Tofu

salt-pepper-tofu-recipe
TOFU was discovered about 2,000years ago by a Chinese cook who accidently curdled soy milk when he added ‘nigari seaweed’.
It contains all eight essential amino acids and lots of protein  It is also an excellent source of iron and calcium and minerals  ——- manganese, selenium and phosphorous.
tofu-dish
The soy protein in tofu may be beneficial for heart health, menopause, and is also known to fight breast cancer.  Like cheese, there is more than one variation available of tofu.  There is ‘silken tofu’, extra soft, firm, medium and extra firm too.  Also, owing to its generally neutral taste, tofu is culinary chameleon, lending itself to an infinite number of food preparations ——- it can be pickled, fermented, stir-fried or even used in miso soup.
tofu-japan-cucumber-katsuo
Tofu is packed with water, then it is packed in water.  We need to get that water out and replace it with flavour.  Not pressing the water out of the tofu is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.  Open the package and drain the water.
In Japan, a common lunch in the summer months is HIYAYAKKO  —— silken or firm Asian tofu served with freshly-grated ginger, green onions with soy sauce.  In winter, tofu is frequently eaten as YUDOFU, which is simmered in a clay pot with some vegetables.
In China, tofu is traditionally used as an offering when visiting the graves of deceased relatives.  It is claimed that since the spirits (or ghosts) have long lost their chins and jaws, only tofu is soft enough for them to eat.
Tofu soaks up all the flavours you cook it with.  You can quickly toss it with a sauce just before cooking, or let it soak up all the flavours of the dish you are using it in.
One of the founding fathers of the US, Benjamin Franklin, was the first American to mention tofu in a letter dated January 11, 1770.
tofu-china
Not much is known about the art of pairing tofu with wine, probably because of its versatility.  When soft and silky, it pairs well with light white wines, while the firmer versions cooked with spicy ingredients call for more robust whites or reds.
Silken tofu is very creamy, almost like custard.  It is used to make delicious desserts  ———- from chocolate pudding and pumpkin pie to cheesecake.  —————–
Advertisements

Bocche di Cattaro

bocche-di-cattaro
BOCCHE di CATTARO, in Italian (Bay of Kotor), BOKA KOTORSK (Serbian and Montenegrin) , known simply as BOKA (The Bay) is a winding bay in the  Adriatic Sea in south-westernmost Montenegro, just off the coast of Puglia, where it is wedged in a fjord coast for about 28km, creating a unique landscape suspended between sea and mountains.  Here is a great lake in which ships are moored .  These boats are precisely created for the sea and certainly not for closed waters.
bay-of-tivat
The bay is about 28km long with a shoreline extending 107.3km.  It is surrounded by two massifs of the Dinaric Alps : the ORJEN mountains to the west and the LOVCEN mountains to the east.  The narrowest section of the bay, the 2,300metres long VERIGE STRAIT, is only 340mts wide at its narrowest point.  The bay is a RIA of the vanished BOKELJ River that used to run from high mountain plateaus of Mount Orjen.The outermost part of the bay is the Bay of TIVAT.  On the seaward side is the Bay of HERCES NOVI.  The inner bays are the Bay of RISAN to the northwest and the Bay of KOTOR to the southeast.
Going down to the sea level, you can discover a small, but ancient city, declared  World Heritage by UNESCO in order to preserve the historical centre, its walls its Churches and the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon with its 12 squares and the TORRE DELL Clock.
kotor-old-town
The Flour Square includes the PIMA Palace and other buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.  The Cathedral of Saint Tryphon dominates another town square (originally built in the 9th century) after the catastrophic earthquake of 1667.  The remarkable façade with 2 towers is a unique example in Montenegro and frescoes dating back to the 14th century.  Near the Cathedral you can visit GRGURIN, a building that houses the maritime museum and its impressive collection of historical records of all the civilisations that have flourished in the Bay of Kotor.  Continuing along the road that runs along the Salt Lake, you can meet the surreal PERAST ( a small village) full of ancient buildings and fronted by two small islands, dominated by four Churches.  Continuing further, you go to RISAN, a town of ancient origin, in which the Romans built exceptional buildings  ——- whose mosaics are still visible ——- with the marble from Greece.
risan-town
Most of the inhabitants are Orthodox Christians, declaring themselves on Census Forms as either Serbs or as Montenegrins, while a minority are Croatian.  The Bay region is under the protection of UNESCO due to its cultural heritage.  Today, the Boka has about 100 Catholic Churches and about 200 Orthodox Churches.

