.  I think 2-3 hour works.

Jantar Mantar

I’ll talk about it because I should.  But I’ll be honest, I’m not a science/math girl, so I’ve never been particularly intrigued despite how advanced this yard full of astronomical instruments was at the time it was built.  Plus, I was so miserable from the heat and my stomach issue, that I could only stand for 5 minutes before my poor husband took me back to the air conditioning in the waiting tour van.  This Rajput-built UNESCO World Heritage site is the home of the world’s largest sun dial.  The stone monuments allow the viewer to see astronomical movements with the naked eye.  It’s impressive… don’t listen to me…you should go see it.


City Palace

city palaceThis is another impressive, famous site; but when you’re starving, and you’ve already seen a gorgeous, massive palace/fort that morning, it’s not a sin to pass up.  Since the majority of the palace is still a royal residence, you may only walk around a museum set up within several of the rooms.  You should do it if you trip to India is short. Why not? It’s literally across the street from Jantar Mantar.  But with 5 more cities to go, we were hungry and we were feeling cheap – so we passed this time around.

Birla Mandir

Mandir = Temple

Birla = The wealthy family who has been building temples throughout India for the past 80 years.

We hit up this temple on our way out of town.  We had hoped to visit Pushkar that day, but the guide alerted us to the fact that it was a religious holiday, and therefore would be so crowded that it would ruin the entire experience (the city is a main pilgrimage site).  Instead, we decided to spend some time here and arrive in Jodhpur a bit early.

This gleaming white temple is modern and active.  In Hindu fashion, you will see carvings of the world’s great religious teachers and figure, not just Hinduism’s. You’ll leave your shoes with an attendant and walk on the cold white marble in your bare feet. If you want to donate a bit, you can walk around the idol clockwise.  The carvings on the wall depict popular Hindu stories.  A moment that sticks out from this stop was when some young Indian men told my husband to take a hike so they could have a photos with us all.  At this point, we were used to the celebrity status, but I had decided that if they want a photo of me, my husband was going to be in it too.

Since we’d be in the van for hours, I suggested we check out the local temple nearby dedicated to a different deity. Locals take off their shoes walk in through one of the lines, receive a blessing and leave.  Some buy sweets to have offered in the temple.


McDonald'sSeeking another break from the norm and a fun exercise in globalisation, we ate at McDonald’s.  With Hinduism’s worship of cows prevalent in the culture, there is no beef burger served.  Beef is so rare in India, that I suggest never eating it because you don’t know where it came from or how long it’s been there.  I had some bland Mcnuggets for my stomach, but the McSpicy Paneer was a big hit in my group.  If you look around, you’ll see that McDonald’s is a regular restaurant for middle class families without the negative connotations that Americans put on fast food these days.

Camera Shop

IMG_0065A short anecdote.  My dad needed a camera battery.  If you know my dad, a camera on a trip is not just an accessory, it’s an extension of his arm.  We tried to think of all sorts of things to solve the problem, including using Amazon to ship something in country to a future destination.  But the answer was right in front of us – our guide, Sanjay.  Between sightseeing and shopping stops, he pulls the 9 passenger van into what some might call an alley.  To the left and right were closet-sized shops overflowing with gadgets and tech-type things.  Apparently, this was the neighborhood to get all things camera.  Sanjay, my dad and the guys left the van to look.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember the details, but in entailed every shop owner swearing they had the battery.  One finally produced the goods.

DSCN1493In the meantime, the ladies are in the van watching the scenery.  The driver stood guard by our van.  Across the street there was a woman selling oil from a vat.  Behind a colorful door was a mother and her children.  She would occasionally come out to wash dishes in a bowl of water, spilling the dirty water onto the street.  Monkeys darted in and out of the scene as easily and unremarkably as would cats.  We bolted from our seats when we saw an elephant lumbering down the extremely narrow street.  He just meanders past us.  All of us just laughed at the absurdity if it all. My dad was haggling in camera alley as monkey and elephants meandered by.  Welcome to India.

Jewelry Stop – Shopping!

If you are on a tour, you will be brought to a jewelry store to be “taught” about Jaipur’s famous industry.  The lesson consists of showing how semi-precious stones are ground down and polish.  Then the real fun begins in their showroom… As long as you know going in that you’ll be plied with drinks and salesmen will follow you around, it won’t be so horrible.  We found the prices to be fairly comparable to the U.S., but if you’re looking for something with significance, at least you can tell people where you got it.


I’ll wrap it up with restating my undying love for Jaipur, and these amusing photos of a whole family on one motorcycle and a turban shop.




Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

You’ve survived the crowds to see one of the wonders of the world (the Taj in Agra), now it’s time to rest your weary feet at a desert Oasis.  For us, that oasis was The Pugmark adjacent to Ranthambore National Park.  But don’t get too comfy, because you’re there for only one reason – to see the tigers!

