Tahaan – A story of Innocent love for one’s pet

I have to make a brief post about this little gem of a movie. Technically excellent, with a heart gripping story and realistic performances by a power house of artists, this movie not only moves you but warms the heart. It is very deep as an insight into what has become of a fertile, lush valley legendary of its beautiful people and landscapes.
Kashmir.
Along with strife, for decades now, children have been left with destruction, despair and utter bewilderness for what they cannot comprehend in their little life. With a great heart full of childhood innocence, the main protagonist of the movie is all set to get back his beloved pet.
A donkey.

Tahaan directed by ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan, is an excellent piece of film making. On a little scale, he puts this vast canvas of Kashmir. It has been ages since we saw Kashmir like this. My God !! What we are missing… After Dil Se, in which Santosh had captured beautiful Ladakh in his lense, here he beautifully uses his brush to color the canvas of the screen. Its like reading a fable from our school time story cupboard.

The Fog and smoke creates ‘wow’ visuals on screen. Love it.

Naturally, the story is somewhat based on militants and army. But moreover its a story about Tahaan – the central character’s quest to get back his beloved donkey, Birbal. And over this quest He gets to see and learn many things. Also a surprise too….Purav Bhandare who plays Tahaan, gives absolutely heart warming performance. Below is one of the scene, I loved of him.

Victor Banerjee as his grandpa is in a short but again touching performance. He reminded me of my childhood when we used to listen stories from my grandpa.

Sarika is always a delight to see on screen. She is mute mother of Tahaan. And she does talk with her eyes a lot.

Anupam Kher whose role I thought would be negative, but I was wrong. And again his character is well written and he performs well. And, who else can talk about pain of Kashmiri Pundits than him?

Rahul Bose, in an unusual one, is also too good. Everyone, just everyone has given a top notch performance. Even Rahul Khanna in his 5 mins. appearance, reminded me of the old time ‘lalas‘ [ala Mother India].

And above all, the endearing performance of Birbal-the donkey.

Technically this movie is so brilliant. Everything from production design to cinematography to outstanding sound design, is just too perfect. I loved these two little scenes with some lovely folk music.

All in all, its a must must see movie.

And lastly, here are some screencaps of the movie, featuring lovely people of Kashmir.

Happy Summer Holidays !

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Time for a well deserved break.

Summer has been here for a while now, but it is only now that we are able to take our break. Looking forward to catch up with all the nice things that comes with going home. Plenty of sunshine is all we are wishing and hoping for. Not sure, knowing the UK and French Summers. Anyway, fingers crossed, we shall be balled.

I may share a ‘paquerette’ or two with some lazy cows in rural France, so blogging would not be on my finger tips. Explosion of themes and images will abound I am sure, hence loads to update my blog when I get back. Maybe, when I reach the metropolis, it will make sense to lighten the backlog.

Till, then all those who pass by this blog, thank you for taking time to read my ramblings. I appreciate your precious time and effort immensely.

Happy holidays !

Coconut water – Pure power drink !

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Summer time joys in Hanoi are abundunt, one of them is enjoying fresh fruits, especially fresh coconut water !

The best thing about living in our new apartment is living next to shops serving fresh coconut water. It has become a regular treat to finish our weekend aftrnoons … or rather should I say, starting it. We take our jug to the shop ( street one ), and choose any big juicy coconut, the young Vietnamese girl swiftly chops it and pours the water and half the shells. In a few deft movements, she scrapes the young flesh and fills our tupperware with the sweet water. Happy ? Yes, we are indeed.

Back home, we either chill the flesh which dispappears in a flash while watching TV or is quickly ‘hidden’ away in the fridge, awaiting to be incorprated in some desserts.

tender coconut flesh coco fesse, Seychelles coconut crepes

Now, to extol the benefits of coconut water would not be enough, but all I can say is that nature made us a precious, delicious gift and each time it tastes heavenly  … be it in Hanoi, Mauritius, Rio, Bali or Bahamas !

