Monday, April 7, 2014

Kempegowda International Airport - An Experience, Bangalore

I have always loved the elegance of the Bangalore Airport - KIAL (Kempegowda International airport. The glass ceiling makes way for all natural light during the day while the nights are well lit, unlike various airports when the lighting just seems inconsistent.In numerous visits what has worked for me is the spaciousness, the lighting (both natural and generated) and the cleanliness.

This view only got renewed when I got the privilege of spending a day at the airport, exploring the new offerings that are now in place for a discerning traveler. For this specific day, the corporate office of KIAL organized for journalist passes which provided us with special access to the airport terminal. We did get through special lines meant for the airport crew and team but I must make a mention that, "At no point in time was the security compromised. We did go through the same elaborate security check process as would anyone at KIAL."

Post its inauguration in May 2008, the airport recently underwent an expansion to increase its capacity to support 18 million passengers per year. With this expansion, KIAL has not only achieved increase in capacity but has also given travelers numerous reasons to arrive in early to the airport and spend time experiencing a wide array of services that have now been introduced. While it was exciting, it was

For travelers with lots of time on hand:
On the international departure side of the airport, 'Bar 380' is the new and swanky bar. It offers the best of views of the one and only airport runway and the Bangalore landmark 'Nandi Hills'. The name 'Bar 380 Degrees' is an ode to the first A-380 which is expected to make its first landing at the Bangalore airport in the near future. Going by the theme, the menu presented is in the form of a passport with a lovely listing of international food and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). I tried the 'BIAL French fries', 'Bruschetta', 'fish and chips' and a lovely 'fresh watermelon juice. My pick of the lot was the good old 'Fish and Chips' and the fresh watermelon juice. Pricing here definitely intrigues me as it busts the age old myth that, "Pricing at airports are really unreasonable and sky high."

Clockwise from the top: Menu for the day, Coaster and Passport style menu at Bar 380

Sampler Platter

Known to have one of the highest international traffic in the country, the airport has a fabulous duty free shop which boasts of a lovely collection of duty free goods like alcohol, perfumes and a lot more at prices better than US, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong airport; to name a few. If your question is - Did I get to buy liquor from the duty free shop? My answer is  - 'No, as a boarding pass is mandatory'. But, how I wish....

Unlike most airports, the emphasis here is on serving freshly prepared food and beverages to travelers. Keeping this in mind, in addition to 'Bar 380' KIAL has also introduced 3 other restaurants - 'Noodle Bar', '7 Tawas' and 'Malgudi Tiffin Center'. '7 Tawas' offers North Indian food like samosa chaat, kathi rolls and more while 'Noodle Bar' offer Chinese food where one gets to assemble their own noodles for instance. At both these restaurants, you get to see the food being prepared right in front of you. When can you grab a grub? Anytime of the day or night - It operates round the clock.

Masala Chaas @ 7 Tawas

Chicken Tikka Kathi Roll

Busy work schedules sometimes allow no time for a relaxed spa treatment in the regular course of life. So when at the airport with time available before your flight takes off, it might be a good idea to indulge in a relaxing spa treatment at the O2 spa.

O2 Spa

By this time, it felt like I wouldn't be able to eat anymore. But the signature offering at the airport is 'Malgudi Tiffin Center' (MTC) was yet to be visited. Located on the domestic side of the terminal, this restaurant has a feel of the refurbished house shown in RK Laxman's 'Malgudi days'. Specializing in the cuisine of South India's Coastline covering Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, this restaurant is a must visit for its sheer delicacies. 

The food arrived and I was all hungry again. A look at the thali and I knew 'It was a trap!' 'A food trap'; a plate full of food that looked downright delicious. I got to try the 'Gongura Kodi (Chicken)', 'Mangalore Fish Curry' and 'Mutton Varutharacha Curry' with an assortment of accompaniments like 'Malabar Paratha, 'kallappam', 'iddiappam', 'sannas' and 'rice'. Suddenly, I couldn't stop eating for its sheer deliciousness. For dessert there was 'Palada Payasam' and the meal was finally rounded off with a glass full of 'cold badam milk'.
Non-Vegetarian Thali

Vegetarian Thali

MTC opens early at 5:30 AM for breakfast and operates all through till 10:30 PM serving and catering to travelers delicious courses of meals. A breakfast and any other meal at MTC will cost around Rs. 350 and Rs. 900  plus taxes for two, respectively. Totally worth the experience.