Tiger Ranthombore

I asked my MIL what two words she would use to describe the Hotel and National Park.  She said:

“Peaceful. Peaceful even though a tiger was within reaching distance.” – My MIL


The NAtional PArk

First deemed a game reserve in 1955, then the home of Project Tiger in 1973, the area became a national park in 1980.  The park may be known for its tigers, (they currently claim a population of 62), but they also have a wide variety of other wildlife including: leopardnilgaiwild boarsambarhyenasloth bearsouthern plains gray langurrhesus macaque and chital. If you visit, remember that every trek is different depending on the weather, the season or simply whether or not the animals feel like getting up in the morning.

Our Safari experience

Jeep Ride
Me holding on for dear life

Before we even arrived, two open air jeeps were arranged to drive us around. (Though I believe the hotel can also help you with this once you’re there).  The morning of, we woke up at 6am for an early sunrise drive.  I forget if this was because it was the best for cooler weather or because it was when the tigers are most active.  Either way, we happily hopped in and drove about 5 minutes to the entrance of the reserve.  As we drove fast, slow, then fast again, our guide used a walkie talkie to discuss with other park rangers/guides if a tiger had been spotted.  Once word that one of the majestic cats had been seen, it was a mad rush to get there and jockey for a good line-of-sight among the 15 other jeeps and trucks brimming with tourists.  This ride felt more like the Indiana Jones ride at Disney than anything I have ever experienced.  At the time, I didn’t admit to my family that this was actually my favorite part, not the tigers.

Tiger Ranthambore
The initial sighting. Can you spot her?

After sitting around a lake and I embarrassingly mistook a bunch of leaves across the way for a tiger, we bounded off to another location and spotted one.  She seemed to be lazily sitting enjoying the day.  But after a moment, we all realized there was a deer-like animal grazing nearby.  Over the next hour or two, we watched her stalk her prey by taking a few steps forward then sitting again… two steps forward then sitting again…. all downwind of the deer.   Shockingly, the deer did not see her… that’s how slow she was moving!  The guide said that this works for the tiger about 1 out of 10 times, but that it is OK. That ratio is built into their diet.  Oddly enough, both animals seemed so used to the jeeps (and the jeeps remained far enough away) that we didn’t seem to factor into their process.

Ranthambore National Park
Got bored waiting… so we decided to play with some birds.


At some point another deer saw the tiger and alerted their friend.  The deer bound off into the grass and our tiger decided to stroll elsewhere.  We thought the trip was over, but the jeeps sprung into action and found their way to a road that crossed her anticipated path.  We saw her take a little bath, spray some trees (you think a house cat can spray?  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!) and mosey through the line of jeeps.  We were a few feet away!  She strutted her stuff and could not care less that we existed.  This was both fascinating and disconcerting.  The environmentalist in me was nagging at me, and I hoped to goodness that the safaris contribute money and interest in preserving their habitat.  I hope that the safaris are the lesser of two evils; the other evil being poachers and selfish land development.  For every human that wants to create an untouched reserve, there is a human willing to exploit it.


Jeep Ranthambore
It will be dusty!

What to wear:  I would be a horrible travel blogger if I didn’t warn you on what to wear.  If you go out before sunrise it will be very cold, though it will heat up quickly.  Also, it’s extremely dusty – everything you wear will have a thin layer of dust on it when you return.  I also suggest bringing a scarf to cover your mouth if you think the dust will bother you.  Lastly, make sure your hair is pulled back; you’re driving fast, and it’ll get in your face.


Methi PohaWe were back at the hotel by 9 or 10 am for a very thorough breakfast buffet.  It was my favorite breakfast buffet of the trip, because instead of doing a half-hearted attempt at American food, they embraced Indian food while having toast and hard boiled eggs for variety.  Poha is a great cross-over Indian dish for breakfast – hearty but not “strange”.

This all brings me back to the hotel…

Hotel: The Pugmark

Village Khilchipur | Ranthambhore RoadSawai Madhopur 322001, India

Our little oasis.  Clean, spacious rooms open up onto a center strip of trees, flowers and adorable sitting areas.  We didn’t have enough time, but there was a beautiful blue pool.  The staff was polite and efficient.  Meals were served buffet style in a large room.  Alcoholic drinks were offered, but with a glass of wine clocking in at $13, we stuck with the 650ml Kingfisher for 400Rs ($6.50) split among 2-4 people.  Honestly, we were sad that we couldn’t spend another day there just to relax.

We left by noon to reach our next destination – Jaipur- a city very close to my heart.


Sushi Yasaka: Sushi-Palooka 2016

Sushi Yasaka


251 W 72nd St
New York, NY 10023
b/t Broadway & West 72nd St 
Upper West Side

A medium sized restaurant buzzing with activity.  And that’s no surprise with a $45 for 12 piece omakase.  As my friend mentioned, it’s a 1/3 the price without being 1/3 the quality.  In fact, from my novice POV, I felt they were more creative than Kura with interesting toppings.  Take a look!

