The word "khana" in Indian Khana Made Easy means food. So come on, let's explore and cook some easy Indian food together including gluten-free and vegan dishes.


March 12, 2020

Reflections on Our Travel to the Motherland - Aurangabad Caves, Part One

Almost 770 miles southwest of New Delhi is a place called Aurangabad. Have you ever heard of this city? If you haven't, you should add it to your list of places to visit, next time you are planning a trip to India.

Besides visiting the Taj Mahal and the palaces in Rajasthan, my husband and I were curious about other gems in India. We came across the Ajanta / Ellora caves (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Aurangabad.

The Ajanta caves are 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE.

Below are some pictures from our recent visit:

Panoramic view of the Ajanta Caves from outside

A warm welcome from local residents (Langur monkeys) at the Ajanta caves

Close up view of the caves from outside as we are walking along the path

Take care when walking along the path to all the caves.
It is a steep fall to the ground. Be aware of your surroundings.

There are porters and palki (carrying structure)
for older tourists to be carried up to the caves (as shown above)

The caves are comprised of paintings of Buddhist legends and carvings.

Flash photography was not allowed in many of the caves with paintings on the walls. Also, limited number of tourists were allowed inside of the caves at a time to help preserve the condition. Humidifiers were placed in all the caves for continuous air circulation and to control humidity.

Can you make out the bull painting on the ceiling? Our guide told us that it seems as though the bull's eyes are looking at you regardless of where you are standing in the cave? It was remarkable. 

Below are the pictures from inside Cave 1. This was one of the last caves to have been excavated. You can see the Buddha statue through the hallway of the cave. It is truly amazing that even after all this time, most of the paintings are still intact and clearly visible. 

Cave 1, interior; Buddha statue visible from inside room
 The paintings inside this cave are in pretty good shape considering how old these caves are. The scenes depicted are mostly devotional and ornamental, with scenes from the Jataka stories of Buddha's former lives as a bodhisattva.

Cave 1 - Buddha statue

Cave 1 - Padmapani Bodhisattva Painting

Bull painting on the ceiling

At Cave 19, a 5th-century Chaitya Hall 
 This exterior of Cave 19 loosely resembled the caves in Petra, Jordan for me. My husband and I were both in awe of the intricacies of this site. We were happy that these caves were not vandalized and history was preserved.

Cave 26 - Interior of Chaitya Hall (house of the stupa)
The Ajanta caves follow the Cathedral -style architecture.

Some takeaways from our visit:

  • Tourists are shuttled by buses to these caves and you have to pay a small fee for the shuttle service; about 40 rupees per person. Make sure to have exact change. 
  • It may be better to hire a guide before you arrive at the caves. It was difficult to find an English speaking guide who we could understand. 
  • Wear comfortable and well-circulated clothing as well as sturdy shoes. 
  • Carry bottled water with you as it is a long walk because there are a lot of caves and we suggest one day for each set of caves (meaning one day for Ajanta caves, and one day for Ellora caves). 
  • Also, carry or wear a hat and sunglasses with you. It can get hot depending on which part of the year you are visiting these caves. 

***All the pictures in this post are my own and shot with my Samsung phone. Please send a request if you would like to use the pictures. More in-depth information about each of the caves is available on Wikipedia.

Stay tuned for more posts on our trip to India, coming up next - Ellora Caves...

Chikkudukaya (Broad Beans) Stir Fry

- 1 lb Chikkudukaya* (broad beans), remove the fibers from the sides and snap into 1" pieces
½ tsp Red chili powder, or to taste
- ¼ tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 Tbsp Roasted Sesame powder (optional)

Seasoning ingredients
- 2 Tbsp Vegetable oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp whole Cumin
- ½ tsp Urad dal (Black gram lentil)

  1. Heat oil in a pressure pan or saucepan on medium heat, add ural dal and toss it until it becomes golden brown. Add mustard and cumin seeds, when they splutter, add turmeric and chili powder and stir for 10 seconds. 
  2. Immediately add the chopped chikkudukaya (broad beans), salt, and brown sugar. Sprinkle some water and if using a pressure cooker, place the lid and the weight and pressure cook under low to medium heat until to hear two whistles. 
    1. If using a saucepan, cook under a tight lid until the beans are cooked (turns bright green to dull green and soft to touch), maybe 10 or more minutes. Sprinkle more water as needed. 
  3. When the beans are cooked (pressure is released from the cooker), on low heat stir until any remaining moisture is gone and oil comes out. Add sesame powder and mix well and remove from heat. 
  4. Serve hot with white rice. 
Quick Tip
- These beans are typically available at Indian grocers: Patel Brothers, Subzi Mandi, Delight Bazaar (in NJ). Search for local Indian grocers in your area. 

