Posted in byrdaw falls, cherrapunjee, dawki, double living roots bridge, guwahati, india, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, khasi food, khasi hills, laitlum canyon, living roots bridge, maphlang, mawlynnong, police bazaar, road trip, sacred grove, seven sisters fall, shillong, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized

First sojourn in the North-East India

We yearn for the mesmerising landscapes of Scotland and Europe which are sans the human presence and reflect the nature in its pristine glory. But do we ever wonder that similar geographical escapades are very much present in our country as well, we only have to seek them to relish them.

Time and again, I hear many travellers eloquently describing the wonders of the north eastern India. The seven sisters with a plethora of geographical spectacles have plenty of eye-soothing destinations. So when the opportunity came knocking on my door about a visit to Shillong and surrounding sights, I could not say nope, no time!

Day 1

An early morning flight to Guwahati from Delhi initiated this memorable journey. I preferred to take a power nap in the flight as the ensuing road journey to Shillong will be very tiring.

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Our Air BnB owner in Shillong, Mr. Lam had sent a cab for the three of us and a local lady at the Guwahati airport ad there started our eventful road journey on NH206. The local lady, Tanya, took us to a restaurant where authentic Khasi cuisine is served. The non vegetarians amongst us had a platter of boiled sticky rice, dal, Doh-Neiong – pork cooked in a light watery gravy of tea leaves, fried chicken pakora and mutton curry. The pork was the best – mellow to the core and not the chewy variety we have in the restaurants.

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It was raining cats and dogs on the whole national highway and hence we could not savour the beauty of Umian lake or the Bada Pani.

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It took us approximately four hours to reach Shillong. The traffic in Shillong is hell crazy – slower than Mumbai’s during the peak hours. We finally reached our Air BnB Thrift Inn Homestay and met our very gracious host Mr. Lam who guided us about the restaurants in the Police Bazaar.

We were assigned the apartment set on the third floor of the homestay and the view from the terrace was beautiful. The apartment is very well maintained with simplistic interiors and pamphlets posted on the walls regarding the do’s and don’t’s. There is a small living room, a lobby, two bed rooms with two beds each and cabinets, a dining area with a kitchenette and a balcony with a washroom.

We explored the area of Police Bazaar in the evening with a visit to a local fine-dine restaurant Déjà vu. The food was great there but since we longed for something north Indian, we knocked the doors of the nearby Amma restaurant and had a homely meal there.

Day 2

The second day started early at 7 a.m. because we had to depart for Cherrapunjee to start the Living Roots Bridge trek. We were greeted with a delicious breakfast of aloo paratha prepared by Mr. Lam’s mother and we hogged onto them like voracious beasts because the coming journey and trek would rob us of calories.

Our host Mr. Lam took us on the two hour drive explaining about the weather and the surrounding landscapes. Since we were driving through the heaviest rainfall area, the visibility was low. We were practically driving through the clouds and had to be slow.

The original name for Cherrapunjee was Sohra and the locals still use this name. You can see the sign boards mentioning the name while you traverse the narrow lanes there. As Lam elaborated the history, we got to know that Cherrapunjee was the first town to be established by the Britishers in the north east India as it connected well with Bangladesh. Shillong and Guwahati were established much later. Therefore you will see some vintage Catholic churches en route to the Living Roots bridge trek.

We finally reached the place where the trek begins. The clouds had cleared by then so we started in good conditions. There are bamboo sticks available at the nearby shops with water bottles and light snacks. Washrooms are also situated there and are payable, so expect spot on cleanliness there.

There is a plethora of Living Roots Bridges in and around Cherrapunjee but the most spectacular and the oldest one is the Double Living Roots bridge which is a actually 300-400 years old. Fashioning these bridges is an art and is passed down through generations. The aerial roots of the fig trees are guided through bamboo or wood over the river streams by twisting them together time and again. Over time, more roots grow and strengthen over time. It takes about 40-50 years for a young bridge to be functional.

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The trek is easier on the terrain side because you just have to climb up/down the steps. The trouble is that there are 3200 steps on one side and you first have to climb down and then up. Additionally, we are not used to climbing so many stairs, so it takes time for your body to get acclimatised. The minute you stop for rest breaks, you can feel your legs shaking because the body takes time to stop the momentum.

