The Sindhali Who Stole Hearts

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A Sindhi guy, in his Prussian blue suit, started his note in English, satisfying all our expectations. But within seconds, he switched over to Bengali in proper accent, much better than a son of the soil in the truest sense of the term. Not just the language! You should’ve heard his voice brimming with confidence and passion, his love for the soil, his portrayal of the Bengali culture, his poise within, all in the form of a staccato. I was literally taken aback.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Sumit Vidhani – a fresh, young man in the block of Hospitality with distinct thoughts and discrete tastes. It was 21st Feb, 2020, the evening of the Grand Finale of TFBA 3.0, and also, International Mother Language Day. So, the moment Sumit decided to shift his address in Bengali from English, the famous words of Nelson Mandela probably started playing in his head. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. But if you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” And needless to say, this man steals the spotlight in no time.

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Once the function was over, I couldn’t resist myself from going to meet him. “How come you speak Bengali so well?”, I asked him. The COO of a 4-star property in Bilaspur, Aananda Imperial (V.N. Inn Pvt Ltd.), turned to me and smiled softly. “I might be born in a Sindhi family, but I’m more a Bengali by heart than a Sindhi”, quips Sumit who had spent his entire student life in Kolkata, studying at St. Xavier’s College. The stint had probably created a deep love and affinity in him for the local Bengalis and their culture. And since then, he gets goosebumps whenever something creative related to Bengal takes place.

The Aananda Imperial’s association, as a proud Trophy partner with TFBA 2020 and simultaneously, introducing The Aananda Imperial trophy for Best Bangla Blog Content in the 3rd edition, undoubtedly speak volumes about his passion for the City of Joy and its culture.

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A strong believer in “Dream Big”, being instilled by the group Chairman Mr. Dula Ram Vidhani, Sumit is one of the front-runners to take their 10-year old legacy to the next level. The very next evening, on 22nd, all the finalists were invited at their newly owned Kolkata restaurant, Bongnese, in Salt Lake to celebrate an after-party. As the name suggests, the place is an amalgamation of two words- Bong, which is a colloquial term for Bengalis, and Chinese. Bongnese is a signature house to offer Authentic Bengali dishes from East and West Bengal along with some lost names of the great Colonial era. The restaurant has eighty seats. Traces of both Bengal and China have been infused into the decor. The furniture, the hue, props and lights all suggest the confluence of the two cultures.

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The passionate hotelier greeted us along with his GM Confidant Rajib Roy Choudhury in traditional Bengali culture. And our good old friend Rajibda cracked some magic moments by presenting us with a brilliant ginger wine prepared by an Anglo Indian community in Bilaspur, under the initiative of Aananda Imperial. Goes without saying that there were innumerous other imported drinks available. But I decided to stick to the new and uncommon one with a soothing background score of a brilliant violinist, Ramanuj Chatterjee. “I think you like that drink a lot!”, Sumit whispered in my ears with his signature smile. I couldn’t help but nod. It was absolutely fantastic. Amidst all of this, a variety of starters including Haans’er Dim’er Devil & Chorbi’r Bora had created a tremendous amount of enthusiasm among the food bloggers and I was no exception.

A very down to earth, culturally sound Mr Sumit Vidhani, is a Chef by choice and has worked with the Taj Hotels after completing his Degree in Hotel Management from Bengaluru. Believe it or not, he can fluently speak in eight regional languages of Bengal, as surprising as that sounds. Isn’t that enough proof to understand his love for the language? He has been awarded with the coveted Young Hotelier of the Year Award at the recently concluded 5th Annual IMA Awards at Pune. His child, Aananda Imperial, has seen a new dawn in the Hotel & Hospitality industry of Bilaspur in Chattisgarh and has been awarded as the Best Wedding & MICE Hotel in Central India.

The dinner was elaborate with all traditional and extraordinaire Bengali cuisines. But who knew the surprise was still due? Sumit requested us to stay back for some more time as he calmly held our hands much alike in the form of a ‘merry-go-round’ and started singing Pratul Mukhopadhyay’s 26-year old, evergreen iconic number, Ami Banglay Gaan Gai. We all sang along, our eyes tearing up.

When Hart Quenches Heart

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If it is dusk and you’re busy roaming around here and there in Vellore owing to some work or non-work, you’re actually wasting time!

Be there, just opposite to a roadside restaurant in between VIT (Vellore Institute of Technology) Main gate and Gate No.3. Take a deep breath and smell the heavenly Grilled Chicken or Chicken Tandoor. Yes, you’re correct!! You’ve bumped into one of the best food joints in Vellore, called Hart Lounge (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hart-Lounge/104874987644931). No need to know the address. Since, the smell itself gets you addicted.