Panchagni Vidya

Tat Tvam Asi
PANCHAGNI VIDYA, the Theory of the Five Fires, is central to the understanding of the laws of the Universe.
The CHHANDOGYA UPANISHAD lays down a unique template which maps out each activity in the Universe through the prism of chants.  The term CHHANDOGYA  is etymologically derived from CHHANDA (poetic metre).  Even as it presents a five-to-seven fold chant structure, through which all human and natural phenomena are seen, the CHHANDOGYA, at another level, goes deep into the metaphysical dimension of the empirical world.
The doctrine of PANCHAGNI through the story of Svetaketu, the highly learned and educated son of Sage Uddalaka, who, in the course of his travels, turns up at the court of king Pravahana Jaivali.  Having welcomed the learned young man, the King poses some questions to Svetaketu to comprehend how much the young man has learned.
chandogya-upanishad-hridaya
His first question, “Do you know where mortals go to after death ?” perplexes Svetaketu, who is at a loss for words. The second question, “Do you know from where people come when they are reborn ?” confuses Svetaketu.  The third and fourth question, “Are you aware of the two paths through which the soul ascends ?” and “What is the reason this world is able to contain so many people yet not overflow ?” further stumps the young scholar.
The last question, “Are you aware of the Five oblations that are offered, and how the fifth as water / liquid becomes a human ?” leaves Svetaketu at his wit’s end.  He realises that there are fundamental principles of which he is unaware.  So he turns to his father, but he too has no insight into such matters.  His father turns to the King for answers.
yajna-painting
The King initiates Sage Uddalaka into the principal of the Five Fires, in which the COSMOS / SKY is in itself metaphorically seen as a great altar, into which the fuel of the burning sun is offered, from which rises the moon.  The Upanishad lays down this as the first Fire stating that all existence follows this cycle of fire.  The next altar is of CLOUDS, where the fuel is the air from which arises rain.
The third altar is EARTH, where the fuel is time, from which arises food.  The fourth altar is MAN, where the fuel is food, from which arises semen (seed).  The fifth and last altar is WOMAN, to who the seed is offered as oblation, and from whence arises the foetus.
The CHHANDOGYA views Creation at all levels as a sort of YAJNA (sacrifice), where every activity is interconnected.  The birth of a child is not just a simple outcome between man and woman.  The CHHANDOGYA states that the child is conceived from every cell of the universe, and this prompts us to look beyond the obvious, to delve deep into the
fundamentals of whatever we see, hear or touch.
Atman
TAT TVAM ASI is the grand chant of the CHHANDOGYA, the MAHAVAKYA that each of us COMES FROM and ARE that Self, the ATMAN, nothing less.  ———
————-Pranav Khullar.

What should we ask God for?

When people are able to connect to the Divine and to benefit from Divine Grace in their endeavours, the mind gets perplexed as to what it should ask for.

