The capital is hosting a number of food festivals where you can enjoy all the North Indian cuisines and treat your taste buds.
The sitar played throughout the night at the Indus Express in Taj Vivanta Dwarka while I gorged on some authentic Kashmiri cuisine. In wazwan, a traditional Kashmiri platter with 36 dishes, it is the goshtaba that usually is the centrepiece but this evening it was the Roganjosh that stole the show. The chicken was wiped clean off the bone by those sitting at the table. The first time that I had a goshtaba was in 2016, from a tin can that I bought at a general store in Jammu. It was no DIY goshtaba but the entire cooked dish in a can. The freshness was questionable but that was my first tryst with the cuisine of Kashmir. The sour taste of the curd based gravy was miles apart from the Lucknawi and Delhi food that I had eaten thus far.
Along the way, I have eaten mutton kebabs and rogan josh at a Kashmiri friend’s house but nothing quite as exquisite as the one that Chef Sewa Singh from Vivanta Dal View, Srinagar had prepared.
The mutton seekh, butt haakh saag, rajma, rogan josh and goshtaba along with a flavoured Gucchi pulao and missi roti from the wazwan made me feel that I was at a wedding in Kashmir.
The evening began with saffron milk which was followed by a lightly flavoured lamb and a vegetable shorba. For the lamb, he used stock made with lamb bones and for the vegetable one a vegetable-based stock with the same spices were used. It made sure that the original flavour of the ingredients remain intact while they mix it with subtle spices.
In comparison, the Dilli ka khana and Lucknawi food at The Imperial, which is also doing a food festival much like Taj Vivanta Dwarka, brought out stronger flavours. The Kashmiri food had a light spice palette and the Delhi and Lucknow kebabs and qorma were more accented in comparison.
“Dilli food represents the confluence of many cultures and the flavours are more dominating and inspired by the cuisine of neighbouring regions, whereas, Lucknawi food is steeped in tradition and the recipes are passed down from generations. They converge in terms of spices and traditions which have been carried through the years,” said the chefs, Ved Prakash and Mirza Munnawar Baig.
At the Imperial, there were multiple kebabs made in the Awadhi style, like Dahi ke kebab as well as Chakundar aur ramdana ki tikki, a beetroot and quinoa pattie shallow fried which stole the show. The non-vegetarian options like the Kakori kebab and the Sufiyan Murgh ki ashrafiyan melted in the mouth as did the Dilli 6 ka mutton qorma. The qorma, which is lamb simmered in its own juices with yoghurt and spices, was enough to transport one to the 19th century Delhi darbar. Chef Ved proudly said that Dilli 6 is the origin point of the capital’s cuisine as the newer part of the city is too heterogenous to have a food identity and culture.
Mirza added that the Lucknawi chicken biryani is an aromatic and mouth watering dish with succulent chicken in layers of fluffy rice, fragrant spices and caramelised onions. It has been an integral part of the Indian Mughlai culinary tradition and the chef tried his best to retain the authentic taste.
It should include browned onions, cilantro, yogurt, saffron and more, said Chef Mirza. “If you take a fistful of good biryani and throw it on a plate, the rice should scatter as fluffy grains and not clump together. The meat or chicken should be well done, moist with thick juices and traditionally with bone which is unlike the Indian pulao which is prepared with all the ingredients together in one dish along with the added liquids. Therefore, the mouthfeel and taste are expected to be quite different,” said Chef Mirza.
Chef Prakash and Mirza of Lucknow, ended the afternoon soiree with a cook out during which the former made fresh Shahi tukda’s, a famed dessert from Old Delhi. Triangular cut bread was first fried and then immersed in chashni to be dressed in khoya and dry fruits. The resultant product was a hot and succulent piece of bread that is a delight for sweet lovers. In comparison, the chef from Lucknow, Mirza, had no dessert to offer.
At Vivanta, Singh offered three — a phirni, a fig ice cream and a halwa — each appealing to different kind of dessert lovers. If you want a mildly sweet end to the meal, opt for the phirni which was decorated with saffron but if you want a rich explosion of taste in your mouth go for the halwa. And the fig ice cream has a fresh and captivating taste that will leave you asking for more. Like a hospitable host, we were topped up with kahwa, a lightly flavoured tea with saffron and dry fruits. The Taj Vivanta is offering The Valley Beckons menu till November 25 during dinner while The Clash of The Titans at Daniell’s tavern at The Imperial will begin on November 17 and go on till the 24.
Why choose the onset of winter for a festival like this? The chefs said that this is the perfect time to enjoy Lucknowi and Dilli food because of the spice levels in the food keeps us warm in this season. It is also quite nutritious because of the bone stock used in the meat dishes.
And the reason why The Imperial chose to put the two cousin cuisines together was to make sure that people can identify certain dishes within a particular cuisine as they have the same roots.
Writer: Asmita Sarkar
Courtesy: The Pioneer