Shayona Cafe, nestled in a Chino Hills mandir, is a portal to India

Shayona Cafe, nestled in a Chino Hills mandir, is a portal to India

East of Carbon Canyon in Chino Hills, with Mount Baldy and the San Bernardino Mountains as a backdrop, stands a hand-carved pink sandstone and marble mandir. The property seems to be pulled straight from India however sits firmly in Southern California. The gold-tipped shikharas marking the inside shrines gleam within the solar, inviting devotees to prayer and reflection. Clearly seen from Freeway 71 is the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, or the Mandir BAPS, a spot of worship for folks of the Swaminarayan sect. Additionally it is a deeply shifting place to get pleasure from a meal.

The BAPS Mandir at Chino Hills is considered one of eight main such mandir complexes in North America. The sect has over 20 million followers worldwide and is a part of the Hindu faith as a subset of Vaishnavism. The innermost shrine consists of the idols of its religious chief, Swaminarayan, alongside Lord Krishna. Many come right here for his or her religion, others for a way of group and cultural nostalgia. Most marvel on the intricate mandir and attempt to grasp its significance to the group – and practically all guests make not less than one move by the Shayona CafeMandir’s restaurant and grocery retailer.

Though the fluorescent-lit restaurant doesn’t provide the identical attraction and charm as different elements of the mandir property, it is a crucial gathering level for devotees, travellers, vacationers and locals. Unfold throughout each a every day choice of sizzling, frozen and dry meals within the grocery retailer, the cafe’s modest and principally conventional choices are a style of residence for many individuals of Indian descent and a style of India for many who have by no means been there. the. From conventional mithai (sweets) to basic consolation meals and snacks to meals ready in accordance with Ayurvedic rules, Shayona has one thing for everybody who visits.

Longtime Temecula resident and businesswoman Smita Vasant loves the mandir for its lovely carvings, structure, and peaceable vibe; she makes use of the cafe to top off on mithai and snacks for events or for Diwali. Earlier than the pandemic, Vasant’s firm saffron stain was the favourite ice cream vendor for mandir occasions, and though she stays an avid residence prepare dinner (and isn’t a member of the Swaminarayan sect herself), Vasant’s purchasing cart normally finally ends up full . A current journey included sesame peanut burfi (a brittle confectionery), gathiya and fafda (fried savory snacks), khandvi and dhokla (steamed savory snacks) and frozen entrees to enrich his selfmade meals .

“All the pieces is so genuine,” says Vasant. “It reminds you of India. It is onerous to select one factor to love about Shayona. She provides that her husband “significantly” loves the restaurant’s kadhi bhaat, an iconic consolation meals for a lot of Gujarati Indians within the diaspora. Kadhi is a yoghurt sauce tempered with spices and thickened with chickpea flour; bhaat is steamed rice.

Hema Muthappa, a resident of Las Vegas, involves larger Los Angeles a number of occasions a 12 months and visits Shayona Cafe when she is in Southern California. “Meals is the principle motive,” she says. “I all the time inform my mates who go to Vegas to cease by the mandir and decide up the listing of meals we crave. My favourite sweet is anjeer [fig] and a dry fruit, and dhokla. Kaju Katli [a cashew nut confection] is the most effective.”‘

Past the choice, Muthappa says Shayona’s alternatives are inexpensive, style nice and remind her of Indian meals. Atlanta resident Veena Rao, who stopped by the BAPS mandir after visiting her mom in San Diego, agrees. “I am a giant fan of their buffet with seasonal dishes,” says Rao, “and their snacks, together with pla.” A thepla is a savory, fried whole-wheat flatbread that’s perfect for a mini meal or snack.

Typically talking, Hinduism consists of steerage on Vedic practices for its meals preparations and consists of Ayurvedic rules, meant to take care of stability, concord and well being. In contrast to Hinduism as an entire, nevertheless, the Swaminarayan sect is comparatively younger. It incorporates the observe of bhakthi, a mix of prayer with tune and repair. Each day practices contain making meals choices, or a thal – a multi-course meal made out of high-quality elements – to the deities a number of occasions a day. Meals usually finish with a betel leaf as a mouth freshener, served with out components like edible lime, catechu or chewing tobacco.

