Saturday, October 08, 2011

Itineraries - 72 hours in Sydney (2)

Continuing the 72 hours in Sydney..

Day 2:

8:00 AM:
Wake up nice and early today to catch a train to the Blue Mountains. They lie 3 hours away from Sydney.  The Blue mountains line runs from Central station to the mountains, but you can buy tickets anywhere in the central loop. Buy yourself a lunch at the station, as there are not many places for a sit down lunch, mainly if you want to see & hike a lot.

11:00 AM:
Get off at Katoomba. Right outside the train station is the Explorer bus booth. Buy tickets to the scenic world and the bus tour. Here's a tour map.

12:00 noon:
Finish the scenic world attractions first. It takes 2-3 hours depending on how much of the Scenic walkway you decide to take. 40 minutes was good for us, but you can choose here. Eat your picnic lunch here as well.

3:00 PM:
Ride the bus now to the Echo point for beautiful views of the Three sisters. After a half hour here, you can head to either Leura cascades or Gordon falls for a quick hike (or bushwalk as they are known locally).

4:30 PM:
Now head to Leura village. Get off at stop 21 and make a right to a bright yellow teahouse called "Bygone Beautys". They usually have a two for one Devonshire tea coupon in your booklet. Use it and enjoy a heavenly English tea complete with amazing scones, jam & cream.

5:00 PM:
Head back to Sydney to enjoy some great dinner and the amazing nightlife the city has to offer. is a great bar to visit.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Itineraries - 72 hours in Sydney (1)

I had a chance to visit Australia a little while ago for work, and have been meaning to share an itinerary and tips for a while now. Here are a few lists, tips and recommandations for things to see and do in this beautiful city.

72 hours in Sydney:

Day 1:

12:00 noon:
Start your day with a nice lunch in Sydney's Chinatown. Lots of choices here including Mamak, Din Tai Fung, Chat Thai etc. Grab your fork has a solid list.

2:00 PM:

Walk up to Hyde park, to gaze at the Anzac memorial and the beautiful fig canopy. At the end of the park is the beautiful St. Mary's cathedral. Cross over to Hyde park barracks and peer into some old colonial houses along McQuaire St. You will pass the Old Sydney hospital to the entrance of the Royal botanical gardens on Bent St.

3:00 PM:
Entrance to the gardens is free! Make your way in to see very different vegetation. The highlight of the park has to be the 300 or more fruit bats that live here. You'll here them soon enough after you enter. They are harmless to humans, but don't stand under their trees if you can help it! After bat watching, make your way out to the waterfront to Ms. Mcquarie's seat for amazing views of the bridge & opera house.

4:00 PM:
Walk along the water to the opera house, admire the curves of the building and the seagulls. There are also guided tours of the house if you want to take one, or come back later for a show.
Make your way to Circular Quay (pronounced Key) on the right of the opera house to the ticket booths.

5:00 PM:
Get a round trip ferry ticket to Manly. The ride is the main attraction here and equals any cruise you might take across the harbor. It takes a half hour and the vistas are amazing.

Get off at Manly and walk up the promenade to the beach. The promenade is like Santa Monica. Don't be tempted by the cheap but mediocre and expensive seafood at the beach. Watch surfers in action all year round. Then catch the ferry back to Sydney, in time for Sunset.

6:30 PM:
Walk along the right to enter the Rocks historic district. Don't spend time here now, you can come back later another day. Head to Pylon Lookout atop the Harbor bridge to see bridge climbers and amazing sunset views of the Harbor.

8:00 PM:
Right below the lookout is the Australian Heritage hotel. Head here to have a very Aussie dinner including Kangaroo, Emu and Crocodile on the menu! Also featured are the famous Aussie pies. Pair it with your favorite Australian wine (mostly Shiraz) or beer.

At this point, you should likely call it a day, to make it up nice and early the next day.

Day 2 to follow..

Saturday, April 16, 2011

NYC's best falafel

Okay, this has been quite a quest for a while, and I finally have my votes! Hopefully it will make it worth your while, next time you wonder where to eat! I've ordered them by preference and added points of appeal/dislike. If you favor the hot sauce over the pita or falafel over the toppings, this will help you pick!

1. Azuri cafe:

Hands down, this has to be #1 for the most authentic, yet delicious falafel experience.

The yum:
  • Crispy and tasty falafel
  • A plethora of amazing toppings that go into the sandwich
  • Fluffy and authentic pita
The meh:
  • Well, the owner is kinda like a soup nazi. If you are persnickety and want more hot sauce, just don't request it here. You may get kicked out.
  • You only get about 3 falafel in your sandwich. The toppings more than make up for it though.

The yum:
  • 3 varieties of falafel. All are yum, but i'm partial to the red pepper ones.
  • Great hot sauce, fluffy pita
  • The flavor layers are pretty nice.
  • Also reccommend: The Sabich sandwich, not a falafel sandwich, but extremely tasty!

The meh:
  • Not exactly authentic food
  • There is no place to sit and eat. You have to take it to go.

The yum:
  • Very authentic, green crispy falafel
  • Face it, you are not going to find a cheaper sandwich. $2.50 is an awesome deal, even if you have 2!
  • Their hot sauce means business. Its super hot. They also sell it it bottles, though i've never tried that!
  • If you don't like bells & whistles, this is your simple & clean falafel!
The meh:
  • Only lettuce & tomato in my falafel?!
  • One sandwich may still leave you hungry.

The yum:
  • Pretty authentic, crispy & tasty falafel
  • Pickled turnips!
  • You can ask for fried cauliflower in your sandwich, and it is definitely yummy!
  • Nice hot sauce with harissa flavors.
The meh:
  • A tad pricier than the others on this list, additives cost more.
  • Downtown, and closed during weekends.

