Massage is Medicine like Food: A journey to China

Massage has been a central part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It is considered an excellent method to treat several different health problems; such as joint and muscle pain, cardio-vascular complications and rheumatism. It is often aimed at allowing energy flow as well as guiding the “qi” throughout the body; from Chinese traditional belief, the vital energy or life force flowing within us. While food and diet is an equally important part of this ancient practice much like in India, in this post we will be looking at the benefits of masseur services.

Traditional Massage

The type of massage most similar to the western style is called “Tui na”, literally meaning push and grasp. It is widely spread in the world. It aims, as many massages, at treating injuries and muscle pain. It can include anything from acupressure to aromatherapy, including essential oils and herbs. Being quite similar to western massage it includes kneading and rubbing; possibly two of the most commonly used words to describe massage in general. “Zhi ya” is another common style used in China. Similar to “Tui na” it incorporates acupressure, though in a more precise way, including more focused pressures on certain spots and less rubbing and kneading. In “Zhi ya” the masseuse aims to discover and push certain points relieving tension in the body, causing it to relax and to function better.

A typical “Tui na” massage session lasts between thirty minutes and an hour depending on the patients need. It is often focused on removing a certain pain or problem. It can help the body to relax relieving the stress and anxiety related disorders such as insomnia and headaches. It is often considered more a medical therapy than just a relaxing massage, being used for several medical treatments; both mentally and physically.

Other than the two traditional styles of massage therapy, foot massage is quite common in Beijing as well as in China in general. Time magazine lists foot massage as one of their top ten recommended things to do in Beijing, and there are several places in the city were one can go to get their feet washed, kneaded and rubbed. The cost is usually between 20 and 80 USD, and sometimes even include a cup of Chinese tea. Foot massage has been of great importance in Chinese medicine for a long time; it is said that since blood tends to pool in the feet, massage is helpful for circulation and general health. When you get older, it is also said, that these kinds of treatment become even more important, helping with relaxation and sleep.

In Beijing several good massage parlours offering traditional “Tui na” and “Zhi ya” treatments can be found; though be sure to do some research regarding different places offering massage, such as this practical guide for Beijing Massage. You can also find masseur services in English, although very basic knowledge of Chinese can go a long way if wanting to experience some of the smaller, inexpensive places that locals often go to. There are a few offering low quality massages with more focus on providing “extra services” than traditional massages. It is generally better to choose those with nice locales similar to beauty salons or spa retreats, which is a quite common setting for good and safe parlours. It is, though, an activity not be missed while traveling in China’s grand capital. Following the recommendations of the famous Yellow Emperor Huangdí and his ancient medical text, the so called “Huangdi Neijing”; massage is good for your health.

Food and medicine for thought!


The Best Indian Restaurants in Xian, China Reviewed

The ancient Chinese capital Xi’an or as it was then called Chang’an meaning “City of Eternal Peace” is world famous for the silk road. With the western influence of trade, a city was built like no other in China. People, religion and culture is melting in this delicious pot of the multicultural food city. And one of the major influences the city has had is the neighboring India of course.

Indian Restaurant

Now there are dozens of authentic Indian restaurants in the city and many of them are owned by a small Indian population that have settled there during it’s past. And don’t forget to catch some of the most amazing night shows such as the Tang Dynasty Show after dinner for a complete satisfaction of all your senses! Just check out the Xian Nightlife Guide for more venue information for and ticket bookings to these impressive spectacles.

Let the adventure to Indian food begin.

Redfort Cultural Restaurant

When looking for quality dining experience one of the biggest and the new names in the city is redfort, which is at the West Tang mall. This shopping place is packaged with high quality and international shopping stores. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and can cator to anything from small to big groups. With efficient and corteous service you won’t be dissapointed with the food offered here either. One of their specialities is the mint yoghurt sauce which accompanies many of the dishes. Giving unique flavor to those classic Chicken Masala and Tandoori Chicken dishes. With it’s impressive size and variety and food this restaurant has it all. As well as the convenient location at the popular Silk Road Street.

