Thursday, 21 August 2014

Mast Mast Mastani

Mastani is a very popular ice-cream shake from Pune. I was not aware of this till the time i met my husband who used to rave about this drink. ( yes, i want to hide my face below a pillow that i didn't knew about Mastani, though being a Maharashtrian). But guess, i never really explored food much before my marriage. The cooking, the love for food, the blog everything happened just after that and for good :)

So, i definitely wanted to try Mastani the first time i visited Pune after my marriage. I was surprised to see Mastani corners almost everywhere on the streets of Pune, the famous and oldest being Sujata. They claim to have started the drink in Pune. But the one i tried that time was at Khatri Bandhu. Gulkand being my favourite ( Gulkand is basically rose petals in sugar syrup ), i ordered for Gulkand Mastani and since then has been my favourite.

One sip/bite of the Mastani and you are in some trance. So during my recent visit to Pune, i again went to the Khatri Bandhu outlet and had a chance to talk with the owner's friend ( who looks after the outlet in evenings after which the owner himself comes and stays back till late). Khatri Bandhu was started by Girish Khatri 25 years ago and since then has been successfully running all throughout Pune . They serve over 8 different varieties of Mastani and have around 6 branches in Pune. Their specialty is they use full cream milk and make the ice-cream with the authentic pot-method. No artificial flavours added, they concentrate on keeping the flavours traditional. 

This is one heavy drink ( I mean, what can you expect with a glass full of ice cream milkshake topped with scoop of the same ice cream??? ). Pure sin, isn't it? So weight watchers, keep your diet plans to rest when u go try this one divine drink.

No one knows the history behind the name of the drink, but the link to Bajirao Mastani is quite popular. She was the wife (or some say lover) of Peshwa Bajirao who was the prime minister to the fourth Maratha Emperor Shahuji. She was known to be a brave beautiful woman with skills of horse riding and swordsmanship. Also a talented singer and dancer, some say she was a dancer in the court where Bajirao fell in love with her. Their love story is one of it's kind wherein he was a Brahmin and she a Muslim, thereby facing lots of rejections and intolerance from Bajirao's family. But their love was so eternal that she died in the same year, soon after Bajirao did.

A painting showing Bajirao and Mastani. ( Source: Google Images )

During this trip, we tried Mastani at both Khatri Bandhu and Sujata. Sujata i felt was over priced, and the only one i loved was the Mango and the Kesar-Mango there. Their ice cream flavours are good too. But the rest of the mastani's we had were average.

Khatri won our hearts with the Gulkand Mastani (Of course!). Hubby's favourite Pista Mastani was absolutely melt-in-the-mouth too. Their Mawa flavor is fast selling, but we liked it's ice-cream better than the mastani ( Maybe the mawa milkshake didn't suit our taste buds).

So next time you are in Pune, you can't leave the city without tasting the Mastani! It's absolutely straw-licking and spoon-licking!!! :) 

Friday, 8 August 2014

A lion roars on Sinhagad

I had written this post long back but had not sorted the photographs, and hence the delay in posting. Past few days i was down with viral and didn't have an inch of energy to even login and check emails, less sorting the photos. So here i am continuing my post from our Mumbai-Pune food trip ! On the 3rd day of our trip, we headed to my in-laws place at Pune and here are some interesting experiences in Pune that i would love to share with you guys! 

The Mumbai-Pune Expressway drive is any rider's delight and eating the traditional cuisine on the way at food mall is our routine. So here's what we tasted on-the-go :)

Misal-pav, Kanda bhaji and Kothimbir vadi
Pune is a city full of history and culture. With forts, parks, and home to the most famous Lord Ganesh (Dagdusheth), Pune attracts tremendous tourists from all over world. Located on the bank of Mutha river, Pune was the first capital of the Maratha Empire under Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosale. Now known as the IT hub and a city with lots of educational institutes, Pune resides a lot of migrants as students and working people. And though there is a lot of international cuisine popular in Pune nowadays, the traditional flavours of Pithla Bhakri, Misal pav, Puran poli and Bhelpuri is unbeatable. 

A special mention here about the Landslide that occured about 104 kms ahead of Pune in the village of Malin that killed about 136 people. Prayers to those who lost life and much more... Read More.... The landslide is said to have occured due to increased activities by humans for farming and road constructions. More and more cutting of trees, and building of concrete is inviting disasters all over, and i wonder when people will understand the importance of planting trees.

