Vallonne Vineyards: There’s Always Time For A Glass of Wine

 

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I’ve been contemplating a blog post on some quick getaway’s from Mumbai as Jd and I are quite the “Let’s just drive off for the weekend sort of folks”.  While I’m still in the process of  collating  the information and editing images,(as I’d like to add on a couple of good weekend destinations),I thought I may as well go ahead with the Vineyard tour that we explored recently.We decided to visit the Vallonne Vineyards on this trip.Nestled amongst the gorgeous Sahyadri slopes of Maharashtra,Vallonne Vineyard’s is a  premium boutique winery and  a great place to drive off to and unwind.The drive  is approximately 160 kms by road from Mumbai and just south of Nasik,the Wine capital of India.

Yes indeed, Nasik is a premium wine growing region playing host to some well branded wineries.Indian wines have certainly evolved in the past decade or so and this region can quite easily be coined as India’s Napa Valley.

Vallonne is definitely one to keep an eye on.This premium boutique winery aims at  bringing the “French Chateau” experience to India. Our main agenda was of course Vino sampling.We started off with some white’s.The Chenin blanc was refreshing and quite light bodied. The Sauvignon blanc also crisp and clean. Both the red wines, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon were full-bodied and well oaked.

Ideal for a weekend,we decided to spend a night at this wine resort a couple of months ago. Continue reading

My Amritsar Diaries: The Golden Temple,Street Eats & A Recipe

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A vist to The Golden Temple Amritsar had been on my “Must Visit List” for quite many years now,amongst various other destinations in India.We have recently relocated to India for awhile and the hubs and me have been bitten by the weekend travel bug.More specifically the long weekend travel bug,almost as though it is now imperative to have a travel plan in order albeit a short one.This is precicesly what did just last weekend.

The Golden Temple Amritsar (also known as the  Harimandir Sahib) is not only  a prime religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. Everybody, irrespective of cast, creed or race can seek spiritual solace and religious fulfilment without any hindrance. It also represents the distinct identity, glory and heritage of the Sikhs.

HOW TO GET TO AMRITSAR:

  • We choose to fly to Delhi and then flew to Amritsar after having spent a couple of days in Delhi.
  • There are direct flights from Mumbai-Amritsar as well.
  • You may choose to even try travelling by train or bus from Delhi.

ACCOMODATION:We went by a friend’s recommendation and stayed at Ramada,Amritsar.It was a very comfortable stay.Well appointed rooms,clean and good service.The stay included a complimentary breakfast with a traditional menu and a a reasonable continental fare too.The hotel is centrally located and just a ten minute rickshaw drive to the Temple.Best of all it is walking distance to a lot of the eateries and food stuff store.You may even choose from Trip advisors pick of 10 best hotels if you wish:

https://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotels-g303884-Amritsar_Punjab-Hotels.html

SOME TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND WHILE VISTING THE TEMPLE:

The Harmandir Sahib is open to all persons regardless of their religion, colour, creed or gender. The only restrictions on the Harmandir Sahib’s visitors concern their behaviour when entering and while visiting:

  • Maintaining Purity:
    • Upon entering the premises, removing one’s shoes (leaving them off for the duration of one’s visit) and washing one’s feet in the small pool of water provided;
    • Not drinking alcohol, eating meat, or smoking cigarettes or other drugs while in the shrine
  • Dress Code:
    • Wearing a head covering (a sign of respect).Ideally women should carry a scarf and men a handkerchief to cover their head. Alternatively you may buy the head gear from vendors outside the temple.
  • How to act:
    • When listening to Gurbani,, one must also sit on the ground while in the Darbar Sahib as a sign of deference to both the Guru Granth Sahib and God.
  • The Harimandir Sahib runs a  free kitchen, serving 100,000 people on average daily. The meal consists Indian Roti,some lentils and rice.While this is free,it is always nice to leave a small donation that is used towards running of this kitchen.This kitchen is solely run by volunteers.

MUST EATS IN AMRITSAR:

  1. KESAR DA DHABA:This is probably Amritsar’s oldest family run restaurants serving up delicious Amritsari delicacies like the the famous Stuffed Lachha Parantha’s ,Channa’s and Dal fry.One has the option of either ordering a full Thali which consists of two paranthas,dal fry, channa,salad and a raita or you may choose to order a la carte.We went along with a plate of the Paneer stuffed Kulchas, Palak paneer and some Channa.Just one word for this food.Finger linking good.And yes of course one could not leave this place without sampling the ever so famous Phirni( Rice pudding flavoured with saffron).This was a soul satiating meal,yes calorie ridden but worth every calorie consumed. This iconic place is a must visit whilst in Amritsar.I of course could not resist the temptation of wandering off into the kitchen to see how these delicious Kulchas and Lachha paranthas were being made.