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It is soothing to breathe the fresh air of the surrounding forest and feast your eyes with the enveloping mountains and the dispersing clouds.

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There are two suspension bridges en route to the double bridge. The first one, a steel wire suspension bridge, is darn scary because it starts oscillating if more than two people traverse on it. But the view of the river ferociously flowing over huge boulders is fearlessly enchanting.

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You can also spot a lot of epiphytes/fungi stuck on the trunks of dead trees.

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Two hours of arduous trekking finally comes to a wonderful site of the double living roots bridge and the surrounding musical waterfall. It is advisable to relax there and maybe take a dip in the clear water to soothe your tired nerves.

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We had our lunch at a local homestay and were served the usuals – boiled rice, dal, sautéed potatoes in turmeric, egg fry and bamboo shoot pickle. The bamboo shoot pickle was lip smacking – sour with the spiciness of black pepper.

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The trekking up part is really difficult because the staircase is way too steep. We were saved by the juicy pineapple available at kiosks.

The whole trek takes about five hours and is tedious. So it is better to stay at a local homestay/inn/hotel.

But as adventurous as we are and with the able guidance of our host, we decided to visit the site from where the Seven Sisters fall is visible. The clouds had finally cleared and with no sign of rainfall, our DSLR’s were out.

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We had booked La Kapur Inn for our stay in Cherrapunjee and were pleasantly surprised by the helpful staff there. The owner and the one of ladies there – Teesta helped us in every way possible. The dinner was a simple affair with chappatis, dal, makhani chicken and salad.

Day 3

Lam asked us to go easy on this day as we were super tired from the trek. We started at 9 a.m. and went for a 100km drive to Dawki – the India Bangladesh border. The skies were comparatively clearer today so we could see the vibrantly green rolling hills.

We halted for a short time to buy organic black pepper, coffee and honey from a local shop and trust me, these are better than the ones you find in the super markets.

The journey is smooth but there are so many photograph spots en route that you would want to get out of your car time and again. The flowing streams, the English pines and the surrounding greenery beckons you to keep capturing them.

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As soon as you enter the Dawki village, you can spot the towering betel nut trees. The surrounding flora changes to evergreen forests so expect extreme humidity which will severely drench you. If you are fond of boating, then better to board the rustic boats sailing over the muddy waters (monsoon specific) of Umngot river. Since the river was murky unlike its clear avatar, we decided to ditch boating.

Lunch was simple with the usuals and a pleasant surprise in the form of channa or back gram curry. It reminded me of my Mom’s special black gram gravy.

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Lam had discovered a hidden falls by the name of Byrdaw near Dawki which are bewitching to say the least. There is a small 15 minutes trek to the falls through a deep forest. The melody of the falling waters can be heard from a distance and the when you actually behold the copious amounts of water falling from such a height, your heart does skip a beat.

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Next up on our list was the Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in Asia. The village although clean, has been beautified with ornamental plants and creepers and does give an appearance of “made up beauty”. Nevertheless, it is a soothing place to visit after suffering the harrowing humidity of Dawki. You can also buy bamboo handicrafts from local shops here.

 

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Day 3

The day started slightly late at 9:30 am as we had to roam around Shillong only. We first drove to the Laitlum village which is again surprisingly clean and eye-soothing. But the real beauty was waiting for us when we finally reached the Laitlum canyon. The moving clouds, the green hills & canyon, the wild flowers and a serpentine river make this a wonderland. People usually visit this place for old school picnics. The best part is not the natural beauty but dustbins at every few metres so that the pristine surroundings are maintained.

 

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And travel to Shillong is never complete without a visit to the Maphlang sacred grove. Lam called this a magical place and it is rightly so. There are trained guides available at the entrance and the visitors have to go with them because there are certain rules to be followed while going for the scared grove walk. For instance, you can not take anything from the forest. It is believed that if you kill an organism or pluck a leaf/fruit/flower, this action will affect 1000 lives. So it is better to soak in the surroundings of the lush and dense forest and observe the flora and fauna.

There are two treks through this forest – one for half & hour and another for two hours which finishes at the famous David Scott’s trail.

