During our stay in Mumbai, we stayed at the ITC Maratha. I mentioned this hotel back in July when I discussed some of the “out of this world” food I had tasted there so the name may sound familiar. Our room in the hotel was fantastic – as opulent as any 5 star hotel in New York, Paris or Singapore with marble walls and floor in the bath and lovely soft bedding. The feature that made this hotel stand out is its coffee.

Indian filter coffee in a French press

Indian filter coffee in a French press

Most top hotels in Europe and India provide either an electric kettle with instant coffee or nothing at all. Usually the instant is the nearly undrinkable Nescafe. This hotel has the latest model of electric kettle that boils a pot of water instantly The best part is that it offers a French press coffee pot with sachets of its own Indian coffee. 
 

One night after dinner a bellman came to see if we needed anything. I mentioned how wonderful the coffee was. (The maid had already given us a generous supply for the next morning.) He agreed with me and ran off. When he returned he brought me a handful of the sachets.

Last October I discussed filter or decoction coffee which is the south
Indian way of making coffee. Here it is made it in a French press. I was in love! Traditional coffee made in a sophisticated pot that tasted delicious!

I’m sure the rest of my trip to Mumbai was enhanced due to all of this fantastic coffee and his generous gift!

When I go to London and Barcelona in the spring, I will pack my recently acquired plastic 2-cup French press and some of my own coffee. Ahh…

 

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Coming out of a temple in Mumbai that is close to the Kamala Nehru Park on Malabar Hill, a young girl of about 8 came up to sell me some inexpensive bangles. What struck me was the poise of this young girl. She spoke English fluently with hardly any accent at all. She was absolutely beautiful. I didn’t buy any bangles from her because I don’t like to promote selling on the street. After I told her she was beautiful she ran off and told her mother what I had said. She then introduced me to her mother (Fortunately she wasn’t out alone selling the bangles). I wish I had taken a picture of this lovely young girl with the glowing smile. Her beautiful face and personality will stay with me for a long time. (I have to add that my husband gave her a few rupees.)
 
 

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During our tour of Mumbai we made a stop at Mani Bhavan which is a simple two-storied home on a quiet street. Today this house is a museum and research center but it was where Mahatma Gandhi called home between 1917 and 1934.
 

The most impressive sight is the room in which Gandhi lived and worked. His bed and desk are displayed in a simple but lovely room. In another part of the house, a series of scenes of miniature figures depict significant events in his life including his trip to London to meet Queen Victoria, harvesting salt from the sea and his death. These displays help to reinforce his life visually. Another room is filled with authentic photos and copies of important letters.

A room in Mani Bhavan, the home in which Gandhi lived while in Mumbai, India.

A room in Mani Bhavan, the home in which Gandhi lived while in Mumbai, India.

This quick stop is not to be missed when visiting Mumbai since it reminds us of Gandhi’s contribution in shaping India and his influence on the world.

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We spent one afternoon checking out the Gateway of India and the wonderful Taj Hotel (the one that was the target of a terrorist attack a few years ago). Around the Gateway is a large open area where people from all around the world congregate. At one time it was the point where passengers would alight from their boats. It was built to celebrate the first visit to India by King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Vendors sell roasted nuts, roasted corn on the cob, ice cold bottles of soda and hot Indian coffee to the tourists.


We were drawn into the Asian Arts Emporium, located adjacent to the Taj, because of the colorful displays in the window. We ended up buying a silk Kashmiri rug to put in our living room. I wasn’t thinking about buying one when we planned our trip. I didn’t realize that I needed one. (When we get home, our old carpet and tiles will be ripped up and replaced with real hardwood floors. It will be a huge undertaking but more about that later.) Suhail Mir pulled out many designs and colors. It was a lot of fun.

 

Entrance to the Asian Arts Emporium in Mumbai, India.

Entrance to the Asian Arts Emporium in Mumbai, India.

When I started becoming overwhelmed, he served me a cup of Kashmiri tea called Kawa so we could take a break. This is a delightfully simple drink that infuses 2 strands of saffron, 1 large green cardamom pod and 1 cinnamon stick into each cup of hot water. Sugar is optional. It is a nice drink with the benefit of no caffeine.

 

Asian Arts Emporium sells beautiful silk rugs from Kashmir.

Asian Arts Emporium sells beautiful silk rugs from Kashmir.

 

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I am traveling with my family to India this summer to collect new recipe ideas for my next book, try out new restaurants and dishes, and take more pictures of the sites. I have decided to work on a second cookbook but need to define its scope. I have a couple of ideas but want to ensure I have enough material available to be able to select the best set of recipes. Through this trip I hope to have an initial direction identified.


The first stop on the trip is Mumbai. We arrived late in the evening and I was stunned at how contemporary the airport looked compared to the one I saw 24 years ago. As I exited the terminal, gone are the masses of humanity that pressured you into allowing them to carry your bags or drive you to your destination. Just outside the building is a large landscaped square around which drivers and friends wait. I didn’t feel hassled at all. It was just like any European airport. What a pleasant way to start a trip.


On the way to our hotel, our driver showed us the huge construction lot where a brand new terminal is being built. He told us that the terminal at which we arrived is only three years old and will be torn down after the new one opens. And I was impressed with the existing one.


Over the next few months I will be sharing my experiences and impressions of India with you. I hope you enjoy them!

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.