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Saturday, January 7, 2017

40 Best Dishes #BhookadRecommends from 2016


Hello, hello, hello!

I know some of you are waiting to go through this annual list of my culinary recommendations in Mumbai. Thank you for writing in and sharing your enthusiasm of discovering new restaurants and new dishes like we discover new friends, but for our hungry and experienced palates. You know who you are.

In 2016, I travelled more than I have in any other year of my life so far. I apologise for not being able to publish this before the dawn of a new year, as I have unfailably for the previous four years.

Here's hoping you enjoy what #BhookadRecommends and try your best to discover some of these experiences if not all, in 2017.

40 Best #BhookadRecommends from 2016

I was born and brought up in Tardeo and I took the local from Grant Road to Churchgate station every day for more than a decade: for schooling at St. Xavier's Boys' Academy and then attending (or bunking) lectures at Jai Hind College. I've grown up eating these #soft, #warm and #buttery Mawa Cakes at B. Merwan's and enjoyed various conversations over tea breaks with old friends from school and newer ones from college. From hiding a bag of 6 in the school bag (mostly for detention hours) to initiating group projects during BMM, these mawa cakes have rescued my day many times and all those memories came rushing back yesterday, when I tried it after a long time. Merwan's, it's really always a pleasure to be back for some more! #bmerwan #bmerwans #mawacake #teacake #cake #iranicafe #mumbai #lensplated #bhookadrecommends
A photo posted by Adarsh Munjal (@thebigbhookad) on

Since 2009, I used to work as an employee at different digital agencies before I quit my full-time career and started focussing on building @lensplate and @risevertise in April 2015. I never prefer to order #dumplings for delivery mainly because they get squished during transit; but my team of photographers and food stylists have usually opted to order and enjoy #AsianFood after working hours in our new office at Morya Landmark II in #Andheri. Yesterday, we ordered lots of food from Tao9 and enjoyed gobbling up these Spicy Veg Dumplings the most, with some equally spicy #schezwan sauce. Being a non-vegetarian, I rarely enjoy vegetarian #Asian food but if I'm willing to tag this delicious dish with #BhookadRecommends; I'm sure you know it's gonna be worth trying for all of you as well. Happy ordering and happy hogging! #foodofmumbai #powai #tao9delivery #lensplated
A photo posted by Adarsh Munjal (@thebigbhookad) on

Hope you have a great year in 2017! 
Happy hogging!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Travelogue | #JWSaharThaiTrails: Thai culinary and cultural journey in Bangkok.


Dear travellers and vacationers,

Both, Snehsha and I have been to Thailand before, primarily to treat our tastebuds and indulge in economical retail therapy. Our previous trip was in 2013, when we had spent a week in Koh Samui as well. 

This time, we decided to begin our trip by joining the marketing and PR team of JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, to explore authentic Thai culinary experiences in Bangkok, followed by a quick staycation in Pattaya and then some deserving shopping in Bangkok again, before we returned to aamchi Mumbai.

I apologise to all my readers for the delay and my incapability to clear my backlog any sooner. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading our chronologically arranged travel story from Thailand.

All opinions mentioned in this travelogue are personal and unbiased. All photographs have been captured by Snehsha and edited by our talented team operating from Mumbai: Lensplate

< Captured from our early morning flight, moments before our touchdown at BKK >
We departed on a flight from Mumbai on 23rd September at 1:00 AM IST and landed at 7:05 AM ICT. I did not expect the long queues at on-arrival visa counters to make us wait at the airport for 3-and-a-half gruesome hours; with our luggage, after an early morning 4-and-a-half hour long flight from Mumbai to Bangkok.

Guys, please do not go to Thailand without a visa, even if it is easily available on arrival. It is not worth spending as much time as you took to get there, after you get there. Contact a travel agent before your departure, or simply pay 2000 baht instead of 1000 on the 'express' visa counter at the airport, to skip that devastating queue and save your valuable time.