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Special note about our host Mr. Lam – he is extremely helpful and understanding. He took care of every aspect of the trip and even pep talked to us when we were too tired during our trek. He guided us about the spots to take photographs from and the places to visit. He also talked elaborately about the history of the places we visited and the cultural aspects present here. Here is the link to his homestay: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/22151957

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After the Maphlang sacred grove trek, we started for Shillong and en-route had a hearty meal at the ML05 café.

Lam arranged a cab for us for Guwahati from Police Bazaar and we reached the Assam capital by 8pm. Our stay was at an Air BnB near the Guwahati airport and it was not in the cleanest condition as the owner Mr. Tathagat was away. He eventually made up for it by dropping us at the airport in the wee hours of the morning without any charge.

Special thank you to my friends Anjali and Pratibha with whom it is always a pleasure to travel. All my pictures are clicked by Anjali through her Iphone X.

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Posted in afghani chicken, chicken, chicken malai tikka, chicken tikka, chinese cuisine, delhi, food, food blogger, gluttonyguilts, hakka noodles, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, mughlai, mughlai cuisine, north indian, things to do in delhi, Uncategorized

You got served, East of Kailash, New Delhi

Delivery: On time

Packaging: Hygienic and spill proof

Chicken Tikka: The ideal chicken tikka should be drenched in the tikka spices to the core, should be juicy and tangy. This one fulfilled all these criteria but was slightly salty. But I will HIGHLY RECOMMEND this.

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Afghani chicken tikka/Chicken malai tikka: Lord, please save me from the lovely taste of the afghani chicken tikka served here. Although slightly salty, the chicken pieces were slathered in the cream/yogurt mixture and grilled to perfection. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Veg Hakka Noodles: Thin noodles with oodles of vegetables never fail but a slight off taste in the cooking medium does spoil the experience.

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You Got Served Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in awadhi biryani, biryani, chicken, chicken biryani, delhi, dum biryani, food, food blogger, gluttonyguilts, godavari biryani, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, lucknawi biryani, mutton, mutton biryani, north indian, south indian, south indian cuisine, things to do in delhi, Uncategorized

Biryani Project, Greater Kailash 2, New Delhi

Delivery: On time
Packaging: Hygienic and attractive.
Lucknawi Biryani: I shall stop myself from comparing this one with the authentic one from Lucknow. But I feel that till date, it is one of the very few Biryanis which is slightly closer to the original Lucknawi. The long grained aromatic rice, some of them drenched in the saffron tinge will entice you with its aromatic warmth. And who can forget those succulent and decadent mutton pieces which speak subtlety and class? The biryani is not spicy but flavourful and hot. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Godavari Chicken Biryani: So instead of the Hyderabadi one which is way too spicy, I decided to indulge in a novel Biryani and was pleased to taste it. The earthy flavour of curry leaves along with a peppery taste of coastal spices does satiate your taste buds. Add to this the crusty layer on the chicken pieces and you have a winner! However, the aggregated cluster of spices could be improved. RECOMMENDED.

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The Biryani Project Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in bisi bele bath, butter masala dosa, buttermilk, chutney, coconut chutney, coriander chutney, delhi, dessert, dosa, food, food blogger, gluttonyguilts, gurgaon, gurgaon restaurants, home made icecream, ice cream, idli, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, mango icecream, masala dosa, masala idli, obattu, ratnagiri mango icecream, rawa dosa, rawa masala dosa, rice idli, rose icecream, sambhar, south indian, south indian cuisine, strawberry, strawberry icecream, things to do in delhi, Uncategorized, uttapam

Carnatic Café, Sector 15, Gurgaon

Let us please move over the likes of Sagar Ratnas, the Uddupis and the Bhawans when it comes to pure vegetarian South Indian cuisine. We, the Delhiites, the north Indians are least bit aware about the home made delicacies prepared in the Karnataka region. And that is where the sorcery of Carnatic café comes in.

Quick fact – water is served in bronze glasses here, thus reminding you of the older and simpler days. The interiors are classy and give a nostalgic feeling of the South Indian cafes of the 90’s. The servers and the manager are humble and know their cuisine well and are swift to suggest the specials.