Source : Google images

Well, coming back to the post...During our stay at Pune, my father-in-law suggested we visit "Sinhagad Fort". I had some vague memories of visiting this fort as a kid during one of our family outings, and so the idea of visiting it again got me and hubby thrilled. We had time at hand, the sun-God favoured us that day and it was such a pleasant lovely climate. To top it all my father in law mentioned that the traditional "tapris" of pithla Bhakri and matka dahi is still available on top. Now that made me jump in the car straight away ! Food really gets me going :)

The journey was as exciting, with roads of twists and turns driving up-hill (and to be honest, at a point or two, the turns were so sharp that it got my adrenaline high, but the drive was enjoyable and we safely managed it through)

Since we went on an odd-day, there was no rush. My father in law mentioned that on weekends, and especially in rainy season, the place gets so crowded that people have to park their vehicles halfway and climb the rest on foot. And special mention here for my father in law, who at the age of 65, often takes his bike uphill with a friend to enjoy some traditional pune delicacies. He is full of energy and enthusiasm and would give a complex to youngsters anyday :)

My Father-in-law posing

So we reached, and were greeted "Namaskar" by the man selling shelled peanuts and raw mangoes, just at the entrance where one has to start climbing about 300 odd steps. There is something so simplistic about the people we met there, that the honesty and humbleness shows on their face. Their faces have stories to tell and they are keen to help you, come what may. Yes, there are people who would have vested interest of you buying stuff from them, like a pot of curd for INR20 or a slice of cucumber for INR10. But when you hear the efforts they take to get all the ingredients right on top, you don't mind paying them their due share.

Sinhagad is a popular destination for trekking enthusiasts who climb the hill from the base village of Sinhagad. But since we had 2 elders (my father in law and my mom) with us, we took the car half way (yes, the roads are pretty good) and from there, we had no choice but to climb up the steps. Sinhagad falls on the Bhuleshwar range of Sahyadri Mountains of Maharashtra and was previously called Kondhana. The caves and carvings in the Kaundinyeswar temple gives the proof that this fort was built about 2,000 years ago and named after the sage Kaundinya.

The Battle of 1670: Though Sinhagad saw many battles, the most famous was the one fought by the general of Shivaji Maharaj named Tanaji Malusare. He and his troops climbed the fort with the help of Ghorpad (common Indian monitor lizards), to whom they tied ropes and sent crawling up to the ramparts. Fierce battle occured between UdayBhan and Tanaji in which Tanaji lost his life but won the fort. A bust of Tanaji is commemorated atop as a memorial.

The name: On hearing about Tanaji's death, Shivaji raje said, "Gad aala pan sinha gela" meaning to say, "we won the fort, but lost the lion" and so the name fell as Sinhagad (fort of a lion) from Kondhana.

We reached atop enjoying the small stalls on the trail selling titbits to keep you going. Before starting to explore the fort, we couldn't help but eat a plate of "Kanda Bhaji". Also known as "Khekda bhaji " (Khekda- crab, since they look like one), this deep fried fritters are served along with some really hot and spicy chutney. But enjoying these hot bhajis with some cool breeze and a view of the valley from top, you feel you are in heaven! 

Khekda Bhaji
We finished with a pot of the special "Matka dahi" (pot-curd) from one of the well known mingling female there "Chorge Mausi". She followed us all the way from the foot of the hill to the top, serving also as our guide, so we take the curd-pots from her :). We got a free guide and some delicious curd which we were anyway going to buy. But jokes apart, she seemed one genuine lady who works hard to earn her daily living. She gets these curd-pots from her home, Kalyan village seen from the Kalyan Darwaza of the fort.

Chorge Mausi and the famous curd-pots
Then we started our tourist exploration and saw some breath-taking views from the top. The wind-point being my favourite, it was so breezy that we had to hold each other to stand straight. 

There is a memorial of Rajaram (Shivaji's youngest son), Kondhaneshwar temple, Kali temple, military stables (as the fort is part of training at National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla) and two gates Pune Darwaza and Kalyan Darwaza.

And by the time we finished seeing all this, we were famished. Oh, not to forget, we had a canine friend guide with us throughout our journey. And another one joined too. She was too docile and sweet and we had to give her buiscuits :) 

So we sat down below a huge tree on a "chatai" (Mat) and ordered the ever-famous Pithla-Bhakri. Pithla is basically chickpea flour cooked in water along with onions and other spices. Bhakri is a roti made with jowar or bajra, or sometimes with rice flour. We also ordered a plate of Baingan Bharta for change of taste but didn't quite like the taste as compared to the Pithla.
Served along with onions and red chutney, this combination is a hit and one specially must visit the fort to eat it. 

The cooking method is still traditional, and the taste is as authentic or it just tastes better with the view and the natural ambiance. Whatever it is, we had fun looking at the lady making Bhakris pressing with her hands in her little tapri that even had a "chul" (traditional stovetop where cooking is done burning wood and coal). 

With our stomachs full, we finished the meal along with some more pot-curd from Chorge Mausi and started walking back towards our car. And there we saw the Kulfi wala! Remember I had mentioned about him in my post of Mango Kulfi!! So how could we not taste one of these? And the taste was just the same that took me back to my childhood days, and yes, this malai kulfi was for INR20 :) But all worth it!

Thus ended our adventurous trip to the fort, and by the time we went home, it was already siesta-time for us and all others :))