Tag Archives: yogic diet

Restaurant Review: Kriya Bhavan Ayurvedic Cuisine (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia)

By Jana Thevar and Ganesh Asirvatham

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I must admit I was skeptical when Ganesh suggested that we review Kriya Bhavan. An Ayurvedic restaurant? But isn’t all South Indian vegetarian food Ayurvedic in nature, I asked. However, curiosity got the better of me and we found ourselves there last Sunday.

I was surprised to find that we were the only people there (granted, at 11.30am we were early for lunch by Malaysian standards). I found the ambience lovely – spotlessly clean, neat, cozy and unassuming.

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The owner, Suresh, approached us with a big smile and quickly ran through the offerings for the day. He mentioned a 25-course Ayurvedic lunch and asked us if we’d like to try it. Although I was seriously tempted by the tantalizing array of ‘regular’ food which was available for self-serving, I went with Ganesh’s choice as well. After all, I was there to review the ‘Ayurvedicness’ of the food.

Ganesh’s write-up below will go into the details of what was served according to sequence. As a brief overview, the meal started off with five shot glasses of various types of liquids and light starters, followed by raw veggies, then graduating onto the heavier fare like rice and curries. The Ayurvedic lunch concluded with an Indian dessert and a dollop of honey.

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I really liked how dedicated and involved Suresh was when it came to his passion. He did a great job of explaining things in detail to customers, such as what each food item is supposed to do for your body per Ayurvedic principles. He’s bubbly and friendly, yet patient and shows genuine enthusiasm in his area of expertise, which is refreshing and rare in these times of sour-faced, grumpy restaurant personnel who couldn’t care less if you choked to death on a mound of rice or found a cockroach in your rasam.

Accustomed as I am to the usual South Indian way of eating banana leaf rice, I found it hard to not mix the courses up and eat them one by one per Suresh’s recommendation. Why are we supposed to consume each course separately? A number of reasons as explained by Suresh:

(1) to enable the system to detox and cleanse itself properly before the heavier food is introduced into the digestive tract, and

(2) to allow the body to produce the right enzymes to digest each type of food individually for maximum health benefit.

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As a yoga person and Ayurvedic practitioner, I would say that sounds about right. The food was delicious, fresh and not overcooked, and the combinations were more or less Ayurvedically accurate from what I know, so I give this place the green light. A HUGE green light because damn, I absolutely loved it. I’m definitely going back for more, and repeatedly.

The only fail was the kulfi, or Indian ice cream (not part of the Ayurvedic meal, and according to Suresh it was ordered from an outside vendor). It tasted overpoweringly of condensed milk, and I truly despise cheap shortcuts when it comes to kulfi-making. For me it’s either fresh milk cooked down the traditional way, or it’s not fit to be called kulfi. Needless to say, I won’t be ordering that again.

What Ganesh Says

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Kriya Bhavan offers the jaded Indian food connoisseur a heady entrance into the delights of an Ayurvedic meal. Suresh the ever-smiling proprietor took great pains to educate us on the food combinations, as well as the rationale behind it all.

I admit that I paid overmuch attention to the food and taste that the explanation got somewhat left behind. I’ve no choice but to visit Kriya Bhavan again to complete my education. It’s tough being a food blogger but we all must make sacrifices.

But I digress.

The Ayurvedic meal is only available Friday to Sunday. RM15 seems like an acceptable amount for the number and quality of dishes served.

The culinary voyage began with a plate of food and five shots of various liquids. Pay attention dear reader lest you skip a step.

Dishes and Sequence

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The plate of food arrived with the shots and we were given strict instructions on how these were to be consumed. I was famished by the time the food arrived but paid enough attention to follow the sequence exactly.

Starters:

  • Banana cooked lightly with grated coconut
  • Five shots to be drunk in sequence – date juice, soy milk, buttermilk, spinach juice and rice water
  • Brown rice cooked in something or the other – but tasted awesome!

Next, we were told to consume raw items before moving on to the semi-cooked fare, and finally ending with fully-cooked items.