Buttermilk: Freshly prepared and frothing gloriously to the brim, the classic and the masala buttermilk are the best way to begin an authentic South Indian meal. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Rice Idli: Fluffy and soft idlis with a prominent sour flavour served with piping hot sambhar; onion, coconut and coriander chutney. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Rawa coconut dosa: Loaded with desi ghee, crispy with embedded cumin and enclosing grated coconut – just how better it can get? The flavours are simple and not overpowering and when the dosa is served separately with mashed potatoes tempered in mustard seeds, onion and garlic, the taste is enhanced. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Malleshwaram 18th cross dosa: The air becomes redolent with the aroma of pure desi ghee when this dosa is brought to you. It is not a paper thin variety but a thick, crispy and fluffy one with the insides coated with white butter and podi or gunpowder mixture. HIGHYLY RECOMMENDED.

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Bombat dosa: This one is a bomb! Thick yet crispy variety with the insides layered with white butter, cinnamon and finely powdered onion garlic mixture. You can taste the prominent hotness of the cinnamon in this one – enough to ignite a small volcano inside your mouth. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Bisi-bele-bath: A hot maelstrom of short rice, lentils, vegetables and spices served with a crispy pappad/poppadam and crunchy boondi, this one is a complete meal in itself. RECOMMENDED.

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Onion and Tomato Uttapam: A lovely soft pancake where the tomatoes are squished, thus imparting their tangy juicy flavour to the ensemble. The only drawback is its oiliness. RECOMMENDED.

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Obatto: You will have second thoughts of tasting this after having a hearty meal. But trust me, you won’t regret a bite. The crepe is oily yet crispy and encloses finely pulverised jaggery which is moderately sweet with aromatic green cardamom. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Home made ice-cream: I usually avoid ice creams because of my childhood over indulgence. But, each and every flavour here is prepared in house and extracted from its natural source. I happened to binge on the Ratnagiri mango one and the strawberry & rose one and both were light, subtle and out of this world. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Carnatic Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in gluttonyguilts, himalayas, india, indian, mountain, mountains, north indian, shiwaliks, snow trek, the lesser himalayas, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized, uttarakhand, writer, writing

Travel musings – Nag Tibba

I can chose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It’s all a question of how I view my life – #paulocoelho

That is our trek leader from @trekthehimalayas
praying to Lord Shiva and the mountain Gods after successfully leading a group of novices to the Nag Tibba top. Praying after reaching the top is his regular ritual.
He advices the travellers to respect the mountains and keep them as clean as possible because then only the mountains will respect you. He also believes that we can only successfully climb the mountain if we revere them from our heart.

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Posted in himalayan resort, himalayan river, himalayas, india, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, karkotak peak, north indian, resort, river kalsa, the lesser himalayas, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized, uttarakhand, wooden bungalow

Digital Detox Retreat in the lap of Himalayas

First of all, thank you to the very talented and resourceful organizers at The Transforming Travels for organizing this unique experience in the midst of nature. Chandni Aggarwal and Mihir Panda, you people deserve a salute!

So how about a calming trip with least use of your digital devices, comfortable stay at a colonial bungalow with wooden interiors, surroundings that speak organic nestled in the lap of Himalayas and amongst gleeful people who share your passion for travel.

Departure

We were picked up from Mandi House metro station, Delhi at around 10:30pm in a tempo traveller with flexible chairs that did not give your backs a resounding ache. We departed straight to Haldwani through Hapur with occasional stops in between.

Arrival – Day 1

The village in which we were going to stay for the next 1.5 days was an hour and a half drive away from Haldwani and was called Khatauni village. A light shower greeted us at Haldwani with the soothing shade of deciduous trees protecting us from a heavy spell. First time in Haldwani – too good!

We reached the Silent Valley Resort near Kalsa river at 8:30 a.m. and were warmly welcomed by the owners who showed us the bungalow cum house with rooms that exuded the old world charm.

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A delicious breakfast followed in the lap of coniferous trees and the wild twittering of birds. How delicious it is to move away for a few days from the city and enjoy a raw unhindered experience of the mountains.

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We were so hungry that when it came to clicking the picture, the quantity of every item was substantially reduced.