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Paneer Stuffed Lachha Parantha with Dal

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Phirni: Ground Rice Pudding 

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So what really is a Lachha Paratha?

Well a Parantha is essentially Indian flat bread made from either wheatflhour or All purpose flour.In the case of the Lachha parantha  is further layered and stuff with either mashed potatoes or cottage cheese. There are several ways of making this one is by covering the thinly rolled out pastry with oil, folding back and forth like a paper fan and coiling the resulting strip into a round shape before rolling flat, baking on the tava and shallow frying. Another method is to cut a circle of dough from the centre to its circumference along its radius, oiling the dough and starting at the cut edge rolling so as to form a cone which is then squashed into a disc shape and rolled out. The method of oiling and repeatedly folding the dough as in western puff pastry also exists, and this is combined with folding patterns that give traditional geometrical shapes to the finished parathas.

Do see some of the images below that will give you a fair idea of the way these paranthas are rolled out.

Roti Collage


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2.Lassi:This cooling and refreshing drink made from Yogurt and water can be had from pactically any of the restaurants or dairies in Amritsar.The choice is between a sweet or salted one.I prefer the sweet one. These come in large portions,so one can either share this on have this much before or after a meal as it does fill you up quite a bit.

SWEET LASSI

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3.Gurudas Jalebiwala:We discovered this quaint vendor while walking down the streets of Amritsar one morning.I was actually looking for some sweets to bring back for the family in Mumbai,when the hubs had an insane craving to eat some hot Jalebis that were freshly being made by this street side shop.Jalebis are made from sweetened and fermented batter which is deep fried in circular shapes and then soaked in sugar syrup.The best part of our  food trail was that one could just order a small portion that could be shared.This way we got to savour many delightful treats in Amritsar.The perfect way around a city is to eat your way through it and that’s exactly what we did in just two days of being there.

collage Jalebi 2

PIPING HOT JALEBIS

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4.Bhai Kulwant Singh: Now if there is one thing that keeps Amritsar ticking is the small hole in the wall places that serve up some brilliant food.Well it would be a pity to leave Amritsar without devouring the famous Amritsar Kulcha and Chole said the hubs.So we settle for this small un assuming little roadside eatery that was packed to the brim even at 11 am in the morning.We both have a plate each of the stuffed Kulcha which is served with some spicy hot Chole (chickpeas) and a side of some chopped onions and pickle.Just perfect for a mid morning brunch as we were leaving that afternoon.I very much recommend this place and it’s fairly close to the Golden temple as well.After all it’s places such as these that have stood the test of time and warrant authentic local flavours.

Amritsari Kulcha with Chole

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Two other very popular places in Amritsar are Beera Chicken corner and Makhan Fish which is known for its Amritsari Fish.These were highly recommended by friends,unfortunately we did not have time to visit these.

5.Food stuff to bring back from Amritsar: Now if you are like me,the only souvenirs I enjoy taking back home are food ingredients that are typical to the place I visit.I had heard about Amritsari Wadiyan( Dried dumplings made from lentils)  Papads and all the fabulous fresh north Indian Masala’s.So we decided to head to a store close to the hotel that seemed to stock all the local flavours.We were quite fortunate to find The Dry Fruit Corner store just outside our hotel.This place stocks some very authentic local flavours and the best ever quality of dry fruits as well.The walnuts and almonds in particular are great quality.My loot is quite evident from the image below…Some Amritsari Rajma (red kidney beans) along with the Rajma Masala and some Paratha masala and of course the ever famous Wariyan,which i cooked up as soon as as I got hoe.The detailed recipe included too.What’s even better is this store delivers their food products for a minimum charge too.Infact my next package has just arrived and I can’t wait to cook up the Rajma too.

STORE: Amritsar Dry Fruit Corner

Goal Hatti Chowk,Hall Bazar Amritsar

Telephone:0183-2541174

Mobile: 98880-66880

collage of food producys

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-3 Wadiyan
  • 3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 1 medium Onion (chopped finely)
  • 2 Tomatoes (pureed)
  • 1 medium Potato (Diced)
  • 1 green Chilli (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 4 tablespoons Yogurt (whisked)
  • Chopped coriander for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat  1 tablespoon Oil in a a pan and roughly brake up the Wadiyan and fry them for about 5 minutes or until slightly reddish.Keep aside.(I prefer to shallow fry these,you may deep fry if you like too)
  2. Now heat the remaining oil in a pressure cooker. Temper with some cumin seeds.
  3. Now add the chopped onions and fry till medium brown.Then add the ginger garlic paste and fry further till brown.Add the turmeric and coriander powder.
  4. Then add the pureed tomatoes and cook for about 7-8 minutes till oil separates.
  5. Now add the fried Wadiyan and chopped potatoes.
  6. Pressure cook for about 7 minutes.
  7. When the steam is released open the cooker and whisk in 4 tablespoons of yogurt and mix well.
  8. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander.