bhagwan-sri-krishna

In the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna says that devotees worship him for different reasons-some people only want worldly possessions, power or relief from illness.  There are others who want to understand the mystery of the Cosmos.  And finally there are those who remember the Divine out of sheer affection.  Lord Krishna states further that He loves all devotees and fulfils their wishes in different ways, but the ones who pray to Him just for the sake of love are closest to His heart.
sri-rama
In the Ramayana, when Kevat ferried Lord Rama across the Ganga, He offered Kevat a precious ring in return for his service.  But Kevat was enlightened and knew that there was something far more precious that Lord Rama could bestow upon him.  So he prayed that in return for his service, he may be freed from the cycle of birth and death and be granted eternal devotion.  An overwhelmed Lord Rama accepted Kevat’s request.
According to Sri Aurobindo, the only way to this realisation is through self-unification and evolution.  Sri Aurobindo saw the self as consisting of the physical or body, the vital or emotions, the mental or reason and cognition and the psychic or the dynamic representation of Atman.
aurobindo-ghosh
Often the voices of the physical, vital and reason are so dominant that they bind us in a false identity and we often express ourselves through this falsehood.  The psychic voice is a very faint one, but when we neglect it, it gives us a sense of unease.  We should let our physic see all our parts, movements, thoughts, emotions, desires and will and then accept only that which takes us close to the Divine.
—– Pulkit Sharma.

Piplantri

PIPLANTRI is a village located in RAJSAMAND District in Rajasthan State.

The villagers of Piplantri plant 111 trees every time a girl child is born, and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girls grow up.  Over the years, people have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the village’s grazing commons, including neem, sheesham, mango and amla among others.

piplantri-village

To ensure financial security, after the birth of a girl child, the villagers contribute 21,000 rupees collectively and take 10,000 rupees from the parents and put the amount in a FD, which can be broken when she is 20 years old.  To make sure the child receives proper education, the villagers make the parents sign an affidavit which also restricts them from marrying her off before she attains the legal age for marriage.

piplantri-india

 

Shyam Sundar Palwal, the former Sarpanch (village head) started this initiative in memory of his daughter (Kiran) who died a few years ago.  The initiative begun in 2006 has turned Piplantri Village into an oasis.  The planting of the trees have raised the water level.  IT has also helped the village economy.  To keep termites away from the trees, many of which bear fruit, the village has planted more than 2.5million Aloe Vera plants around them.  Gradually, the villagers realised that Aloe Vera could be processed and marketed in a variety of ways.  So, the community now produces and markets Aloe Vera products like juice and gel, pickle and other items.  So, for the last several years, Piplantri is quietly practising its own home-grown eco-feminism and achieving spectacular results.  On an average 60 girls are born every year in Piplantri.

piplantri_friendship_tree

People also plant 11 trees whenever a family member dies.  The Village Panchayat, which has a studio-recorded anthem and a website of its own, has completed banned alcohol, open grazing of animals and cutting of trees.  Villagers claim that there has been no police case since the last seven or eight years.

Piplantri is well-known for its marble mining industry.  In this Gram Panchayat, the famous R. K. Marbles is located whose name is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Record for maximum production of marbles.

piplantri_trees

The village was awarded by the Rajasthan Government and included in Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Adarsh Gram Yojna and it is the only village from Rajsamand to get selected for it.

—————- Mahim Pratap Singh for The Hindu. 

Giethoorn

canals_-giethoorn

GIETHOORNS ( Goat Horns), the name originated from the first inhabitants’ discovery of hundreds of goat horns. 

Giethoorn is a village in the Dutch Province of OVERIJSSEL.  It is located in the municipality of STEENWIJKERLAND, about 5km southwest of STEENWIJK.

It used to be an auto-free zone, but nowadays, exceptions are made.  It became locally famous, especially after 1958, when the Dutch film-maker Bert Haanstra made his famous comedy FANFARE there.  In the old part of the village, there were no roads (though a cycling path was eventually added), and all transport was done by water over one of the many canals.  The lake in Giethoorn was formed by peat-unearthing.

giethoorn

Tourism has had a relatively small influence on the old traditional town.  The village, still only fully accessible by boat, is one of the several places commonly known as the Venice of the North or Venice of the Netherlands.

giethoorn_tourism

Giethoorn has 180 bridges.  Giethoorn is a very popular attraction among Chinese tourists.  The village of only 2,620 inhabitants sees between 150,000 to 200,000 Chinese tourists every year.

beautiful-giethoorn

Since all transport is done buy boat, Giethoorn has punts (traditional flat-bottomed boats that are used for transport over the canals.  Giethoorn has a long shape and is separated into three tiny settlements : NOORDEINDE, MIDDENBUURT & ZUIDENDE. The DORPSGRACHT is the central canal that connects these separate settlements.  The farms and houses are separated from each other by small canals.  The BULTRUGBOERDERIJ is a common type of farm in Giethoorn.  It seems to have a large bump because the barn is larger than the house in front.

