Sunday, August 1, 2010

Udaipur (India)

Udaipur has been called the "most romantic city in India" because of a beautiful palace sitting in the middle of Lake Pichola (also seen in the James Bond film, Octopussy). Unfortunately, the lake in question is currently so low that donkeys play on the grass underneath the walking bridge, and the debris is pretty noticeable along the ghats. On the plus side, it still looks charming in the rain of the monsoon, and Udaipur is by far the most relaxing Indian city we have visited yet with the least aggressive touts.

The City Palace is the residence of the Mewars of Udaipur, the longest serving dynasty in the world at 76 generations, and houses a museum. Besides exhibits on weaponry and the days of the British Raj, the palace contains many rooms lined with intricate murals in the Rajasthani miniature painting style or covered in elaborate glass tile mosaics. Apparently, if a fairytale wedding is what you really desire, you can even book the courtyards with beautiful fountains for the big event!

We also visited Jagdish Temple, which is supposed to be one of the largest temples to the Hindu god Vishnu. The structures are elaborately carved, and at night, our dinner restaurant gave us a great view of the multicolored lights illuminating the temple... and the poor man in charge of ringing the bell continuously throughout the long service (he had to keep switching arms).

For my ongoing "anthropological studies," I had a fantastic ayurvedic massage from an Indian matron in a red sari and apron. The head massage portion involved a substantial quantity of fragrant oil poured in my hair and her scratching my head for about 15 minutes, which I could see would be great for anyone with dry scalp issues. This is also the first time someone else has wiped out my belly button, which was a little on the awkward side!

Finally, a note on Indian food... we noticed we have been paying handsomely for lackluster and sometimes downright disappointing meals in India, and we have several theories: 1) we were extraordinarily spoiled with the abundance and quality of Indian cuisine in Cary and surrounding areas; 2) we are too much on the Tourist Trail, and these places are accustomed to catering to Westerners who only ask for butter chicken and other non-spicy dishes; or 3) perhaps, as in Morocco, the best food is at home (cooked by the ladies) and not in restaurants (cooked by the men), which would explain why the best restaurants we ate in were in Delhi, where, presumably, urbanites do not cook as much. It is probably a combination of all of them, but our cooking course instructor seemed to favor theory #3.

Shashi is an admirable Brahmin woman who started teaching cooking classes after struggling to raise her two sons when her husband died. The class took place in her 2-room apartment with another couple of students. Over the 6 hours, we made masala chai (Indian spiced tea with milk); 4 kinds of pakora (fried snacks... cheese, onion, potato, and mixed veg), 2 kinds of chutney (mango and cilantro); vegetable pulao (rice dish); aloo mutter (potato and pea curry); and 5 kinds of bread (chapati; plain, potato, and sweet parathas; and my personal favorite - garlic cheese and tomato naan). Shashi was full of suggestions for variations on the recipes and also explained how to go about making curd (yogurt) and paneer (fresh cheese) at home. Unfortunately, we lost our heads a little with the fried goodness that were the pakoras with chutneys so we could not each much of the rest of the dishes. However, Shashi insisted we at least take the breads for breakfast the next morning, and they went well - even cold! - with a nice pot of masala chai.

1 comment:

  1. The head scratching massage sounds FANTASTIC! The belly button part, not so much...