Sri Lanka: Sights & Flavour’s around Galle plus a Culinary Workshop

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Our  holiday earlier last year to Galle, turned out to be an unplanned and delightful Culinary trail as it were to be. The dear hubs was travelling to Bentota, Sri Lanka and messaged me if I’d like to  join him in Colombo for a couple of days. Perhaps a quick getaway from there on was what was so needed.Well most certainly yes, was my answer. I call it the only joy of being an empty nester.With the dear son being at University, it’s great to be able to do these quick getaway’s  out of Mumbai.

Having spent a couple of days in Colombo, I was ready for our drive to Galle ( pronounced as Gawl) which is a three-hour drive and a beautiful one too. As we drove into the city I was pleased to discover this  ex Dutch Colony, is by the beach coast with some spectacular views. It is no no surprise that our hotel too overlooks the Arabian Ocean and would promise us numerous Kodak moments. We arrive at the Jetwing Lighthouse property and hurriedly settle into our rooms as we have realized there’s going to be lots to discover amidst sand and sea. I love the view from our room and now can’t decide whether to just sit by the verandah and watch the waves pound against the rocks and frolic in some idyllic or head out and discover more. Continue reading

Taste of Spain Part 1: Marbella,Puerto Banus & Granada

 

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Hola Readers!

A very warm welcome to 2016! Here’s hoping the year has begun on a great note.I do hope the New year brings in Fresh beginnings, Every Success, Health and of course  Exciting Travels to far and beyond along with Culinary  experiences that are every bit delightful and gastronomical!

The last two weeks of December were spent vacationing  and I”m very excited to share this post with you.When you speak of Sun kissed beaches mingled with specks of history and culture and gastronomy beyond one’s imagination you could only be in Southern Spain or more specifically in the Andalusian region.Our Spanish Sojourn began  with landing in Malaga and then onward a  short drive to Marbella, where we planned to stay on for a few  days.We arrived at the Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort,which is a pretty spectacular property  located in the heart of Costa del Sol (Coast of Sunshine) and boasts a pretty plush beachfront,amenities including a lovely spa,heated pools and jacuzzi and some good restaurants.

Day 1: Chilling at The Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort:

The hubs and the teen quite quickly resolve to a relaxed first day at the heated pool and I’m quite happy to take a stroll on the beach and get some fresh air.The day goes by well with all of us fairly rested and we sit down at dinner at the lovely heated patio of La Med,the resort’s in-house restaurant,drawing up plans for the next few days.Each one of us have an agenda.The teen was keen taking a trip into cultural and historical Granada and I was absolutely wanting to explore the variety of cuisine, head to a tapas bar,sip endless Sangria’s and just watch the world go by.

Marriott collage

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Day 2: Old Town Marbella:

We drive off to the Old quarter of Marbella or also know as the Old Town and are quite pleasantly surprised by this charming town.The heart of the town is called “El Casco Antiguo” and is pretty much paved in  cobble stone with narrow winding streets that are dotted with curious stores and little road side cafe’s.I point out to La Muralla as it is located in  the centre of the square and it’s time for some Sangria sipping, people watching and tapas of course.This cafe is right across from the Encarnacion church ,while cobbled passage ways lead from La Muralla into the heart of the Old Town.We settle for a couple of Sangria’s and a plate of delicious, piping hot meatballs in a piquant tomato sauce and a Spanish omelette.We are seated on the patio outside,it’s a gorgeous Mediterranean winter afternoon  with the temperature probably around 14 C and it seemed like time had stood still,well for us holiday makers at least, we take  in the sight’s of an otherwise busy square with mothers and their young kids hurrying back from school  as the bells toll softly in the nearby church.

Marbella

Day 3 Puerto Banus:

This gorgeous Marina is located on the Costa del Sol somewhere between Marbella and San Pedro and is a short 30 minute drive from our resort.Being our second last day in Southern Spain we wanted to make the most of our day and so glad that we discovered Puerto Banus. Most often referred to the home of the rich and famous.And quite rightly so. The spectacular Marina is dotted with boats and yachts and is a great place to walk around or even perhaps sit by this beachfront cafe.