Drivers sent by Courtyard by Marriott were waiting for us at the exit and we took another hour and a half to reach our destination; which was approximately 50 kms away from Suvarnabhumi Airport.

< Here's what our room looked like at Courtyard Marriott in Bangkok >
< Not very spacious but our room was well-ventilated, had adequate sunlight and overall very comfy >
We've stayed at outlets of Courtyard by Marriott in Pune, Gurugram, Agra and Mumbai before and it's always a pleasure to observe the management retain consistency in branding and service across all of their Courtyard properties; even in Bangkok!

After checking-in quickly, we headed downstairs to MoMo Cafe for lunch.

< Some vegetarian salad and veg sushi for her >
< I always enjoy sipping on Thai Iced Tea in Thailand and Courtyard Marriott serves it up well with strongly brewed Ceylon tea > 
< I couldn't resist starting my meal with some authentic Som Tam: Thai green papaya salad >

After a satisfying lunch that included soups, salads, sushi, pad thai, red & green Thai curry, stir-fried veggies and much more; we headed to our first destination for #JWSaharThaiTrails: Min Buri Market

We were introduced to Chef Rungtiwa (Thai Sous Chef) and Chef Vishal Atreya (Executive Chef) from JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar at Min Buri and we couldn't wait to take a stroll around that huge market, to soak in the vibrant colours of fresh fruits, try unique never-tried-before snacks and mainly educate ourselves with what is liked and purchased the most in Thailand.

< Chef Rungtiwa shares a moment with Farzana Contractor from Upper Crust >
< Chef Vishal and I caught in the moment candidly, fooling around for the camera together >
Min Buri means "city of fish" and today, it exists as one of the top 10 wholesale and retail markets in Thailand. The market is divided into 3 main sections, spanning across two city-blocks; starting from 2:00 AM, where vendors sell fresh vegetables/meat/fish, exotic fruits, delicious snacks and irresistible desserts till 8:00 PM every day. 

One can call and consider Min Buri to be a sleepless market and it is the only market in Bangkok, conserved to retain the traditional Thai way of living even today. 

We hope you enjoy these moments captured from Min Buri market.

< Fresh salad, made for you as you like it, on the street! >
< Some chicken satay to keep me company during our stroll >
< It was a pleasure to know about different kinds of eggs available at Min Buri from this friendly and joyful shopkeeper >
The first dish we tried and mutually liked during our walk was this popular sweet snack called Kanom Krok Bai Toey: made with flour, coconut sugar and pandan leaf extract; which provides this dish its bright green colour and heavenly aroma. It was slightly sticky, quite chewy, enjoyably fluffy and surprisingly not too sweet. 

We couldn't resist our urge to pick up a box full of these delicious muffin lookalikes and you must try these wherever you find them, if/when you visit Bangkok anytime soon.

< Kanom Krok Bai Toey / Pandan Pancakes >
The second kind of street food we tried and liked was called "Takoyaki" - which is a ball-shaped Japanese snack made with wheat-flour batter, usually stuffed with minced or diced octopus + tempura scraps + pickled ginger, brushed with takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise; garnished with edible green seaweed. We chose to have chicken and enjoyed sharing this explosive bite-sized treat from the same plate.

< South Indian friends, this looks like Punugulu doesn't it? 
< Uff! Just look at that glaze! >
< One ball as a perfect bite, one for everyone, so let's not fight >

After walking around for more than an hour, all of us were extremely exhausted and needed either a dose of caffeine, something to quench our thirst or perhaps a quick intake of sugar to revive our energies. I ended up having almost a meal on the go, tasting one unique snack after another; so I decided to go find an interesting dessert to end my experience.

I remember walking back to the spot where we assembled, looking for something I haven't tried before and while doing so, I found some never-seen-before duck-shaped jelly being sold at a counter next to a vegetable vendor. The texture of the jelly was like tender coconut but creamier, and it tasted much sweeter than coconut too. If you like the flavour of coconuts or enjoy a tender coconut often like I do, you'll definitely enjoy a dozen of these coconut jellies as much I did. 

