Tag Archives: spicy

Amti, my comfort food

Who can resist a well-made amti with steamed rice? Not me for sure. That is actually my comfort food when overeating has happened or I have been eating out a lot. More so in the festive season.

Amti is generally, a soupy dal made, with tur dal, tamarind, spices, jaggery and coconut. A well -known lentil-based dish, amti is eaten all over Maharashtra and Goa. Even during Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali, amti is a must on the menu. In fact I have been relishing some delectable ones these last few days, as I was vegetarian.

It is the staple part of almost every meal and yet has variations, as different dals are used -Tur, masoor and black gram or even chickpeas and split green peas. One can just unleash one’s imagination and create new versions.

Some ladies prepare a sheng daanyachi amti, using groundnut paste and it is tempered with hing, green chillies.  It is absolutely delicious and has a unique flavour and aroma. It can be relished with bhakri or even with Masale bhaaat. Kala watana amti (black gram cooked in coconut, tamarind and jaggery) is also traditional. Goda masala or kala masala is the key to a well-made amti. That is what lends it that spicy flavour and a unique taste. And it is then balanced with the addition of sugar or jaggery. The proportion of this is key to get the flavour right. The sweet n spicy taste of amti is typical. Masoorchi amti made with sprouted whole brown masoor dal is another favourite.

What is interesting is that while dals are referred to as amti, some even call any curry an amti and thus, prawn amti is popular too, among the Non vegetarians. Oh! non-vegetarian amtis with sea food can be so delicious. But I must confess, I still prefer the vegetarian versions.

My twist on amtis has been a tomato amti that I prepare. My family loves it. Paired with rice and batatachi bhaji (potato preparation), it is a lip-smacking meal. It is a bit like the tamatar saar but with coconut, chillies, garlic et al.  I once savoured a mouth-watering Bhendichi amti. Amti made with bhindi(ladies finger). I  was pleasantly surprised that it wowed my palate considering, normally, I do not enjoy my bhindi or okra in a gravy. I prefer it dry.

The key ingredients in any amti are coconut, goda masala, jaggery and tamarind. The dals can be varied or even other ingredients can be used. The flavours and taste are distinct and any meal in the Konkan region is incomplete without an amti.

Some of the delicious amtis I have tasted are in hotels in Pune at Courtyard by Marriott Hinjewadi and of course at Taj Wellington Mews as part of a Maharashtrian Food Festival. Those flavours still linger in my mouth.

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Do write in and share what’s your favourite amti. I am certainly making one for lunch today!

 

 

Want to Sizzle Your Taste buds?

Oh! the sound of a sizzler on the table, the aroma that  pervades the room and fills your nostrils, is irresistible in this weather. Right? I enjoy sizzlers immensely. And in Monsoons, even more. Something about that drama on the table,  is what appeals to me, apart from the taste of course.

Sizzlers are very popular and usually served sizzling hot and smoking in restaurants.  What is exciting is the fact that sizzlers can be from any cuisine- Indian, continental, Pan Asian.

Actually it is just any other meal, but being served on a sizzler plate is what makes it unique and give sit that wow factor. I love the way it is presented. The entire platter with colourful veggies, and the meat or sea food on a bed of rice or noodles or pasta, and of course the French fries. It  sure adds to my hunger.

Cafe Mangii in Mumbai serves some great sizzlers. Currently my favourites. In the good ol’ days there were Kobez and Yoko’s but sadly their standards have deteriorated. And they lack innovation too. Gondola’s in Bandra offered some great ones too in the 90’s.

 

The Harissa marinated Rawas steak at Cafe Mangii is a treat for the eyes and palate. A sensory overload actually.The Pot Roast Chicken with mushroom pepper sauce is another favourite.

In Oriental cuisine, I have a weakness for a Teriyaki prawns sizzler. Who wants chicken when there is sea food on offer?

 

For fish lovers, fish piri piri sizzler, a spicy Goan style dish is a treat. The balchao masala, a blend of garlic, clove and cinnamon, however, gives it a unique twist. I have tried this one in Goa and long for someone to replicate it in Mumbai. It certainly was all about innovation.

