Tag Archives: India

Finding Salvation in Newport, Rhode Island

By Rohan:

One of our favorite things to do when we travel is look for places where locals gather to enjoy a delightful conversation, a beautiful view, or a delicious meal. It is immensely satisfying to know that you have found a hidden gem or a regional hot spot in a place that is often overrun by tourists. In upscale Newport, Rhode Island, we stumbled across such a place, and it provided us a scrumptious meal that was both unique and satisfying. We found the Salvation Cafe.

From a first glance, the Salvation Cafe looks like nothing special. It is a small restaurant with a red Japanese-style facade resembling a pagoda. Upon entering and taking a look at the menu, we came to realize that this is no ordinary cafe. The menu crosses cultures, everything from the coast of India to the heart of Thailand to even the mountains of Peru are available for you to sample at the Salvation Cafe. For vegetarians, Salvation makes sure that we have plenty of options and that our food tastes just as good as the food prepared for the carnivores in the house.

I had a Peruvian dish, one that consisted of thick corn pancakes layered with fresh sautéed vegetables. The dish was served with an avocado ragout that resembled a spicy guacamole, as well as a black bean paste for those who want their protein fix. The meal was absolutely delicious, with authentic flavors and spices allowing for it to stand out in my mind as one of my favorite dishes of recent times.

The restaurant’s name is reflected in its ambiance, with different cultures’ ideas of afterlife represented in a very worldly environment. If you are in the Newport area, and want to take your taste buds on a globetrotting adventure, look no further than the Salvation Cafe.  They are located at http://www.salvationcafe.com/
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Savory Breakfasts Rule In India – Here’s One Mouth- Watering One to Create

By Lakshmi:

Every time I go back to India, I look forward to the food.  Every relative or friend you visit insists you partake in a meal with them.  And every road side stall, fancy restaurant and five-star hotel beckons you with choices galore.  One humble savory food that can be prepared on a budget, but feels like a hearty meal is Uppuma.  While there are dozens of varieties of Uppuma, a visit to Saravana Bhavan (that ubiquitous South Indian chain) got me hooked to the kind made with roasted wheat vermicelli.

So what is this Uppuma you may ask?  Simply put, it is defined in many places as a porridge.  In my vocabulary, porridge is a gooey, mushy eat.  Take a look at the picture above.  Does this in any way resemble the porridge you know?  Instead to me it is almost like a pilaf, the nutty taste of the fine vermicelli, blending with the vegetables and chillies, a perfect crunch imparted by the mustard seeds, dal and cashew nuts with the final touch of coconut bringing in the ultimate tropical feel.  Have a plate with a steaming cup of coffee and you will be transported to a culinary heaven that you may not have experienced to date.

Without further adieu, here is my recipe for the Vermicelli Uppuma that is created frequently in my kitchen (since it takes only 20 minutes to prepare).  If you want to totally delight guests at an event with an appetizer that will keep them hooked and guessing, simply put spoonfuls of the completed dish in little phyllo cups and serve!

Recipe for Vermicelli Uppuma – Serves 6 

Ingredients:

1 cup roasted wheat vermicelli (I use the Bambino brand available at Indian stores and on Amazon.com)

A handful of cashew nuts broken

1 tbsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp urad dal

4 green chillies finely chopped

1 inch piece of ginger finely chopped

1 red onion finely chopped

1 red pepper finely diced

1 carrot finely grated

.5 cup of fresh or frozen green peas

1.5 tsp salt

2 tbsps vegetable oil

1 tbsp clarified butter or take an extra tbsp of oil

Freshly shredded coconut (3 tbsps)

2 cups water

Method:

Heat the oil and butter in a large non stick pan or wok.  When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, urad dal, green chillies, ginger, cashew nuts and onions.  Fry till the mustard seeds pop and the onions and cashew nuts turn brown.  Add two cups of water, salt and the vegetables and bring the water to a boil.  Now slowly add the vermicelli and stir continuously till the vermicelli is blended and thick and appears to have the consistency of dried porridge.  Add freshly grated coconut, give it another swish and cover promptly and take off the stove.

Let dish rest for 15 minutes (covered) and fluff before serving.  When done, it will be fluffy and each grain of vermicelli should be separate.  Serve on plates for a meal or in phyllo cups as an appetizer.  Don’t forget to bring out steaming hot cups of coffee.

If you’d rather get an instant Uppuma fix, head to one of the many Saravana Bhavan restaurants in the US and abroad.  A complete listing can be found at

http://www.saravanabhavan.com/restaurants.php?

Discovering Judaism In India – Is That Possible?

By Lakshmi:

As a little girl growing up in India, we never once questioned the ability of multiple ethnicities to coexist in one land. I went to Catholic schools, my best friend was Muslim and my family doctor was Jewish.  While there were plenty of  Christians, Hindus and Muslims around, except for my family doctor and her holidays, our exposure to Judaism was  minimal.  And then there was a discovery.  The state where my parents hailed from (Kerala) housed India’s oldest synagogue and one of the oldest known Jewish communities.  And slowly the awareness settled in.  The first community arrived in India 2,500 years ago.  They settled in Cochin in the southern state of Kerala and gradually more settlers arrived spreading their wings to different parts of the country.  A few months ago, I was walking around in Pune in western India and noticed a large synagogue.  It was old and beautiful and I discovered that it was the largest one in Asia.  Suddenly the linkages between Judaism and India were appearing more commonly before my eyes…was it the awareness that I was developing or simply more interest on a rather forgotten community?

This morning, the New York Times carried a lovely piece on Passover in India.  It was a lovely read and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring our readers this little unknown slice of India.

“A Seder Spiced with Indian flavors” is a journey into how tradition and local cuisine have melded to create a one of a kind culture and history.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/dining/a-seder-spiced-with-flavors-from-india.html?_r=0

Conde Nast Traveller’s writing competition last year had a winner reporting on the “Jewish Settlements in India”. This is a lovely journey of visuals and words providing a sometimes sad/other times funny look at this community.

http://www.cntraveller.in/content/travel-writing-competition-traces-jerusalem

For those curious about how these synagogues might look like a world away, the following link provides beautiful photographs inside and outside some of these major places of worship.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/synindia.html

If you happen to be in India and want to get a hands on orientation, here are a couple of tour companies offering specialized day trips.  Just reading the summaries gives you a peek into a far away world!

http://www.mumbaimagic.com/jewish_heritage.htm

http://www.viator.com/India/Synagogue/d723

Have you visited any synagogues in India or know more about the local Jewish traditions?  We’d love to hear from you.