Of Tamarind and Titlis

I'm sure most of you are wondering what Tamarind and Titlis have in common, or, if this is yet another quiz to buy time before my next travelogue post. The answer to the quiz is here, in case you missed it; as for Tamarind and Titlis, they have absolutely nothing in common. One is found in multiple instances in tropical and warm climes; the other manifests itself in a single occurrence at 10,000ft in the Swiss Alps. One can be used to make a delectably tangy chutney; hanging out at the other in winter will freeze all thoughts, immediately.

Before I hit you with my pictures of Titlis and Engelberg, I would like to thank you for all your reassuring feedback that too much other stuff rocks as much as Indian food does! For those of you who want the recipe for my tamarind chutney, I'll spare you the scrolling down: take me to the recipe already!

Titlis is the highest peak in the Urner Alps of Switzerland. My first thought was: only 10K ft and that makes it the highest peak? Seriously? I hiked up to a little over 12K ft on my birthday! We have so many fourteeners in our Rockies, one of which is in my daily view, so I wasn't expecting anything spectacular. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Titlis soon turned into something more than just another peak in the Swiss Alps. It became a little bit of a pilgrimage when my husband told us that his father had taken a ride to the top of the mountain in the cable car in the early 1970s. The first cable car went up in 1967 and now, it is a revolving cable car that takes you up to what seems like a world from another planet.

The revolving cable car, Rotair, offers fabulous views of the mountains. If you are afraid of heights, it's more than a little overwhelming, especially when the hand-rail disappears as you s-l-o-w-l-y move past the doors. At that point, the doors seem much wider than they appeared to be when you set foot into the cable car. It also happens at least twice and can be sheer torture or hilarious, depending on where you are standing, of course.

We spent a day at the Engelberg-Titlis Ski Resort. While the rest of my family made attempts to ski, I walked around the resort in increasing wind and snow and then settled down to a very expensive espresso in the meagre café at the resort.

Brook at Engelberg
Little traipsing brook outside the ski resort

Even though we had given up hope of seeing any peak, not just Titlis, we took the ride, changing cable cars twice to finally board the revolving Rotair. As we ascended, the thick cloud cover parted like magic to reveal just a hint of the glory that awaited us. I had to hold my breath because I have not seen anything as stunning before!

Dramatic Peaks
Peaking through the clouds

Once at the Titlis Station, it was very clear why the café at the base of the slopes was so pathetic in its offerings. The idea is to lure people up to the restaurants at 10,000ft, especially to the highest bar in Europe, the Ofen Bar. We were out of luck though as every one of the four restaurants was closing for the day when we finally reached the summit. The light started changing quickly and I braved the winds to get a shot of the sun before it disappeared behind the mountains.

The sun did flare
The sun did flare

The 6,500ft descent to the resort was even more spectacular as the peaks took turns lighting up and glowing in the setting sun.

An Alpine sunset
An Alpine sunset

The rest of my pictures are in this slideshow, including three interesting signs in Hindi. I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry when I saw them. Since the Alps are a very popular destination to shoot Bollywood movies, perhaps they felt the need for those signs - especially the one in the restroom that tells you to sit down, and how! I do wonder which translation service they used for the other two signs.

It was hilarious getting a taste of India in the Swiss Alps! Which makes this segue into the recipe that much easier.

Tamarind Chutney

I have a very basic recipe for tamarind chutney that I serve with samosas. I thin it out a tad and use it in chaat, like dahi batata sev puri, ragda patties, and pani puri.

  • 200g / 7 oz block of fresh tamarind pulp
  • 5-6 Mejdool dates
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 4 cups water
  1. Pull apart the fresh tamarind pulp, discard all seeds and tough fibers.
  2. Combine all ingredients and cook on medium heat until you have only half the quantity you started off with. 
  3. Allow to cool and send it for a blitz in the blender. 
  4. If you're picky, run the tamarind chutney through a sieve. 
  • This tamarind chutney is less sweet and more tangy, as that is how we like it. Feel free to increase the amount of sugar or use less fresh tamarind pulp.
  • If you don't have dates, you can use up to 1 cup store-bought unsweetened apple sauce.
  • I use Swad's fresh tamarind pulp instead of the rock-hard block of tamarind.


suvi said...

Manisha, your pictures are surreal! I so envy you that 14er that is almost at your doorstep, especially more so at this moment when I've just cancelled a trip to Kathmandu!

Anita said...

Even the pictures make you hold your breath! What a sight!

Fabulous, fabulous. So, India coverage is next?

Tamarind chutney over here will also include one important ingredient: ginger powder or hat is called sonth, and then the chutney is named after that : sonth! Some chaatwalas use dried sour mango - amchoor - to make sonth.

Sumi said...

what lovely pictures..We went to Swiss last year, but was not able to make it to Titlis, but went to Jungfrau instead..absolutely loved the view.

Anjali Koli said...

Beautiful pictures. The sunset is captured from inside the aircraft?

Unknown said...

OMG, those pics are mind blowing, wordless, simply beautiful.

Miri said...

What awesome pics - thanks for sharing the journey with us! :)

Unknown said...

Beautiful pics. Took me right back - did exactly the same 10 yrs ago. Memories of our most expensive pau- bhaji is that restaurant up in the Titlis, came rushing back. We had a lousy camera then, so your pics are so much better than ours. Off to see the others. Thks Angela

Bong Mom said...

When I saw the post name in my reader I thought imli & butterfly. This is as beautiful

Pelicano said...

OMG Manisha! Every one of those photographs is a gem! (I especially love the snow-blobbed brook) And the writing- especially that snappy segue- was perfect! You really have great style.

I don't think I put any sugar at all in my tam chut I think I use more dates instead I'm not sure I'll have to go look in my book later. :-P

Nupur said...

Your pictures took my breath away, Manisha!

Indian Food Rocks said...

aqua, thanks! For some people, it's the ocean; for me, it's mountains! I'm sorry about your trip to Nepal. I hope you're able to go sometime soon!

Anita, do you ever slow down? Sheesh! I didn't want to skip Zurich! Interesting that chaatwalas add dried ginger powder to their tamarind chutney. I don't use much dried ginger powder and it just languishes in my pantry. So maybe, I will add this as a variation next time I make it. I generally keep my tamarind chutney simple because I usually have a cilantro-ginger chutney and a red chilli-garlic chutney to go along with chaat.

And, yes, India coverage is next! (Now that Zurich is out of the way. I didn't do much justice to Zurich but that's fine, too.)

Sumi, I believe the views from Jungfrau are even more spectacular. You lucky girl!

Anjali, that was from inside a cable car - Angel Eyes (not my pic). It is the second cable car before finally boarding the Rotair to Titlis and on the way down, too.

Priya, Miri, Nupur, thank you!

Angela, pav bhaji? Really?! Wow! The menus I got a chance to look at were mostly dishes with meat (beef) and cheese. It's supposed to be beautiful in summer, too. I want to go back and spend more time in Europe. So, first, I need to work really hard!

Bong Mom, I'm glad someone caught it, however obtuse and irrelevant it is!

Pel, that brook is one of my faves, too! Medha is not as much a fan of dates as D & I are. I've tried using more dates but this one is more popular. And, me? Style? I'll just say thank you and wonder what the...