Chennai- Dharamsala – Chennai in 24hrs ❤️

When I look back on this 24hrs round trip Chennai to Dharamsala and back that I did on 1st December of 2014, loads of memories flash in front of my eyes!

First, how the hell did I even do it! But they say “where there is a will there is a way” so when my mother was going through her treatment a friend of mine recommended that I meet a Tibetan doctor in Dharamshala. I didn’t even blink an eyelid and packed my bags to take the next flight to Dharamsala. 6am flight to Delhi, 11am flight from delhi to Kangra, 2pm we were in the cab towards Dharamsala. My sister who stays in mumbai was a little worried about me going to an unknown place alone and insisted she would join me.

They say when your intentions are right and your heart is pure and above all if you are going to do something good for your parents, you will be guided on every step you take. That’s exactly what happened to us, we found a very good car and driver who is an ex-armyman who was our guide and driver for the next 24hrs. As we started chatting we told him our purpose of visit and also that we are going to be around only for 24hrs. The moment he understood that it was our first trip and that too a very short one, he insisted that we do a small tour of this beautiful hill station.

First he took us to a very small dabba after checking our food preferences to enjoy the best ever mutton curry, steamed rice and Radish salad. I must admit I have never ever in my entire life tasted a mutton dish like that, it had very basic masala and that is what enhanced the flavour and taste of the mutton. The mutton pieces were huge but tender and juicy. Secret of the meat, they graze on the Himalayan mountains and have fresh Himalayan grass and herbs. This lunch was such a perfect welcome Dharamsala.

Next the driver stopped the car on every beautiful view point on our ride uphill, he let us take pictures and kept explaining about the significance of each place.

We reached our hotel around 5pm. Since it was December the driver told us if we wanted to see a few more places we just had to drop our bags and continue our sight seeing else it would get dark and we might not be able to see much and so we just went with the experts suggetion. He showed us a few more places before sunset and we also got to witness the beautiful sunset.

It was dinner time and knowing me I wanted to try every local food there and so we headed to McLeod Ganj, boy oh boy the place was brimming with people, food, light and music. We walked through the streets looking around and finally settled at Tibetan kitchen to have a hot Bowl of tukpa and momos. Walked through the streets just enjoying the vibe before we called it a day.

We had an early morning appointment with the doctor and the driver picked us up from the hotel and we were in time for our appointment. Again we experienced something very special at the doctor’s place, although we had spoken to someone about the appointment we were not sure if we could go in on time, since there was a very long queue that went in circles and we found people from all around the world who had come to meet the doctor, when I saw the queue my heart sank, since we had a flight to take at 2pm. I walked in with lots of gratitude and prayers in my heart NMRK! The moment I met the person at the counter and handed him my moms urine sample, they just let me in without any questions asked. The doctor came out checked the urine sample ( thats how they do their diagnosis) and immediately called me inside for a discussion, I couldn’t believe that all this was really happening. Another 20mins of discussion, medicines and we were out in 30mins. Our driver couldn’t believe what happened because he has never ever seen someone come out in 30 Mins, he said we were blessed and lucky.

But guess what, I think everything has a purpose in life and we had a bigger purpose and hence all that 30mins appointment happened for us. Since we were done with our purpose of visit the driver told us, that he can show us a few more places as it was 9am and our flight was at 2pm. So we hopped into the car and started wondering around, as a matter of fact he asked us if we wanted to visit the Dalai Lama temple/ office in McLeod Ganj, but he told us that Dalai Lama might not be there since he does not do too much public appearances. We agreed and we started our journey towards the temple( well I have no pictures of that place since photography is not allowed) we went in, it was quite and did not find too much movement of people, but there too much security checks. We left our hand bags and started walking towards the temple and we could hear faint voices and saw a few people around, we climbed up the stairs and oh my god whom do I see in front of my eyes, tears started rolling from my eyes for a minute I thought I was dreaming ” Dalai Lama” looked at us showed his hand in blessing gesture and smiled. That day I understood the purpose of this trip and why this 24hrs of my trip worked out the way it did! We took our flight back to Delhi and than to Chennai and was back home the next day!