Delhi Darbar Xi’an

Another popular restaurant is the Delhi Darbar which is a stone throw away from most central sights near the Wild Goose Pagoda. While this is not a high-end restaurant you can end up spending a lot because of the tremendous variety in dishes. The most recommended and memorable experience is their wonderful curries, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options are plentiful. The restaurant is not very big however which compensantes for it’s authentic and original atmosphere. So expect to queue if coming during the busiest lunch or dinner time. The restaurant is very clean, staff is warm and kind. The best alternative to redfort cultural restaurant who don’t want an expensive fine dining experience.

Ganges Indian Restaurant Xi’an

Another friendly establishment near the Pagoda is Ganges, which also very clean and has a cozy, smaller restaurant feel to it. If the popular Delhi Darbar is packed, you might consider this a useful second option nearby. With good service and an authentic taste, the owners are always very welcoming both in kindness and their dishes. We claim that the naan here is probably one of the best in the city.

These three restaurants have become our favorites in Xian. The perfect way to get ready for the exciting nightlife in the city ahead!

We hope that this little guide was helpful and let us know your experience and recommendations in the comments.

Indian Food Culture: Etiquette, History and Evolution

Indian cuisine is different from other global cuisines in both cooking styles as well as flavor. It can be described as the outcome of varied cultures and traditions and a unique combination of varied global cuisines that got assimilated over the ages. A number of civilizations are responsible for the current form, taste, cooking style, and etiquette associated with the Indian food culture. The food culture in India varies from one region to another, as discussed further below.

Indian Dinner Table

Indian food is known all over the world for its spice content. It may however be noted that the varied spices are added to food not just for flavor but also for their medicinal and nutritional qualities. Indian food culture is primarily vegetarian, and this is often influenced by different religious beliefs.

A normal Indian diet typically consists of vegetables, rice, pulses, fruits, legumes, grains, honey, dairy, and occasionally eggs, fish, chicken, and meat. A majority of Indian sweets are made from milk or condensed milk and sugar along with nuts and other added ingredients that differ from one region to another.

History and evolution of Indian food culture

Indian cuisine usually consisted of rice, pulses, roti, wheat, fish, and other grains. It was mostly vegetarian and regulated by varied faiths and this continues to this day. For e.g. Jains are strict vegetarians wherein they do not even consume vegetables which are pulled out from their roots as it kills the organisms that live around the root.

However, the Indian palate has undergone extensive change over the years, due to varied factors such as invasions, migration, Moghul rule, British colonization, and globalization, etc. Different cuisines from around the world have been “Indianized” to suit the Indian palate. For example, after exposure to local foods, Chinese cuisines were modified to include varied spices and altered cooking styles to create a distinctive fusion of Chinese and Indian cuisines. It may however be noted that modern cities in India have numerous specialized restaurants that offer authentic cuisines from all over the globe.

The different cuisines of India

The cuisines in India differ from one region to another. It is broadly categorized into two types, i.e., North Indian cuisine and South Indian cuisine. A few well known cuisines of different regions of India are listed below:

  • Kashmiri food presents a flavorful combination of the traditional cuisines of the Kashmiri Pandits and the cooking styles of Persia, Central Asia, and Afghanistan.
  • Bengali food typically consists of fish and rice dishes that are deliciously prepared via varied cooking styles and the use of the 5 important spices, viz., black cumin seed, cumin seed, mustard, aniseed, and fenugreek seed.
  • Gujarati food is sweet tasting, primarily vegetarian, and highly nutritious.
  • South Indian food usually consists of lentils and rice that are combined to prepare appetizing, low-calorie, and light delectable dishes like idlis, sambhars, dosas, and uttapams, etc.

Indian food etiquette

  • Indians use their right hand to eat food. Hands need to be washed with water before and after eating food. Spoons and other cutlery are used when dining out.
  • In the bygone era, food was served on banana leaves in south India. This custom is now followed only on special occasions such as weddings, etc.
  • Leaving food on the plate is considered disrespectful. Food is sacred and everything on the plate needs to be eaten. So, it is wiser to take food in small quantities and order another serving when needed.


New German Food Night & Shopping at

Time has passed at tremendous speed! There are a lot of news, but let me start with apologizing about the comment spam. It was a total surprise for us, and because we have been so busy cooking Indian food as well as with other activities. Seems like the spammers were free to flood the site with commenst for a large number of days unfortunately. Sorry about that, the situation has been fixed and should never happen again!