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The Ambience

A 12 x 7 ft long air conditioned sitting option, strategically decorated to provide some comfort and coziness to the VIT students after their classes are over, certainly brings respite to the young minds.  But when it adds to delicious non-veg food like the Mexican Shawarma, Arabian Alfaham or Grilled Chicken, the place becomes a regular visit.  The USP of the place is, they provide prompt service, quality taste, great quantity at a pocket-friendly, affordable price.

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Pic_5I tried couple of their signature dishes, and I wonder how do they profit out of it? Their half plate chicken tandoor (named BBQ chicken here) comes with 4 big pieces of meat. Isn’t that outrageous at Rs.250?! 5 pieces of Chicken Lollipop come at Rs.100. Their best bait Shawarma plate (spicy or white) with loads of slow cooked chicken served with Kuboos (pita bread) comes at a mind-boggling Rs.140. Each Kuboo will cost you just 10 bucks separately. And I swear, you’ve to order more Kuboos as that plate of Shawarma won’t be over even if you take 3 kuboos. The place is student friendly and hands down delicious on anyday. Weekends are a bit crowded where people indulge in lot of take-aways from the front counter as they’ve the 9 PM in-time pressure at the main gate.

The Man Behind

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But who is the man behind such brilliant initiative? Meet Dinesh. G, a local guy who in spite of doing his B.Tech in Electrical & Electronics Engineering from Priyadarshini Engineering College in Vanayambadi, some 80 kilometres away from Vellore, decided to pursue a food business the moment he discovered that he is a foodie and passionate about cooking and treating new items. In pursuit to his dream, he worked one year each in Bangalore and Chennai before he joined hands with one of his friends to start a Shawarma counter nearby VIT, called QT50. But very soon, he realized that he wanted to be the owner of a popular food joint rather than sharing hands to make the food. Immediately, he did a one year Diploma in Hotel Management. “This formal degree on the food industry had actually given me the edge over others to take bigger initiative, “quips Dinesh. He went on to start his own venture Hart Lounge in 2015. Today Hart Lounge sells 200 plates of Shawarma and 50-60 rolls apart from a host of non-veg items on any weekday. On weekends, it becomes double.

I was speaking to few students of VIT who are a regular customer of Hart Lounge. And the consensus is, “this is the best restaurant near VIT. Because, the food is always hygienic and the service is really good.”

With both my stomach and heart are filled with satisfaction, I could now realize why they come back to this place again and again every evening.

My recommendation:

  1. Mexican Chicken Shawarma
  2. All the Barbecues
  3. All the Alfahams
  4. The blue Mojito

Official Address: Hart Lounge, No.568/2, Chennai Salai, Opposite to VIT, Vellore – 14

Tulumba: The Macedonian Jalebi

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No meal, however good it might be is complete without a delicious dessert after the sumptuous meal. In different parts of the world different desserts are prevalent however one thing is common to all. In almost all parts of the world people prefer completing their meals with a sweet aftertaste.

Speaking of desserts, Tulumba is an extremely popular dessert in Central Europe and Eastern Europe. Turkey in particular is famous for putting out one of the most delicious forms of Tulumba that you might taste. In most parts of Turkey it remains a very popular dessert with people consuming this after a heavy meal. Here however we will concern ourselves with the Tulumba of Macedonia.

In terms of taste and texture it is very different from the ones you will find in Turkey. They both however are unique in their own way and it would be unfair to opt for a comparison between the two. The Tulumba was once upon a time exclusive to the Ottoman empire which had Turkey as its center and was ruled by the Caliph. It came to Macedonia from Turkey and during this transition a lot changed about the fine dessert and several new characteristics can be observed in the Macedonian version of the Tulumba.

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If you are an Indian and are accustomed with the idea of the famous dessert jalebi then this dessert would be fairly easy for you to comprehend in your mind’s eye. It is very similar to the jalebi and Tulumba is also deep fried in oil. Once the process is complete it is then left to soak in lemon syrup to give it the flavor and texture. The main taste is dependent on the consistency of the syrup and the quality of frying them.

The pieces of Tulumba are usually small. You can easily have one in a mouthful which makes it a very convenient dessert to munch on when you are craving for something sweet after a sumptuous meal. The Balkan region in particular has a lot of popularity for this sweet dish. Although the other parts of Turkey and Macedonia also consume this dessert, the craze is unparalleled for in this particular region.

If you ever have the time and the scope to munch on these delicacies do not miss out on such a fine opportunity. The taste is truly blissful and desserts seldom taste better than a finely prepared Tulumba.

Tantalizing Terrati Breakfast @ Bazar Kolkata

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A chilly, winter morning and Terrati Bazar breakfast!! Have you ever thought of this combination? Those who know, I’m sure, it’s a matter of a tickling on your taste buds. But those who do not, pls go through this piece in no time.