My heart was full of gratitude to everyone who made me do this trip first my mother, the doctor, our driver, Dalai Lama and the entire universe came together to conspire this trip! Name’s of the actors who conspired this trip: My mother – Hemalata Uchil Dr. Yeshi Dhonen ( he was the personal physician of Dalai Lama from 1960 to 1980) Driver – Rajkumar My sister – Neeta Uchil. Above all faith in my prayers ( NMRK) and the intention of finding the best medication for my mother. They say if you take care of your parents with all your heart that is the biggest gratitude one can pay to them. My mother, the universe and my karma gave me an opportunity to pay my debt of gratitude to my mother! I could ask for nothing more!

The New Exotic Food ❤️

Home food is the new exotic food and we all agree with it! Ghar Ka khana was an initiative that was specially curated by “Soul On A Plate” to bring on the table 8 varities of Indian regional food to the guest at Hyatt Regency Chennai.

For the first time 8 homechefs under one roof over a month, quite a task right, but all the ladies were put to ease with the excellent planning and execution by team Hyatt Regency under the able leadership of the GM Ruban Das. And this could happen only and only because he believed that there sure is so much to offer by homechefs who make home style regional food.

The excitement of the event started with menu curation and photo shoots. Our Homechefs were on the roll, each one encouraging, supporting and motivating each other and that I thought was the happiest part of the event personally for me.

From Malabar to palaghat from Coorg to Bengali from Bihari to gujrati from rajastani to marwari it was India in a plate for people of Chennai. #gharkakhana has definitely made history in Chennai!

This was possible because of many people who worked behind the scenes special mentions to the staff of Hyatt regency.

Nothing comes easy, it is true the most beautiful place was the most toughest for us! Welcome to Leh Ladakh ❤️

This vacation has been in the planning for the longest time and finally after 3yrs of short drives, vacations and staycations we had to make this trip to the ever charming Leh Ladakh!

Khardungla pass

We landed on 30th June afternoon with bad weather in Delhi ( transit) risking the terrain of leh airport, It is not an easy terrain to fly. With lots of gratitude to all our pilots who landed us safe.

Our itinerary was made in such a away that we had enough time for acclimatization since this height could give altitude sickness. Soon after we landed the sickness hit me and I was wondering why ever did I choose this location for a vacation. I have seen beautiful pictures and videos of Leh Ladakh but not heard anyone warn about the altitude sickness. I had mild irritating head ache nausea and just too lethargic. I was advised to take rest and drink lot of warm water. When I Still was not feeling good I popped a paracetamol and slept for a while now that made me feel better towards evening.

Our first day pretty much was all about taking care of ourselves. Next day 1st July we had decided again to go slow with minimal activity. So we had breakfast and just strolling around when a good soul suggested we visit the Hall of fame leh. It was a few metres of walk from our place and do we agreed without knowing much what the place had in store for us. And I cannot be more thankful to the person who suggested this place, since this one gave me goose bumps and made me love my country and my jawans even more. This is a war memorial with so many stories.

In the evening we set out to enjoy the city of leh. We did the Shanti stupa, the Leh palace and my most favourite leh market. Loved the colours in the market, the old met the new be is fruits, vegetables, grocery, restaurant, clothes of accessories you could find everything in this market traditional and modern. I picked up some fresh apricots since it is the season for apricots.

The next day was the beautiful Sangam were the indus met zanskar river. Sometimes you wonder how nature is so beautiful by itself the mixing of the 2 colors of the river was serene and peaceful! Did you know that during summer people do rafting here and during winter when the water turns to ice, they ice trek on this same river. So what would you like to do? Our next destination for the day was the cool magnetic hill, so our car was totally switched off and no we were not on a slop, but yet we moved, kinda exciting. The gurudwara pathar sahib is another monument to just find peace. Don’t miss the tea and prashad there it’s yummy!

