Photo Credit: Brandy Brown; Susan Manser

DAY 06: JODHPUR

Highlights: Overnighting in the exquisite Kothi Heritage mansion, exploring the museums and palaces of the Mehrangarh Fort, Walking the narrow streets of the Blue City and shopping for traditional camel leather satchels & embroidered textiles, & learning how to make chai masala (tea), biriyani (indian rice), raita, paneer curry, naan bread, and a delicious saffron lassi  in our evening cooking class with Rheka.

Each day in India is better than the last.  We overnighted in Kothi Heritage, a beautiful Rajasthani mansion converted hotel, and woke up to a delicious breakfast of fresh fruits, warm omelets, vegetable masalas, and delicate pastries & breads.  This was just what we needed to prepare us for our action-packed day of exploring, shopping, and cooking.

We spent the morning exploring the Jaswat Thada Palace and Mehrangarth Fort, learning about ancient Indian history, culture, art, and food traditions. Mehrangarth Fort is one of the largest fortresses in all of India, built in the 16th century to protect the city of Jodhpur from Middle Eastern Invaders.  From the top of the Fort we had a beautiful view of the old Blue City, a city that is colored blue every ten years to maintain it’s peaceful and welcoming feel.  The traditional music that was played by local Rajasthani people during our visit added even more of a mystical feel to the experience.

After our visit to the Fort we continued on to visit the streets of the Blue City and a stop in Sardar Market, the most famous market in all of Jodhpur and the best market to purchase spices. In the market we marveled at the variety of delicious Indian tea blends, browsed through the local cookware, purchased authentic spices and spice blends, and sampled traditional Indian street foods such as samosas & pakodas.  Ever since our cooking class in Jaipur, our market visits have not only been centered on beautiful textiles and intricate wood carvings, but on treasure hunting for the perfect cookware items and spices – to recreate delicious Indian dishes back home.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the bustling streets of the Old Blue City, stopping in at spice bazaars and sampling select street foods. As evening rolled around we found ourselves in front of Spice Paradise, the location of our second cooking class.  Inside we met Rekha, a beautiful young woman who has been operating a small spice shop and cooking school out of her home for the past 6 years.  As we sat down and began the lesson, she started to tell us her story: about her upbringing in a small village, her arranged marriage, and the reality of being a woman in India.

Her words empowered each of us to want pursue our own dreams, and as we began to cook and taste her delicious recipes those feelings only intensified… Her masala chai, vegetable biriyani, and fruit raita were the highlights of the night, the flavors of each perfectly combined together.

We were fully involved in the cooking process from start to finish, from attempting her vegetable cutting tricks as we prepped the biriyani, to measuring the spices and creating the perfect sauce for the paneer curry.  We mixed all the ingredients for naan bread and learned how to properly cook it over the stovetop, and had a hand in grinding the saffron and cashews to create the perfect Rajasthani Lassi.

By the end of the evening our stomachs were satisfied and our minds captivated by everything we had just cooked.  We were each grateful for the recipe books that Rheka handed out early in the class – as we learned more in those 4 hours than would ever be possible to remember on our own.

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