The raw items were:

  • Purple cabbage
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Shredded carrots
  • Diced tender banana stem
  • Sliced celery

No sequence to consume these, but we were told to eat each item on its own – this rule applied throughout the entire meal experience. The portions are small so don’t worry if raw veggies aren’t quite your jam.

Next came the semi-cooked part of the meal, and there was finally some rice. We were given a sprinkling of moringa powder (lightly sautéed with spices) and some liquid ghee. I don’t know if it was because I was hungry or that I was craving some rice but my oh my, the combination was absolutely dynamite. I was tempted to ask for more, but instead chose to exercise some restraint and bide my time.

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Finally, it was time for the cooked portion of the meal. The same brown rice from earlier can be used but if you happen to want more, Suresh will be more than happy to serve you the amount that you desire.

The cooked dishes were moringa avial, green vegetables with lentils and curry. I could see the value of savoring each dish and its individual taste as opposed to merging various items together. My eating time increased and I began to relish the combination of ingredients. I began to chew slowly and truly taste what I was eating.

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By this time, I had polished off the rice that was initially served and had to ask for more as the next three dishes (and also the last set) were rasam, sambhar and thick buttermilk curry. I’m not usually a fan of the last two dishes, but this was something else completely.
We got served a small tumbler of yummy payasam, followed by honey to wrap up.

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By this juncture I was comfortably full but couldn’t help trying the kulfi especially when we were told it was home-made. Unfortunately, the use of condensed milk negated what would have been a perfect end to a wonderful meal.

Conclusion

Kriya Bhavan is an establishment where the food speaks for itself and you don’t really need anything else to enhance your experience. Go now and tell all your friends about this place. We need to support individuals who cook with such passion and dedication.

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How We Rate It:

Food : 10/10
General Cleanliness: 10/10
Ambience: 9/10
Service: 10/10
Price: 9/10
Location (Petaling Jaya, Selangor): 6/10
Will we go back again : 10/10

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Blue Butterfly Spiced Milk

by Princess Draupadi

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, fresh milk is a highly recommended food for hatha yogis. This 15th-century yoga manual by Swami Svatmarama praises milk as a wholesome, nourishing food and states that it is an essential part of a sattvic yogic diet.

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Understandably, unethical dairy farming methods are a huge concern these days. I usually get my supply from small local dairy farms or ISKCON centers (ISKCON cows are protected for life and never slaughtered) to ensure that the least cruelty is involved. If you can get ahimsa milk where you live, fantastic! For a vegan version of this drink,  see the notes within the recipe below.

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Spiced milk (Hindi: masala doodh) is a common beverage in India. The spices in this recipe impart fragrance, flavor and medicinal properties to the milk, as well as help in aiding digestion.

It just so happens that my favorite color is blue and my good friend, Alex Lee, has a Clitoria Ternatea flower farm in Australia. Alex provided me with a sachet of her organic, all-natural Blue Butterfly powder, and this is my first attempt at using it in my cooking. This flower is commonly known as bunga telang in Malay, and it’s popular in Peranakan cuisine. The plant is a creeper, and pretty easy to grow in a tropical climate.

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As a kid, I saw Luke Skywalker drinking blue milk in Star Wars, and I’ve wanted to drink it ever since. There you go, an idea to get your kids to drink more milk – actual dairy or a quality vegan substitute, whichever your choice may be.

Here’s a simple recipe for spiced milk. I consume this almost daily before bedtime. You can vary the spices if you wish, or add a pinch of saffron. This beverage makes an excellent and nourishing meal substitute, especially at night.

Blue Butterfly Spiced Milk

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • ½ tsp Blue Butterfly powder (mix with 2 tablespoons warm water)
  • 500ml fresh cow’s milk (or a vegan milk substitute)
  • 3-4 cardamom pods
  • 1-2 whole dried cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 small springs of Indian holy basil (tulsi)
  • ½ tsp organic chia seeds
  • Honey or jaggery to taste (optional)

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Method:

1) Pour the milk into a sturdy pot. Add in all dried spices and stir well. Bring the milk to boil on medium heat, stirring regularly. Milk burns easily, so stir briskly and well, scraping the bottom of your pot.