Yes of course just in time for yet more Sangria and Tapas.Our first stop was at the Paradise  cafe on the beach.It’s quite amazing that despite it being a chilly afternoon,the ice-cold Sangria seemed just perfect with some brilliant tapas.We ordered a smallish platter that came on three individual baguette slices.One with a Spanish Chorizo and cherry tomatoes,the second one with Warm Goat cheese and caramelised onions and the last one with Camembert with an apricot chutney. A tad bit bite sized, yet perfect for a lazy afternoon by the beach side.

Puerto Banus

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The main avenue around Puerto Banus has an array of designer boutiques and stores and a huge El Cortes Ingles and is also lined with many pubs and tapas bars,but we are  all set  with a mission to eat at La Moraga. I had read up about this  Spanish gastro pub and was quite keen to visit it.They do not accept reservations and it’s pretty busy at around 3pm that afternoon,but we are quite determined to sample Michelin Star Dani Garcia’s Spanish gastronomy.The decor is very modern and upscale with  diners getting  a full view of the kitchen.Our wait time is ten minutes,which is fairly reasonable given that it seemed abuzz with the locals at a late luncheon. They have an impressive wine list and the hubs and me decide to move away from Sangria’s and sample some Spanish Rioja and order some of their classic’s  of Spanish omelette made with organic eggs and potatoes served with a salad,Meat Croquettes made with Serrano ham and chicken served with an aioli, Patata Bravas and the now hungry teen settles for The Spaniard,which is a sandwich with Serrano ham,Manchego cheese,sliced tomatoes,and olive oil served on Ciabatta bread,baked open face. Very mild and subtle flavours and an amazing experience at this very contemporary and chic place. A must visit if you are in Puerto Banus.

Lamoraga

Day 4 Drive to Historical Granada:

We plan on a day trip to Granada which takes approximately 2 hours from our resort in Marbella,with a pit stop of course.This spectacular town lies encased in the Sierra Nevada mountains and traces its origins to the Moorish occupation in Spain.The main attraction being the Al Hambra palace which is a large fortress surrounded  by lush gardens and pools.It’s really quite worth the wait in the line to get your tickets and a  get a view of the interiors of the Palace.A lot of the work is still in its original form although some restoration work is in progress for the upkeep and maintenance  of the Palace.
interestingly Alhambra comes from an Arabic root which means “red or crimson castle” and quite rightly so. While exploring the palace it is also very worth a visit to the Generalife gardens which are well manicured and have breath-taking views surrounding them.

AlHambra Palace
Al Hambra

Generalife: Gardens and spectacular views of Granada

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Interiors of the Palace

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Al hambra restaurant

 

Our vacation so far has been interspersed with moments of awe and wonder as we have revelled in Spain’s diverse landscape and natural beauty and fine cuisine. As much as it’s heart breaking to bid good-bye  to this gorgeous Coast of sunshine,the rest of our journey  awaits us.  We now fervently await part two of our Spanish Sojourn as we fly into Madrid ,with promises of Museums,Palaces and People watching and then finally onto the last leg of our holiday ,to Enchanting and Charming Barcelona where everything spells Gaudi ,Food markets,Gardens and Gastronomy par excellent.I promise to write-up the next post really soon. Until then…

Adios Amigos!

Goa…Spice Farms, Food Markets And A Recipe

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This past summer has been a busy one with our dear  son visiting us and keeping me busy in the kitchen too. Bless him.While it’s sometimes a daunting task coming up with new recipes that whet his appetite,it keeps me on the look out for new interesting one’s like this Goa Sausage curry I made up for him and the hubs.It was absolutely wonderful having a houseful again. Now we did  managed to get away on a family vacation to Goa, primarily also to beat the sweltering heat in Mumbai.It’s been a dry monsoon here with hardly any rains,besides Goa in the rains is magical indeed.

The quick escape to the land of beaches, sunshine and lush greenery did wonders for the soul and for the food obsessed traveller that I am.As any new journey kindles an excitement brought about by new cultures,cuisines and experiences. The Goan Hubs was thrilled to visit his own country as he often calls it.His family is originally from Goa,however moved away decades ago and now live in Mumbai.

Not that this was a first visit to Goa.There have been several quick trips to attend  Family weddings, Baby showers,Weekend trip,and well yes even honeymooned in Goa two decades ago.Most often our trips turn out to be beach centric of course or perhaps lazy weekends at the resort we stay in. While I quite enjoy the “lying in the sun and watch the world go by”,I tend to get antsy by the second day.I’m an explorer at heart and love going down the road less travelled to discover something not so touristy and that revolves around food of course.The two places on my to do list were a trip to the Mapusa Market and  Sahakari Spice farm in Ponda. Well I even managed to get the rest of the family interested in these trips and they turned out very worth a visit.