< We promise this will make you forget every other coconut jelly you've ever tried > 
< Discovering new street food left me as happy as this candidly captured kid at the market >
< I swear we weren't this happy before we started walking around Min Buri market >
After our food-walk at Min Buri, we were all invited to join Chef Rungtiwa for dinner with her family at her own house in Bangkok, where she grew up and learnt all the authentic Thai recipes from her aunt and other elders in the family. While she stays away serving guests at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, her family runs a small cafe right next to their humble abode.

Thank you Rungtiwa; for hosting all of us, cooking for us and sharing your stories. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to your endeavours and achievements of your culinary journey so far.

< Chef Rungtiwa posing with her proud father >
< The small cafe owned and managed by Chef Rungtiwa's family >
Our day 2 during this trip began with an early morning visit to Wat Pho temple, located in the Phra Nakhon District at Bangkok, where we witnessed the magical might and beauty of a gold plated 46-metre-long reclining Buddha. 

Thailand is all about their sauces! Our first day in #Bangkok this year ends with an unforgettably warm, cozy and homely dinner hosted by Chef Rungtiwa Sorlae at her humble abode in the city. Her aunt tossed up a few authentic #Thai recipes for all of us, including this simple yet soulfully satisfying dish made with #ricenoodles, #eggs, #chicken, #squid, #springonion and #coriander served on a bed of fresh #lettuce, topped with fried crispies. Watching @chefrungtiwa and her family cook in their kitchen, brought us immense joy and I'm impressed to see how sweet and hospitable she is. All set to crash at @courtyardbangkok right now and start dreaming about the extremely addictively spicy #fishsauce that was served to us earlier today. The sauce is not in the picture but watch out for its recipe given by the chef herself, keep following my live updates on #InstagramStories or #Snapchat during another promising day of various culinary experiences from #Thailand tomorrow. #JWSaharThaiTrails #BKK #ThaiFood #ExploreThailand
A photo posted by Adarsh Munjal (@thebigbhookad) on 

During my previous trip, I was told by a friend that Wat Pho is categorised as the highest grade of the first-class royal temples, so it must be the first on the list of temples I should visit in Thailand. 

< Only when I entered the temple, I understood why my friend was right >

< Meet the gold-plated 46-metre-long reclining Buddha >
The temple is known to be the earliest centre for public education in Thailand, it houses a school of Thai medicine even today. It is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, which is still taught and practiced out there. 

< Marble illustrations and inscriptions in Wat Pho have been recognised by UNESCO >
Wat Pho acts as a pilgrimage for devout Buddhists in the country’s capital. After feasting my eyes upon the gigantic reclining Buddha, I noticed there were many pots lined up along the back wall of the temple - 108 pots to be precise. That is a significant number referring to the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead Buddha to enlightenment. 

< My first encounter with prayer pots at Wat Pho >
When I asked around, I was told that it is strongly believed if one drops 108 pennies, one into each pot, his wishes will be granted; and the gesture will bring him good luck and a long life. I saw people buy cups of small golden coins and drop one into each pot patiently, as they walked along the length of the room; murmuring chants, meditating, praying and wishing for what they need. 

< So I took a deep breath and waited till the last pot to make my wish >
Walking around Wat Pho was a kind of spiritual experience that I might not be able to express in words; but I can assure you that praying while walking along those 108 pots was deeply satisfying to my soul. It might have not been Nirvana but it wasn't far from it.

After our relaxing and rejuvenating time at Wat Pho, we headed to Chef Rungtiwa's cousin's date farm; and even if you might have not watched the videos I've added above, I request you to watch the video below to know more about our experience at that farm.

After a light lunch and our tour of the date farm, we headed to Chinatown for dinner and I was ready to face one of my biggest fears in life: eating fried insects for the first time. First-timers like me should drop all instincts and just let go.

Serving as the center of gold trade in Bangkok for centuries, Chinatown has a history which is older than the city itself. The sights, sounds and smells of this part of Bangkok, were an assault to our senses; so all visitors should be prepared for unpleasant surprises, especially those who consider themselves as faint-hearted.

