Tag Archives: aromatic

Shaan-e-Awadh @Jeon

A seemingly complex cuisine like the Awadhi, when simplified, in terms of flavours, can only be an achievement, attributed to a great chef. Chef Chandan Singh at Jeon, Hotel Sea Princess Juhu Mumbai, has manged to do just that. Without a doubt, the Awadhi Food Festival which begins here tomorrow is bound to find favour with foodies of all age groups.

This aromatic rich cuisine, replete with dry fruits, nuts and spices is famed for certain dishes. Nalli Nihari, Biryani, Taftan, Dal Makhani are a must, in a menu offering this cuisine. And Chef Chandan Singh along with fellow chef Amit and Executive Chef Jersen Fernandes has put together a menu, which showcases the best of Awadh.

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The gajar and annanas ka shorba aka carrot and pineapple shorba that we started with, swept me off my feet. The amalgamation of two diversely flavoured ingredients, was done to perfection. One could actually taste the sweetish fresh pineapple as well as the carrot, both immersed in subtle spices.One of the best shorbas I have ever had. It actually left me craving for more. For once, the Murg dhaniya shorba, which was also delicious, seemed plain.

The galouti kebab, the hero of Lucknawi cuisine was as expected, melt-in-the-mouth. The aroma and flavours of spices were pronounced, but not overpowering. The chicken seekh struck me as extraordinary, in terms of the flavours and texture. The seekh was firm and soft, not mushy or chewy as it often tends to be at some restaurants. The meat, laced with herbs and spices, was an interesting bit of innovation.

In the mains, the fish tikki – rawas fillet in a tangy and well-spiced tomato based gravy, got my instant vote. The use of authentic Awadhi spices was a testimony of the chef’s mastery over his craft. No compromise here.

What can I say about the dal bukhara? For a minute, I thought I was at the ITC hotels. Chef Chandan Singh has clearly figured out the secret behind this coveted dish and has done full justice to it.

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The Nalli Nihari was mildly flavoured, but the spices and richness of mutton, teased the palate just a wee bit. The accompanying, sweetish taftan was the perfect pair. Everything else paled in comparison.

The murg biryani was again a treat and perked up my taste buds as I tasted the first spoonful. Well-marinated, the chicken pieces were moist and succulent and meshed seamlessly with the flavoured rice, cooked in dum style. The aroma filled my nostrils as the purdah was removed and the biryani served.

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The shahi tukra was every bit royal. A perfect finale to a great meal. The creamy and rich rabdi wrapped around the deep fried bread laced with nuts and dry fruits was delectable and decadent. The phirni in comparison was a tad bland and disappointing, although the texture was just right.

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The meal overall, was overwhelming and had actually surpassed my expectations. Being used to some Awadhi meals with dishes doused with kewra and rose water and rich and greasy meat dishes, this one was a welcome change. Simple, authentic flavours, true to its Nawabi origins. Yet, nothing in the meal made one feel heavy or caused discomfort.

I left Jeon with a happy smile, almost having made a trip to Awadh.

The Awadhi food festival is on from Nov 5 till November 15 and is a treat, food lovers should not miss.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

 

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Taste of India

I was ecstatic when I first heard that Neel,  one of my favourite restaurants from deGustibus hospitality was opening a new outlet at Powai in the same premises, alongside an Indigo Deli. My joy doubled. But there was more. This was not the same Neel as the one in Mahalaxmi Racecourse. It was going to be an All day dining place offering simple, authentic Indian food from across the country. Much as I enjoy the lip-smacking Awadhi delicacies served at Neel, Tote on the Turf, I was relieved. I could indulge in my guilty pleasures, more than just once in a while now.

Sadly, I missed the buzzing opening party, but stepped in on the Monday after, for a leisurely lunch to experience Neel, Indian Kitchen plus bar, in its new avatar.

Whew! the plush interiors and the wooden staircase that led me up, seemed straight out of a European setting. The first part was obviously Indigo Deli casual and elegant with an air of bonhomie and the second part was Neel the Indian Kitchen and Bar. The natural light filtering in and the understated but chic decor,  the dash of blue to give it an eclectic touch, gave me a good vibe immediately.I felt naturally comfortable.

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I was privileged to get a sneak preview as the restaurant has not yet opened to guests and patrons. It opens doors officially on September 14.

Warm hospitality as ever. Chatting with Anurag Katriar, CEO & Executive Director, deGustibus Hospitality, JD, the Corporate Executive Chef and of course the Man at the helm of Neel’s Kitchen, Chef Mukhtar Qureshi, it promised to be a great afternoon.

Anurag informed me that,  at Neel Indian Kitchen + Bar  they have hand-picked culinary gems from various parts of India and put them together on a single gastronomic platform. An all-day diner with an eclectic bar, Neel, celebrates true Indian food amidst a contemporary setting. “Good Food-Served well”, was after all their hospitality credo.