For travellers with not much time on hand:
The airport very thoughtfully has also set up express counters at both - international and domestic sections of the airport terminal. For continental stuff, there is 'Urban Food Market' which serves pastries, sandwiches, pizzas, burgers and more. It's an apt outlet for those who want something quick - to go.

For the Indian fare there is Malgudi Tiffin Express where you can 'Grab-N-Go' some south Indian delicacies like pakodas, bajjis, rice varieties, some tea or coffee; makes for a perfect accompaniment and an easy way to kill time on flight.

For the non-travelers:
Are you visiting the airport only because you love to drive down the best road in Bangalore? Yes, the very same newly opened stretch of road between Hebbal to the airport? Then there is a lot of grub for you as well - CCD, Cafe Noir, Hatti Kappi, subway and more. And guess what! For all of this stuff, you just need a parking space for your vehicle. No air ticket or no boarding pass required. Again, open round the clock. :)

Signing off:
RendevouzNon-Travelers - Enjoy your drive and some grub available outside the airport complex.
Travelers - Bon Voyage! And, do include the airport experiences in your travel itinerary .

Address: Terminal 1 of Kempegowda International Airport

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Friday, March 14, 2014

When banana leaves replace plates!

A new concept to most people not living in South India, we eat on banana leaves. Yep, just like Adam and Eve. Sounds quite caveman considering we live in a world where we get all kinds of plates to eat on- porcelain, melamine, paper, eco-friendly and the likes. So then why do we eat on leaves?
So, its simple- eating on a nicely washed leaf is hygienic. It adds lots of flavor to the food. A very common sight at weddings and festivals, ''ellai sapadu"is a much awaited affair.

Imagine your attending at a grand south indian wedding. You'll see a lot of mama's and maami's in veshti's and nine-yard sarees bustling around being the perfect hosts. Next thing you know, your sitting in the large dining hall with a big banana leaf in front of you. What do you do? For those unaccustomed to eating with fingers, dont ever try to eat with a spoon- you'll be glared at. Waiters running around carrying food in buckets- yes, buckets are not just for baths alone, sambar and rasam is carried around in steel buckets to serve guests. Soon your going to be served with food. Fair warning: theres a way of serving and eating on an ellai. 

Position your leaf- ensure that the broader end is on your right. The top half of the leaf is served with side dishes and the lower half is for the rice. The right side of the leaf will have a small helping of payasam ( sweet, milky rice sweet- a type of kheer), kesari (a rava sweet) , sweet pongal or any desert items. Whereas, the top left will have a pinch of salt , pickle and raita. Around the middle there will be a lot of fried items like chips, appalam, etc. For every ellai sapadu, vegetables are chosen carefully. Today, a lot of varied rice items are also included in the ellai. Once at a wedding, I was given fried rice on a ellai.
Rice is always served on a plate only when a guest is seated. Sambar, rasam and curd are the various accompaniments along with the traditional ellai sapadu.One must be super careful during this meal- there are times where the leaf might tilt and food will be on your lap. This happens a lot with rasam. 

One feels like a royal, with many waiters waiting on you while you relish each and every bite of the elaborate and delicious meal.

So remember: Whenever you visit South India, dont ever miss out on the traditional ellai sapadu! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Food Review

“Food tastes best when it’s cooked from the heart”

This is what celebrity Chef Harjinder Singh stands for.  Fondly known as Sweety Singh, he is here in Chennai from Punjab, with his mouth watering Punjabi cuisine at The Crown at Residency Towers.

His charming demeanour and thorough delight in telling us his journey is hard to miss. Highly passionate towards cooking and focused on serving delectable food, Harjinder Singh is one of the most wanted chefs by celebrities - both cricketers and Bollywood. We intently listen as he takes us back to his roots.