Tamari at Vivanta by Taj, Panjim serves great sizzlers. The Babrbeque of Cidade de Goa which opens around late October after the Monsoons is known for its ‘Sizzlers by the Sea.’ Chargril, Flat top, Teppenyaki, Tandoor are some of the forms used for sizzlers here. Chef Sunit Sharma, the Executive Chef, is a master of creativity.  Lamb, beef, pork, vegetables, sea food. Guests can choose from an array of these. The accompaniments are equally interesting. Garlic bread, vegetables, mashed or baked potatoes, Indian breads. I can never have enough of these.

Vegetarians generally relish paneer and mushroom sizzlers as other vegetables are already there. Here is where the real challenge lies for chefs to be creative. Cream Centre does a fantastic job here and their Paneer sizzler makes me miss no non-vegetarian sizzler. Been having this one for years and their quality is incomparable.

Sizzler at Cream Centre

I always feel it the sauces in a sizzler that make all the difference. Barbecue sauce does wonders. So does a pepper sauce. Adds that zing and spice to the dish. I have even tasted sizzlers with a schezwan sauce.

 

The iron plates used for plating sizzlers weigh 3.5 kg each. One has to heat them till they sizzle when sprinkled with water. They emanate heat for about 45 minutes, keeping your food hot while you eat it. I personally marvel the way a sizzler is served.

 

Oops! discussing sizzlers at length is making my mouth water now and I am definitely opting for one this afternoon for lunch. What’s more, the weather too is perfect.

A Melange of Traditions & Flavours 

My entry into the Bohri kitchen, well, not literally, but Nafisa Kapadia’s home, to experience its rich and lavish cuisine, needed destiny to intervene. Several times, family and friends, made plans to “do the experiential” Bohri thaal at The Bohri Kitchen, run by Munaf Kapadia in Colaba, offering his mother’s lip-smacking food, but somehow for me, it never worked out.

On Eid, this year, I was lucky. Yes, to receive a kind invitation from Burrp to celebrate Eid with other fellow foodies. the next day at The Bohri Kitchen. I was excited. Kept my fingers crossed, as I accepted the invitation.

And yes, on the stipulated Friday afternoon, I actually made it. A warm welcome from the lady herself, Nafisa and her son Munaf, and I got pleasant vibes as I entered their home.

A cooling drink made with nariyal pani (coconut water) and tender coconut, not only refreshed me, but made my stomach get ready to brace the onslaught of rich and spicy Bohri food. Or so I thought.

A large thaal or platter was placed on the table. Yes, Bohri meals are meant to be shared. Salt was passed around as that is how the meal begins. One must cleanse one’s palate so as to be able to taste and savour each distinct dish.

A date and almond chutney, a green chutney, pineapple and boondi raita and diced nimbus or lemons in a bowl were already placed, to enjoy with the various dishes.

Kheema samosas were served first. One dish is served at a time. Munaf instructed us to bite into the samosa, squeeze some lime to release the smoked flavours of the mutton. We did so and discovered how right he was. A dash of the green mint and coriander chutney, further tickled our palates. I was ready for the next.

Chicken drumsticks came next. Fried to perfection and well-spiced, these were equally delicious.

To my utter surprise, sheer kurma, or seviyan(vermicelli) replete with nuts et al in thickened milk, a sweet dish, came next. Apparently, that is how a Bohri meal is best enjoyed – Mithaas and khaaras, aka sweet and savoury must be contrasted,  to enjoy the meal, the Bohris believe.

Flawless, was the first word that came to my mind for the sheer kurma. The perfect proportion of milk, vermicelli and sugar. I generally don’t like the ones where the vermicelli swells up and enevelopes the entire bowl.

Each course was interesting and I was relishing this entire culinary journey with Munaf explaining how each dish was to be enjoyed and the reason behind the sequence.

Everyone went into a tizzy as the piece de resistance- the Raan was served. And that too in two contrasting gravies- a red masala, spicy and luscious and a creamy, white, cashew based gravy. The salli on top of the red masala version, added to the flavours and textures. My vote went to this one instantly. The mutton was succulent and melt in the mouth. It had been marinated for days and absorbed the spices, extremely well.

In between, we sipped the rose sherbet with sabja seeds. Again to cool our systems from the abundant red meat we were consuming.

