Travel: 89 posts

Searching for scents and sensory traditions around the world.

My Article about The Shalimar Gardens in Oh Comely

Paradise comes from the ancient Persian word pairidaēza, meaning ‘an enclosed garden,’ and in arid land, the idea of an orchard filled with the sound of water, the glow of ripening fruit and the perfume of flowers was indeed a vision from the celestial realm. Persians perfected the art of gardening and their ideas influenced the way orchards were designed around the world. To see one such garden, I traveled to Karachi, a bustling port city in the south of Pakistan, continued my journey along the Indus River, and navigated the mad traffic of Lahore. An orchard may not be worth such an effort, but the Shalimar Gardens were no ordinary place.

I have a new article in the magazine Oh Comely. It follows me on my travels through southern Pakistan to reach the fabled Shalimar Gardens. They were created in the 17th century by the emperor Shah Jahan and while many changes have befallen them, they’re still one of the reasons to visit Lahore, the city that was the jewel of the Mughal Empire. My article is in Issue 48. The spring issue has fruit as its leitmotif, and if you read my article, you’ll see what the Shalimar Gardens, the founder of the Mughal Empire, emperor Babur, and fragrant mangoes have in common. And the Shalimar perfume, of course.

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Persian Flower Delights

In time for Nowruz, which falls on March 20 or 21 in 2019, depending on where in the world you are, I wanted to share with you my favorite Persian floral delights. Flowers don’t only bloom in Persian gardens and adorn Qajar art and textiles, they’re also used in cuisine. Rosewater adds a bright note to savory and sweet dishes. Willow flowers flavor sugar and candy. Orange blossom accents tea blends. As good as flowers smell, their flavors are equally beautiful.

So I took a walk through my local Iranian store and came home with a whole treasure trove of floral delicacies.

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Rose Retreat in Bulgaria and Perfume Workshop

I’m partnering with Silvia Yonkova of Roseoverdose, to teach a rose accords workshop during the Rose Retreat of 2019. 50% of the roses grown for perfumery come from the Rose Valley in Kazanlak, Bulgaria, and Silvia’s family has been in the rose growing business for generations. During the Rose Retreat, you’ll have a chance to participate in the rose harvest and study different types of roses. My one-day workshop will cover some of the most iconic rose perfumes and teach you to create fragrance accords.

The Rose Retreat will take place on May 20th-24th, 2019. You can find more information and book a spot via Roseoverdose.com.

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Pandan: the Perfume of Penang

Let me start the new year with a journey and take you to George Town. Located on the Malaysian island of Penang, the city was established in the 18th century by the British East India Company. The population of George Town is diverse, a mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian communities, each contributing its own traditions to Penang’s cosmopolitan blend. One of the most distinctive layers is formed by the Peranakans. The descendants of the Chinese who arrived starting from the 15th century and intermarried with the locals, the Peranakans blend Chinese, Malay and European customs. Their clothing, art and music are distinctive, but even more striking is their cuisine: Peranakan, or Nyonya, food is one of George Town’s main attractions.

I traveled around Malaysia, exploring its scented and culinary traditions, but I kept returning to Penang. It drew me with its diversity, its history, and above all, its food. Penang’s food and scents are the topics of my recent FT column, Pandan: the Perfume of Penang. I explore the most characteristic of all scents in Peranakan cuisine, pandan.

Although the foods I tried in Penang were varied – I’ve written previously about the sheer variety of specialities on offer across its different neighbourhoods – one leitmotif during my explorations was the scent of pandan leaves. The Peranakans mix shredded pandan with rose petals, jasmine and perfume oil to create a home fragrance, but most often, the leaves of this tropical plant are used in their cuisine. Although pandan tends to be described as the vanilla of Asia for its ubiquity in desserts, its fragrance isn’t sweet. When raw, pandan smells green and nutty, but when cooked, it acquires the voluptuous, toasted perfume of basmati rice. To continue reading, please click here.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Amina Ali : The Cake Wizard of Lahore

This story is part of my Pakistan travel diaries, describing my discoveries and encounters with inspiring individuals I met during my trip.

Amina Ali is a Renaissance woman. An artist and the CEO of Lahore Children’s Center, she’s also the mastermind behind Delish, a patisserie specializing in elegant, creative cakes. When I first met her, I was so impressed by her range of talents that I had difficulty conceiving how a single person could juggle so many responsibilities. Yet, after spending more time with Amina and exploring Lahore together, I grew to realize that she is very much the denizen of her city, energetic, vibrant and multifaceted.

I first came across Delish through the stories of friends who visited Lahore. “Amina’s cakes are works of art,” said an acquaintance who often travels to this ancient city in the heart of Pakistan’s Punjab province for the Literary Festival. “What’s more, the taste is heavenly,” she added. I grew intrigued when I learned that Amina started her business at the back of her house, teaching herself the art of pastry and cake decor. Whatever I knew about Lahore suggested that such an endeavor wouldn’t be for a fainthearted person.

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