The most significant day of our trip was doing the worlds highest motorable road the one and only Khardungla pass. We had our own altitude sickness challenges to handle but boy when we reached the peak it was like magic. It was such a proud moment for us to know that our country has the highest motorable road in the damn whole world yay!

After the movie 3 idiots the pangong Lake gained more popularity and why not it is so surreal. Surrounded by mountains it’s hard to say we could find a huge mass of water with shades of color that changes from blue, green, grey, brown to red, it is one of the highest altitude lake in the world with salty water that freezes during winter. Mind blowing right!!!

On our way back from pangong Lake we had to stop by the changa la pass another one of the highest! We stopped by for lunch and had a hot bowl of authentic ladakhi thukpa! We also stopped by a few more random places for some good photo shoots.

Whenever we visit a new place or country the first thing that I look for is Local home cooked food. Before we left to leh I started my search for good home cooked leh traditional food. Since we are non vegetarians I was surprised to know that traditionally people of leh Ladakh eat according to the weather and season. So in winter it’s meat and non vegetarian and in summer it’s mostly vegetarian, from June to September they get to grow vegetables and fruits and get to eat it too. Other time of the year it is cold and snow. So after doing some search on google found gyapthago heritage home. Got speaking to Jimmy and visited his House for a soulful all vegeterian dinner cooked by his mother.
We were greeted by butter tea that is made using Fresh cows milk butter from their own farm. This place is more of a farm to table concept since everything that was cooked for dinner came from their farm including wheat and barley.
The barley soup with fresh vegetables and leh local peas was warm and had a creamy consistency.
The veg momos were made using wheat flour and we had the steamed and fried momos that was served with cold salad.
The khamir the local wheat bread with Home made curd sure was a delicacy.
The local pasta is made fresh, pasta is made with fresh grounded wheat and turnip sauce.
We finished this most amazing meal with the local sweet of apricot soaked in water.
Must say that ended my search for Local Leh Ladakh food.

Discovered Namza that serves authentic/ traditional leh Ladakh food and what excited me even more is the farm to table concept. The place has beautiful ambience, outdoor seating will be lovely in the evening.
We started our lunch with mutton Za-thuk this is a soup that is made using nettle leaves, dried cheese and local herbs, available in veg, chicken and mutton option, we loved the flavour of nettle leaves and dried cheese with little chunks of mutton. I personally love the flavour of mountain mutton.
The chicken momo also known as mok mok was average nothing to write home about.
The yarkhadi pulao is a chefs special and I am glad we tried it. The meal come with pulao made of paneer, green peas, Carrots and fried onions loaded with ghee. We were warned it would be heavy, it was but we just loved the flavour, this meal comes with a clear soup and 3 momos or mok mok. Available in veg, chicken and mutton. We opted for the veg option.
The most famous home grown fruit of Leh Ladakh is apricot and the season has just started. We enjoyed a tall glass of homemade apricot juice.
Like us if you are keen on trying local food, this place is a must visit.

Had a very happy lunch after we descended down the khardungla pass at Dontang. This place has beautiful seating and the most comfort food. The ladhaki thukpa was my favourite. We had fresh lime soda, potato in honey chilli, chicken clear soup and chicken momos / mok mok.
The service was polite and every thing we had was made fresh to order. Few vegetables are used from their garden. Definately a try when in leh.

We had hired a private chauffeur driven ertiga for 5days that cost us 25k which I thought was pretty reasonable and we could go around according to our own convenience.

Leh Ladakh is a very beautiful Indian union territory that is a must visit, but with all precautions and understanding the terrain. It could get very warm and dry in summer on few days that’s what we experienced and it is not easy to handle that weather. If you are a person who likes to see greenery around you please don’t expect anything like that around. Winters could be very harsh so please check before you go. You can fly or drive.

Soul food at The Viridian plate in Chennai ❤️

One of those days when I came back home with my stomach and soul full.