March 5, 2020

Reflections on Our Travel to the Motherland - New Delhi

Our trip started off in New Delhi where we stayed with family friends. We were there for five days and visited all the popular sights, including:

INDIA GATE - is a war memorial located along Rajpath

Can you read what is written on top of this memorial?

It says, "To the dead of the Indian Armies who fell and are honored in France, Flanders, Mesopotamia, and Persia, East Africa, Gallipoli and elsewhere in the near and the Far East and in sacred memory also of those whose names are here. 
Amar Jawan Jyoti - "Flame of the immortal soldier"
For dead and unknown soldiers of Indian Armed Forces

Other sights we visited in New/Old Delhi were Qutub Minar (click on the name to view photo album), Humayan's Tomb, the Lotus Temple, Rashtrapati Bhavan, and Red Fort. Pictures to follow soon. 

What trip is complete without its foodie adventures? We dined at some of my favorite spots in Delhi including Nirula's to get kulfi or creamy, Indian ice cream:

Look at him, hogging up all the ice cream!

I enjoyed the food at Haldiram's so much during my last trip that I decided to take my husband there.  His favorite snack at this restaurant was and still is Raj Kachori

When we first bought this snack, I thought we would share it. It is 3 inches in height and width. However, my husband had other plans. He ate all of it before I could even take a bite. He even ordered a second one. We went to Haldiram's every day just for this snack. 

Raj Kachori is a Royal style kachori that is a popular North Indian snack. It is a crispy puffy puri that is filled with dahi (or plain yogurt), boondi, black chana, potato, and crushed papadi. It is also sprinkled with sev, pomegranate seeds, tamarind chutney, chaat masala, and mint chutney. There might have been other ingredients mixed in but we couldn't figure them out. 

This snack really took both my husband and me by surprise because it was spicy, sweet and a little sour but in a good way. I can't believe all these flavors play so well in one dish. We also liked the desserts or sweets they have like the Bengali Rabri, Burfis, and Rasgulla. 

Haldiram's is different from other fast-food restaurants. When you walk in, you first pay for the items you want to eat or drink, then take the receipt(s) to the different food/beverage kiosks in the restaurant. This system ensures that no one walks away without paying. We really did enjoy the food and service at this place. The service staff is also very helpful.

Other restaurants to check out in New Delhi:

  • This popular kebabs and kormas place behind Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, which is called Karim's Hotel Private Limited. This restaurant wasn't the easiest place to get to from the Jama Masjid Metro station but it was worth the travel. This restaurant received close to 7K reviews on Google. ***Please note: this place only accepts cash payment, so make sure you have some
  • Singh Sahib restaurant located at Central Rd, Sector 5 Market, Pocket 1, Sector 11 Dwarka
    • Must-try dishes: Thai Chicken Spring rolls, Afghani Murgh Dum Biryani Chicken
  • If you like McDonald's and are curious to try McDonald's burgers worldwide, then you should try one in India, especially if you like spicy food. I ordered a Chicken Maharaja Mac and the restaurant staff made it seem like it wasn't spicy, BUT IT WAS REALLY SPICY FOR ME!! 
Look at how many slices of Jalapenos were in my burger?
It should have a warning label somewhere on the box.

After all the fun of sightseeing and eating out, we also checked out their huge shopping malls in Dwarka; easily accessible by Metro and Uber:
  •  Vegas Mall in Sector 14
  • Soul City Mall in Sector 13
  • City Centre in Sector 12
We also picked up some souvenirs at Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Janpath. We preferred to buy them from here because we would be safe from not being ripped at the local places in all the heritage sights we visited around India. By the way, this place also is easily accessible by Metro. 