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Mapusa Market: This place is abuzz with street vendors and established shops alike selling any and everything from fresh local produce, spices, meats and sausages,seafood to even readymade clothes,textiles and jewellery.This market captures the essence of  Goa and is a riot of colour and a hustle bustle of activity. The vendors are at their  colourful best ,travelling from neighbouring villages to sell their locally grown or manufactured wares, including spices of all kinds. Fresh fruits and vegetables are displayed in abundance. The market is well known for its jewellery, pottery, spice, and carpet shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for straw hats, Goan home-made chouriço and the like. Strings of Goan chouriço, spiced and marinated pork sausages, are sold here. Seedless tamrind , or amot as it is known locally, is also traded in great demand.Wandering around these winding lanes was a discovery indeed. I was even amazed at some places that sold wonderful fresh Goan bread known as Pao or Poee,which have a crusty exterior and a deliciously soft centre.Just perfect warm with butter slathered.I decided to take a dozen of these back home as they freeze well for later use.

Our bags were packed with these freshly baked Bread Buns,Dried Shrimp, Goan beans know as Fejao, Sol or also know as Kokum which is used in Goan fish curries spices like Teffla used in Mackerel curries and a bottle of Cashew Feni,to complete my Goan shopping experience.  This visit was a treat indeed and perhaps as often said “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”,I knew my hubs would be ecstatic with Goan treats from my kitchen.

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These Gorgeous fresh flowers that caught my fancy were a sight to behold.A trip to these fresh markets is a must.This market is open on all days except Sunday’s ,all though Friday’s are when they seem the busiest. Do put this down on your itinerary on the next visit to Goa.

Sahakari Spice Farm:

This lush acreage is spread over of 130 acres, 60 acres of this area is exclusively devoted to the cultivation of Spices, Fruits, Medicinal trees and Herbs.We toured these farms which was organised by means of guide who seemed well versed in her repertoire of various spices that grew here and even gave us some amazing tips on the health benefits on some of them. This farm has an abundance of Fresh pepper,Cinnamon,Vanilla beans,Cloves,Curry leaves among many more varieties.

Goa spice farm

Interesting Fact: It was quite surprising to learn that The Indian Teja Patta, is indeed the leaf of the Cassia tree (Common Cinnamon).

Health Benefits of Cinnamon:

  • Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants and has potent anti inflammatory properties.
  • Helps in reduction of bad Cholesterol.
  • Improves Insulin Resistance.
  • Lowers Blood sugar levels

It is important to source the real Cinnamon as most often what is available is the Cassia bark that imitates Cinnamon.Some great information as explained by our lovely guide on tour of this spice farm.

We ended our tour at the spice farm with a delicious Goan fare at the restaurant which is located here.A fish Thali with finger licking Prawn Curry,Chicken Curry, Fried Surmai (King Fish) and an assortment of vegetables too.Hope I’ve tempted you to travel to Goa and discover this hidden gem.

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Well a trip to Goa is not complete without the mandatory stock of Goa Pork Sausages.There are quite a variety available to choose from.Some branded ones like Costas, J0a0’s are readily available in the market stores or perhaps you may even like to buy some freshly strung one’s that the vendors sell  in Mapusa.I picked up an assortment as they stay well refrigerated. So if asked what’s for dinner? GPS aka Goan Pork Sausage was my answer the other night,which instantly lit my the hub’s face and the son quite enjoyed this too.

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 Recipe for Goa Pork Sausages:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Packet Goa Pork Sausages( Meat removed from the casing)
  • 2 Medium Onions (sliced finely)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Oil
  • 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1-2 Green chilies (slit lengthwise)
  • 2 Small Potatoes (Cubed and Boiled)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped Coriander for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon Tomato Paste

Method:

  1. Remove the sausage meat from its casing.
  2. Now heat a pan and add some oil to it and fry the onions till medium brown.
  3. Next add in the green chilies and ginger-garlic paste and fry for a few minutes.
  4. Now add in the sausage meat and fry well.
  5. Stir in the tomato paste and add water enough to cover the mixture.
  6. Let this simmer for a good 30-40 minutes so as to cook the meat well.
  7. Once reduced add in the boiled potatoes and garnish with chopped coriander.
  8. Remove any excess oil that may come up during cooking the sausage.
  9. Serve with Pao or any bread.