Monthly Archives: December 2012

Enjoying exotic cuisine in Paris

On the last day of our tour in Paris, we had a farewell dinner in one of the restaurants called L’Escarmouche. It was a five course dinner. The restaurant looked nice like a historical building from the Middle Ages with large tables under a beautiful stone arched roof.

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We were seated in one corner and handed a menu. There were wines already on the table for us to start with.

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While we were deciding on what to eat, we were served French bread to start our dinner.

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The menu was

Entrée

French Onion soup

Snails in garlic butter

Prawn cocktail

Frog’s legs a la Provençale

Duck liver mousse

Main

Filet of Salmon

Beef n Burgundy wine sauce

Filet of Chicken in mushroom sauce

Flambéed prawns

Fine roast duck

Cheese platter

Deserts

Chocolate Mousse

Caramel Crème

Apple Tart

Profiteroles

Peach Melba

Of course me and AS being us, we had to try something we hadn’t tried before so we went for Frog’s legs a la Provençale and Snails in garlic butter. Of course it was our first time eating frog but it was the second time for me eating snail. I had deep fried snails in Malaysia before.

Anyway, when the dishes were served, they looked better than I thought they would.

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The frog looked like a small chicken. Frog legs are one of the better-known delicacies of French cuisine. Frog’s legs have a texture just like chicken, and a taste that is similar but with a little fishy taste and it is somewhat tougher. Believe me if it was serve as chicken, no one could tell the difference.

Snail was a different story.

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The snail I had in Malaysia was a small one whose shells were crisp and deep fried and you could eat it as well. As they were spicy as well it didn’t taste any different than other spicy deep fried stuff but the snail we were served in Paris was a bit bigger. It tasted like a salty, buttery and oversized gummy bear. That is probably the best way to describe it.

I’d say an experience you only do once, but worth doing. They are an acquired taste so not everyone will like it.

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I also tried French Onion soup and Duck liver mousse and they tasted good too. Overall I was very happy with the starters.

It was followed by the main. I had Filet of Chicken in mushroom sauce while AS had Flambéed prawns. Both of the dishes were yummy. I looked around the table and everyone’s main dish looked nice and everyone was happy with what they got.

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When we were done with the main, we were served a chees platter. There were cheese like Aged Cheddar, Goat Gouda, Swiss, Brie, Camembert, Constant Bliss, Gruyere, Jarlesberg, Monterey Jack, Provolone, Blue Cheese to choose from. By this stage I had no room for anything else in my tummy.

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While we were dinning, there were musicians who were singing Australian songs like Waltzing Matilda and Still Call Australia Home for us as there were lots of Aussies in our group.

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During the singing session, the guys asked a few girls including me to come on the floor and dance with them. It was fun to try and do some can can with them J

In that mean time desert was served and they were mouth-watering dishes. I and AS shared our dessert with each other which were Apple Tart and Chocolate Mousse. It was a fantastic way to conclude our dinner.

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It was a great night out and a nice way to farewell our tour friends who were great to travel with around Europe.

Hello from the Top of the Eiffel Tower: Paris

I am sure Eiffel Tower doesn’t need any introduction. It must be one of the most recognized structures in the whole world. It is located on the Champ de Mars in Paris and is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.

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The tower stands 320 metres (1,050 ft) tall and has three levels for visitors. Tickets can be purchased to ascend, by stairs or lift (elevator), to the first and second levels. The walk from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. The third and highest level is accessible only by lift, stairs exist but they are not usually open for public use.

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When we were in Paris, one of the things we really wanted to do was to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. After all, we were in the city of love so there was no reason for us to not to go to the top of the iconic structure and see one of the most beautiful city.

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So with that in mind we went to the Eiffel Tower after we finished dinner with our group. By that time we had seen the tower a couple of times form our bus as well as from a view point which is south of Champ de Mars where you can get beautiful photos of the tower. These are some of the wonderful photos AS and I took on those occasions.