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For the info part :

Humans began in warm, tropical climes where coconuts proliferate, and they are the basic foundational human food (FHF) that is easily available to sustain life. All hunter-gather tribes utilize them fully, for food, clothing and housing. The coconut “water”, inside the nut, is sterile, and safer to drink than the often microbially-infested surface waters. The mineral profile of the coconut water (not coconut “milk”, which is made with pulp) is almost exactly the mineral electrolyte profile your cells need for health — potassium, calcium, sodium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, manganese, copper along with vital amino acids. Although “fatty”, coconuts contain no cholesterol.

This largest-nut was truly a gift, and it’s calories enabled us to be satiated when there was largely only high water-content tropical fruits and difficult to find shell-fish or ocean fish. Fresh coconuts are an alkaline pH food, and so they can help combat the modern acid-producing life-style which eats away at your circulatory system and organs. Coconuts are also a high-fiber, low-glycemic food and they have a low carb profile along with their protein.Every ounce of shredded coconut contains about 5 grams of fiber. Your quota of fiber should aim to be around 30 – 35 grams, daily. Just about everyone loves the taste of coconut, too. It’s especially easy to use it for children. It’s important to know that there is a big difference between the nutrition of “old” brown coconuts and “young” green coconuts.Their jelly-like flesh is perfect for smoothies, puddings and just straight-from-the nut eating.

Coconut is a potent anti-viral food and it is proving to be helpful in combatting yeast-infections and the Epstein-Barr like virus which is associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, too. Lauric acid and caprylic acid are the most effective, active anti-virals. Coconut is also an important substitute for wheat flours in cooking for gluten-intolerant people who have Crohn’s disease, celiac or sprue. Organic, unrefined coconut oil is also very healthy to use for frying. Use just a bit. A little goes a long way, and as it is one of the highest-temperature stable oils, it is much better to use for these high-temperature cooking processes than lower temperature “unsaturated” oils, which de-nature in the frying zone and produce harmful products.

Other palm oils also supply medium-chain fatty acids, and are beneficial if naturally-processed and organic, although they are vegetarian “saturated” fats. The deep orange color of organic palm oil is naturally-occurring beta-carotene, and it’s a richer source than carrots. In the bottle, organic coconut fat should be fluffy-cloud white — yet be unbleached; if the room temperature is more than 76 degrees Fahrenheit, then coconut oil will be a clear liquid in its bottle. The extra-virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil’s medium-chain fatty-acids and the Omega-3 fats (in another article, soon) available from cold-water fish and hemp, can go a long way toward helping ameliorate diabetes. They offer the possibility of near-cure or cure of diabetes when in a co-ordinated plan.

Coconut products are usually room-temperature stable; this is true for coconut oil, tightly-closed dried coconut and unopened coconut water. Canned coconut milk and coconut-water should be refrigerated after opening, tightly-covered for a maximum of 4 days OR you can freeze them.

So, next time you see this humble nut, take a look again. I love it in all its forms and mostly on my skin !

Chilli – Spice of life

chillies

Life for me without chillies is unthinkable.

I have chilli with almost everything I eat. The first item I ask at every restaurant is chilli …. freshly chopped if available.

Chilli is the next globally most recognisable food item after potatoes and pasta. Nowdays, with more research being done on this wonderful vegetable/fruit, more of its virtues are made known to the world. It is so potent for the immune system and for curing colds that it should become a daily prescibed item on the diet of all northern hemisphere inhabitants. Albeit to add some warmth to their cold ends, it would also lift their moods during the long Wintry days.

Mauritian chillies

My favourite chilli remains the ones from Rodrigues, the sister island of Mauritius. It is the world’s smallest known chilli and yet very very fiery. So potent that it is pickled with lime and honey to ‘calm’ down its temper and made more amicable to our stomachs. I always carry my little bottle of ‘Piments Confits Rodrigues’ whereever I go. And when I visit my island, I pickle the chillies myself with Mum’s home grown lemongrass roots, lime and Bergamot leaves. Their flavour and taste is unlike anything I have seen or tasted in the vast chilli kindgom. But I cannot get them very often and eating them daily does mean the stock gets depleted very very quickly !