Chicken bhuna paired with aam ras or mango pulp? This was a first for me. But a marriage made in heaven. No one did not have to dip the chicken in the aam ras of course, but eat both together, to bring out the best in each other. Complimentary?

What can I say about the Gosht biryani? Thsi was the jaman or the main course. It surpassed my expectations. Not oily or greasy at all. Well-layered and perfectly spiced, the mutton pieces, seamlessly mingled with the long grain rice and the potatoes. This dish rendered me speechless.

I was surprised at myself as I willingly helped myself to the accompanying paya soup (lamb trotters soup) something which I usually never venture to do. It was the appearance which made me do so. Light and appealing it looked. And it was. Absolutely mild and flavourful.

This was a never-ending gastronomic journey and yet, I was not complaining.

The sancha ince cream-litchi and mango, was the perfect finale to our meal. But today. even the desserts paled in comparison to the sumptuous repast.

The hospitality was fuss-free but warm, the meal, hygienically served and each dish, mouth-watering and authentic.

What is heartening to know is that The Bohri Kitchen does home delivery too.

This is a gastronomical experience no non vegetarian should miss. Of course you have got to be a hard core carnivore to devour this thaal.

Rating : 4.5/5

 

 

 

Mangalorean Flavours From Home

Mangalorean cuisine is something we Mumbaikars crave for, as it is not easily available. Once in a while one is lucky to frequent a friend or relative’s home and relish a traditional meal. Even then, there are variations in a Mangalorean Hindu and Catholic meal.

The long drive to Four Points by Sheraton, Vashi, Navi Mumbai from the Western suburbs seemed tedious and long, but after the dinner at Asian Kitchen, curated and prepared by the home chef duo, Vijaya Bangera and Rekha Salian, under the guidance of Executive Chef Mukul Jha, I was glad to have made the journey. The ten day Mangalorean food festival ends tonight.

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The ambience at the restaurant was eclectic and vibrant, yet traditional. The buffet spread was vast with non vegetarian and vegetarian choices galore.

Pumpkin stew, struck me as extremely innovative. And the taste and flavours were indeed unique. Tomato Rasam, Kori Sukha, Bangude Puli Munchi, Neer Dosa with Jinji chutney and the Mangalorean staple Ganjee rice, were some of the dishes on offer.

Speaking about this festival, Chef Mukul Jha, Executive Chef, said, “Mangalorean cuisine is known for its fresh and spicy flavors with rice and fish being staple preparations owing to its coastal origin. We wanted our guests to experience a traditional home cooked meal by our home chef duo who will prepare nothing but the best and leave you with a taste of authentic Mangalorean food.”

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Each dish was distinct from the other. The masalas for each, was prepared by the home chefs from scratch. No ready made masalas for these ladies. They prefer to labour and get it right. That is what set this meal apart and gave it the feel of a home-cooked meal, all the way.

The chicken curry was light and flavourful. Appeased my taste buds. Paired well with the Kori roti or Mangalorean rice wafers. The spices were subtle yet, evident in each spoonful. The mutton curry in the typical Kundapur coarsely ground spices, was fiery and lip-smacking. It was comparatively more robust, but not overpowered by spices again.

Their fish curry was quite different from the one, we Goans are used to. Delectable nevertheless. I relished it with red rice, the way I do at home.

Of course the food was spicy and replete with coconut. Dried chillies (badige), pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and tamarind, were the other ingredients which were predominant.

The vegetarian preparations like Genasu Podi (Sweet Potato Chips), Bisi Bele Bhat, were outstanding too and well-made.

The desserts were tradtional as well. Banana Halwa, Hannu Kesari Bhat, Sweet Appams and Godhi Payasam were the perfect finale to a grand meal.

The passion and enthusiasm of the home chefs was infectious and their humility was overwhelming. They obviously loved to cook and were beaming politely at the words of appreciation coming their way.

It was easily one of the most enjoyable meals I have had in a while. Even though the venue was a hotel, the flavours were quintessentially, home type. Add to that, prompt service, alert staff, warm hospitality and a traditional ambience. Naturally then, it was a memorable dining experience.