Now that this has been taken care of. Let me go to the second subject, which is that I want to thank all the great people who participated in the Chinese night. Especially the absolutely fantastic acrobatic troupe from Beijing, we could have never had such a fun night without you. Everyone seems to be pleased as well and we felt that our duty has been accomplished for this part of the idea. To bring together India, United States and China in a closer relationship of food, as well as culture.

German Food

Many people think that Chinese food is so different from Indian dishes. But it’s not that different. In fact what we observed was that everyone who seemed to love Indian food, loved Chinese food as well. Which is why we have decided to continue with our humble mission of bringing cultures together through the taste buds. This time out tongues and tastes took us to the less known culinary country of Germany. However this time we didn’t have such awesome connections such as was the case in Beijing, China. Therefore we started looking for recipes and food materials for ourselves to bring a German night possible. Are you exited? Well. As usual do let us know in the comments section.

We found out, that a great place to get food ingredients as well as the best books on the matter of recipes.. was the trusty American-known Amazon store. Turns out they have one in Germany too, and it’s hugely popular! Only problem was, that we don’t speak the German language and we don’t have any real German friends. And while to our understanding the country has become much better in foreign languages than before, Amazon seems to stick with the old German style of sticking with one way of doing this. It didn’t take us long to figure out a solution however, because we found an amazing guide for using in English language!! It was not that difficult in the end at all. Instead, we ended up browsing the store just like any other amazon store.

The whole experience felt like kind of shopping at a super market, except with home delivery and a bit of a wait as the package was prepared and sent from a different continent of course. Some great food ingredients we have gotten so far are:

  • German mustards
  • Marzipan
  • Quark
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Rum & other alcohol
  • Sauerkraut

And we plan on cooking some dishes such as:

  • Bremer Labskaus
  • Eisbein mit Sauerkraut
  • Rote Grütze

While this is just on the planning face. This time we wanted to share more insight on the very ingredients and dishes on our minds. Date has not been set yet. But if our friends and customers are excited enough about the new party, we we will hurry up for sure.

In the meantime, we will continue serving our delicious Indian ingredients. So come to shopping with us, while we shop at the wonderful to which we are very grateful. Excellent service and always something to look forward to.

Most delicious regards,
Mantra Authors.

Chinese Performing Beijing Acrobatic Show Prospect at Mantra

Coming back to the subject of our dear India neighbouring country of China. Our plans for a Chinese night with a menu filled with Chinese cousine is approaching to concrete solutions. We have been talking about it a lot and communicating with the Chinese end on what could we possibly bring here to Palo Alto, other than just food. Of course, as we mentioned the Panda show before, something in the name of performance has been high on our list of suggestions. Now the unfortunate problem with Shichahai Theatre was that they really don’t have any internationa experience. So bringing the act here to the US would be a lot of work, trying to organise everything for them. It would be benefitial for all of us, if the group can organise the trip for themselves and all other necessities. Then we could concentrate on what we do best, which is cooking of course. While enjoying the performance itself with all our customers.

Acrobatic Performance in Beijing

Then we found a very special troupe that already has international recognision in many countries of the world. It is a world famous Beijing acrobatic show that is held at the Chaoyang Theater in their proud city which we have had the great honor of visiting. But Mantra has little experience over any kind of acrobatic performances. We just felt that this is something, that is like original Chinese. Having some experience of acrobatic performance in circus from in India, we know that it’s more likely something that can be enjoyed by everyone. Since we want all our customers to be happy and to find something from Chinese culture that they like, on top of Indian culture of course. It is because of that, why acrobatics could be our best bet.

In fact, we want to put this into a small vote. So we welcome any comments about if they think that this is a good idea or not. Do check out the Chaoyang Theatre Trailer on YouTube to see some of the highlights of what to expect from the Beijing Acrobatic Troupe. Knowing that the Panda show was amazing because we went to see it, and that is a small production. This one at the Chaoyang Theatre is probably one of the biggest productions in at least acrobatic form.. if not in the whole of China, surely in the whole of the city of Beijing.