Each Summer. I make it a point to get them from Galeries Lafayette Gourmet, the only place in  France where I can get the Combava chilli paste from Reunion island and our beloved Rodrigues Chillies.  Now, I should mention that this addiction to chillies is not subjective. It is a trait familiar to many tropical islanders.  Yes, we drink loads of Rum too, but the chilli thing maybe a tightly kept secret. We are each an ‘afficionado’ in our own rights by the vast amount and variety of chillies we consume in all meals. Even the humble national snack is made of chillies, it is called ‘ gateaux piments’ meaning chilli bites. You get it ? ….On Reunion island, they are called ‘Bonbons piments’ which literally translates into chilli candies. They are not candies though … Gateaux Piments has become my darling’s favourite now and there’s not a month without a gateaux piments day with cold cold beer ! By the beach even better. Not a treat we can enjoy often.

freshly made gateaux piments

freshly made gateaux piments

If you season your morning eggs with tabasco, add chili to your coffee and have no interest in having your dinner without red savina than you should make chili the next theme of your trip.

Start your spicy trip with Mexico and don’t worry about swine flu, after all, as a chilihead, you are safe – chili kills all sorts of germs.

Mexico

Chili for Mexicans is like wine for French or sushi for Japanese. In some ways it determines the culture of the country. Mexicans dry chili, marinate it, smoke it, stuff it, bake it or chop it up for salsa and, well, only God knows what else they do with it. Long before the Europeans arrived to the shores of America  Aztecs used to eat yellow and red chilies mixed with chocolate. Now it is trendy and gourmet to eat chilli laced chocolates. And funny enough the credit is given to some self promoting chocolatier for pinching  this thousands years old recipe from the Aztecs. Blame it on Western supremacy propaganda.

According to the estimates the Mexicans eat 6 kilo of fresh chilies and 0.5 kilo of dry chilies per capita per year which means that they eat more chilies than onions and tomatoes. Interesting fact is that one of the essentials elements that makes the kit of all Marines in the USA have a Tabasco bottle, probably to make the battlefield feel less drab ?. Anyway, to give such an honour and place to chillies is well note worthy.

The most popular Mexican dish with chilies is mole that can be prepared from four types of peppers: ancho, mulato, pasilla and chipotle (smoked jalapeno).  It is a sauce that can vary from the thick and black mole negro to bright and green mole verde infused with herbs.

The most known regions for mole are Puebla and Oaxaca . The latter is even called the Land of the Seven Moles where the sauce is wildly celebrated.

Chili stall in Mexico by drewleavy

Thailand

The Thai cuisine perfectly balance the five elementary tastes: sweet, spice, bitter, salty and sour. Off course there is lots of phrik (as Thais call chili) around so if you are the beginner in hot cuisine take it easy and give your stomach couple of days to accommodate. On each trip to Thailand, I get the birds eye chillies and pickle them in brine and lime. Reason – living in Hanoi currently sees my craving for chillies getting a cold shoulder when I go about the town looking for ‘hot’ chillies. No such thing here.

There are around 79 varieties of Thai peppers that range from very very hot phrik lueng to relatively mild phrik yuak and phrik chi fa . To have their food even hotter the Thais blended their recipes with the Indian curry powder that arrived to the Indochinese Peninsula hundreds years ago.  As a result one of the spiciest cuisines in the world has been created. Seeing the lovely red colour of oil floating in any gravy should not fool you. It is very hot and spicy, unlike the mild paprika that laces the Northern hemisphere dishes.

In this land of chili and curry anything can be spicy from salads and soups to desserts. The most popular among spicy ingredients are Thai curry pastes that are based on yellow, green or red chilies and a variety of other spices such as lemon grass, shallots, garlic, cumin and coriander.These pastes work with everything from meat dishes to vegetables, salads, soups and noodles.

It is useful to know a few phrases in Thai in order to control the amount of chili in your dish. If you want to burn your tongue immediately, ask for phet which means spicy hot. Phet nit noi is a little bit hot, mai phet is not hot. Be aware that what is a little bit spicy for Thai may be super duper spicy for you. Take my word for it !

Peru

To be Peruvian means to eat ají – Peruvian hot pepper. Every town in the country has its “picantaria” – the restaurant serving fiery food, whose name derives from Spanish word “picante”. The culture of chili has been celebrated for ages in Peru. The Incas used to freeze and dry ají to preserve it and add it to their dishes. In 19th century Friedrich von Humboldt wrote a political essay on the kingdom of New Spain, remarking that “The fruit of the chile is as indispensable to the native Peruvians as salt to the whites.” Living at such high altitudes certainly has meant that they have tamed and adopted certain ingredients that has helped them overcome al the discomforts that go with living in the mountains.