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After dinner, our tour bus took us to another location, Jardins de Trocadero from where the view was even better than from the ones before. We took a few photos there and told the guide to leave us there so we can walk to the top of the tower.

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As we were walking, we saw a few cops talking  on the side of the road we were on. When they looked at us, they smiled. One of them started talking to us and asked if I wanted a photo with them. Of course I said yes and here is my photo with a nice French policeman 🙂

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After that we kept walking toward the tower. The first time we saw the tower up close, it was an amazing experience. It is very beautiful and bigger than any movie or any postcards I have ever seen. We just loved it so much. Delicate and graceful when seen from afar, the Eiffel is massive — even a bit scary — from close up. You don’t appreciate the size until you walk toward it; like a mountain, it seems so close but takes forever to reach.

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We knew that there would be a queue to go up so when we were at the foot of the tower; we were not surprised to see a long queue. We were informed that out of 4 lifts in four legs of the tower, only one was working and it would be a long wait.

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We didn’t mind walking the 600+ steps (we did a nice walk in St Paul’s cathedral in London as well) so AS and I decided we would get the ticket for the stairs rather than wait for the lift.  It took a while for us to get the tickets as we were in queue for the lift for over an hour before we realised that we were in the wrong queue. So another 30 minutes in the right queue and finally we got the ticket. While we were in the queue it started to drizzle (after a great day) so we had our umbrella opened while waiting.

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I was really happy when we got our tickets as the wait was finally over. It cost us around 10 euros (5 euro more for the lift) for the trip. I am sure we could have bought tickets online to avoid the queue but it was a good experience to queue and admire Eiffel tower from close up while waiting in the queue.

The sun had set by that time and the lights on the tower were just lit. It is so true when they say that there is something magical about visiting the Eiffel Tower at night. Every evening, the Eiffel Tower is adorned with its golden covering and sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, while its beacon shines over Paris.

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So we started our first leg of the journey to the First level of the tower.  For the first 100 steps it was exciting as there were lots of information about the tower on the side walls as we went up. Then when we passed 200 steps it was getting a bit tiring and the rain didn’t help.

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I was huffing and puffing at that stage but we had to push ourselves until we finish another 100+ steps get to the first level. It was a great workout and we did bypass the lines for the elevators. But it was windy as we went to the top and even with my warm coat, I was freezing. After 328 steps, I was ready to rest for a while when we finally reached the first level.

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Looking out from the top over the streets of Paris, you’ll see why Paris is known as the “City of Light.” At street level, seeing the spotlight on the top of the Tower zoom across the Paris skyline and the reflection of the Tower in the Seine are sights not to be missed.

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We walked around the floor and were mesmerised by the beautiful city. On the first floor, there is a working post office from where you can send a postcard home with an Eiffel Tower postmark to commemorate your trip. The floor also has a snack bar, WCs (toilets) and souvenir shop.

We have to climb 340 steps more to get to the second floor. This floor was a bit crowed when we got there but it was still worth it. The best views of Paris were from the 2nd level. You are high enough up to see the stunning panorama of the Paris skyline. Yet not too high; so that you can easily recognize most Paris landmarks without using a map. With a panoramic view over Paris, we stopped there for a while to enjoy the amazing view.

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On this level, there is a restaurant, Le Jules Vernes which is remarkable for its breathtaking views of the city and for its kitchen, which is led by celebrated French chef Alain Ducasse.

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After that we decided to take the lift to the top floor. We followed the signs to the elevator line for the ride to the top. There was a queue so we joined it. While in this queue we saw comparisons of Effile tower with land marks around the world including Nepal. It was nice to see Nepali flag there.

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After we caught the lift, we were landed on top level of the tower. It was even more crowded as the area is small. We walked around identifying a few of our favourite Paris landmarks, took a peek through the window at Gustave Eiffel’s office (he has an American visitor!), and snapped a few photos and took the lift back to the second level.