< Please don't ask me how it tasted because I hate to admit, surprisingly fried grasshoppers taste good >

< Lofty neon signs with Thai and Chinese scripts everywhere you see >
My sincere advice to all my readers would be avoid taking a vehicle to this roadway of Chinatown, only because it is always jammed with buses, vans, tuk-tuks and luminous pink taxis; even at ungodly hours post midnight.

Both the mini-vans organised for us by Courtyard Marriott, dropped us off to explore the narrow sidewalks and commercial alleyways; and returned only after we were done with our dinner at a streetside yet extremely popular food-stall called: Fikeaw Yao Wa-Rat.

< Fresh jumbo prawns on display at Fikeaw Yao >
< Look at that huge display of fresh seafood and vegetables! >

If you visit this stall, please do what we did. Take a deep breath, soak in the uncanny vibe and enjoy an unforgettably delicious meal served on a plastic table, while you sit on plastic chairs, in a smelly and crowded alley. After you taste the food, nothing else will matter.

We ordered for a seafood platter, some Tom Yum soup, a large portion of stir fried morning glory and some fresh steamed prawns served on top of peppery glass noodles. You must order the soup.

< Sea food platter: prawns, squid, crab, clams and octopus served in ginger garlic pepper sauce >
< Stir-fried morning glory >
< Definitely the best Tom Yum soup I've tried so far >
< Best dish we tried that night: steamed prawns with glass noodles >
We ended our 2nd night by gathering in our hotel lobby after dinner. Some of us stayed up till dawn to enjoy drinks and debates over personal opinions about different kinds of global food.

Our last day on this Thai culinary and cultural trail began with a ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River, to visit Wat Arun, which is perhaps the best known landmark of Thailand.

< An early morning ride to the oldest temple in Bangkok >
According to history, Wat Arun existed even before Bangkok was established as a city. It is believed that Bangkok was built around this temple, which is named after Aruna: the Indian God of Dawn. It is an architectural representation of Mount Meru (far away in Tanzania): which is believed to be the centre of the world in Buddhist cosmology. 

< The 4-corner prangs, which house images of the guardian gods of all four directions, reinforces the central symbolism >
< One can spend hours just lying on the lawn's grass and staring at the sky >
After a ferry ride back to where our hotel-vans were parked, we headed straight to the insanely popular Chatuchak Weekend Market, on Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, which is the largest market in Thailand, with more than 8000 stalls, divided into 27 sections; only for buyers who are willing to walk because no vehicles are allowed inside the market, not even motorbikes. 

Once you’re walking around the deep corners of Chatuchak, you might seem lost but don't worry if you can't find your friends, just use the clock tower as a handy landmark for reassembly or needful navigation.

We walked around for a few hours and stuffed our bags with antiques, clothes, fashion accessories, hygiene essentials, souvenirs and much more! Please ensure you carry adequate cash to this market, which is open only on weekends: especially for tourists looking for economical shopping at wholesale rates.

< #JWSaharThaiTrails ends at Chatuchak >
Thank you Chef Rungtiwa and Chef Vishal Atreya for this memorable culinary and cultural experience organised exclusively for us in Bangkok; especially our walk down Min Buri Market and that warmhearted homely dinner hosted by Rungtiwa's family, at their own house in Bangkok.

While some of us returned to their hometown that day, Snehsha and I decided to spend a night partying till dawn in Pattaya; followed by our return to Bangkok for another 3 days of non-stop shopping from Indra Market & Platinum Mall.

< I cannot share more than this picture from Pattaya because NSFW! >


What's Garma-Garam?
Marriott is considering organising such itineraries for their guests in Thailand.

What's Thanda?
Breakfast spread at Courtyard Marriott can have limited options for Indian vegetarians.

Dakaar Level


Room Service

< Goodbye, Thailand. TBB will be back very soon! >

Have fun in Bangkok!
Happy travelling!