 

Fun, Fusion and Fashionably Simple

Goan food is something every gourmet dreams of. Chicken Cafreal is the quintessential favourite of every Goan when it comes to a non-seafood or meat dish. Although a rare occurrence. Perhaps one of the best known chicken dishes in Goan cuisine, apart from Xacuti. In fact, any food lover enjoys this dry, spicy and mouth-watering preparation as a side dish.

Naturally then, even though this is something fairly regular in our Goan household, I was curious and excited to try the Haute Chef version of the Chicken Cafreal.

Haute Chef is a unique “meal kit” concept, built around incredible cooking experiences. They send a box of pre-measured, labeled ingredients along with easy to follow step-by-step instructions, to put together a truly gourmet dish in your home kitchen. No hassles of planning, shopping, measuring. It couldn’t get any simpler, trust me.

 

Whew! I decided to give their Chicken Cafreal a shot. Of course I knew how to prepare it, but their recipe was interesting and I loved the way they suggested we serve it with veggies and the akhrot or walnut dip, instead of a basic salad we often eat with.

Curated by chefs trained at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the recipes are simple enough keeping novice cooks in mind.

Ratatouille Makhni

The ingredients struck me as fresh and of an outstanding quality. The recipe and instructions too, were easy to comprehend.

The green marinade, I must confess, was quite different from the one we make at home and are used to. We add lime juice or Goan vinegar in our green marinade masala. This one was more like a spicy coriander and mint chutney. But produced delicious results nevertheless.

Also, our first marinade is generally not just salt and lime, as mentioned in this recipe, but a garlic ginger paste too.

I followed the recipe, faithfully and yes, was rewarded with a flavoursome, spicy Chicken Cafreal, in 35 minutes. I relished it with the veg crudites and akhrot aioli. This one was fairly different from the cafreal I am used to. And that is what made it so unique. That little twist, I guess, was needed.

Chicken Cafreal with Veg Crudites and Akhrot Aioli Haute Chef 1

 

The Haute Chef boxes come well-packed with fresh ingredients, simple instructions and the meals are definitely a value for money. What’s more, you are elated as you have made it all by yourself.

Batti ka chop with pineapple chutney and gur imli chutney, Amritsari masala paneer with tajini raita, sarson ka saag ki tikki with makki salsa, are some of their other avant garde offerings which are enticing me. Fusion and fun stuff. I like it. Waiting to try some more for sure.

Rating : 3.5/5

 

 

The Aromatic Flavours of Kerala @Lotus Cafe, JW Marriott Mumbai

All day dining places hosting a food promotion- a particular cuisine, no matter which one, Indian or global, are somehow never my idea of savouring a cuisine. As part of a regular buffet, these dishes get lost. Their flavours get subdued, the appearance low key, as these dishes are often resting on the buffet table for hours. But Chef Saji Alex proved me wrong. Hosting a Kerala food promotion at Lotus Cafe, JW Marriott Mumbai, he managed to retain the flavours and keep the textures and presentation intact. The hallmark of a good chef.

He had carefully and painstakingly created a menu wherein gourmets could relish traditional delicacies from North, South and Central Kerala- something every foodie year for. I was truly going to have the best of Kerala cuisine. Sadly, Biryani was not a part of tonight’s menu as some of the dishes are changed everyday.

Chef Saji Alex, Master Chef, Kochi Marriott

Mutton Pepper Fry, Malabar Fish Curry, Prawns masala, a delectable dry Pork preparation et al. The array of dishes was mouth-watering.  Vegetarians too could not grumble as he had taken care of that too. Vazhappu Cutlet, Manga Curry, Avial, Vegetable Korma, Ghee Rice  and Nadan Choru  were a part of the spread.A traditional meal  from Kerala is incomplete without a generous helping of Payasam.  Pal Payasam, Pal ada Payasam and Godambu payasam. One could taste all three.

Attukonchu Piralan

Fennel, curry leaves, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, were spices which were omnipresent in most of the dishes, being the mainstay of Kerala cuisine. Coconut either in milk or paste form too found a way into most of the dishes. Not that we were complaining, as all the dishes were cooked to perfection and had subtle flavours, which one could enjoy course by course, pairing the right curries and dry dishes with the Malabar parotha, idiappams or red rice.