A combination of Indian Food and the above YouTube trailer has been warming us up to thinking that this just right might be somewhat of a destiny. The contact with the theatre in question came to us by surprise, since we started to engage with the performing arts community in Beijing.. all of a sudden it all started to come to us in a very active form. This vibrant, and motivated atmosphere is excellent and what we not only look up to but also try to live up to in regards to our Mantra restaurant.

Chinese Acrobatic Show

I mean, just think about it. If we would have Palo Alto with a Chinese acrobatic show. Sounds almost too good to be true, and hilarious at the same time. But as our dishes trancend, so should all of our experiences. We welcome the unknown as well as new things, through tradition. Just the traditions of Indian food and Chinese acrobat performance are very similar in terms of depth and profoundness. Connecting them together doesn’t sound obscure to us at all, instead mix is what our restaurant has been all about in these years. And what better mix there could be, than culture and history itself.

It’s a great time to be living in our multi-exciting land of California. Let’s join together for some fun and remember to drop by Mantra anytime soon. Cheers everyone, and don’t forget to voice your opinion about this acrobatic prospect!=)

Food is Mantra

Mantra Experience

I am not sure if everyone really knows the meaning of the word mantra, but at least most people have heard of it. However, the idea behind our restaurant is that even though we represent a state of “Mantra” in our food. It is not words that we are eating, and therefore the experience itself represents exactly that.. for even those who don’t know it’s meaning. The essence is something given from us to our customers, which is one of the most happy things in our daily lives of running the business.

You could say that for us, food is a spiritual experience. Because it is the heritage from India that we want to continue and respect in our cooking. But really the magic here is the one without words. As we strongly believe that when people eat our Indian dishes, they fall in love if they are sensitive enough to our secret ingredient of love. And then, want to come back again and again. Up to the point, that we have gotten a lot of regulars that to us are like furniture. While we don’t keep a regular seat for anyone, it is as if by some spiritual miracle that often enough those very seats prefered by our regulars are open upon arrival. It’s a really strange thing, and has happened so many times that we don’t considered it that strange anymore!

Besides that, we just want to give an example to our neighbours and fellow citizens on how to run an ethical business. If you don’t belive me, please come and check us out. It is most likely that you will at least get a smile from us. And those who don’t want to smile, be prepared since it can be contageous.

At some point we thought that if our food doesn’t make people smile, we would give it for free. But then we realised that probably a lot of people would just fake not to laugh. Right! But we don’t need to make such promises, since we are seeing the effects with our own eyes. It’s a great life to run a restaurant in such a great city as Palo Alto. Food is the Mantra experience!

Come and say hi!

The spirit of Masala

The spirit of Masala

I think a lot of our readers have heard about Masala before. It is an important ingredient in Indian cooking, making everything spicy.. even so spicy that some have difficulties to manage with it. But there are lots of different types and varities of Masala. All in all, it’s a mix of different spices and depending on the region and home in India the recipe can become very different.

For us, we are using a secret but traditional mix that has been caried over centuries by our ancestors. Many might make claims like that, because it is really true that India is full of such secret spices! The history is so long and the culture so deep, that it is no wonder to us at all. What’s interesting in the case of our restaurant, The Mantra, is that people have instantly fell in love with our Masala mix. In fact, many other restaurants have had to adopt their ingredients to fit Californian or American taste buds. Which has of course not been a good influence on the secret tradition of Indian cousine.

For us, we think that we have been incredibly lucky and managed to preserve the spirit of Masala in our food. It’s extremely important for us, to be able to show our customers the real India in all it’s aspects. And that if anywhere, is transmitted through taste. Fire and hot is definitely one of the important spirits of the Indian people. Likewise, we connect with all nations that have the capacity to appriciate that. Such as the neighbouring China for example. They have lots of spicy and hot food too!


Mantra Panda Show and Chinese Performing Arts

Artistic Picture of Beijing Performing Arts

It doesn’t always feel like that, but China is really close to India. A neighbouring country in fact. Besides being close neighbours, the two cultures have had a lot of influence between each other. The biggest influences have been in food culture, with Chinese restaurants being commonplace in most Indian cities. While we love Chinese food as much as Indian food, there is a lot more you can discover and enjoy while eating it!

