Saturday, April 5, 2008

Travel File: Bandhavgarh National Park

Recently we traveled to the state of Madhya Pradesh in India and visited the lovely tiger reserve, Bandhavghar. It was absolutely stunning! And I was totally taken aback by the cuisine of the state. It was delicious, healthy and lovely. To hear about the beauty and serenity of the Park and the (almost spiritual) photos of nature, click here. To hear about the cuisine first, stay here.

We stayed at the Mahua Kothi lodge which is a joint venture by the Taj Group of Hotels and CC Africa. They have very scarce access to varieties of food, and so, they mostly stick to MP food and fresh ingredients grown in their own garden. Here's that beautiful vegetable garden:

A photographic culinary journey.

Every morning, we'd start the journey into the forest at 5 am and return at 10 am. Needless to say, we were all hungry by 8.30 am. There in a little part of the forest, our guide stops at a little resthouse and took out a grand picnic and spread it on the bonnet of the jeep!

We had fresh biscuits and muffins, oranges, parathas and kathi rolls. And of course hot coffee and tea as well a different kind of juice every day. Refreshed, we used to continue our forays into the forest. When we headed back to the hotel, we would find a man waiting with cold towels and a fully laid out breakfast of fruits and fresh cottage cheese along with biscuits, juice and tea.

After that we'd take a nature walk for a couple of hours around the 100 acres of the lodge, or take a swim in the beautiful pool. Then it was time for lunch! And every single day, the lunch was a delight to behold. There would be 3 kinds of vegetables, one chicken or fish or lamb, dal, pappad and a salad served with roti and rice. The meal would always start with a cold soup for lunch and a hot soup for dinner.

And we would dine outside under the popular Mahua tree. Mahua is a local tree that grows in most parts of Madhya Pradesh. The fruit of the tree is used to make a local toddy, and is sometimes used as an ingredient in breads or rotis. The smell of the fruit is lovely and intoxicating. The leaves provide a treat for monkeys and deer.

In this particular meal, we started with the most delicious cold raw mango and mint soup. The chef very graciously gave me the recipe after I almost begged for it! He says "Cook the raw mango with a little bit of green chilli until it is very soft. Then blend with a cup or so of water. Add the mint leaves in the very end and blend only for a minute or two. Add salt". LOL! Every single recipe of his was so simple and utterly delicious.

This was followed by the actual meal (though I could've made a meal of two bowls of their soup!). And I forgot to mention that they make their own pickles. The one shown here was a jackfruit pickle and a ginger-garlic pickle. The former was fabulous!

We would then leave around 3 for our evening 4 hour drive into the forest. When we arrived back at 7, we'd be greeted by a "snack" and tea. Usually this consisted of biscuits and one kind of "tikki". The one shown here is a sabudana-potato-cilantro tikki. The other one that I loved was a cottage cheese-apricot tikki. I have resolved to make them both this week at home!

Every meal was finished by a different dessert everyday. Most days it was phirnee or kheer, but one day the chef produced a fresh fig icecream that was to die for!

A perfect way to end the day. Needless to say, the place was so stunning, I will be returning as soon as possible. To see more photographs of the brilliance of the National Park, please click here.


Ditaur said...
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Bhavani said...

wow. yummy. you def had a treat on your safari :)

Arundathi said...

yup - i think after spending 8 hours in a jeep in the hot sun, this is exactly what we needed.