We bought Amar Chitra Katta (Indian comics),
Makrana marble tea coasters, and papier-mache boxes 
It is easy to get carried away when shopping for souvenirs at this store as there many levels filled with wondrous things:
  • Basement level: Traditional paintings and gift wrapping
  • Level I: Woodcraft, Metalware, marble craft, ethnic jewelry, packaged tea
  • Level II: Bedspreads/table linen, papier-mache, crafts, and paper stationery 
  • Level III: Ready to wear for men, ready to wear for women, silk and cotton fabrics, pottery/marble craft
  • Level IV: Shawls, sarees, scarves/stoles and bags, Bindis, bangles, shoes
  • Level V: Children's garments, toys, and musical instruments
  • Level VI: Furniture, cabinets, beautifully handcrafted wooden screens, Marble tabletops, etc

We enjoyed our stay in New Delhi when we arrived in mid-November and left mid-December. If you plan to visit New Delhi, it's best to go before mid December before the temperatures drop to 50s. Overall, we really enjoyed our stay and are looking forward to visiting New Delhi again someday. 

March 4, 2020

Reflections on Our Travel to the Motherland

Who remembers this song from Pardes? My favorite part of the song is when Mahima Chaudhry (Indian actress) sings:

"Ye Duniya Ek Dulhan, 
Ye Duniya Ek Dulhan
Dulhan Ke Maathe Ki Bindiya
Ye Mera India
Ye Mera India
I Love My India
I Love My India"

That's how I felt when we landed at Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi last November. It had only been six years since I last visited the Motherland (India), yet it seemed like ages ago. It was also my husband's first time visiting India. 

We made meticulous plans before we left. Booked all of our tours with a Rajjas Tours and Travels, an Indian travel company my family used before. Our plans were made to a T. 

Our India tour included trips to Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and the Golden Triangle: Delhi to Agra to Jaipur, Udaipur and then back to Delhi. More posts to follow. 

Below are some tips we wanted to share with you based on our experience:

  • MONUMENT TIMINGS/CLOSINGS - Make sure to look up and note down all the timings for the monuments - not all are open Monday through Sunday. You can plan your trip according to these timings so you don't miss out on the important sights.  
  • TICKET PRICING - The pricing is different for varies kinds of tourists: 
    • An Indian citizen with PAN card
    • NRIs / OCI cardholders - make sure to bring it with you when you visit the monuments so you don't have to pay foreigner fees. 
    • Non-Indian tourists or foreigners
  • PHONE/SIM CARD USE - Carrying an unlocked phone goes a long way when traveling abroad. We were able to swap out the US SIM for an Indian SIM card and use it over there. If you do not have an Indian SIM card, you can always buy it at the airports. It is much cheaper than getting an International Voice/Data plan from the US. 
  • BARGAIN, BARGAIN BARGAIN!!! Try your hand at negotiating when buying souvenirs, handicrafts, or fruits at street markets. If you are going to buy multiple items, there's more room for bargaining. It doesn't hurt and you can save some $$$
  • STAY HYDRATED - always carry bottled water with you when you go out on day trips. We actually bought a gallon water jug and refilled our bottles if we stayed in a hotel that didn't replenish the water bottles daily. 
  • Dress appropriately for the weather conditions. 
  • You can walk around where ever there are footpaths but be mindful that there's a lot of traffic in these metropolitan cities. Look both ways before crossing major roads during daytime and nighttime. 

  • FOOD ITEMS - Don't bring food inside monuments; be mindful and travel light
    • Places like Red Fort have security checkpoints where they will ask you to take out food items if you have any.
  • TICKETS/TOKENS - Don't lose your ticket token; keep it safe. You will have to pay a penalty if it is lost.
  • CURFEW - Don't stay out late or go to remote areas by yourself. Always travel with someone or in groups. 

Availability/Mode of transportation
  • METRO / SUBWAY - We took the metro a few times in Delhi for sightseeing and eating out. We rented a car and driver for full day travel or tours. 
  • UBER - Use the app for taxi service in various cities. 
    • We used the app to drop off to the airport in New Delhi and Hyderabad. We also used the app to pick up from the airport to our hotel in Bangalore.  
    •  You can use your credit card or pay with cash.
  • TAXI SERVICE - There is a taxi kiosk outside of the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi where you can book a taxi to where ever you need to go. This worked out better for us because we heard that the Uber pick up area was really far from the other taxi spots. 
  • AUTOS or THREE WHEELERS - Only if Uber is not available. You can negotiate the rate by giving the auto driver the Uber rate so they don't rip you off. 
    • It's best to know the route ahead of time of getting into the Auto so they don't take you for a ride. 

Stay tuned as we explore more of what India had to offer through a series of upcoming posts, Reflections on Our Travel to the Motherland.