In this world were everything is a compromise very few places believe in serving genuine and concious food to their customers. The Viridian plate is one such place.

The place vibrates postive energy that reflects in the food, this plant based restaurant is not only a boon to a vegetarian, vegan or Jain but to a pure non vegetarian like me, I almost got converted to a vegetarian by eating the food here.

Tucked in a quiet quaint corner of the city at thiruvanmiyur a must visit place for the yummy delicious food. This is what I had today. Triple c soup – carrot, cauliflower, coconut the flavour and texture of the soup was amazing!

Broccoli tater tots were like the taste bhi health bhi dish. You will love it for its taste and health quotient!

Spicy tofu with coffee coulis now this is one dish that blew my mind totally tofu served with coffee, I mean really??? And I can’t just explain how delicious this was, I totally totally enjoyed it!

Stuffed cheese balls not a simple run of the mill but these bombs of happiness were filled with vegan cheese.

Jimami tofu (peanut) burji another dish or rather ingredient I discovered today. So did you know that Japanese make their tofu from peanuts??? No I did not know, sorry! But yes I learnt it today and this most amazing burji that would give a run for the egg burji was made using peanut tofu or Jimami tofu!

Creamy corn and peas pasta it was smooth, subtle and the best!

Jackfruit biryani every vegetarians mock meat jackfruit definitely brings in the right flavour to the biryani.

(Peanut) tofu butter masala, spinach Paratha was like a marriage made in heaven the pairing was the best. The parotta was soft and made to order . The tofu made using peanut was softer than paneer.

Peanut curd rice I think I love this curd rice more than the normal one!

The desserts were the most surprising factor golden kheer made of pumpkin had some amazing Indian flavours. Whereas the chocolate mousse a no cook bomb of flavour!

To sum it up the owners Shankar and Gayathri are fabulous Human beings with an intention to serve the best to their customers. Uma and Jai supply the purest form of ingredients to this The Viridian plate and it was because of them that I got to have a meal at this place in Chennai!

So if you are looking at a plant based diet and wanting to enjoy good vegetarian food I would totally recommend The Viridian plate they also have a store that sells all vegan produce, go check them out!

Undress before you eat!

How many times have you undressed before you ate, literally!!!

Summer in india is a beautiful month, mother nature serves us the best seasonal fruits in summer.

As children we would get to eat mangoes, cashew fruits, watermelon and Jamun only if we took off our clothes and sat in the balcony or portico! This was only because we do not mess up our clothes and got to enjoy the fruits in the rustic way. Today I see parents peel the skin cut the mango into cubes and give their Children, why, but why? Why don’t we really let them enjoy the fruit the way we did it. Even better take them to the farm and let the understand that mangoes do not come from the shops on online stores they come from the farms. How about a farm trip. Just like we do it in Chennai. The Hanu Reddy mango tourism. I am sure other states and cities have similar farms too. Take our children back to nature and innocent fun.

Remember our future is going to be in our past like my dear friend Gina from Zola India says. Our past habits of eating, yoga and Ayurveda and going to be our future. Let’s introduce our children to this before they grow up only with modern gadgets and unhealthy food.

I am glad to see many of the fine dining restaurants and star hotels including healthy food options in their menu. It is going the #2023yearofmillet way and we are glad that we are part of the change with Eat Pray and Love a food community working towards introducing traditional food using #millets #indigenousrice #traditionalcookingmethods

Let’s undress our minds and adapt ourselves to #mindfuleating #healthybodyandmind!

In memory of the foodie daddy ❤️

My dad was a food connoisseur / gourmand / epicurean for sure!!! I did not know the meaning for all these fancy words 25yrs ago.

Today as we celebrate, yes we celebrate his 25yrs of passing away, here is a very mystical experience I would like to share. My dad loved good food, no second thought about that. If my mom taught me how to cook my dad taught we how to choose the best ingredient to cook and introduced me to good food.

