Afghani Kebabs.

Being a true foodie, I love Kebabs and in the absence of true Mughlai kebabs, in Australia, the best option is to try Afghani Kebabs.

There are two Kebabs joints near the place I am in presently, in Melbourne, The Melbourne Kebab Station and Afghan Charcoal Kebab (ACK). Both are just next to each other in Coburg.

Afghan Charcoal Kebab.
The Menu
Pizzas are also available.
Food on display.

I had tried the Melbourne Kebab last time, so now it was the turn of the Afghani Charcoal Kebab. It is a family owned joint serving both Afghani and Turkish dishes, including Biryanis and Pizzas.

They claim to serve the best quality Halal Pizzas but I am not going to comment anything on them since I had tried the Kebabs only. The reason for the great taste, as claimed by ACK is because they use of fresh ingredients. The outlet is open from 10 in the morning till 10 pm in the night. They also do take away.

The meat they serve is tasty charcoal meat cooked in traditional way served with handmade traditional Afghani bread and sweet rice garnished with raisins. The meals are also accompanied by traditional dips, humus and a shredded carrot and raisin salad.

The Kebab platter, Chicken Kebabs and Mince Meat Kebabs.
The Naaanwai at his workstation.
The Afghani Roti
Humus.
Sweet rice.
Traditional Dips.
Shredder Carrots salad.

Traditionally in Afghanistan, families cook their meals at home but for bread they rely on a nearby Naanwai (baker). These breads are quite different from the Mughlai one we’re used in India as they are largely made of fermented wheat flour (Atta), not maida.

If you are ever in Melbourne do not forget to try these Kebabs, I promise you will not be disappointed.

Bombay Talkies

Peter Dietze, was in his thirties when he discovered a photo in his attic, in his home in Melbourne, Australia. On inquiry from his mother he discovered that it was his grandfather Himanshu Rai who was the co-founder of Bombay Talkies, a film studio which played a major role in Indian film industry from 1934 to 1954. He found his Indian ancestry quite interesting and started tracing his roots.

Entrance to the Bombay Talkies Exhibition @ACMI, Melbourne.

Himanshu Rai (1892-1940) and his movie star wife Devika Rani (1908-1994) had formed this studio and produced some land mark films. Devika Rani was the grand niece of Guru Rabindranath Tagore while Himanshun Rai came from a family of eminent lawyers.

Ashok Kumar.

Himanshu Rai had met his first wife, Mary Hainlin, actor and dancer, during 1920s while he was in England and Germany. They had a daughter Nilima, who was raised in Germany and later married Ernest Dietze. In 1952, they both migrated to Australia to escape the war in Germany. However, she hid her ancestry as White only policy was being practiced in Australia. They had three sons, Walter, born in 1949, Peter, born in 1954 and Paul born in 1966.

After Peter discovered the photo of his grandfather he travelled from Melbourne to Munich and finally Mumbai where he managed to meet the legendry actor, Ashok Kumar who not only knew about his grandfather but had worked with him in few of his films.

Over a period of time Peter managed to collect a treasure trove of over 3000 artifacts related to the legendary Hindi Film Studio, Bombay Talkies. These are now held under a Dietze Family Trust and have been loaned to the Australian Centre for Moving Images (ACMI) for this exhibition.

The collection, from 1920 to 1940, traces the history of Indian cinema from the silent movies to movies with sound and makes it one of the most intriguing collections. Bombay Talkies’ initial productions were based on traditional Indian stories and were largely seen in Europe before they started producing movies meant for a wide range of audiences, which appealed to Indian audiences too.

The 1st film they produced was The Light of Asia, in 1925, which was the story of The Buddha. Next came Shiraz in 1923, which was the story behind making of Taj Mahal, next was A Throw of Dice, in 1929, about a gambling prince, the story of The Mahabharta. This was shot in India and had Himanshu Rai in the lead role.