2) When the milk comes to a rolling boil, stir well for 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat. Allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes. (If you wish to sweeten the milk, allow the milk to cool for 10 minutes before adding the honey or jaggery, then stir well).

3) Add the Blue Butterfly powder solution to the milk. Stir briskly until the color is uniform.

4) Pour the milk into serving glasses or mugs. Add the springs of holy basil (one per glass), ensuring that the herb is at least partially submerged in the milk – this helps the Ayurvedic medicinal properties of the leaves to steep into the milk. Garnish with the chia seeds and serve hot.

Vegan variation: To make a vegan version of this recipe, simply substitute the cow’s milk with any vegan milk of your choice. Also, when using vegan milk, do not allow the liquid to boil – simply heat the vegan milk up, then turn off the heat when it’s close to boiling point. The best vegan milks to use for this recipe are soy, cashew, oat, almond and coconut. 

Related Links:

My Blue Tea – Blue Butterfly Flower Powder

Kitchiri, the Best Sattvic Detox Food

Index of Articles

Do Crash Diets Really Work?

by Princess Draupadi

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The short answer is, no – they don’t. The health experts were right. A healthy, balanced diet will do more to help you lose weight in the long term, but starving yourself is always a bad idea.

What happens with most ‘starve-yourself-skinny’ diets is this: while you may lose weight temporarily by depriving yourself of food, you’ll also mess up your normal metabolism and shock your body into ‘starvation mode’. When this happens, your body will start preparing to conserve more energy instead of burning it.

The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ couldn’t be more true. Think about this; the food you consume is constantly transforming into bits and pieces of your body – it gets digested and broken down, then replaces old, worn and dead cells. The better the quality of your food, the better the ‘quality’ of the body built from it. Now, what kind of results can one expect from a diet consisting of mainly factory-processed, synthetic-additive-laden or stale food?

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So guess what happens when you start eating normally again, or lose control and go on a food binge? Bingo. Your body stores more calories than usual. This is why on-and-off dieting (and extreme dieting) is bad for you in the long term.

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So what’s a better solution? Eating better and ‘eating cleaner’ consistently. Practise moderation and make educated choices when it comes to your food. Think long term, because it takes time for diet changes to reflect in your body.

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What you should aim for is healthy weight and a fit, strong body. Also, be realistic about your expectations. If you have a naturally bigger frame, you may never be skinny, even at your healthiest point.

On the other hand, if you’re lean no matter what you eat, it’s unwise to push your body too hard to artificially ‘bulk up’. This will put unnecessary strain on your system. Respect your body and how it naturally works. If you know you’re exercising adequately, eating clean and nourishing food, getting the rest you need and generally living a fairly healthy lifestyle, that’s good enough. Keep your fitness and health goals realistic and don’t harm your body.

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Dieting Myths

Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates, oils and fats are not bad for you. You actually need them in your diet so your body functions at an optimum level. For instance, you do need healthy fats and quality oils in your diet to keep your skin supple and your systems well-lubricated – you can get these from extra-virgin olive oil, ahimsa dairy products, unprocessed nuts and grains and ripe avocados (monounsaturated fat).

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The real culprits are overly-processed foodstuff with cheap, synthetic ingredients (preservatives, artificial color, etc). These are hard for your body to break down, digest and absorb effectively. These foods also leave all kinds of unhealthy residue in your system (known as ama in Ayurveda) and can cause various health issues like gas, bloating and allergies.

And that’s not all. Hardcore dieting can leech your body of important nutrients, causing lethargy, weakness, fainting, weak immunity, dry skin, acne, cracked heels and worse. Always aim for fresh, vitamin and mineral-rich foods.