“My father ran a small dhaba in Amritsar. It was quite famous and a lot of people visited it. Even after he lost sight to diabetes, he continued cooking based on the smells emanating from the pot and instinctively knew when to add the ingredients. This passion my father showed towards cooking attracted me from a young age and I decided to become a chef.”

Sweety Singh began his career in 1996 at Park Sheraton, Chennai. He fondly remembers the first dishes he ever made - Rajma, Dal Makhani and his signature dish until date - Pindi Chole. There has been no looking back, ever since.
With strong belief in serving “ghar ka khana”, Sweety Singh oversees every single dish made in his kitchen. He believes food tastes best only when masala is added using his fingers. With a small chuckle he adds, “I think one can relish the taste of good food only when eaten with fingers.” Well, don’t we all agree?

Punjabi food is known for being rich and lavish with loads of butter and ghee. Interestingly, Sweety believes in moderation. He doesn’t believe in adding too much fresh cream and nuts to every single dish. He points out that young chefs today add too much cheese, cream, artificial colouring, butter or ghee to enhance the flavour in the food.
Working doubly hard to preserve the taste of authentic Punjabi food, Sweety Singh, like every top chef, has his own “secret” ingredients. The only thing he is willing to share is that these secret ingredients are flavour enhancing masalas.  A staple set of ingredients is what Sweet believes, brings out the flavours in each of his dish. Sweety is also a firm believer in garnishing and presentation.

Then we excitedly, set forth to enjoy our first private dining with Sweet Singh. Our meal began with the popular Punjabi Delight - Lassi. This was followed by an assorted platter of paneer tikka and the gobi kebab, and the exotic dish we enjoyed thoroughly - Beetroot kebab! A vegetable thoroughly boring to eat has been cooked into something so delectable which left us spellbound, as we slowly relished each bite of it.
The main course consisted of Sweety’s signature pindi chole, mutton ghosh and the Punjabi staple - sarson ka saag. This was accompanied with soft and fluffy kulchas. Each dish was cooked perfectly with a generous mix of his secret spices, leaving us completely satiated and in-love with authentic Punjabi cooking.

Sweety Singh also runs a Dhaba in Delhi. But he spends most of his time visiting other hotels, training young chefs. Content with what he does, he says, “People work hard for food, so I feel happy feeding people good food.” We needn’t say more.
Ask him to choose between idli/sambar and aloo paratha? Sweety says aloo paratha wins hands down! A delightful person to meet, his cheerful face and pleasing nature coupled with small doses of humour (he asked me if I chose to be vegetarian in order to find a good husband!) is what makes him who he is today. Sweety Singh has no immediate plans in opening a restaurant in Chennai, but he’s happy to offer consultation to those who want to. Sweety Singh is truly king!

-  Nina Justin was at The Crown, the rooftop restaurant at The Residency Towers in Chennai, on a personal invitation from Sweety Singh.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Red, White and Bean minestrone soup


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil1/4 cup Italian turkey sausage, in small pieces, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped celery, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 cup chopped carrots, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 16 ounces chopped canned tomatoes, 5 cups chicken stock, 15.5 ounces cannellini beans with liquid, 8 ounces red kidney beans, drained 2 cups zucchini cut into 6-inch pieces, 2 cups baby spinach1 1/2 cups baby spinach, 2 tablespoons pre-packaged pesto, 2 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese


Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauté pan. Add sausage, brown well.
Add tomato paste, cook 5 minutes until brown.
Add onions, celery, garlic, carrots, and oregano. Cook until garlic is aromatic, approximately 5 minutes.
Pour into a 4-quart slow cooker. Add tomatoes and chicken stock.
Cook on low setting for 6–7 hours or until the vegetables are tender.
Stir in beans, zucchini, spinach, and cooked pasta. Cook on high setting for 8 minutes or until beans and pasta are warmed through and spinach has wilted.
To Serve: pour the soup into a bowl. Top with a little pesto and fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thai chicken coconut noodles recipe

Crunchy green beans work really well with these Thai flavours
Serves - 4
Ready in about 30 minutes