After a few hours rest, we went for a short downhill trek towards the river Kalsa. The dried pine leaves occasionally give you a surprise slip but the pleasant s walk in the shade of the towering flora makes you forget them.

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We also saw the organic farms in the vicinity of the resort where organic peas, cauliflower and other vegetables were growing and the workers engaged in their routine work rituals. We were warmly welcomed by the hosts to savour the fresh green peas from the farm and needless, to say, they were sweet and mellow.

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Organic farm

The flow of the river Kalsa was moderate but care should be taken while crossing the banks as the rocks are quite slippery. I was slightly careless and slipped quite a few times. In one such incident, my Ray Bans went into the flowing waters and I had to hanker along to get them back from the clutches of Kalsa.

Sitting on the rocks at the Kalsa river is a therapy in itself. The cool environment and the music of the gushing water transforms you into a blissful state.

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After returning from our sojourn, we were greeted with a delicious and humble home cooked meal of chappati, masoor dal, sautéed potatoes and okra. All the ingredients are organic and grown in the family’s farm itself. What a joy it is to eat a home cooked meal away from home!

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After this delicious lunch, I preferred to sleep in my vintage room for four hours! The cool surroundings with the comfortable environment of high ceiling roof and woody interiors aided in a relaxing nap.

Day 2

We were greeted with a heavy downpour which lasted two hours. The breakfast was shifted to the indoor wooden dining area while savouring the beautiful Himalayan rainfall.

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We geared for our trek to the Karkotak peak while leaving our main luggage behind which would be taken to Bheemtal by our traveller. The trek started after the crossing the Kalsa river and the initial terrain was simple and levelled. Gradually the trail started involving pebbles and dried pine leaves with breath taking views of the surrounding villages and the mountains.

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Some views would definitely remind you of those old Bollywood numbers when the protagonists get lost in some coniferous forest.

For me, this easy trek was difficult because of my ankle inflammation and the knee injury sustained a day before. I was always the last one in the group, so at times, it got frustrating. Those 8.5km seemed like a lifetime because of the slower pace of my legs and continuous drizzling but after reaching the peak, those two aspects were readily forgotten.

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The Karkotak peak is situated at an elevation of around 1700m and a clear pristine view of the Bheemtal and Nauchekital is clearly visible. You will spot some local kids playing merrily around the temple area and you will slightly wish to be amongst them.

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The descent was easier and we met many local villagers there and enjoyed clicking a few pictures in the tall mountain grasses. An hour’s rest at a local guest house and an hour’s hangout at a pub made us forget the tiredness of the trek.

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Special thank you to all the fellow travel mates, who made this trip unforgettable.

Picture credits to Divyajeet, Gaurav and Mihir Panda.

Posted in bakery, Biscuit, Biscuits, cake, cookie, Fruit cake, gluttonyguilts, india, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, Lucknow, Namkeen, north indian, Uncategorized

Wadhwa Bakers, Alambagh, Lucknow

What would an Indian household’s evening be if there is no item to accompany our freshly brewed tea? Or people like me can imagine a day without having a glass of milk without our favourite cookies to binge upon?
Wadhwa Bakers, the very famous family run bakery house in Lucknow continue to maintain their supremacy in the bakery/savoury circles of the city. Their products are synonymous with quality and freshness and my happiness was out of bounds when I recently received a package of non perishables from their side.
Kashmiri mix Namkeen: The heavenly medley of moong dal namkeen, sev namkeen with crispies and roasted cashewnuts is a perfect accompaniment with your ritualistic cup of tea. The crunchy texture is to die for! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Oats cookies: A crumbly texture awaits you as you bite into these slightly chewy goodies. The only drawback with these are that they disintegrate with the slightest disturbance. RECOMMENDED.

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Sugar free kajoo biscuits: Diabetics and sugar haters, you can enjoy these cashew laden cookies with a soft crumbly texture that melts in your mouth. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Badaam lachha biscuits: Moderate sweetness with comparable texture to kajoo biscuits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Badaam lachha biscuits: Moderate sweetness with comparable texture to kajoo biscuits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Fruit cake: As if the waft of freshly baked cake was not enough, the smooth outer texture with mellow crumbly insides with embedded bits of tooti-frooti will warm your insides. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Wadhwa Bakers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato