Some of the most historic and artistic sights in India are to be found near Bangalore: the ornate temple complexes of Belur and Halebid, and the great awe inspiring statue of Bahubali at Shravanabelagola. If you are ever in Bangalore, you must spend a day visiting all three of these places, for they are sights that you will never forget.
Belur and Halebid are both elaborate temple complexes that date back to the 12th century. They are famous for the elaborate stone carvings that adorn the buildings, illustrating stories from the great Hindu epics. Images of gods and goddesses, bulls, and mythological beasts, carved in amazing, intricate detail fill every inch of wall space. Here, you will feel transported back in time as you marvel at the thousands of miniature statues carved straight out of rock.
Shravanabelagola is a pilgrimage site for followers of the Jain faith, where you climb steps up a steep hill at the top of which towers a 57 foot high statue of Bahubali, a Jain saint. Over a thousand years old, it is carved from a single rock and is the tallest monolithic statue in the world.
The climb up the steep hill to the Bahuabali shrine can be quite exhausting, so it is a good idea to fortify yourself with a paper cone of freshly roasted peanuts or a refreshing drink of green coconut water at the base of the hill.
When driving from Bangalore to all of these places, there are plenty of opportunities to stop at the many roadside cafes along the route and sample authentic local fare. We made sure to stop at several of them! I always started with Rasam (spicy tomato soup), to warm me up. Our meals often expanded to include dosas (thin crepes made with a fermented batter of rice and lentils, stuffed with spicy potatoes), idlis (steamed rice cakes), vadas (deep fried lentil cakes, often served dipped in rasam or with coconut chutney on the side) and upma ( semolina cooked with spices and vegetables). Just getting to Belur was half the fun!
Rasam, a staple in every South Indian meal is considered to be a digestive. The recipe varies from region to region - sometimes it is just tamarind water cooked up with pepper, herbs and spices and other times it is tomatoes, lentils and spices cooked together to make a thin soup. My personal favourite is the one that combines all these elements in one recipe, the one I have provided here.
This is a hearty blend of tomatoes, lentils, tamarind, spices and herbs. In addition to being healthy, one bowl will banish all colds and put a smile on your face for the rest of the day!
This delicious spicy tomato lentil soup is fantastic for chasing away winter blahs. Add some leftover rice to it and you've got a perfect lunch to warm you up! If you'd like to make it spicier, invest in some rasam powder - it's a ready made spice mix for preparing rasam, available in Indian grocery stores.
¼ cup *Tur Dal (split pigeon peas) or red lentils
1 lb. ripe Italian plum tomatoes (about 6), substitute canned if desired
1/4 inch piece of ginger
salt to taste
½ tsp turmeric
30 *fresh curry leaves
1 tsp *Rasam powder, optional
1/2 tsp *tamarind paste or 2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 dried red chilies
1/4 tsp each: black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, *fenugreek seeds (optional)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp each: ground black pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
Wash lentils and soak in water for 15 minutes. Chop tomatoes into small pieces. Drain lentils and place them along with the tomatoes and ginger in a deep saucepan. Add 3 cups water, salt, turmeric and 15 curry leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook till very soft, about 30 minutes. Puree mixture with a hand blender and then strain. Stir in Rasam powder and tamarind (if using) .
Warm oil in non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the chillies, mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds. As soon as they begin to splutter, add the chopped onions, garlic and remaining curry leaves. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Add dal mixture to skillet along with pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander and sugar. Stir to mix, and cook for about 5 minutes, then mix in the chopped fresh coriander leaves and lemon juice (if using) and serve hot.
*available in Indian stores