Yellowtail, Red Snapper, Scallop

Yellowtail, Red Snapper with Kelp & Torched scallop w/ yuzu pepper

  • At this point, I just want them to torch everything!  Adds flavor and texture!

Shrimp, Horse Mackerel, Tuna

Lemony cold shrimp w/ dry and crispy head

  • This was a favorite.  The cool temperature and zing of lemon was a welcome surprise

Japanese horse mackerel w/ scallions

Marinated Bluefin Tuna

  • I won’t lie, the marinade gave it a tasty kick!

Fatty Tuna, Mackerel, King Salmon

Chew toro medium fatty tuna

Japanese mackerel

King Salmon with Acura

  • Now this is a dream come tre


Uni, Fatty Tuna, EEl

Maine Uni, Seared Fatty Tuna & Eel

  • I won’t lie.  At this point I am oddly full and could have gone without the eel.  But as always, the fatty tuna is the treat of the Omakase


Two Omakases.  Two very different prices.  Both delicious.

I returned home satisfied and feeling much more educated about the flavors and etiquette of sushi.  I have enough memories that I feel I can reminisce about the delicious pieces without having to run out and plop down a chunk of money every week.  Average sushi will get me through until I feel I need another indulgent omakase.

My last note is that I suggest you go with good company to fill out the time and share your experiences.  Thanks Uni Diaries 🙂  But also, don’t be afraid to ask the chef about what you’re eating.

Kura: Sushi-palooza 2016

Sushi in NYC

As a part of my job, I was browsing the internet for telegenic chefs.  Time and time again I came across beautifully shot, mouthwatering videos on sushi and the chefs who create it.  The chefs themselves didn’t fit the bill for what I needed, but my understanding and appreciation for sushi grew exponentially.  Then Netflix’s I’ll Have What Phil’s Having‘s Tokyo episode pushed me over the edge.  I needed lovingly crafted, top notch sushi, and I needed it NOW.  Luckily, I’m friends with the amazing writer/food blogger of The Uni Diaries.  A quick text put into motion my Sushi-palooza weekend.  The goal: Have real omakase experiences – one well-known place (even if the price tag reflected it) and one lesser known, reasonably priced restaurant.

Sushi chef

Omakase: Term equivalent to “Chef’s Choice.”   You choose the number of pieces you want to pay for and the chef presents them to you from lightest to heaviest dish.

Kura Restaurant

130 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

This restaurant was chosen by my lovely guide.  This small, true hole-in-the-wall, 12(ish)-seater restaurant is famous because of the jolly, experienced Norihiro Ishizuka.  Just read the beginning of this review from the NY Times:

Norihiro Ishizuka“At the sushi counter at Kura, there is no sentinel in white; no silent, coolly appraising overlord. Norihiro Ishizuka, 70, stands alone, wearing not a crisp chef’s coat but a samue, traditionally a monk’s work robe, that slouches at his waist like a dressing gown.  He has a benevolent and slightly rakish air, with his faint pencil mustache and white-gray hair peeking out of the bottom of his cap. He nods and grins, already halfway to a laugh, and the meal has not yet begun.”


We sat for a 9:45 pm Friday res (the only time available when we looked a week before).  After ordering a carafe of sake, I was ready to go… Clueless and excited, I just waited for the experience to happen.

Salmon Roe, Yam & TunA, squid

I love roe, and it was great safe start.

The grated yam over marinated tuna was sooo delicious.  So much flavor – smoky and rustic.

Plowed through the squid, but not terribly memorable.

Scallops, Fatty Tuna & Snapper

The sea scallops were a silky delight.

This fatty tuna was the first proof that I was at a new level of sushi.  The average sushi eater is used to tuna, but fatty tuna is a whole new thing… a very melt-in-your-mouth bite.

King Salmon, Amberjack & Mackerel

These were all smooth and delicious.  I was thanking the ocean for its bounty with every bite.  The seared mackerel had a crunch and salt that I appreciated after the more subtle salmon and amberjack.

Ark Shell Clam, Shrimp, Live Octopus

The baby shrimp was a visual thrill.  This was certainly something I wouldn’t be able to get just anywhere.

After slicing the octopus, the Chef tapped each piece to prove it was still alive; the white pieces seized up at his touch.

Mentis Shrimp, Tuna & Eel

These three gave a nice range of texture, the ocean eel being a favorite.


The uni courses had arrived!  My fellow eater knew exactly what was coming, calling out the Santa Barbara uni vs the Japanese Hokkaido Uni.  Uni is from sea urchin, and many sushi fans have a love/hate reaction to uni’s distinct taste.  If you lose the taste of the ocean, you’ll love uni.  A fan of oysters’ salty-flavor, I’m now a fan of uni’s concentrated burst of ocean.