It happens to be an amazing breakfast place where one can feast upon some home-made Chinese delicacies which have unique taste and flavors. There is a significant Chinese population residing in this region and the Tyangra region of Kolkata. Let us undertake a journey to trace the origin of these Chinese people who brought in their culture and habits and infused it with the Indian-Bengali culture over the years.

Terati_5It probably dates back to the times after the Battle of Plassey where a decisive victory made Bengal a British stronghold. They started to establish trade relations with several nations and Kolkata being the port-city was being modernized fast for their benefits. The Chinese were then under the Manchu dynasty after the end of the Ming dynasty. One of the main items of trade with China was opium and more and more people in China were getting addicted to Opium. During these times, several Chinese ships came to Kolkata with products and people and not all of these people went back. Some stayed back to try their luck in their new endeavors here in Kolkata and most of these people belonged to the lower sections of the economy and were laborers or farmers.

As they started staying, they retained their cultures and religion and of course their cuisine. There was this Chinese gentleman by the name Tong Achio, who came to Kolkata in the year 1778. He brought in a large number of Chinese laborers and started working on sugar factories as was instructed by Warren Hastings who granted him the land in the first place. Apart from his business endeavors, Tong Achio was also the pioneer to introduce the system of hand drawn carts to ferry people from one part of the city to another. It started as a cheap mode of transport and somehow after all these years, the practice has remained in Kolkata.

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Tong Achio died shortly after establishing his factory but the Chinese presence had already become significant in Bengal and later on they settled in Kolkata. They settled near the Esplanade region and also along the Tyangra region where they set up tanneries. A lot of people started working as dentists and others set up restaurants.Terati_4

Even today, if one wants to enjoy the most authentic Chinese food, he ought to visit the China-town region in Tyangra or Terrati Bazar. They sell several variants of our known delicacies such as Momos. From momos to dumplings to sui mai, the variety on offer is sure to tickle your taste buds. One of the most appealing things about this place is that the condiments used are authentic Chinese products. This affects the taste and makes it unique which you will not find anywhere else. So, a visit to this part of the town is a must for those who would like to discover the ancient links of the city and also enjoy a great meal.

If You’re in NZ, Do not Miss Out Tasting Pavlova

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A complete meal is seldom said to be complete till the finishing touch is provided by a fine dessert. The sweet aftertaste lingers on and reminds you of the wonderful meal you just had. When I visit a place, I make it a point to not only experience the place but also the cuisine. The cuisine after all is as much a part of the culture and heritage of the place as anything else. So missing out on the best of dishes will mean that you will end up missing out on a part of the place and not be able to experience the complete essence.

During my visit to Wellington in New Zealand I experienced one such dish, the taste of which I can still feel with my eyes closed. This lip smacking dessert is called Pavlova and is one of the delicacies of New Zealand. While the New Zealanders claim that it is ethnic to their land, a similar claim is also led out by the Australians. Wherever you go on these two island nations, people will claim that the Pavlova is their very own invention. While this debate cannot be settled one thing has no two opinions about it. The Pavlova is going to be one of the best dessert experiences you would have ever had and in both Australia and New Zealand it is extremely popular among the people.

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To make this unique dessert you need to take some egg whites in a bowl. Whisk it well and make it smooth. There after slowly add some sugar to the egg whites. To get the exact ratio of sugar and the egg whites, make sure to use one cup of sugar for every three egg whites. Make sure that while you are whisking the egg whites in the bowl you are adding the sugar simultaneously. Now pour this mixture in a pan on the oven. Once poured sprinkle some meringue properly over the mixture. Make sure that the meringue is at least a quarter inch thick. Now is the time to bake the entire thing. Bake for about an hour and then it will be ready. Add some whipped cream on top and you can even add some fruit cuttings for the garnish. Fruits like cherry or strawberry are ideal for the garnish. Your wonderful and exquisite dessert is now ready and you can enjoy the experience.

 

Table Nine Makes It Fine

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Isn’t it amazing, if you come across a passionate dance-duo who have successfully done 8 big reality shows in India since 2006 and then turning out to be a real ‘Baazigar’ by virtue of showing guts to open up Table Nine, a Shisha cum pure veg café-kitchen?

Yes, believe it, or not, that’s the story of Saurabh-Vivek.

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Saurabh Bangani and Vivek Jaiswal started their dancing career way back in 2004 with local school level competitions and made their way up to state, national and International level dance competitions. In 2011, what it all started as a small dance class, gradually grown in leaps and bounds and has now become a multi activity centre where they groom talents young and old. BORN2DANCE PERFORMING ARTS is an Activity Training Institute for imparting training of different courses and event management services with over 200+ performances in Reality Shows, Talent Hunt and Events across the Globe.