The yum:
  • You can stuff anything from the salad bar onto your falafel, and it is yum.
  • Not one but like 10 sauces.
  • Yummy sweet potato fries with garlic sauce!

The meh:
  • I feel too full after I eat here.
  • Falafel are nothing extraordinary
6. Baba Ghanouge:

The yum:
  • They add anything you want from the salad bar to your sandwich. I love pickles, carrots & beets in mine
  • The hot sauce here has a very different flavor profile.
  • They have a fresh smoothie bar as well.
The meh:
  • The falafel is quite standard, nothing too impressive.
I didn't care much for university pita. I felt the toppings, though unlimited were stale. Nor did I like chickpea, the baked falafel were mediocre. I'm yet to try crisp, which I hear is good.

A few others I like:

Pita joe, for their unlimited tahini,hot sauce & amba tubes, The cart outside 200 west st on west side highway for bad for you but so yum falafel over spicy rice with white & hot sauce. Ok now that is just so New York :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chipotle at home!

I guess I am a weekend cook. Last Monday was a holiday, hence the effort to try something new. We love Chipotle and its burritos. So I decided to give the burrito bowl a whirl. It was a hit, recipe below. The nicest thing is this is a low/no oil recipe, so its very healthy. However, it is meant to be eaten fresh. Note that you can find all the spices mentioned here in the mexican section of the supermarket.

Salsa Verde (Medium heat)

Ingredients (Makes 2 cups)

10 tomatillos

1/2 chopped white onion

10 sprigs of cilantro

1 Tbsp lime juice

2 Serrano peppers, chopped

2 Cloves of Garlic

Salt to taste


1. Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well.

2. Cut them in half and place cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler along with the garlic for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.

3. Blend tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers and garlic in a blender to a semi smooth consistency. Season to taste with salt.

Corn Salsa (Mild)

Ingredients (Makes 1 cup)

1 Cup frozen sweet yellow corn

1 Jalapeno or log hot pepper

1/2 Red Onion

1/3 Cup Chopped Cilantro

1 Tablespoon Lime Juice

Salt to taste


1. Microwave the corn for 3 mins with a splash of water.

2. Dice the Onion, and jalapeno finely.

3. Combine all the ingredients and season to taste.

Red Hot Salsa (Hot)

Ingredients (Makes 1 small cup)

10 Chillies De Arbol

1 tablespoon of sesame seeds

2 cloves

2 allspice berries

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon oil

1 red tomato



1. Toast the sesame seeds, cumin, cloves and allspice to a golden color

2. Grind all the ingredients together to a fine paste

3. cook on a stove for about 5 minutes.

Cilantro Lime Rice:


1 teaspoon vegetable oil or butter

10 sprigs cilantro

1 cup white basmati rice

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Lime


1. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil or butter over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted.

2. Add rice and lime juice, stir for 1 minute.

3. Add water and salt, bring to a full boil.

4. At boiling, cover, turn down to simmer over low heat until rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes.

5. Fluff rice with a fork.

6. Add Cilantro and mix well.

Black Beans:


1 can black beans

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 spoon taco seasoning

1 spoon of the hot salsa made previously.


1. Wash canned beans thoroughly in cold water, drain, add water and salt.

2. Add the sauce and taco seasoning.

3. Cook gently in a deep pot for about 10 mins or until the beans create a gravy.

Pico de Gallo:

Just follow

Now combine everything, add dollops of sour cream and enjoy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vegetable Kuruma

I am and have always been such a stickler for this recipe, ever since childhood. Since my teens, this was one of my crazy food craves, with the layered bread, parotta. I must have brought this home about twice a week, under the eyes of a disapproving mom, for getting takeout. Needless to say, she tried to reproduce the recipe several times to satisfy her homegrown food critic. Every one of her versions were stellar, but not quite the same. I therefore decided to give this one more try, marrying recipes from 2-3 food blogs and viola! Success! The way it tastes in the hotels of India. This is too good to be true, hence duly noted here!

Ingredients (feeds 4):

Diced onion: 1
Ginger: 1 inch piece
Diced vegetables (carrot,peas,corn,cauliflower) : 1.5 cups
Boiled potatoes: 2 small
Javenthri: 1 flower
Curry leaves: 5
Green chillies: 6
Ginger garlic paste: 1 tbsp.
Vine ripe tomatoes: 2
Bay leaf - 1
Corriander powder: 3 tsp.
Garam masala: 2 tsp.
Turmeric powder: 2 tsp.
Salt to taste
Oil - 5 tbsp.

To Grind to a fine paste:

Shredded Coconut : 1 cup
Cashews/blanched peeled almonds: 10
Poppy seeds: 2 tbsp.
Cloves: 2
Cinnamon: 1 small stick
Cardamom: 1 pod
Green chillies: 2
Fennel seeds: 1 tbsp.


Heat 3 tbsp oil in a pan. Add the bay leaf and saute.
After it starts to brown add curry leaves, chillies, ginger, javenthri, and onions. Cook till golden brown.
Add the ginger garlic paste, and saute till it cooks.
Add half of the corriander powder and all of the garam masala and cook for a minute.
Add the veggies except the potatoes and cook till they are well cooked.
Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
At this point, add the ground paste, the potatoes, the turmeric and corriander powder.
Add water based on the consistency you want. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add salt and the remaining oil. Cook on a low flame until the kuruma is not watery.
Ready! Enjoy with parotta/chapathi.

For kothu parotta, Make the above gravy with onions, but without any veggies or tomatoes. Saute curry leaves, shredded carrots, peas and cauliflower till cooked.
Add an egg if you like and scramble well.
Then add a little of the gravy, followed by pieces of kerala parotta. Add salt to taste and saute.