Dhanewal murgh ka shorba (a light aromatic chicken broth flavoured with coriander) was served. The mild flavours of the spicy shorba, replete with coriander, was comforting and the perfect way to tease my taste buds. I was ready to savour the rest of my meal.

My Tellichery pepper chicken Kerala style, arrived. The aroma of the pepper filled my nostrils, as I was being served. A type of pepper which is aromatic and spicy, but not too pungent and rough, it enveloped the succulent pieces of chicken well and along with curry leaves and southern spices, was a delightful way to begin.

The stuffed mushrooms too were delectable given the cheese and spinach filling, but what made it stand apart was the apricot or jardalu chutney served alongside. It actually revved up the flavour quotient unimaginably.

I could not believe Chef Mukhtar Qureshi’s mastery over Indian cuisine as a whole. I was actually spellbound. Here I was tasting dishes from Southern India, Konkan, Bihar and all over, and each one was a masterpiece.  I had always known him for his lip-smacking Awadhi food, but this man was obviously full of surprises.

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The Sukka squid was swathed in a delicious coconut masala and an interesting texture, took my taste buds by storm. But the piece de resistance in the starters was the Konkani Jhinga, without a doubt. It resembled the Cafreal masala from Goa, as I first looked at it. It was pan seared prawns coated in a similar  green masala but yet, different and distinct, as I discovered upon the first bite. It wowed my palate beyond words and the moistness in the prawns even though they were pan-seared, impressed me.

The Allepey Aloo was flawless, but paled in comparison today to the other dishes.

My  gastronomic journey continued with the Mutton bhuna roast  and a Malabari parotha. The soft, flaky parotha paired well with the fleshy, melt-in-the mouth, robust, mutton which was well-spiced but not overly rich or oily. In fact nothing in the meal was greasy or heavy. That to my mind was the real achievement of the chef. Else going through so much of food would have been a daunting task.

The new Neel also offers an extensive array of chaats, tikkis et al,  if you want a filling evening snack or a light lunch perhaps, but of course I had to save that experience for another day.

The grand finale to round off my memorable meal was the gulkand paan ice cream made in house. The flavours of paan and gulkand were strong and appeased my taste buds. The element of sweetness was just right and the texture was creamy and smooth.

The menu here, is an amalgamation of  food from across India representing all the regions, ranging from the popular street foods of Kolkata & Rajasthan, to pure Kashmiri & Konkani fare. Chef Qureshi has painstakingly revived age-old, often forgotten spice blends like lazzat e taam, Baristha masala and using ethnic ingredients such Khas ka jadh, dagad ka phool, pan ka jadh, kebab chini, mulhatti, chandan.

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No wonder the food at Neel, is not run-of-the-mill fare but carefully crafted, to appeal to all palates.

I had almost traversed all of India in one afternoon, thanks to my epicurean journey at Neel. I left satiated, smiling, but with a promise to return.

 

 

 

 

Purani Dilli Once More

Last night I visited Purani Dilli aka Old Delhi, once more, right here in Mumbai. This time on a culinary journey by Osama Jalali, well-known food critic and curator.

Having lived in Delhi during my Post Graduation days, I am familiar with the by lanes of Old Delhi and aware of the treasure trove it is for foodies, specially hard-core Non vegetarians. Yet, what most of us associate with Purani Dilli food is quite contrary to what Rivaayat-e-Purani Dilli at Maya Trident BKC Mumbai served us.

Curated by Osama Jalali, the food according to him is Purani Dilli home food and not street food. “I grew up eating all of this daily, cooked by my mother,” he explains.

Indeed, the spread was anything, but street food. It was home style food, without a doubt as nothing was rich and heavy, even though the dishes were primarily Mughlai. His mother Nazish Jalali, the lady with a midas touch, who cooks delicious food effortlessly, was behind the elaborate meal, ably assisted by her daughter-in-law, Nazia Khan.

Our Kathal or jackfruit ki galouti arrived first. Interesting texture and flavours. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The Mewa Mawa kebabs were equally a treat. Whoever said there could be no delicious Vegetarian kebabs?

I was floored by the kacche keeme ki tikkiyan, where the meat had been pounded to perfection and the subtle, but distinct spices, teased my taste buds. The seekhs, although well made, paled in comparison. The chicken fry, a classic from Old Delhi was delightful.

The main course, was a vast array of dishes, with a hint of Rampuri, yet a predominance of Purani Dilli flavours. The Jalalis apparently hail from Rampur, located between Delhi and Lucknow and this has naturally influenced Nazish’s cooking, who has learnt first-hand from traditional khaansamas and is born with an inherent flair for cooking too.