Fattiest Torched Tuna

The fattiest torched tuna was the crown jewel.  I literally woke thinking about it.  We ordered an additional bite after it was all over, and my friend was in chock that it was even better than the first time around.  What a treat!  This may be what spoils other sushi for me for good.  Mushroom soup finished out the meal.

The overall take way is that omakase is a unique, elevated experience, but with the price coming in at $135 for 18 pieces, it’s a treat.  A bucket list item, every penny was worth it.  Thanks to my friend’s dedication to sushi photography, I won’t forget a single course.  The plan for tonight is Sushi Yasaka, a cheaper omakase experience.  The goal is to compare the two to get an idea of the spectrum.    Looking forward to it!


Taj Mahal

Agra is the home of the Taj Mahal.  For most people, that’s all they need to know for them to visit.  But don’t be fooled; there’s much more… both good and bad.  So while I’ll talk about the stunning World Heritage sites Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the lesser known Fatehpur Sikri; I do have some controversial thoughts that will help you prepare and take advantage.


India TrashHere’s the part no-one tells you: Agra is dirty.  Not just a layer-of-dust dirty; it’s trash-everywhere-you-step dirty.  While some Indian cities have had street cleaning initiatives in recent years, there seems to be a culture of lax littering and shrugging off pollution in Agra. The slums and squatter population totals an extraordinary 50% of the city’s population with
850,000 people.  The poverty that visitors see when India Agra childrendriving into the city may be very… eye-opening, but it’s as much a part of India (right now, hopefully not forever) as Taj’s grandeur.  Everyone just needs to remember that each Indian city is as unique as New York or Minneapolis or San Diego.  It’s why I suggest seeing Jaipur, Udaipur or Jodhpur in addition to Agra and New Delhi – to see the calmer/cleaner side of Northern India.

Below: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Lodging & a fun tale

Taj Mahal

Now that you’ve had a warning, it’s time to get you excited.  Welcome to the epitome of India’s juxtapositions, Agra’s poverty against one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  The Taj Mahal, a tomb built by an Emperor’s love, is breathtaking and perfect.  The precision of its construction makes you think you’re looking at a postcard.  When you take off your shoes (which you’re required to do), and put your bare feet on marble, the pristine picture becomes all too real.

Taj Mahal shoesLet me rewind.  You will need to buy a Foreigner ticket for 750 rupees (in 2015).  Indians pay 20 rupees.  But as you’ll see, the Foreigner ticket helps you cut an epic line. (Indians willing to pay the 750 can also cut the line).  The ticket includes a bottle of water and “footies” – fabric booties that you need to cover your shoes to step on the gorgeous white marble.  Make sure you step into the correct line when walking through the ticket line – there is one for men and one for women.  They’re tight and uncomfortable, but push through and it will open up into a courtyard.  The gateway itself is impressive, but as you look through the archway to the Taj, it will be a moment you’ll never forget.


When you’re up there, don’t forget to look across the river to where the Mughal King had planned on building an identical tomb in black for himself… too bad his own son imprisoned him and took his “throne.” Take your time and enjoy the views!  Note: this site won’t take up the whole day.


AGRA fort

While this fort is impressive from the outside (my family loved the Indiana Jones-style rolling stone defense gate), my interest was captured by the complex family palace. Akbar the Great was known for his relatively peaceful reign of religious tolerance in which Hindus, Christians, Muslims and more all got along.  I’m not sure which came first – if his rule was a result of, or inspired by, his marriages, but Akbar married three women – one Hindu, one Muslim and one Christian (from the Portuguese influenced Southern India).  Of course, he had an impressive harem as well, but it was expected at the time and often had political significance.  His palace reflects these separate spaces for each of his wives.

Fun side facts:

  • The kitchen was for the Hindu wife who enjoyed cooking and could only eat vegetarian.
  • The white marble bedrooms belonged to Shah Jahan’s daughters.  When his son imprisoned him, it was in this fort that one of his daughters cared for him until his death.  He was held there so that he could look out at the Taj Mahal, his wife’s tomb.
  • The green courtyard was once used as a bazaar staffed only by women, so that his wives and concubines could shop without being seen by men.

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri stallsThis may look like another fort, but it’s more accurate to think of it as a city. 2mi x 1mi, it is surrounded by 5 miles of fortified wall.  Inside you will find several different segments to visit: a palace, a mosque and the tomb of a Sufi saint.  We came up through the “back door” to avoid the crowds and peddlers.  We saw where the crumbled walls showed the stalls that were used by the locals to sell their wares when the city was the empire’s capital.  The walk was markedly peaceful.

The multiple buildings within palace were incredibly intriguing to me.  You had the public and private viewing hall.  You had Emperor Akbar’s winter and summer bedrooms.  Plus, there’s an ornately carved mini-palace for each of Akbar’s brides.  If you look closely, you can see that each is carved in the style of the bride’s culture/religion – Hindu/Gujarati, Muslim and Christian.  You’ll see a platform in the center of a pool, used for singing competitions.  Next time someone makes fun of American Idol – you can let them know it’s merely following a human tradition historically enjoyed by Emporers.