Having extensively traveled in China and seen many shows from there, we wanted to invite some group to Palo Alto so that we could do a bit of a mix of culture kind of thing. This project is still in the planning phase and for that we have been visiting several theaters in China to seek for possible co-operation. The results have been wonderful!

While not everyone might not know so much about China, everyone knows Pandas right! One of the most famous symbols of China, well known all around the nation of India has taken theatre form in the capital city of Beijing. As soon as we heard about it, we thought to ourselves that we just have to go and see it. We were absolutely thrilled how entertaining such a show is, especially because it is flavoured with both kung fu martial arts as well as old Beijing culture. This show, which is held at the beautiful Shichahai Theatre in the centre of the capital is a proud example of Chinese performing arts. We instantly thought that customers of our Mantra restaurant would love the Panda action too! That’s why we have started conversations with them to try and see if we could get them to come here for everyone to enjoy.

Our plan would be to design a special Chinese menu which would replace the regular Indian menu just for the occasion.  In return of course, we would do the same in China, where we would bring Indian food to their plates to enjoy. This kind of a cultural exchange program is a big dream of us that we hope to see become reality in the future. Also we are also looking at other theatrical performances in case, as such a huge project is not going to be easy we need to have a plan B, C and so on.

If any of our readers have any experiences from China, especially when it comes to the performing arts. Please let us know in the comments. Or if you have visited the panda kung fu show at Shichahai Theatre, we would be thrilled to know more about it. Now back in Palo Alto, we are cooking some of our favourite dishes to get into the mood. See you soon guys at the Mantra Palo Alto blog!

Namaste and regards,
Sachin, Dhawan.

The Spice of Life

Collection of Spices

We at Mantra, believe in the spice of life. In ancient times, spices used to be very valuable and treasured ingredients. That was because they were not as abundant as in todays world. Even in India, the spice market has exploded in massive scale that could not have been even imagined before!

Of course this has some unfortunate effects, such as the use of them has lost some degree of importance. That’s why we at Mantra, are dedicated into reviving our senses towards the spice of life. Naturally, Indian food contains a lot of ingredients as it is well known for that. But it’s not just the skilful mix of those spices, it’s also the quality. That’s why it’s extremely important to know the source of the ingredients. For example, in China there is a lot of agriculture that produces cheap food stuff that is not suitable to experience Indian food the the fullest. In fact, many times knowing the country is also not enough. And that’s why when we travel to other countries, we always try to investigate and find good sources for the spices we use in our dishes.

We have had many amazing travels and trips just because of this, both in India and outside in other countries. Mainly in Asia. Hopefully we will be sharing some of those wonderful moments with everyone on our blog. So hold on tight to experience the spice of life. Both in food, and adventure!

Our Favourite Indian Foods: Delhi

We would like to start of by presenting to you some our “all time favourites” within the Indian delicacies available today. Of course, all of the dishes presented here are also available in our restaurant menu. In fact, we mostly recommend them for first timers, and for those who are new to Indian as well as Asian food. Rest assured, these are not just favourited by Americans and us, but also they are very known in the whole of India. So jump in, and let’s tart the journey of food, culture and travel!

First a representative of the capital of city in India, Delhi. There the food is known as part of the “Mughlai cuisine” which is as tasty as ever and ranges from extremely spicy to mild. So there is something for everyone. It’s actually heavily influeced by Pakistani cuisine as well as the cuisine from Karachi. While the range of influence is broad, the Mughlai cuisine is well established and recognised as it’s own genre of Indian food.


Korma DishAnd our favourite dish, known as “Korma” is a Delhi delight that probably originates from somewhere around South Asia. It consists of braised meat or vegetables and a spicy sauce that’s made with yogurt, cream and nut paste. While there are a lot of braised dishes in India, this one has a very special texture and tasty flavour because of it’s ingredients. In our restaurant, we prefer to add chicken to take the overall flavour to it’s heights!

For desert, we recommend the Sheer khurma which is a sort of vermicelli pudding that is especially popular amongst muslims. We’ll cover another Indian location in our next post so stay tuned!