The chana dal bharta, with its unique texture and slight tempering with ghee, stood out for me, in the main course as did the arbi or colocasia ka salan. Both struck me as unique. The aloo ka bharta was the quintessential home cooked potato dish, comforting and delicious.

The characteristic chewy textures, subtle flavours and not-so thick curries of Rampur were evident in the meal.

The keema  hari mirch which was a perfect dish to appease and tantatlize taste buds simultaneously, as was the lightly flavoured chicken stew made with whole spices. The Nehari was as good as it can be, but not exceptional. The whole urad with gosht was outstanding as the ingredients were blended well and resulted in great flavours.

What do I say about the Parinde mein Parinde, their signature dish? A roast meat stuffed with other animals was the piece de resistance, both, visually and for the palate. A dish truly befitting a feast table.

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I was surprised at myself, as I was not uneasy at all, having sampled so many dishes, albeit, a spoonful each.

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I was waiting for the desserts with a baited breath. Not merely, because I love sweets, but because I was going to sample Nazish’s speciality – gosht ka halwa. I must confess, I took the first spoonful with trepidation. But oh! what a delight this sweet dish was. The gosht had been cooked perfectly, over slow fire, with the milk and sugar and had blend so well that it was hard to guess, it was lamb after all. The cardamom and saffron further mask the meat odours and the result is sheer brilliance. I almost forgot about the other two desserts- phirni and zarda.

On till end of the month, this festival is open for lunch and dinner at Maya, Trident BKC Mumbai. While there is an unlimited thali for lunch, dinner has a la carte offerings only.

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Getting a chance to treat yourself to the lost flavours of Purani Dilli is something any gourmet ought to do.

 

Drumstick Brinjal: Recipe

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Drumstick Brinjal

Ingredients:

1 medium sized brinjal

1 drumstick

4 tomatoes finely chopped

1 inch fresh ginger piece chopped finely

Fresh coriander leaves chopped

2 tbsp oil

½ tsp mustard seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

¼ tsp cumin powder

¼ tsp chilli powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

Salt to taste

Method:

  • Cut the drumstick into 4 pieces and cook in water with salt and turmeric powder.
  • Cut brinjal into small pieces and also cook in water with salt and turmeric powder
  • Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, cumin sees till they pop.

  • Keep on low heat, add cumin, coriander, chilli powders and immediately add the ginger and tomatoes. Add salt.
  • After 2-3 minutes, add the cooked vegetables and stir well.
  • Cover and let the vegetables cook over a low flame, for 5 mins in the gravy.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rotis
  • Cut brinjal into small pieces and also cook in water with salt and turmeric

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, cumin sees till they pop up. On low heat, add cumin, coriander, chilli powders and immediately add the ginger and tomatoes.  After 2-3 minutes, add the cooked vegetables and stir well. Let the vegetables cook over a low flame, for 5 mins in the gravy. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rotis

When Bangkok Moves Closer Home and Heart

For us carnivores, the prospect of eating Vegetarian food and that too Pan Asian is daunting. But a visit to 38 Bangkok Street has made me think again.

An eatery which throws up a host of flavours, textures and aromas by way of variety in the all -Veg menu. The menu is exhaustive, well thought of and an exercise in choices.

38 Bangkok Street specializes in Pan Asian Cuisine – salads, curries, woks, noodles from the streets Thailand, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam to name a few. The best of all these cuisines, in nutshell, is on offer.

Our Laksa Penang soup arrives. The waft of the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves pervade pur nostrils even before we taste it. The first spoonful and we are reassured it is the real thing. High quality ingredients in a bowl of heavenly soup. A great start.

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Grilled tofu over a bed of Asian greens- our salad arrives next. It is light and flavourful and perks up our taste buds further. The greens are fresh and crunchy. I particularly enjoy the silken tofu which is grilled to perfection.

The fried Yasai tempura took me by surprise. Crispy, crunchy and flattering for my taste buds. Loved the vast array of exotic veggies that were used. Had to compel myself to stop, else I would have happily polished off all of them.

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The water chestnut dim sums were delectable. A nice moist covering and the filling too was crunchy owing to the water chestnut filling. Could have been a bit less spicy though. The accompanying sauces too were interesting.

The banana leaf wrapped cottage cheese was a tad disappointing. A bit too bland and the cottage cheese texture too was a bit rubbery.

Banana leaf wrapped cottage cheese

The options in the menu were ample. Unique Asian starters like the Crunchy Java Lotus Stem tossed with ginger garlic, Mock Duck Chilli Garlic, Cottage Cheese Sambai Bajak tossed  with  bell peppers and homemade Malaysian style fresh red chilli sauce etc.

The presentation of each dish served struck me as elegant and aesthetic. The chef obviously had an eye for detail.