Sufi Saint's TombThat’s just part one.  The second is a pilgrimage site made up of a mosque and Sufi tomb.  You must leave your shoes outside.  I can’t guarantee it, but your shoes will probably be there when you get out – ours were. The Tomb is in a white structure in the center of a large stone courtyard.  You can take a look and take pictures from the outside; but if you want to participate, it will cost you.  It costs about 750 rupees/$12 per person or couple to enter. You’re given a plastic hat to cover your head.  You walk around the “casket” in a dark room.  You lay out a fabric you were given on top as an offering.  Then you tie a red threat with three knots on a carved metal grate, making a wish.  As you leave, you’re hit on the head with some peacock feathers.  Voila, you’re blessed.  The price seems a tad steep, but you will be participating in a ritual that thousands of local Indians do.   This stop broke up a long day of travel to Ranthambore.

fatehpur Sikri

The tale of the local guide

This is a tale of how we were conned… and how everything turned out OK anyway.

hagglingThomas Cook had arranged a local guide to show us through Fatehpur Sikri.  He was knowledgable and knew a back entrance that kept us away from the relentless peddlers at the main gate.  He walked us through the process at the tomb.  All was good, until he told us we should meet his brother… his “brother” was hunkered down in a corner behind a wall with some of his friends.  The guide explained that the carved stones were his family’s trade.  I’m sure it won’t surprise you that I now have 0% faith that those men were relatives at all.

A few of our members stepped back to watch, but my parents and I couldn’t turn away from the figurines – it was our first time to really shop.  The prices seemed astronomical until my Mother-in-Law stepped in.  Soon it was my MIL making package deals. We were generally satisfied as we walked away.

After a short bus ride to the parking lot where we’d meet our van, we were led to a group of buildings.  The local guide politely asked my MIL in Hindi if we would mind stopping by the government store.  His tour guide company required him to bring the groups here.  That’s when it clicked… the stop by his “brother’s” business was off-script.  It took about 30 seconds in the government shop, where the prices are fixed, for my MIL to see that a few of the items we purchased were overpriced even after negotiating.  I bought two magnets before we were hustled out the door by a furious MIL.  We all shuffled back to the van without her.  After about 5 minutes, my MIL stormed back on the bus with a very contrite looking guide.  We dropped him at the exit and were on our way.  That’s when my MIL explained:  The guide begged her to not tell his supervisors.  But my MIL wasn’t hearing it.  She hated the idea that she had paid more than she needed to.  It wasn’t the game that he was playing that irked her, it was the fact that she paid more for the figurines than she could have gotten at the store.  We don’t know what she said exactly, but she got him to turn over 2000 rupees to pay her back for the difference. Don’t mess with my MIL!

Lodging – Mansigh Palace


I’m usually very easy going when it comes to hotels.  I don’t want to be a princess about anything, especially since we were staying in hotels as opposed to hostels.  However, I found that the service here rubbed me the wrong way.  The hotel restaurant had an extremely odd menu that attempted to cater to international tastes and had poor selection Indian food. A large amount of the international food involved raw vegetables, which you’d think they would know most visitors have been advised not to eat.  We really wanted some samosas – just a snack to hold us over, but the menu only said they were available as a “Late Night Bite”.  After much negotiating, we got some snacks out, but nothing to write home about.  Breakfast was lackluster as well – just soggy, sorry excuses for continental cuisine.  Overall, the manager’s attitude was unwelcoming.


Mansingh PalaceThe only interesting twist to the hotel was the backyard pool with peacock topiary.  There is no way I’d even dip a toe in the dirty water, but at lease it was fun to take picture on the stepping stones.



Mansingh Palace in Agra

Fatehabad Road, Agra 282 001

Tel: 2331771-78, 4008441-45




How to Shop for Indian Clothes in America (Wedding Trial #3)

My mom walks up to an Indian American woman at the local TJ Maxx: “I love your outfit.  Where did you get it?”

Woman: “India.”

Wash. Rinse, Repeat… for months…

This post is essentially the guide to purchasing casual and formal Indian clothes in America when you have never done it before and don’t take regular trips to India.  (A.K.A. How my Mom, Sister, Grandmothers and Cousins bought clothes for my Sangeet and Indian Ceremony.)

Here is the epic tale of my Mother’s struggles, so that you can skip the extraneous odyssey yourself.


step 1: Check out an Indian bridal expo

As Indian Weddings become more popular in the U.S. (are vendors see the $$$), there have been several Indian Bridal Expos popping up in major cities.  My Mom went to one in Boston, and I visited one in D.C.