They shot India’s first talkie, Karma in which they both played the lead roles. It was shot both in English and Hindustani language. During the filming they suffered serious lack of finances and the collection on display has many letters addressed to the film’s main financier, Sir Chimanlal Setalvad requesting him for finances. The film was eventually released in 1933 but failed commercially.

However, the publicity it got helped them to get married, return to India and set up Bombay Talkies. In the 20 years, they were in business, they produced 40 films. They can surely be credited with the introduction of songs and dances in their films, which now characterizes the present day Hindi cinema.

Among the various talents they introduced to the Hindi film industry, there are two prominent faces, Ashok Kumar (1911-2001) and Leela Chitnis (1909-2003) both legends in their own right.

A very informative and interesting exhibition, not to be missed if you are in Melbourne.

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Mithai in Australia

Yesterday after dinner I felt like having something sweet and so headed straight to Pista House in Coburg, about 15 minutes drive from where I am staying.

Their outlet in Coburg.

Pista House is the local “mithaiwala” established sometime in September 2014 and has since served the community from the Indian sub continent with their amazing products.

The display counter.

They make a number of Indian mithais like besan ka ladoo, motichoor ka ladoo, rasmali, rabri, jhozi halwa, ajmeri kalakand along with a lot of savoury snacks (namkeens) inclusing Samosas.  Each of these are really like what we get back home with some even better tasting.

Pista House is open from 9 am to 10 pm on weekdays and upto 11 pm on weekends. On weekends they even serve “Bhature chole” in the mornings.

It is a small outlet, so do not expect too much in terms of sitting arrangements. One thing is however, sure that you will never regret being here.

Nepalese Dumpling Festival, Melbourne

Yesterday had a wonderful opportunity to attend the Nepalese Dumpling Festival in Melbourne.

A bus was parked at the entrance of the festival.

Dumpling or Momos are quite popular in a lot of countries around India such as Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and two of Indian states, Sikkim and West Bengal (Darjeeling area). These dumplings are quite similar to Baozi and Jioazi (Chinese), Buuz (Mangolia), Gyoza (Japan) and Mandu (Korea).

Yesterday, there were over 12 stalls selling Momos with Nepali Band, Kutumba playing live. Their explosive high energy percussions stunned the audiences. The Jabuki band also enthralled the audiences.

 

Beautiful weather, great food and lively music kept the crowds entertained. There were lot of families with small children and even dogs. Nepalese, even non-Nepalese were seen playing with colours, like Holi. Most of the Momo stalls had long queues of people waiting for buying Momos.

The proceeds of this festival are for the benefit of NRNA, Non Resident Nepali Association who are running the earthquake reconstruction project since 2015 and assisting the earthquake victims.

A few glimpses of the festival.

There were Momo cooking competitions like Momo Masterchef with Melbourne’s best dumpling chefs taking part. Other competitions were for Mr and Mrs Momo and Momo King and Momo Queen.

Overall it was lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

Lathmar Holi

Holi (festival of colours), is a very important festival of North India. In Brij bhoomi (area around Mathura) it is celebrated on a different note and people remain high for weeks.

Colours being sold on the roadside, Village Nandgaon.

According to mythology, the area around Mathura used to be ruled by King Baldeo, elder brother of Lord Krishna. This area is now famous as Baldeo or Dauji (elder brother) in his memory, and Holi is called Dauji Huranga. The festival is celebrated on the tenth day (dasami) of the month of Phalgun (Feb-March).

Nandgaon village square.

The celebration for the festivities begin almost a week before  and people play Holi with a lot of fun and frolic.

The Lathmar Holi celebrates the romance between Radha and Krishna. During this period the greetings also change in the villages to “Radhe radhe” and people even paint their faces with these greetings.

People painting faces with the new Holi greetings “radhe radhe”.

The celebrations starts with people gathering in the village temple around forenoon.  Music and songs are played and colours are thrown around. The festivities then move to the village square where the Lathmar Holi begins.