Table Nine is their latest stunt in the market. I slipped into it on a lazy Sunday afternoon when the rush was about to set in and I bumped into two super cool guys, Saurabh and Vivek. It started on 10th October, 2018 just opposite to Derozio College on the roadside at Rajarhat Road, New Town. And it is yet to pick up in spite of the lovely décor and lip-smacking veg cuisines. The major reason probably, to my mind, is its awkward location. Food lovers having their personal vehicle can only venture out to reach here. But those who are not lucky enough to possess a personal vehicle will find it difficult to reach out.

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Somewhat dark with a dramatic Lumiere had set the tone of the approaching Sunday evening. And with the rhythmic number in full blown, you would certainly expect a dancing floor in front. Alas!! There is no such arrangement. Do not get disheartened though, for not being able to shake your legs. Instead try out some fabulous mocktails and pure veg Chinese and Italian delicacies.

I am both a mocktail and cocktail lover. Since this is a NO ALCOHOL zone, I had to rely on mocktails only. And I had apprehensions whether I’ll get my mocktail well-prepared. And they really impressed me in no time. The freshness in the drink usually comes from the mint. And they strike a magic by incorporating a twist of cucumber. Presented beautifully, this is one of the virgin mojitos in town. So if you’re a mojito lover like me, go ahead and definitely try it.

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Black Forest Shake: This shake had 3 layers. The bottom layer contains berry jelly. Middle is filled up with a dollop of cream and the thick chocolate shake served on that. The shake is decorate with chocolate shaves, an Oreo and a cherry. It was a burst of the flavours of the famous black forest combination.

Crispy Potato Cheesy Roll: The dish was drizzled with cheese clustered with a tangy, tasty dip. The rolls are neither too crisp nor too soft. A great munch to have with hookahs or mocktails.

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Crispy Chilli Babycorn: It is pretty common dish, known to one and all. But I loved their style of preparation. Neither too much sauce coated, nor too less. Just the perfect balance. And a little spray of sesame seeds made the dish more interesting.

Special Pizza: Cheesy pizza with Generous toppings. Gooey cheese with crispy french fries. And it is big one!

Hara Bhara Kebab: The coatings are a bit crisp, which enhanced the taste of the kebabs. They garnished the dish with cashews and peas and served with a mint yoghurt dip.

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Hakka Noodles: Nothing exceptional. But I loved the mild flavours. The noodles are thin. Tossed beautifully, and wasn’t too oily.

Veg Manchurian: A perfect, inseparable match for the noodles. This consisted of soft vegetable balls tossed in a spicy sauce. I loved the flavours of this one.

Average Cost 

₹650 for two people (approx)

Exclusive of applicable taxes and charges, if any

Cash and Digital Payments accepted

Opening Hours

12 Noon – 12 Midnight

More Info

  • Home Delivery
  • Vegetarian Only
  • No Alcohol Available
  • Table Reservation Not Required
  • Indoor Seating

Address

Siddha Pines, 1st Floor, Commercial 102, Opposite Derozio College, AS/185 Rajarhat Road, New Town, Kolkata

Contact Numbers: 9883388818, 9883888816

Enjoy Rye Bread and Take home a Kuksa Cup

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Finland is a remarkable European nation and has a rich cultural heritage and natural beauty. A visit to this place for me has been rewarding in every way imaginable. However, even in the midst of all the Northern lights and exquisite natural beauty on display I could not help but take notice of two unique items you would find there. One among them is the famous cup made in Finland. The other is a kind of a bread or cake known as the Rye bread.

Kuksa, Inari, Finland

The cup is an amazing specimen of Finland’s craft and culture. Devised by the locals, the cup is made from the barks of the Birch tree. This is known as the Kuksa cup. It is not breakable like the usual cups and is thus a great idea to use for beverages. The Lyap group of people in Finland usually indulges in the making of such cups. They are hardy and strong and easily withstand a lot of damage without a scratch on them. There are however replicas that are made and sold in the markets. These replicas are made of ceramics and can be handy items to decorate your house. In fact as a gift from the capital city of Finland, Helsinki, this can be a great gift item for your near ones back home. This is an ideal cup for those willing to delve into a hot or cold beverage. The usage is very convenient and it is in fact a lot of added advantage to use these cups.

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The Rye bread too is a delicacy of this land. These breads last for a fairly long time and the best part is thus that you can get some of this bread and not worry about them going bad in course of the journey. The cultivation of Rye in these parts of the world is as old as 2000 years. The German Rye bread is oilier than this and this is thus the better pick. As far as the Swedish rye bread is concerned it is spicier than this and thus once again this emerges as the better option.

Finland has been a rewarding experience and made me more evolved a traveler but pardon me for being materialistic in just this one instance and not getting over these two fine items from Finland. You too must use them or buy it for gift purposes if and when you visit the beautiful country of Finland.

Healthy Grey Rye Bread Bakery Nutrition