Piling on the pounds on holidays!

pic-south-indian-snacks-and-tiffins

A Kerala breakfast                                                                                                    Posted by RR staff

We all dread coming home from holiday with the pounds or kilograms piled on. But if we can’t treat ourselves when on holiday…….? Everything in moderation is good for the rest of the year but when in our beloved India with its scrumptious array of tasty regional cuisines maybe take a leaf out of Mark Twain’s (a great lover of all things Indian) book:

‘Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.’

I don’t think we would agree nowadays.

And it must be admitted that the ancient Indian medical system, Ayurveda, wouldn’t agree. Ayurveda is big into food combining. But that’s a story for another day.

In the meantime, we say remember Mark Twain and have a culinary blast in India.
That’s what holidays are for. And you deserve it.

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Kerala Rose Rice, anyone?

P rose rice

We snapped Chef Mahesh hard at work fetching Kerala Rose Rice!

So it’s flatbreads in North India. But down south in Kerala it’s rice.

And not just good old Basmati. Here there’s a rice unique to Kerala. Big, soft velvety grains in a reddish-brown colour. Not surprisingly it’s called Rose Rice. It’s unpolished,  full of Vitamin B and fibre with a robust and earthy flavor. And amateur cooks need not worry about it turning into a sticky mess. The grains separate and maintain their shape easily. You may want to take a kilo home!

Rose rice works very well with fish curry (try Alleppey Fish curry on our dinner menu). And blends equally with chicken and vegetarian dishes. But avoid some north Indian dishes like, for example, Chicken Patiala because that chicken dish is wrapped in a pancake. Roti like chapatti is a better combination here.

History has it, or maybe hearsay, that South Indians have been big rice-eaters since 1 AD. Certainly its popularity today would suggest it’s been part of the staple diet here for centuries. And sometimes there’s no escaping it in one guise or another. Even at breakfast time it may peer out at you dressed up as something else. Take, for example, the wonderful doshai . They’re made primarily from rice flour. Then at lunch time it’s rice again in the form of lacy light pancakes known as appams.

 

But don’t worry. The disguise is subtle. You’ll love it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chats Under the Coconut Trees No. 2

Superior Twin Room in RR

Superior Twin Room in RR

So a guest arrived for a first visit to India. We are fortunate in Raheem Residency that guests often choose us as a first-stop on their Indian odyssey. We think it’s because we are small, intimate but not intrusive, and with western-eastern owners we feel (and hope) that we are sensitive to both cultures.

Anyway Susan (not her real name) was tired from her three-flight trip and in truth more than a bit overwhelmed by the enormity and intensity of everything in India from people to rickshaws to colours and even smells.

So we did the usual RR ‘treatment’. Suggested a relaxing Ayurvedic massage to chill out the mind and body, got a cleansing fresh cucumber soda from the kitchen, and sat under a coconut tree for a chat.

Susan asked what was there to love about Kerala. I think at this stage she was wondering if she’d made the right holiday choice. But tiredness can make the mind go whacky, can it not? Anyway, in case you are wondering too here’s a short list of just 5.

1. The People. It has to be number one. So full of gentleness, kindness and patience. (No, we don’t include the crooks in that but guests are unlikely to meet them anyway).

2. The Food. Not like Indian food in the west. Fresh food, very local ingredients indeed, south Indian recipes (most western Indian menus are north Indian) that include a lot of delicate coconut milk and sometimes a few fireballs of spices!

3. The Sun. Can’t get away from it. Even in the rainy season it puts on a shining face most days.

4. The Scenery. First stop has to be the amalgam of rivers, canals and lakes known as the Backwaters. Cruise at leisure in your private houseboat and drink in the stillness and serenity. Then hike up by taxi to the tea and spice plantations in the hill stations. Take in a beach as well.

5. Ayurveda. Top-class massage to relax and rejuvenate body and mind. And at a fraction of the cost in the west (how about a Facial for a tenner?!).

Susan was visibly relaxing. The worried look in her face had been replaced with a tired but genuine smile. With that she took off in the direction of the Ayurvedic Suite. When she emerged, slathered in natural oils, she looked like her worries had faded and somehow you knew she would sleep like a baby that night.
Apparently she did.

Kerala Backwaters

Kerala Backwaters

This entry was first posted in on July 1, 2014.

Delhi Belly?

Beware buffets!

Beware buffets!

There’s a common myth that if you travel in India you’re going to be confined to bathrooms along your route. In my 14 years there I’ve been stricken once only. And that was in a 4* hotel in Delhi which came highly recommended.

I was careful about what I ate so I can’t put it down to the food. I suspect that it involved a lazy Housekeeper who filled the water jug in the room from the tap rather than with filtered water. I arrived late and tired. I was too lazy to ring for bottled water and put up with all the form signing etc so I took a chance.

Bad mistake. I lost two days of my travel time due to solitary confinement.