There are around 300 different chili peppers in Peru and thousands of dishes seasoned with ají . Not to get lost in the variety of Peruvian cuisine here are few popular dishes that guarantee the tears stream down your face while eating. A true opposite from the Thai chilli heat which sees your eyes popping wide from your sockets.

Ají de Gallina
is a spicy chicken heated up by the Peruvian yellow chilies called ají amarillo . One pod of that pepper measure between 30,000 and 50,000 units of Scoville scale . It is also used for the preparation of the ceviche (or cebiche), the Peruvian national dish, which is cold raw seafood marinated in lemon juice, peppers and onions. The local legend says that one foreigner who tasted it gasped “son-of-a-bitch,” which Peruvians then adopted as “cebiche”.

Another worth trying dish is Papa la Huancaina – potatoes served with a special spicy sauce, olives, lettuce and egg.  You can’t leave Peru without trying Sacsayhuaman, the vodka made of rocoto peppers, passion fruit, sugar and cilantro, called Sexy Women for those who cannot pronounce the Peruvian name.

Ají shrub by José Bernardo

India

If you want to have your chili for breakfast, lunch and dinner you should head for India. The country is the largest global producer of hot peppers and the Indian town Guntur in Andhra Pradesh state hosts the biggest chili market in Asia. The town even gave its name to one of the peppers that are called Guntur Red .

Chili came to India with the Portuguese that traded the hot peppers from Lisbon in the 16th century. The chilies soon conquered the Indian dishes and were added to Indian masalas and chutneys. Garam masala which in Hindi means “warm spices” is a combination of spices that can vary from mild to eyes watering. Masala is a base for Indian curry – it is believed that the word is an anglicized version of Tamil kari which means “vegetables in sauce”.

One of the most fiery Indian dishes is Vindaloo curry that includes pork or chicken in sauce made of lots of dried chillies with garlic and vinegar. If it does not satisfy your chili demands try Tindaloo which is a hotter version of Vindaloo.  Undeniably the hottest curry in India and in the world is Phaal which include Bhut jolokia chili pepper, confirmed by the Guinness World Records as the most potent pepper on earth ( but honestly I think that the Rodriguan chilli beats it by far ! … bonnet or jalapenos are kids next to it )

Chasing chili does not end here. There are several other places in the world where hot peppers play the main role on the culinary stage. Check out spicy harissa in Tunisia, tajines in Egypt, the hot dishes of China, Jamaican jerk and kimchi the national dish of Korea. If you can’t travel to all these places, at least you know which nationality restaurant to pick for spicy dinner in your town. Choose any of them, but the lifeless paprika used in the Hungarian Goulash.

Next, I think I’m going to make my signature dessert this week end, dark chocolate mousse with cherry liqueur and … red chillies.

What say ?.

Female bike riders in Hanoi

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The traffic here shocks …. intimidates. It makes sense that foreigners are not allowed to drive here, but with some papers and dongs, many now are at the wheel. At their own risk.

One thing that stands out in the traffic here is the number of female bike riders. They have graduated from bicycle riding to motorbikes. And they ride them with an ease that stuns many of us. Traffic rules do not exist here, for one, and penalties are rare. The confidence with which they ride their bikes and the sort of activities they indulge in while drving in heavy traffic …. is truly amazing !

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It is not unusual to find chatting, holding hands, texting, talking on the phone, reading, knitting, window shopping and shopping being carried out by the women bikers here. It is a way of life. There is very little left that they do not do on a bike. But the best of it should be riding the bike with a straight posture, feet clasped together as if one is in a Victorian tea lounge and wearing high heels. Stilettos are the most common. This defies any concept of a comfortable, safe and flat shoes wear of a typical biker in the West. Here, the skinnier the pair of jeans, the better. The higher the heels, the better. Many times carrying a baby and a younger child along while talking on the phone.

Safety ?! …. is an alien thought here. Style comes first.