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Here are a few quick lists (with examples) to help improve your diet as a long-term solution to weight management.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Processed carbohydrates (factory-made noodles, instant porridge)
  • Refined sugar (white cane sugar)
  • Low-grade cooking oil (recycled cooking oil)
  • Leftovers (no longer than 2 days in the refridgerator)
  • Margerine (all kinds)
  • Unrefrigerated cooked food (Ayurvedically considered unfit for consumption after 3 hours)
  • Processed fruit juices

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Healthy Food Substitutes:

  • Honey, brown sugar, palm sugar, molasses and jaggery (instead of white sugar)
  • Wholemeal bread (instead of white bread)
  • Unpolished, parboiled or brown rice
  • Fresh milk (instead of recombined or powdered milk)
  • Extra virgin or virgin vegetable oils (instead of fractionated oils)
  • Whole grains (instead of processed grains)
  • Wholemeal flour (instead of white flour)
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (instead of canned or preserved)

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Additional Eat-Healthy Tips:

  • Consume something fresh every day (fruits or vegetables)
  • Match each serving of carbohydrates with an equal-sized serving of fresh produce
  • Eat normally for breakfast and lunch, but prepare a nutrient-dense, low-carbohydrate dinner (e.g. a large bowl of salad with a few cubes of feta cheese, plus a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil)

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A Final Note

Never torment your body for the sake of unrealistic ideals portrayed by the media. You may never be supermodel-skinny even at your healthiest point, and that’s perfectly okay.

Love your body, respect it, appreciate it and help it stay healthy. It’s been working hard for you since the day you were born, through millions of complex bodily processes every single day.

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Related Link:

Kitchiri, the Best Sattvic Detox Food

Hatha Yoga for Weight Loss

Kitchiri, The Best Sattvic Detox Food

by Princess Draupadi

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Kitchiri is an ancient Indian vegetarian dish which can be customized to suit your needs. It’s a breeze to make, easy to digest and highly nourishing. I consume kitchiri on days when I do my yoga kriyas (cleansing) so that my digestive system can have a break while getting rid of accumulated toxins (called ama in Ayurveda).

This is my personal recipe. I recommend kitchri when you feel your digestion has become unbalanced, i.e. food poisoning, bloating, gas or general indigestion.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup Basmathi rice
1 ½ cups water
½ tsp ground turmeric
2-3 dried cloves
½ tsp fennel
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp ghee
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
¼ cup button mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/4 cup yellow lentils

* Makes 2 – 4 servings.

For Garnish:

10 – 12 fresh curry leaves

Method:

1. Wash the rice well in plenty of water. Drain well, then put the washed rice into a rice cooker. Wash the lentils, then pour enough boiling water to cover them. Leave the lentils to soak for 2 minutes, then drain and give them a quick rinse. Add the lentils to the rice cooker. 
2. Add the water and all other ingredients, except the ghee and curry leaves.
3. Switch on the rice cooker and wait till the rice is cooked. If you prefer your kitchiri to have a porridge-like consistency, add in ½ to 1 cup of water and allow to cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes.
4. Once the rice is cooked, switch the cooker off and remove the lid. Then, add the curry leaves and ghee while the rice is still hot. Stir well, then quickly replace the cooker lid and allow to stand for 5 minutes (to allow the curry leaves to cook slightly in the steam).
5. Serve hot.

Notes:

  • This dish can be made in larger quantities and stored in the freezer. To reheat frozen kitchiri, sprinkle generously with water before microwaving.
  • Ghee may be replaced with any good-quality vegetable oil of choice for a vegan version.
  • Regular table salt can be used in place of Himalayan pink salt.
  • Onions and garlic may be added if a purely sattvic dish isn’t required.
  • Replace the mushrooms with a different vegetable such as cauliflower for a purely sattvic dish.

Ayurvedic Benefits:

  • The dried spices promote internal cleansing and healing. The internal organs (specifically the liver and bowels) are gently stimulated to eliminate toxins and decomposing matter from processed foods.
  • The ghee provides the body with lubrication and moisturizing properties.
  • Curry leaves promote and enhance the growth of hair, and prevents premature greying and hair loss.
  • Lentils provide protein to ensure a balanced meal.

 

See Also:

Healing and Rejuvenation with Abhyanga

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