  • 2 x 250g pack dried medium egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste (we like Thai Taste, from major supermarkets)
  • 400ml can reduced-fat coconut milk
  • 600ml chicken stock, hot
  • 4 small, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
  • 150g green beans, halved lengthways
  • 2 carrots, cut into thin sticks
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lime, plus lime wedges,
  • Good handful fresh basil leaves


How to make thai chicken coconut noodles
1. In a bowl, cover the noodles with boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes, to soften. Drain, refresh in cold water and drain again. Toss in half the oil.
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the curry paste and stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in the coconut milk, stock, chicken and lemongrass, cover and simmer for 12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Using a slotted spoon, lift the chicken out of the pan and onto a plate, and roughly chop.
3. Return the chicken to the pan with the beans and carrots. Simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the noodles, sugar, lime zest and juice, and most of the fresh basil leaves and heat through.
4. Season and ladle into bowls. Garnish with lime wedges and the remaining basil leaves.
Wine note: Gallo Family Vineyards Turning Leaf Shiraz Rose. Turning Leaf Shiraz Rose pairs wonderfully with all the beautiful fresh flavours of Thai cuisine and the mildness of the coconut sauce.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Over 100 Super Foods for a Super You

Include These Foods for Maximum Body Benefits

  • Faster than a speeding bullet…
  • More powerful than a locomotive…
  • Nutrient-packed with health enhancing properties
Here come the SUPER FOODS!

These foods benefit your body in so many ways. They power your brain, and correctly and efficiently fuel your body. Super foods fight infection, enhance your immune system, and protect against diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and respiratory infections.

While this list of super foods may be longer than most, it shows that great things do come in small packages. These foods are not only healthy, but they're also affordable, familiar, and readily available at regular grocery stores and farmers markets. With so many choices, you'll discover just how easy it is to eat super healthy every day…even when on a tight budget.

This is an all-inclusive list, but some foods might not be right for your tastes, preferences or health goals. Remember that no single food can provide everything you need to be healthy. That's why it's important to choose a variety of super foods from each category to meet your daily nutrition needs.

Bell peppers
Brussels sprouts
Collard greens
Crimini mushrooms
Green beans
Mustard greens
Portobello mushrooms
Rainbow chard
Romaine lettuce
Shiitake mushrooms
Summer squash
Sweet potatoes
Swiss chard
Turnip greens
Winter squash

Calcium-Rich Foods
Almond milk
Cheese, low fat
Cottage cheese, low fat
Milk, skim or 1%
Orange juice with calcium
Rice milk
Soy milk
Yogurt with active cultures, low fat
Black olives
Honeydew melon

Arborio rice
Brown rice
Jasmine rice
Wheat berries
Whole grain breads, cereal, pasta
Whole wheat breads, cereal, pasta
Wild Rice
Beef, lean
Black beans
Chicken, skinless
Egg whites
Fish, unbreaded
Garbanzo beans
Hemp seeds
Kidney beans
Lima beans
Navy beans
Peanut butter, natural
Pinto beans
Pork, lean
Pumpkin seeds
Salmon, canned or fresh
Seafood, unbreaded
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
Tuna, canned or fresh
Turkey, skinless
Veggie burgers
Wild game, skinless

Canola oil
Dark chocolate
Green tea
Olive oil

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Designing The ‘Perfect Meal’ With Your Hands

We're celebrating Healthy Eating at Foodathon this week and to start with, let's talk about how to make the perfect meal.

The Perfect Meal takes the complexity out of creating healthy, and goal orientated, meals. It follows a simple system of portion sizes (using your hands) that will help ensure that you consume all of the nutrients required to keep your body happy, healthy, and lean.
So how does it work?
Well, it works on the simple premise that every meal must have a few components, and each of these has a serving size that’s determined by your hands. These components are –
  • 2 palms of protein – the building blocks of muscle
  • 2 fists of veggies – for vitamins, minerals, and fibre
  • 2 thumbs of healthy fat – to improve testosterone levels
  • A big glass of water – because you’re probably dehydrated, and as Dan John would say ‘water is the most anabolic thing on this planet’.
That’s a pretty simple way of setting things out, right?