Pros: They have the latest trends in wedding clothing

Cons: Still breaks the bank and selection is limited

Mom found two outfits that seemed fittingly formal: one for Dad and one for herself.  Since this was the beginning of the search, both seemed colorful; but as she would find out, American’s “colorful” is “subtle” in an Indian context.  Excited about having an outfit and worried there would be no other options, she bought the gold and red, relatively muted salwar suit and a matching red kameez for Dad.  She would ultimately wear this to both the sangeet and the reception in Mumbai.  But if you knew my mom, you’d know that one was not enough… there may be a diamond in the rough waiting for her to find it… plus a growing number of relatives wanted Indian outfits, including my grandmothers!


Step 2: “Stores” out of people’s homes

At the expo, my Mom found out that the majority of the “stores” in the U.S. are really just people who have brought back outfits from India and are selling them from their homes.

Pros: You can probably try on items

Cons: You may find it weird to shop from someone’s home.  Would they take returns and exchanges?  Is it finding a needle in a haystack?

My mom skipped this option.

Step 3: Check out the local Indian stores (if any)

SriHeather_Ceremony_Small-79Pros: You can try on clothes in the store

Cons: The prices are astronomical.  $300 is a bit much for something you don’t feel confident in and know you’ll only wear once.

Google brought my mom to the store Raj in Waltham.  The pre-made outfits she was selling were far too expensive, but she offered a deal: if my mom brought the fabric, she would sew salwar suits for $60 each.  This was music to my Mom’s ears.  She could pick out the perfect fabric to match my grandmother’s favorite colors for a reasonable price.

My aunt however did find something reasonable that she liked, blue saree:


Step 4: Outfits from scratch

Pros: You can customize and can actually be cheaper

Cons: May be difficult to find a reliable seamstress

My Mom took the Raj owner up on her deal.  Together they drew an example of the salwar she wanted – the length and neckline.  Mom picked up a light blue and light teal for each of my grandmothers, along with matching trim (aka bling) so that they didn’t feel too informal.

Heather_Sangeet_Small-173The owner asked for her to bring back “Indian weight” cotton for lining.  Add that to the bill.  Next, the owner asked for an additional $10 because the trim was complicated to added.  A seamstress herself, my Mom knew this was reasonable.

Then the real trouble rolled in.  As the wedding got closer, the delivery date kept pushing.  My grandmothers were eager to try on their outfits, just in case they needed to find an alternative.  My Mom isn’t terribly forceful, but she continued to follow-up until a week before the wedding, she finally got the outfits.  The salwars weren’t as drawn: the necklines were different and lacked the princess seams my Mom asked for specifically.  And Indian girlfriend warned me this is typical for Indian seamstresses; you have to be very present and pushy to get exactly what you want.  They tend to improvise.   Also, the trims were a bit loose, so my Mom re-secured the sequins and pearls.


Conclusion: Overall, my Mom said she was 60% satisfied, but insisted the price was still a steal.  My grandmothers looked and felt lovely, so I suppose you could call it a success.

Step 5: Online

Pros: Wide selection, great prices and convenient

Cons: Sizes are variable and shipping can be unpredictable

At first they were afraid, they were petrified… and then the cheap outfit they ordered arrived quickly and as pictured.  After my Mom’s trials, my sister turned to the internet.  Not only was she able to search and filter by the color and style that she wanted, but the prices were reasonable and shipping relatively quick.


Warning: It may be a given that the outfits will need alterations.  I’ve consistently found that clothes made in India are tight around the chest and armpits.  Luckily, they also include a lot of fabric at the seams, making it relatively easy to alter.  My Mom is a great seamstress and made small adjustments to most of my garments.  Hopefully, you have someone nearby who can do the same!

Conclusion:   Go online!  Even if the garments aren’t perfect, they’re cheap enough to come up with an alternative quickly.  Check out and Utsav!

The clothing breakdown for the wedding:


Mine – Lengha picked up in India

Mom – Salwar Kameez from Bridal Expo

Mom and Dad Indian Outfit






Sister/Cousins – Anarkalis from



Mine – Silk Sarees my MIL picked up in India

Mom – Saree from my MIL







Sister/Cousins – Matching Sarees I asked my MIL to pick up.

Cousin in a Saree
Cousin in a Saree


I love the smell of air pollution in the morning! I kid, I kid…

November is the best weather of the year, but without significant winds, the pollution lingers heavy over the city.  When I mentioned how surprised I was that the air was SO polluted, an Indian American friend of mine said, “Of course, it’s insane.  Everything in New Delhi is insane.”

Sprawling and crowded, both modern and historic, Delhi is the seat of India’s government, an international hub, and arguably its most famous city.  Old Dehli was founded in 1639 and was the center of the Mughal Dynasty until its collapse, which is why we have incredible forts and monuments to look at hundreds of years later.  New Dehli was built from 1911 – 1931 by George V, Emperor of India.  A good visit includes sites in both.