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The journey back was much better. As I climbed down the steps and finished this amazing adventure I wondered how lucky we were to experience such an amazing adventure.

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By that time it was almost midnight. And when we were just on the bridge in front of the tower, we witness the lights. For 5 minutes, the sparkle lights came on, almost equalled by sparkles from all the camera flashes going off below. Very, very nice aseverybody around us were  excited, and having fun. Even though we had been up in other  tower like Burj Khalifa and others before, it was still very special.

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Some interesting facts amount the tower:

  • The American TV show pricing the Priceless speculates that in 2011 the tower would cost about $480,000,000 to build, that the land under the tower is worth $350,000,000, and that the scrap value of the tower is worth $3,500,000. The TV show estimates the tower makes a profit of about $29,000,000 per year, though it is unlikely that the Eiffel Tower is managed so as to maximize profit.
  • The electric bill is $400,000 per year for 7.5 million kilowatt-hours.
  • In hot weather, it’s six inches taller.
  • Annual visitors : almost 7 million, 75% of whom are foreigners
  • Tall : 324 metres (with its antennas)
  • Weight : 7,300 tonnes of metallic framework, and a total weight of 10,100 tonnes
  • Number of metallic parts : 18,000 metallic parts joined by 2,500,000 rivets
  • Height of each floor :1st floor: 57m; 2nd floor: 115m; 3rd floor: 276m
  • Lighting : 336 projectors (sodium lamps)
  • Sparkling lights: 20,000 bulbs (5,000 on each side) glitter for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, from nightfall until 1a.m.
  • Number of antennas : 120 antennas
  • Number of steps on the East staircase until the top : 1,665 steps
  • Number of lifts : From the ground floor up to the 2nd floor: 5 (1 on the eastern pillar, 1 on the western pillar, 1 on the northern pillar, 1 private lift on the southern pillar leading to the “Jules Verne” restaurant, and 1 goods lift on the southern pillar). From the 2nd floor up to the top: 2 sets of 2 Duo-lifts.
  • Kilometers travelled by the lift : The combined distance travelled of the lift cabins is 103,000 km a year (2.5 times the circumference of the Earth).
  • Surface to be painted: 250,000 m2 of surface to be painted during each painting campaign, every 7 years. 60 tonnes of paint are needed.
  • Thanks to restoration on the Eiffel Tower, the engraved names of 72 French scientists and engineers from the original design are visible again. Most of the scientists were active during the French Revolution and the early 19th century.  The engravings were covered over in the early 20th century and restored for the first time in 1986-1987, and again last in 2010.

Please click here for more photos.

Samay Baji

Samay Baji is one a traditional Newari dishes in Nepal that is prepared during festivals.

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Typically it consists of  a variety of baji (beaten rice), haku musya (black soyabean), chhoela (smoked meat), puka-la (spicy roasted meat), aalu acha (boiled potato marinated with pickle), bhuti (boiled beans with spices), khen (boiled egg), panchkwa (bamboo shoot, potato, beans mixed curry), wo or bara (black lentil shallow fried pancakes, lava-palu (ginger and garlic), achar (pickle), wauncha (green vegetables) and aaila (Newari liquor). If you don’t have aaila, it can be replaced with any whiskey.

Samay baji is Newari food which is offered to the Gods on many occasions by Newars. This is the traditional dish and a regular item in many Newari festivals. Samay Baji is popular among Nepalese people because of its unique taste, unique cooking style and natural spices used in it.

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This year during Dashain, we tried to make Samay Baji and it had

Chiura (beaten rice)

Chiura, called Baji in Newari is beaten rice which is very popular in Nepal. Chiura is a common snack  in Nepal. The snack is made by pounding rice. The dish can be served with yogurt, curry, and or meat.

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Wo (black lentil shallow fried pancakes)

Wo is a Newari word which means mashed lentils cake and it is prepared from black lentils or green lentils (Mugh beans). Wo is called Bara in Nepali. There are different kinds of Wo depending on what is put in it and how it is cooked.