I am not at home on this day and was in Salem with my friend to stand by her when she was talking about an initiative that is very close to our heart. But at the same time this 25th year was as important for me. As you all know Salem does not have a coast and fresh sea fish is a little difficult to source here. My father was a total seafood freak ( well yeah that’s were I have got my love for seafood from) and when it comes to meat he loved mutton and Salem gets some really good mutton. Infact when we were young my mom and we 4 girls has a bias for chicken and dad loved mutton and most of the time it was choice of majority.

A day before his passing away on 30th April 1997 my dad wanted to eat sardines/ mathi but could not do so and on 1st may he was no more. 25 yrs later in a place like Salem I am offered Fresh sardines/ mathi, what do I call this, mystical? I get his most favourite meat mutton, made it his style Mangalore gravy without coconut. Goa, a place that he wanted to retire and settle brews some amazing spirits. I am just back from Goa and so could serve his favourite drink, whisky. Ofcourse his favourite Dessert the mothichur ladoo.

I do believe that when our intentions are clear the path for everything opens up for us. Dear Papa bless our food and bless all of us from wherever you are, you are our guiding star and light!!!

Goan Local food at Cavatina Benaulim,Goa.

Are you one of them who has evolved from fine dining food to experience based local food? If Yes Cavatina is the place you must visit.

Why Cavatina? Well many reasons atleast for me it gave me an experience of my childhood food. Modern yet local and traditional. Every dish is rooted to history and tradition including the local drink urak! The ingredients and produce used to make the dishes are sourced locally from local fishermen and farmers. Every dish has a story.

We wanted to taste as much as we could from the menu and hence settled for chefs tasting menu.

The pav and poder both hold a very important place in the goan food scene. And I am glad I could experience poder poder ponk ponk the dish that serves pav, day before left over curry ( it’s a delicacy) and salsa to add tang to the dish.

The bisque was a delicate crab xec xec with tender crab meet to bite into. The flavour was subtle and delicate.

Local inspired spanakopita was a beautiful mix of thamdi bajji ( red amaranth) cashew butter in delicate phyllo sheet. This beautiful piece of food art was served on a old roof tile.

The rice pancake stiffed with prawn masala was a bite into burst of Goan flavour.

Betul has the best rock crabs that were used to make Kulli ( crab) cutlets with canacona chilli served on a bed of avocado chili mole. The mole has a awesome native pickle flavour.

The chicken cafreal served with quail eggs on a nest of potato crispy is a beautiful tribute to the most famous goan dish cafreal!

Hay smoked mackerel served on toasted bread and topped with salted raw mango took me back to my school days.

Patra de Goa has delicate seabass wrapped with green masala in a banana leaf the in-house mashed pumpkin cashew and red amaranth adds colour and flavour to the dish.

The Red boiled rice with the prawn gravy served with a splash of burnt feni is every goans dream come true!

Everything good has to have a sweet ending and oh my gaud! Literally this cheese cake that is made using gaud ( jaggery) had that amazing smoked flavour of jaggery and every thing nice!

The raw honey flan had the perfect sweetness, flavour and texture!

The in-house made salted caramel icecream was nothing that I have had before!

Visit Cavatina if you want to understand real Goan food and flavours made using only local produce. Dining at Cavatina means getting a true Goan experience with loads of food history and stories! Chef Avinash is holding on to his roots and giving goans and tourist who are visiting Goa a true Goan experience.

Cavatina is at Benaulim Taj Hotel Road, near Joecons Beach Resort, Benaulim, Goa 403712

Unesco heritage of South India, Chola temple in Thanjavur!

We travelled all the way to Cambodia to see the Angkor wat when we had this unesco heritage site just 300 odd kms away from us.

The feeling when you enter the temple is estatic, the energy one can derive from the Periya koil or Brihadeeshwara temple built by the chola dynasty in Thanjavur is immense.

You just need to let yourself float like a free soul in this ocean of 11th century architecture. We decided to visit this place just before sunset so we get a glimpse of day and night. To experience the lights that adorns the temple at night.