Giethoorn is so peaceful, so different and has such simple beauty, that it hardly seems real ——- gently gliding along small canals past old, but pretty, thatched-roof farmhouses.  You can turn down a side street (another small canal) and drift under a wooden bridge where an elderly resident may be strolling over to see a neighbour.

giethoorn_summer

Giethoorn is Holland’s “water village”, and the loudest sound you can normally hear is a quacking of a duck or the noises made by other birds.  The little village is so dependent on its waterways that many houses cannot be reached by road.  When the postman delivers the mail, he travels by punt.

giethoorn_winter

Boating has been a popular tourist attraction here for years, with 90km of canoe trails and scores of motorboats to rent, but now, instead of conventional outboard motors, the hire shops stock so-called WHISPER- BOATS ———– dinghies driven by electric motor.  There are three canal-side museums to visit and the SCHREUR shipyard, where the Giethoorn punt is built.

Kampong Ayer

Brunei water village.

KAMPONG AYER or the WATER VILLAGE (Malay : KAMPONG AIR) is an area of Brunei’s capital city BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, that is situated over Brunei Bay.  39,000 people live in Kampong Ayer.  This represents roughly 10% of the nation’s total population.  All of the Kampong Ayer’s buildings are constructed on stilts above the Brunei River.

As part of His Majesty’s plans to improve the standard of living for the people in Kampong Ayer,  King Hassanal Bolkiah decreed to build modern 2-storey stilt houses made of concrete in the centre of Kampong Ayer, starting around 2013 – 2014.  These houses would be given to the people in need of a new house who were not wishing to live on land.

water-village-venice_kampong

Built entirely of stilt houses and wooden walkways, this cluster of 42 villages, housing more than 30,000 inhabitants, is the world’s largest Water Village.  The Water Village is really made up of small villages linked together by more than 29,140metres of foot-bridges, consisting of over 4,200 structures, including homes, mosques, restaurants, shops, schools and a hospital.  36kms of board-walks connect the buildings.  Private water taxis provide rapid transit.  Most of these taxis resemble long wooden speedboats.  From a distance, the Water Village looks like a slum.  It actually enjoys modern amenities including air-conditioning, satellite television, Internet access, plumbing and electricity.  Some of the residents keep potted plants and chickens.

kampong-ayer-bandar

The district has a unique architectural heritage of wooden with ornate interiors.  People have lived in Kampong Ayer for over 1300 years.  Antonio Pigafetta dubbed it the “Venice of the East”, when the fleet of Ferdinand Magellan visited in 1521.  The district is a culturally important part of Brunei that preserves the nation’s river dwelling origins.  According to geography Professor Abdul Aziz of the UNIVERSITI BRUNEI DARUSSALAM, this is the largest and most famous water settlement of Southeast Asia.  It was historically the very core of Brunei and one of the most important centres of trade in Borneo.

In order to preserve Kampong Ayer as Brunei Darussalam’s  most valuable heritage, the Government, through the District Office, has provided it with numerous facilities including foot-bridges, concrete jetties, piped water, electricity supplies, telephones, a school, mosques, clinics, a police station and a marine fire station.  All of the six Water Village MUKIMS (districts) are collectively known as the Kampong Ayer, but are identified as separate MUKIMS for administrative purposes.

kampong-ayer-village

Kampong Ayer retains much of the historical features of the 16th century.  The traditional lifestyle of its inhabitants ——– fishermen, river traders (PADIAN as they are called in the Malay language) and artisans making and selling traditional handicrafts (silverware, brassware, wood carvings and cloth weaving) ——- has remained unchanged. since then.

kampong-ayer-water-village

Visitors can have a personal experience of this heritage by taking one of the many water taxis that ply daily between the water taxi jetty in front of the Yayasan in the centre of town and the Water Village itself.