In Raheem Residency, we bring twice-filtered water to your room in a jug at check-in time. We don’t bring it to you in sealed bottles because we are furiously anti-plastic. But we stand over what we bring you.

Tip No.1: Always check the source of the water in your room if it’s not in a sealed bottle.

 In our eleven years of operations in Raheem Residency we had one case only of Delhi Belly. I couldn’t understand it. Our track record was nothing short of excellent. So I did a bit of investigation. The previous night I’d eaten the same dish as the guest. And I had no after-effects. Then I poked around a bit more. He had eaten a meal from somewhere else in the meantime. And there are lots of excellent alternatives around us in Alleppey. But you  need to know where to go. He didn’t. He also lost two days of his holiday.

Tip No.2:  Choose carefully if you eat in venues that are further down the money scale.

For example the top street vendors – the Indian equivalent of the American hot-dog stand – can produce the best snacks. That’s because these treats eg samosas, bhajis etc are  cooked in fat at high temperatures thus killing off any potential harmful bacteria in the process. The immediate environment can definitely be shabby so keep one eye closed!

On the other hand, buffets in hotels are hugely popular. There’s a great variety of dishes and for those who like the principal of ‘Eat as much as you like’ this eating experience is almost like a dream come true. But I’ve never had a buffet – even at 5* level –  that is steaming hot. So I become suspicious.

Tip No.3: Be prepared for lukewarm buffets.

Common sense rules should prevail. Wash raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly if you’re going to munch on them. Avoid salad leaves that may have been washed under the tap. It’s not too difficult. A good salad is hard to find.

And for the cure, make sure you have packed your digestive ‘cement’ and stay well-hydrated – include some electrolytes which you can find in any pharmacy.

But let’s not hammer our beloved India especially for this curse.I ndia has no such exclusivity. The same undesirable condition also comes with the monikers Montezuma’s revenge (S America), traveller’s trots (universal?) and ugh! so much more.

 

 

 

 

Snapshots of Kerala

Chinese fishing nets in Kerala

Any hotelier will tell you that it’s a real joy for owners and staff alike when guests return for a second visit. It’s a great compliment to us about the service we try to provide for you. It’s also a great confidence vote for Kerala.

A group of return guests from London told us about their most memorable ‘snapshots’ of Kerala. We thought – and we hope – that this might help you make your decision about a Kerala holiday this year.

1. Raheem Residency.

We’re biased. Enough said!

2. The Backwaters.

‘Going on a houseboat on the backwaters around Alleppey is the most relaxing experience. The scenery is beautiful. The swaying palms and the gentle movement of the houseboat gliding through the waters takes you into another zone. And getting a glimpse of the normal life of villagers as you move past them gives you a real insight into local life. So for anybody who wants a bit more out of India than a touristy holiday here’s a real chance to go below the surface.’

3. Indian Food Kerala-style.

‘It’s so different to the Indian food we get at home. It just tastes so much fresher and the combination of flavours is much richer. We loved the seafood in particular and it comes in so many different guises – the creamy Korma, the spicier Curry and the Masala fish dish. We love the Masala Chai and Iced Coffee with cinnamon. And the Kingfisher beer goes down a treat too!’

4. Chinese Fishing Nets.

‘There’s something so exotic about these nets in Fort Cochin. And even though they perform the real job of catching fish you get a sense of India’s history and connection with China in years gone by. Exotic. Romantic. There’s a photo of them in every tourist’s mobile phone.’

5. Greenery.

‘Touching down at Cochin airport your first impression of Kerala is the swaying green palms beneath your window. Although we think they’re ruining the view when you leave the airport with the huge billboards along the roadside advertising this and that. They’re massive and they block out the lovely greenery. But for more greenery still there’s the tea plantations in Munnar – acres and acres of green fields and it’s such a kick to actually see our morning cuppa growing!’

Spot the lady in Munnar's tea plantation

Choose Curry Every Time

IndianCurry

Who eats the healthiest food? Sweden? Germany? Spain?

Or could it possibly be our beloved India?

Indeed it is.

A recent bunch of surveyors tootled around 23 countries ‘torturing’ 28,000 innocents about their eating habits. India was streets ahead with 79% of folk saying they eat healthy food, upmarket Sweden had a lowly 51%, disciplined Germany 53% and laid-back Spain held up a valiant rear at 60%.

It’s not surprising. You won’t find too many Indians shoving the pre-packaged Tikka Masala into a microwave. Indians cook from fresh, as they call it.

And that’s why you just might have to wait a little longer than you like for food to come to your table in restaurants all over India.

Hardly an onion is chopped in the Raheem Residency kitchen before your order comes in.

And most Indian families would be aghast at the thought of freezing food and then re-heating it next week. The prana, the life force in Ayurveda, would be well and truly compromised at that stage.

So next time your food order seems to take an interminable amount of time, just remember chances are it’s all being prepared from scratch.

BTW why would you be in a hurry if you’re on hols?