The Thals are influenced by the sect’s roots in Hinduism. The Swaminarayan vegetarian weight-reduction plan absorbs many Ayurvedic rules, together with the idea of heating and cooling meals, and Ayurvedic tips for uncooked, cooked, and fermented meals are vital concerns. Psychotropic meals reminiscent of alcohol or warming meals that might distract from religious objectives are prohibited. Apart from meat and eggs, unwashed cereals, onions, garlic, coral lentils, mushrooms, asafetida, vinegar and alcohol are additionally prohibited. Fermentation of dishes like dosa or the favored dhokla (steamed rice cake and chickpea flour) is achieved by combining baking soda and lime juice. Deviating from Ayurvedic rules that promote seasonality, warming vegatables and fruits like eggplant, radishes, watermelon, and sugar cane should not eaten through the peak rising season.

A scene inside Shayona Cafe.

As an alternative, Shayona’s menu modifications in line with seasonal non secular tips, and her choices commonly entice first-generation Indians who haven’t got as broad a body of reference as their dad and mom. At any time when Viha Umashankar, a first-generation Native American pupil at Berkeley, visits mates within the space, she tries to cease. “I rush to see in the event that they serve Gujarati daal,” says Umashankar. “Jogs my memory of the daal my grandma makes. I might drink it by the gallon. A Gujarati daal is a candy and savory lentil preparation with tamarind and jaggery flavors chopping an in any other case spicy dish; it’s the nostalgia of Umashankar, whose grandmother lives in India. “Their undhiyoo can also be excellent, as is their lilva kachori – if I get my fingers on it. They’re all the time out after I depart. I wash it down with a Maaza guava as a result of I discover every thing very spicy, however oh, so good .”

Undhiyoo is a seasonal specialty, made with roasted eggplant, and lilva kachori is one other seasonal dish. These are batter-coated, crammed, and fried croquettes served with a spicy inexperienced chutney and a tangy tamarind chutney. Each dishes make rotating appearances on Shayona’s menu and sometimes promote out rapidly.

Nonetheless, not everybody who involves Shayona Cafe is there to eat there. Some go to particularly for Shayona’s inventory of conventional Ayurvedic food-based medicines. A neighborhood resident and enthusiastic about residence cooking, Purvangi Butani lived within the space lengthy earlier than the mandir was inbuilt 2011. Guided by the non secular views of her late dad and mom, she retailers in Shayona for conventional Gujarati Ayurvedic winter confections or natural dietary supplements. Favorites embrace adadiya paak, made with break up black lentils and ghee; vasanu, made out of dried fruits, nuts and wheat flour; and saalem paak, methi paak and different conventional preparations appropriate for ladies’s general well being. “Mother and Ba [maternal grandmother] would make [paaks] once they lived in India a long time in the past,” Butani says, reminiscing, “however these are tedious to make in small batches. I by no means favored them after I was youthful, so I by no means discovered the best way to make them. I suppose now I eat it out of nostalgia.

Like Vasant, Butani’s listing of favourite snacks is lengthy. For her leisure wants, she buys snacks like dhokla, thepla and khakhra, though different members of her household are keen on African chevdo, a mixture of snacks made out of potato sticks and fruits. dry. Since a small part of Shayona is devoted to spiritual provides, Butani’s basket may also commonly embrace cotton wicks and prayer beads for her personal rituals at residence – it’s, in any case, nonetheless a spot of worship.

Many Indian expats who go to this BAPS mandir find yourself closing their eyes and sighing: for a second, they really feel like they’re in India. The sprawling complicated serves its group in quite a lot of methods: as a spot of worship, as an exquisite place to go to for non-observant locals, and as a vacation spot for on-site eating or residence cooking for these in search of a memento of explicit taste.

Right here, conventional cooking methods, flavors and methods of life are nonetheless preserved. Nearly everybody who eats at Shayona finds acquainted flavors and tastes, usually noticing the sensation of “residence from residence”. For some, house is a spot in the USA, the place they dwell, work and eat; for others, residence might imply India, or anyplace else on the winding street that took them from right here to there, by way of nations as soon as colonized by Britain. And whereas the meals is not the one centerpiece of the BAPS mandir, it is a necessary a part of the cult and a definite group house in Chino Hills. The seasonal snacks and dishes discovered right here create a fundamental understanding between generations, permitting older recipes to endure, conveniently packaged for the following technology, whose ties to the land of their heritage are sometimes fragile and commonly questioned. Like all the most effective cuisines, its meals has the flexibility to attach folks – to one another and to a legacy that’s all the time near their hearts.

The BAPS Mandir is situated at 15100 Fairfield Ranch Highway in Chino Hills. Shayona Snack and Confectionery Store is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, whereas Shayona Cafe is open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

15100 Fairfield Ranch Highway, Chino Hills, CA 91709

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