Our main course comprised Tek Tek noodles, Nasi lemak and a spicy red curry, Sambal Bajak. The fragrant rice steeped in coconut milk and the Sambal curry got our unflinching vote. One of the best curries I have ever tasted. We did not miss non-veg at all for once. The noodles were nothing to write home about. Strictly ordinary.

The entire meal was overwhelming, in terms of the quality, variety and flavours. I had never enjoyed a Pan Asian meal which is vegetarian, to such an extent.

The service too is prompt and the place has a nice family ambience.

Our dessert was a pumpkin coconut cake with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. The cake was soft and moist and absolutely melt in the mouth. Full marks there too.

The zesty flavours of the fare at 38 Bangkok Street had tickled our palates beyond a doubt. We will surely be coming back soon for some more.
Rating: 4/5

Eclectic Singapore Street Food

Street food clearly seems to be the flavour of the season. And it’s not Indian street food that I am talking about. First it was delectable street food at JW Marriott Sahar and recently I savoured lip-smacking Singapore Street food at JW Marriott Juhu at the Lotus Cafe.

Chef Thanabalan Chandrasekaran had been flown in for the festival to lend that authentic touch to the food that JW Marriott is so particular about. So there were exciting Singaporean dishes to  look forward to.

Good food is a way of life in Singapore and there is so much to choose from – classic dishes, street food and modern interpretation of traditional cuisine.

Singapore Chilli Crab

Elaborating on his thought behind the menu, Chef Thanabalan Chandrasekaran, Sous Chef, Singapore Marriott says “Singaporean food is a blend of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian flavours owing to the country’s multicultural heritage. Knowing how passionate Indians are about food, I wanted to recreate this experience in Mumbai, giving the guests a taste of local fare with a modern touch.”

Showcasing local and authentic delicacies was Chef Thana’s aim and he did just that. The spread was aromatic and colourful.

We began with the satays-chicken, fish and prawns. The peanut sauce infused with kaffir lime, struck me as unique and flavourful.  I liked the fact that Chef was innovating the dishes, without tampering with their authentic flavours.

The satays were grilled to perfection and simply melt in the mouth.

What can I say about the bowl of Laksa? It was comforting. Soul food actually. Each ingredient could be distinctly tasted in my sea food laksa. The flavours were delicate and yet, spicy and palate tingling. The aromas filled my nostrils even before I tasted the first spoonful. One of the best I have ever tasted in India.

Laksa Lehmak

The famed chili crab was another treat. The sauce was spicy and teased my taste buds and the crab meat within the shell was soft and succulent.

Other signature dishes included Rojak Petis Singapura, Gado-Gado Molek, Mutton Rendang, Singapura Chilli Crab,  Soya Braised Duck & Stir Fried Pork Loin. The spread seemed a wee bit limited to me, if some one were to avoid red meat and duck.

It was fun to watch the chefs at work at the live stations, adeptly grilling the satays or preparing the laksa.

The quality of the ingredients was evident. Fresh and wholesome, Chef Thana had brought along several ingredients so as not to compromise on the taste and flavour of the dishes. Of course he visited the local markets and created dishes with local stuff too.

No meal is complete without the legendary Singapore Sling which was being served complimentary to every guest.

An enjoyable meal rounded off with a sago pudding, left me satiated. For me, the Laksa won hands down.

Fans of Singapore food must rush and try this street food as it is on till Aug 31 only.

This one’s worth a wok oops! Walk!

My happiness knew no bounds as I discovered that Wok Express was opening in my neighbourhood. Well, almost. In Lokhandwala Andheri West. Just a longish walk away from home.

To my utter surprise not only were my old favourites a part of the menu, but they have also introduced Sushi, I discovered. Something I have a terrible weakness for. I was ecstatic. And affordably priced? That was an added bonus.

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The veg cucumber cream cheese roll, was made to perfection. Melt in the mouth. Equally delicious was the Veg california roll, every sushi’s lovers comfort item. The packaging struck me as so hygienic and classy.

The orange chicken roll and teriyaki chicken roll swept me off my feet. Outstanding. The freshness of the high quality ingredients was evident. Flavoursome and an amalgamation of myriad textures. I could go on gorging on these.

Of course I could not resist my favourite Edmame & Truffle dumplings. These never let me down. The creamy and crunchy textures, left me craving for more.

And no visit to Wok Express is complete without the famous Bubble Tea. So, as always, we were sipping one.

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The chicken bun which I sampled for the first time, took me by surprise. With a generous tasty chicken filling, this steamed bun was light, yet, could fill you up easily. Totally, a value for money item. The chicken sticky rice and a vegetarian version too, are new inclusions in the menu. Clearly, there is a lot to choose from now at Wok Express outlets.

The location of this Wok Express is of course its USP apart from the great, reasonably priced food.  For once, I decided to skip the customised wok. Saved that for another day. Which means I am going back really soon !