Here are some of the highlights of our day in New Delhi, in case it can help you plan your travels.  If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me at samosasandsunshine[at]

HOTEL: The lalit Hotel

Barakhamba Avenue, Connaught Place, Near Modern School, New Delhi, Delhi 110001, India

Clean and modern.  A perfect choice for an international traveler who isn’t looking to “rough it.”  The breakfast buffet was mediocre by my measure, but did include international food.  For my family’s first trip, I think it was a good transition for them.  The formal doorman is always a nice touch.


My favorite part of this World Heritage Site is imagining what it must have been like day-to-day. The fort includes the public audience hall where the local farmer brought his grievances to the emperor.  The wives and concubines would watch the proceedings through grills carved into the the marble and sandstone because they weren’t allowed to be seen by the general public.  There is an entire carved building just for dancers to perform for the royal family.  There are the Emperor and his wives private quarters, including what must have been a very luxurious bathroom.  Just take a moment to let the other visitors disappear and see the fort in its heyday. These pictures don’t do the sprawling fort justice.  If you’re a fan of WWI history, there is also a military museum dedicated to the period in the entrance archway that once housed the musicians that played the emperors entrance music.

Open: Tue-Sun; Mondays closed
Timings: Sunrise to Sunset
Entry Fee:  10 (Indians),  250 (foreigners)
Photography: Nil (25 for video filming)
Sound & Light Shows: 6pm onwards in English and Hindi
Ticket: 80 (adults), 30 (children)




Mathura Road, Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Delhi 110013, India

Look a tad familiar?  Humayun’s tomb is the predecessor to the Taj Mahal.  Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor earned his place in Delhi. After his army was driven out to India to Persia, he made his triumphant return in 1555, only to die falling down a flight of stairs shortly after.  It definitely leaves an stunning first impression.  There is a steep set of stairs to enter the tomb.  It is not handicap accessible.

Location: Opp. Dargah Nizamuddin, Mathura Road
Metro Station: JLN Stadium
Open: Daily
Timings: Sunrise to sunset
Entry Fee: 10 (Indians), 250 (foreigners)
Photography Charges: None (`25 for video filming)


Parliament & India Gate

Big, impressive and covered in monkeys.  They can’t fit their parliament into one building, so they have three.  I’m not sure if a tour is possible, but the traffic was nonexistent on the weekend, so we were able to pull up in front, get out and take pictures.  The India Gate is a straight shot from the parliament building through a long park, very similar to

LUNCH: The imperial

Janpath Lane, Connaught Place, New Delhi, 110001 ‎

Have you ever wanted to live at Downton Abbey?  Have you ever wanted to live in Downton Abbey and then take a trip to India?  The Imperial Hotel makes you feel like you’re walking into a novel or Masterpiece’s Indian Summers.  We had the impeccably presented lunch buffet.  If you ask the concierge, you may get a tour of the other restaurants and bars in the hotel – each have their own story and history.


If you’re too tired to enjoy it… take a nap!

Old Fort

A.K.A. Puranas Quila

After a quick walk through of the small museum earlier in the day, we came back for the light show (after dark, about $30-40 pp).  About 80 folding chairs are set up facing one of the only crumbling, yet standing walls left of the Old Fort.  For about 30 minutes brilliant colors and loud music guides through the history of the six Mughal emperors that ruled Delhi.  If I was quizzed, I’d say I remember Babur, Human, Akbar and Sha-Jahan…4 out of 6 ain’t bad!  I’d say the content was a bit dense and the program overall a bit long, but it was certainly a unique experience.  However, if you’re a history buff and can’t make it, you will hear their stories many times in your travels across the North.  The Mughal emperors’ lives rival soap operas, with wars, romance, family betrayal and more.  For example, the emperor who built the Taj Mahal was arrested and locked away before he could build the black mausoleum that would have mirrored the Taj and been his own resting place. Or there’s Akbar who had one Hindu wife, one Muslim wife, one Christian wife, and 50 concubines.    While there may have been drama in his personal life, his open and accepting love life reflected his political beliefs, and the region enjoyed tolerance, peace and prosperity.

Location: Near Delhi Zoo, Mathura Road
Nearest Metro Station: Pragati Maidan
Open: All days
Entry Fee: 5 (Indians), 100 (foreigners)
Days Closed: None
Photography Charges: Free (still camera); 25 (video camera)

Old Fort Light Show
The red curtain is still “closed” before the show.

Restaurant: Bukhara

Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, Chankyapuri, New Delhi – 110021

I saved the best for last!  Bukhara – a “frontier”, rustic themed restaurant with the best grilled meat (tandoori) I’ve ever had.  I’ll admit I didn’t have the average experience.  Our dinner was a wedding reception of around 35 people, so our menu was set.  Dish after dish of meat kept rolling out: prawns, lamb, chicken, fish…  It was all dowsed in Indian spices, predominately a coriander mixture – my favorite!  They serve exclusively North Indian cuisine, but that seems to let them perfect the food they feature.  The online reviews are over the top and for good reason.  You can view the chefs as they cook from behind a class wall (probably to keep the smell of the grill from overwhelming).  This is not a cheap date… but if you’re OK with the price, then you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.  Trip Advisor has some pictures of the menu, if you’re curious about the price.  Note: The restaurant is located inside a hotel.


