British Food; Indian Touch

All of us who went to convent/boarding schools are sure to have had at least one friend who was Anglo Indian. So, at some point or the other, we have eaten out of their tiffins. If not, a lot of cafés that serve international fare have a few dishes that have been tweaked by the British to suit their tastes.

This cuisine is essentially British food morphed over time with Indian spices and cooking methods. But some of the original elements remain. Today, one gets to experience Roast Chicken and Railway Mutton Curry, the way it is prepared by the Anglo Indians  at cafes that serve a mix of cuisines. Back when most of us travelled by train during the holidays, we have all stopped at some station that was built during British times and eaten at the large canteen serving tasty food at very reasonable prices. That is where the Railway Mutton Curry probably gets its name from — the version of this very tasty dish served across the country.

So, when The Trident Hotel decided to host an Anglo Indian Soiree at their Indian fine dining restaurant called Kanak — it was a great opportunity to sample some very low profile but tasty dishes. Kudos to the Executive Chef Manik Magotra who did extensive research before putting  the menu together. He spoke to friends from the Anglo Indian community, chatted with their mothers over Skype and got hold of original and traditional recipes. These were then made and tested at the hotel before making it to the final list.

No wonder then that each dish I sampled was cooked to perfection [except maybe the Doll Churchuree – dal] which was a bit bland for my liking. But at least Chef stuck to the original and didn’t spice it up like other restaurants do to cater to our spice loving palates. And when I say cooked to perfection — in short I mean every dish had the right amount of spice and flavour and not one ingredient overpowered the other. It takes a special skill to be able to do that with vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare.

Among the starters, We tried the Grilled Fruits and Vegetable Salad; Rawalpindi Potato Scones; Travancore Fried Fish and Chicken Pantras. The Rawalpindi Potato Scones – soft, boiled potato cooked with cheese, herbs and Kashmiri red chillies will ensure you ask for more and were mashed potatoes taken to a sublime level with the other ingredients added in. The Chicken Pantras with its spiced minced chicken and parsley stuffed into rolls was an example of no one ingredient overpowering the other and is not to be missed. The Grilled Fruits and Vegetable Salad had a hint of spice added to them and the fruits I must say, tasted better than the vegetables, grilled.

For the mains, we had Subz aur Paneer Jalfarezi, a house specialty of carrots, potatoes, peppers and paneer cooked in a gravy that had undertones of Indian pickles; Bamboo and Bhindi Quoorma, okra and bamboo shoots unusually blended together in a spicy, coconut milk base; Dak Bungalow Murgi Roast – chicken drumsticks marinated with whole spices and oven roasted; and Railway Mutton Curry – a traditional mutton curry but spiced down. The lack of chillies didn’t dilute the other flavours however, and the meat was soft and succulent, having absorbed the other spices well.

To end, we had the Shahi Tukra — bread pieces fried crisp, dunked in sugar  syrup and garnished with pistachios and reduced milk. The local version of this dessert does not have the bread crisp – it is much softer.

To sum up, Anglo Indian food does not get its due I believe, under the din of other, perhaps more popular cuisines. No wonder then, that Kanak has extended the festival till the 28th of June because it has received a very positive response. I can only hope that Chef decides to include some of the more popular dishes into the main menu of this fine restaurant.

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