The mammoth Nandi and Shiva status grace the place with their presence which most of them come to worship there.

It was Panchami when we visited the place and there were so many people performing a special Pooja through the day with lamps made of coconut.

It was heart warming to see people from all religion pay their respect to this beautiful place that deserves every bit of it!

Definitely recommend this place to friends who are looking to explore India and its hidden treasure.

Where to stay and dine when in Thanjavur? We stayed at hotel sangam and we had a beautiful view of the temple from our room. Hotel sangam has clean rooms and good service.

We had lunch at pattukottai kamatchi mess it was a huge banana leaf meal with everything non vegetarian South Indian food. The food is cooked with home ground spices and served with Love.

Dinner was at nasar idiayypa, idiappam is served on banana leaf with south indian non vegetarian gravy and some side dishes. Tried idiappam kottu for the first time, just like kottu parotha I preferred idiappam kottu for sure, was much more lighter in our tummy.

Fighter cocks make soulful food!

The entire fighter cock meal!

The most happiest soul food that I have had in recent times! Kochai karthi kadai is a place where you can find fighter cocks that are used to make the most amazing meal. On one of our drives from Chennai to Coimbatore a friend suggested us to stop by Chengapalli 60kms before Coimbatore to enjoy this traditional firewood meal and oh my god I cannot thank him enough.

Kochai karthi kadai is run by a family of 3 karthi his wife and son Saran. The firewood cooking is done only by karthi and his every smiling wife.

The concept of this meal is very simple. Firstly you have to book a meal you cannot walk in without reservation simply because the food is cooked on fire wood and is specially cooked in demand only for you, so a 2hr notice is required.

The chicken order is minimum 1kg and costs 1,600 rupees 4 people can easily relish a 1kg for small eaters like us. The chicken is cooked in authentic south indian style we had the pepper chicken, red chilli skin chicken and ginger garlic turmeric chicken these are all dry prepration. They cook the chicken according to your spice handling level starts with 6 chillies ( called as baby level) 9 is called the ladies spice level goes to 12, 15 and 20 too! So remember to mention your threshold, we did the 9 that was hot but manageable. This meal comes with a chicken gravy, chicken soup and two varieties of Rasam, tomato Rasam and raw tamarind rasam. Must also mentioned the quality of rice, it is aged best quality pooni rice. This meal served on a banana leaf is a heart and soul stealer.

The meal

This is a dine in and takeaway place and if you cannot finish your 1kg of chicken you get to takeaway the leftover too.

The 3 varities of dry chicken
Chicken soup

Karthi took us around the place and must say the place is clean hygienic and maintained like a home. Not a fancy place more like a mess.

Vessels neatly sun drying
Dining place
Fire wood cooking

Definitely recommending this place to everyone. If you are my kind of person who believes in happy, traditional and soul food don’t miss this for anything! Call Karthi to book your meal on +91 98426 12721 in advance and remember to mention your spice level.

Bangalore Days at Taj Yeshwantpur!

Calm in Between the Chaos

I would call this stay at Taj Yeshwantpur home away from home!

After 15 days of being away from home we decided to take a short break to visit family in Bangalore.  Since this was an impromptu decision we had to book our stay one hour before we reached Bangalore. The best ever decision we made for a last minute booking at Taj Yeshwantpur!

We cannot stop talking about the impeccable hospitality that we received from each and every person at Taj from Rajeev Khanna to Ajay Sawe to Anshu Ukey, Dinesh Verma to Sundar to chef Jose, Aditya and Amrik. You have created that space in our hearts forever.

Our room was beautiful with the most precious view of Bangalore City! The service was such that even before we think of what we wanted it was at our door. This 327 rooms hotel is definitely a pride to the city and Taj hotels!

Conjee was my favourite
Waffles with Nutella
Wheat poori
The tasting tiffin!

Bangalore if you are thinking of any place to celebrate your New Year just check in here and have the time of your life with friends, family and loved ones!

At the pool side!