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Behind the scenes – Gac Fruit juice for Compass magazine

Duang writes a monthly column for Compass magazine where he introduces various vegetarian dishes and new ideas to the Chiang Mai city audience in both Thai and English. With his new restaurant under renovation he invited me over to see his photoshoot for the new issue and see him making some delicious juice from one of the most nutritious fruits available.

I had never heard of the Gac fruit but it is quite popular in Vietnam in particular where it is often eaten as part of festivities such as the Tet New Year celebrations. When I looked into the facts Gac contains some pretty impressive health benefits, over 70 times the amount of Lycopene found in tomatoes and around 10 times the amount of Beta Carotene in carrots.

It is kind of flavourless though and Duang suggested that drinking it unmixed would not be very tasty so we were going to try juice with Orange, pineapple and starfruit.
First the photographers and I prodded and poked the strange looking fruit, showing that this is even uncommon for Thai people, and then slicing one in half the photoshoot commenced.

After some nice shots had been taken Duang scooped out the fleshy insides of the fruit which contain a lot of large seeds. These seeds are black and white, male and female, but it is the pulp around the seeds that we needed to make the juice and it needs to be concentrated. First using a strainer Duang pours water onto the seeds and using his hands scrapes the flesh off into a bowl, this process is repeated 4 or 5 times until the seeds are clean and there is a bowl full of watery Gac fruit flesh. He used around 1 litre of water for 3 Gac fruit.

This liquid is then brought to the boil with a pinch of salt and the resulting concentrate will keep for a long time in the fridge.
We then freshly juiced some oranges and used his “Champion” juicer to juice 2 pineapples and several starfruit. It’s a pretty cool juicer, the juice comes out the bottom and the pulp out of the end… simple.

The Gac fruit may not have a strong taste but it does have a strong colouration and so because of this it would be difficult to distinguish which juice was which. The solution is obvious, as Duang’s food stylist nature comes out and a beautiful garnish is applied to each glass.

After another photoshoot with the finished juices we got to try the pineapple and starfruit (which turned out to be the sour variety so Duang added some honey). Generally these will be served without any added sugar or water though. The Pineapple was especially delicious as was the mix of all three that we had at the end, hopefully this will be a successful seller at the new restaurant.

Speaking of which, it is coming along nicely. I helped with some moving the other day, riding around the city on the back of an overloaded pickup truck, which was fun. The guys had the really hard work though, sawing the edge off a table which we really struggled to get into the kitchen..

It’s coming together now though, Duang has a new sign up and the plan is to open for the soft launch next week..

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Delhi: Manju Ka-Tilla

Yesterday morning I arrived in Delhi’s Indira Gandhi international airport after an overnight flight ready for what I hope and expect to be an amazing 6 months.

An initial hiccup was my pickup not being there but after a short phone call, and a slightly longer wait eventually Tenzin arrived and we got in a car to my spot for the night in the Tibetan enclave of Manju Ka-Tilla.
I was exhausted, having barely slept on the flight and hoping to be able to get my head down by midday it was a longer journey than I expected.

This wasn’t helped by the accident we had while crossing Delhi. I was dozing on the back seat when there was a sudden bump, almost as if we had run over a dog. I didn’t know what was happening but after some waving to a car behind we pulled over to the side of the road and the other vehicle followed behind.

Tenzin and our driver were out and gesticulating at the guys from the other car for what must have been at least 20 minutes, pointing at the back corner of our car as if a huge chunk had been taken out of it.
I guess swapping insurance details wasn’t an option here but it seemed they were the ones in the wrong.

This delayed the journey even further of course and i think i eventually got to bed around 2.

Manju Ka-Tilla is a quiet part of Delhi, on the outskirts really and a Tibetan colony of sorts. I was staying here because this part of the trip had been arranged by the volunteer organisation I will be working for when I get to Mcleod Ganj after taking a bus tonight.
It is a small area with a few shops selling Tibetan gifts and books on buddhism and also restaurants with Tibetan food on offer.

One of these, just opposite the hotel where I am staying is A-Ma where I had dinner.
I went for the Tibetan dumpling Momos and the noodle soup Thukpa.
It is striking how many different cultures in the world have a dumpling dish, from the european pelmeni and pierogi to the gyoza of Japan. The steamed Tibetan variety that I had here were filled with ground beef and I’m not sure were a particularly strong example. The dumpling itself was alright but the filling wasn’t great. Yes, I know, I’m in India, what am I doing eating beef anyway? but Tibetan culture doesn’t have the same restrictions so I thought I’d try it while I can get it. I probably should have gone with the veggie variety.


The Thukpa I had was the vegetarian option with carrots, mushrooms, cabbage and spring onions. Again, its hard to know whether this was typical quality wise but it wasn’t too dissimilar to super-noodles and both dishes were improved imessurably by healthy addition of chili sauce.
Along with this I had a Fruit beer (non-alcoholic) which was sweet but tasty.

The following day was the night bus to Mcleod Ganj and so just left a bit of time to kill in the area. I went with a fellow volunteer who was going to be taking the journey with me to Wongdhen House which is a hotel and restaurant to compare the Thukpa and try something different. I had a special veggie rice dish which was pretty underwhelming but full of nutritious carrots, baby corn, mushrooms and greens. The Thukpa looked slightly better than the one the previous night.

Anyway, this is clearly a rather delayed post, uploading photos is not as straightforward as I first imagined, but I’m getting there and have Internet access now while I’m working at The Tibet Post – check them out…. http://www.thetibetpost.com/
Things to look forward to reading about include…
Bhagsu Waterfall and some amazing views, the Tibetan museum and temple complex, a Tibetan evening with local garb, food and music and a class where I learn how to make Momos myself.

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