Nowhere did the use of spices overpower the key ingredients- meat, fish or vegetables. An absolute delight for the taste buds. Each dish had an aroma of its own. All the masalas had been prepared in house by the chef. The authenticity of the dishes was evident. There was a home-style feel to his cooking. That’s what set is apart. The soft and succulent pieces in the mutton preparation, wrapped in dry spices, surpassed my expectations as did the mildly flavoured, tapioca dish. It was a sublime experience.

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Chef Saji’s passion is hard to miss. Personally supervising the food and ensuring each guest was satisfied with the food, he is a master of his craft.

Interestingly, even though Kerala cuisine and Goan food have so many similarities, yet, each is so distinct.

It was easily the best meal I have ever had at the Lotus Cafe. Chef Saji took this place to new culinary heights.

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Being a Friday evening, the chaos and lapses in the service were understandable. Yet, Sumit, taking care of our table did a commendable job and was alert and helpful.

I left Lotus Cafe in a better mood than I had entered. Chef Saji had floored me with his culinary expertise. On till June 18, if you are a fan of Kerala cuisine do not miss this opportunity.

Rating: Food- 4/5

Bold flavours+Fresh ingredients = Palate tickling Sichuan food at Glass House

The term Sichuan or Szechuan immediately conjures images of spicy and fiery food in my mind. After all, food from this province of China is characterized by distinct flavours, unique taste and yes, hot, dishes. It is in fact one of the most popular schools of Chinese cooking.

Glasshouse, the all-day dining restaurant at Hyatt Regency Mumbai is hosting a Szechuan Food Festival from May 18 – 30, 2015With visiting Chef Steven Zhang from Hyatt Regency Chongqing, promising a wide range of China’s most popular dishes, cooked with authentic flavours to delight all palates, I decided to give it a try.

Chef Steven Zhang

With summer at its peak in Mumbai, the prospect of cold salads like Long beans, spicy garlic sauce, Poached chicken, numbing sauce (Chicken, spring onion, cucumber, numbing pepper, chicken sauce, oyster oil, chicken, Wok-fried mushroom, sounded inviting. These were palate-teasers alright, as these ignited our appetites. Each salad was distinct and different from the other. The cooking style was rustic and home-style and that appealed to me immensely. Chef Steven, was a master of his craft for sure.

The three fish and mushroom soup was comforting. Mildly spiced, one could taste the different flavours with ease. Subtle and delicate, not overwhelming at all.

As we walked past the vast buffet spread to decide what we were going to savour, the appearance of each dish struck me as spicy with an abundance of chilies and peppers. But then, that is typical of Sichuan food I thought. Pepper powder boiled in oil, an extensive use of chilies is common in this cuisine. Hu jiao, or the sichuan pepper, a dried peppercorn, from the citrus family is abundantly used and that’s what renders the food fiery.

Braised fish (Fish, green and red pepper, oyster sauce, salt, ginger, spring onion, chicken powder, soy bean paste “Lijinji”) was a delight. Again, braising, being a popular cooking method in Sichuan food. It tickled our taste buds and the succulent, basa simply melt in our mouth. The spice element, lived up to its reputation, but was manageable and we enjoyed it actually.

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Who can resist Wok-fried potato chips? Not me for sure, so I gave in. Potato, dry red pepper, numbing pepper, ginger, garlic, salt, spring onion, sesame oil, in an irresistible combination. The Wok-fried shredded pork, sweet and sour chili sauce surprisingly was not overtly spicy, but a tad oily though. But then again, Sichuan food is generous in its use of oil. A fact chefs are candid about.

The presence of many flavorings and seasonings in Sichuan dishes, make them unique and Chef Steven had deftly made use of this creating, lip-smacking fare. The vegetarian dishes were equally appetizing. An absolute surprise in fact.

Soy sauce, cooking vinegar, chiili sauce, are some of the oft-used ingredients which give a boost to the dishes in this cuisine. I was enjoying my meal with these unusual dishes and simple steamed rice. It actually accentuated the flavours of those dishes.

The menu, I observed, has been carefully crafted to cater to everyone’s palates. Make sure you are experimental and ready to indulge in Chef Steven’s signature dishes. Open for lunch and dinner, this Sichuan food promotion is on till the end of the month.

With bold flavours and exotic fresh ingredients, my palate was definitely rejuvenated at Glass House.

Rating : 3.5/5