Gopis entering the venue, seeking blessings.
A Gopi in action.
Before the Lathmar Holi, Gopa and Gopi dancing.

According to the legend Lord Krishna (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) visited his beloved Radha’s in her village, Barsana. He played and teased her friends, the Gopis. Taking offense, the Gopis, hurl sticks at Gopas (men), who try and save themselves from this beating. On the first day Gopas from Nandgaon come to Barsana. The next day it is the turn on the men of Barsana. There is a lot of dance and music and finally it marks the end of Holi festivities in Braj Bhoomi.

A Gopa proudly claiming his credentials on his “Dhal”.
A Gopa enjoying the playful beating.
Lathmar Holi in progress.
Lathmar Holi in progress.

One of the most popular song sung here is…

Aaj Biraj mein hori re rasiya, hori re rasiya, hori re rasiya,
Hori re rasiya, hori re rasiya,
Aaj Biraj mein hori re rasiya,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5UYeUazSA0

If you have not seen the Holi in Barsana you haven’t seen India.

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St. John in the Wilderness

On way to Mcleodganj from Dharamshala, we stopped at the Church of St John in the wilderness, built amidst Deodar forest with Belgian stained glass windows.

Entry to the Church from the main road.
1st look of this neo Gothic structure.

The structure survived a massive earthquake that hit Kangra district in 1905. However the Bell Tower was destroyed, so later a new one was bought from England and installed in the compound outside.

Inside the Church, except for the plastic chairs, nothing has changed.
Outside the Church compound.
Outside the Church compound.

This is the final resting place of Lord Elgin, who also served as Governor General of Canada. He later became the Governor-General and Viceroy of India. He died here on 20 Nov 1863.

The church has been built in neo-Gothic style in grey stone. There is a lot of moss due to 161 years of rain but the structure looks beautiful

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Palampur, Darjeeling of the north.

Our drive to Palampur on a Tuesday morning was a foggy one for the most part of the day. Only later when the sun came up, did the fog vanish.

Fog on the way

Our first stop was for breakfast at Sukdev, Murthal. The paranthas were ordinary and the tea passable, since it was prepared in bulk. In my view,  most of the ‘Dhabas’ in Murthal are over hyped. There are certainly better options ahead.

For lunch,  we stopped at Nangal at Babu Ram ke Kulche. It is small wheel cart where Babu Ram’s son now prepares kulcha chole in Punjab Style, by creating a small pocket in the Kulcha where he the stuffs Chole with a small tikki. At 10 rupees a Kulcha it is really very popular with the local college crowd.

First the Kulchas are warmed.
Then Chole are stuffed in the slit in the Kulcha.

We finally reached Palampur in the evening. It is small hill station in Kangra Valley also known as the Darjeeling of the north due to its Tea Gardens and Pine forests which merge with the Dhauladhar ranges.  Due to plenty of water and mild climate, it is ideally suited for Tea. Palampur derives its name from the local word “palum”, meaning a lot of water. Numerous streams of water rushing down from the mountains crisscrossing with the terrain, tea gardens and rice fields make it really beautiful.

View of the highway from where I was staying.
River Neugal flowing behind the property I stayed in.
Potatoes.
Early morning on the banks of Neugal.
@Dharamkot.

After spending three days in this bliss, we travelled to Mcleodganj and Dharamkot. It was 1 1/2 hour drive, from where I was staying. Mcleodganj is known as little Lhasa due to the presence of the Tibetan Government-in-exile.

We had lunch at Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen but was disappointed. Instead of using Parmesan Cheese they use Maida, to make the Pasta creamy.

Dal Lake.

Post lunch we returned back to Palampur via Dharamkot and Dal Lake near the village Tota Rani. The lake is beautiful and is surrounded by Deodars. It is considered a sacred spot due to the presence of a Shiv Mandir on its banks. Dharamkot has many options to stay and also a Tushita Meditation Centre which many foreigners visit. From this place, the trek to Trihund starts.

 

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