Contact: Bukhara, ITC Maurya, A Luxury Collection Hotel

For reservations or details, please call 011-46215152 / 26112233 or email

Recipe: Upma

Nice pic from the internet 🙂

Upma is served in my/my husband’s family as breakfast, much like a hearty porridge, but Americans might feel it is more of a lunch or dinner side.  Warm, hearty, filling with a zing.  I’m sorry there are few measurements, but these are the types of things that are done from memory and to taste.  So try it first for yourself and then you can adjust the amounts of everything.  It doesn’t seem like a dish you can really mess up too much. Good luck!


  • Curry Leaves
  • Sooji (Wheatlets)
  • A few green chilis and about 2 tbs worth of ginger
  • Canola Oil
  • Urad Dal
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Red onion
  • Vegetables – frozen carrots and peas (can substitute with green beans or tomato)


  1. Wash & dry curry leaves

    Wash and dry curry leaves
    Wash and dry curry leaves
  2. Roast sooji for a few minutes until there is a slight change in color.  Put in a glass container

    Roast Sooji
    Roast Sooji
  3. Cut/slice chilis and ginger

    green chillies and ginger
    green chillies and ginger
  4. Heat canola oil
  5. Put mustard seeds in oil, reduce heat, and cover to prevent seeds from popping out

    Mustard Seeds
    Mustard Seeds
  6. When popping stops, put in a few spoonfuls of Urad Dal

    Urad Dal
    Urad Dal
  7. Leave in until the white dal turns light brown
  8. Add green chili and ginger
  9. Stir oftenadd ginger and chillies
  10. Add oniononions
  11. Add vegetablesvegetables
  12. After a minute or two add boiling water.  2X water as the amount of sooji
  13. Add ripped curry leaves
  14. Bring to boil on high
  15. Add shoji slowly while stirring
  16. Half the heat
  17. Stir to prevent lumps
  18. When it’s thick, it’s done!


Side pointer from the FIL: If you trim the stems of coriander and stand the bunch upright in cup of water, they’ll last longer.  The Bag keeps the moisture in.IMG_1521

p.s. Sorry the videos are HUGE.  Still figuring it out.


Hinduism 101: Pongal

How to Celebrate Pongal Abroad

January 15, 2016 – Pongal!

Happy Thai Pongal

Pongal is the Tamil Harvest Festival (think American’s Thanksgiving).  Wikipedia says it’s called Thai Pongal, with Thai indicating the Tamil calendar.  But perhaps it is like French Fries or Belgium waffles – don’t you wonder what they call them in their namesake countries?  Well, Tamils seem to drop the Thai.  While the general feeling conveyed by my FIL is giving thanks to the earth for its bounty, further research indicates that the festival specifically thanks the Sun God for providing energy to the plants to grow.

Pongal also means overflow and a type of sweet rice, both of which now come in to play.

Celebrating the festival abroad includes:Moong Dal, Jaggery, Ginger, Tumeric, Rice

  1. Wash up!  You must be clean to conduct a ceremony.
  2. Don’t eat meat the entire day.  Skip the eggs while you’re at it.
  3. Cook/boil the following in a pot that has never touched meat:
    1. Moong Dal
    2. RiceIMG_1512
  4. The froth may boil over… that’s ok – it’s part of the symbolism and celebration.
  5. Play a piece of raw tumeric and ginger on the top of the pot, though it can also be tied around.  Tumeric is auspicious.  Ginger gives you good health – it is both sweet and not sweet, Ginger, Tumericwhich will help you get through the good and bad times in life.  It will make you resilient.  We all need that, right?
  6. Turn the heat off
  7. Add jaggery, a state of molasses/sugar, and cardamom seeds.
  8. Bring the food to your family alter and perform a pooja
  9. There you go. You’ve celebrated pongal abroad.

My next step included dashing off to work.  But I can’t wait to celebrate this in its home state where I’m sure the multi-day festival will include much more.

Pongee Festival in South India
Pongee Festival in South India

Lastly, I’d like to share a bit of wisdom my FIL imparted on me on this rainy Friday morning at daybreak…

Hinduism involves a lot of ritual because the religion comes from a time when people did not read or write.  Therefore, the consistency and repetition of the rituals helped people remember and pass down their traditions.  It becomes a natural reaction, subconscious and automatic; all of the individual things blend together.   “Like Ctrl-Alt-Delete,” he laughed.

ctrl alt del

So there you have it folks, Hindu rituals are like “Ctril-Alt-Delete.”

Until next time…