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Please click here for recipe

Aloo ko achar

Aloo ko achar is a very popular Nepali potato salad which is used in most bhoj in Nepal. There are many variations of this dish.

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Please click here for recipe

Chicken chhoela (smoked meat)

One of my favourite dishes and very popular in Nepal. an be made with goat , buffalo or chicken meat.

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Please click here for recipe

Fried bhatmas (soyabeans)

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan and fry the soybean. When it is soft take it out of the pan and keep it aside and let it cool.

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Bodi (boiled black eyed beans with spices)

Soak bodi overnight. Press it in pressure cooker until cooked. Normally it will take 3-4 whistles. In a pan add oil, heat it a while then add the cooked bodi. Add garlic ginger paster, salt and chill and sauté for a while. Bodi is ready to be served.

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Saag (green leaves)

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You can use any type of green leave for this like English Spinach, Choy sum or Bok choy. You can either boil or fried it with some salt.

Khasi ko masu (Goat curry)

Khasi ko masu is one of the main dishes eaten during Dashain in Nepal. It can be made in different ways depending on personal preference.

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Please click here for recipe

Fried fish

Just fry a few anchovies in oil.

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Lava-palu (ginger and garlic)

Peel fresh garlic and cut into half.

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Peel ginger and cut into thin slices.

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  • aaila (alcohol)

In Nepal, they make home-made rice wine aaila which is colourless. But that day we don’t have the typical newari wine so used rum.

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Nepali style Goat curry (using a pressure cooker)

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Ingredients

  • 2 red onions sliced
  • 2 tomatoes dices
  • 500gm goat meat
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of coriander powder
  • 2 tablespoons of garam masala
  • 3 tablespoons of ginger garlic paste
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon of chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh coriander to garnish

 Steps

  • Take a pressure cooker and heat oil in it.
  • When the oil is hot add curry leaves and the finely sliced onions.

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  • Add a pinch of salt so that the onion will get cooked quickly and becomes golden brown.

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  • Add Ginger Garlic paste, garam masala, coriander powder, turmeric powder, salt, chili and let it cook for 2 mins.

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  • Add finely diced tomatoes and let it cook completely, with the onion.

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  •  Add the goat meat  to this mixture.
  • Let it cook for 10 min .
  • Add some water, close the cooker lid and keep the flame on medium
  • After 6 full (long) whistles, turn the heat off
  • Let the pressure in the cooker dissipate by itself; do not force the steam out by lifting the whistle etc.

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  • When the pressure has dissipated, open the lid and check if the mutton is tender enough if not add some water if required and let the curry cook for about 3-5 min on low to medium heat
  • Garnish the goat curry with fresh coriander and it’s ready to server!

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You may also like :

*Momo *Aloo ko achar *Chicken chili

Pushpa Basnet of Nepal is the 2012 CNN “Hero of the Year”

If you remember I wrote posts called Pushpa Basnet: Pride of Nepal and Please help Pushpa Basnet to win CNN Hero 2012 a few months ago regarding Pushpa Basnet.

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She was shocked to learn that children were living in Nepali prisons with their parents and so she started the Early Childhood Development Center when she was only 21.  Since 2005, she has provided such support as housing, education, and medical care to more than 140 children of incarcerated parents.

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Yes, she has won CNN “Hero of the Year” for 2012 making us all proud. I am so happy that my vote counted and it is a great pride for Nepal to have the honour back in Nepal for a second time. Especial thanks to everyone who voted for her after reading my post.

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It is a so incredibly deserving recognition for someone who has scarified her life for the young children and their future. Please click here (Pushpa Basnet: Pride of Nepal and Please help Pushpa Basnet to win CNN Hero 2012 )to learn more about this incredible hero and an amazing human being. We are just very lucky to be born in an era where someone does selfless work like that.

Here is the incredible moment when she won the award.

Now Nepal has two great women as CNN Hero of the Year: Aunradha Koirala and Pushpa Basent.