The Essence of Gujarat

 

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Every once in a while, a food festival comes along, that takes me back to my childhood. Of traditions now ended, due to the passing away of those uncles and aunts who held them dear.  One such was the Sunday lunches held by my Kutchi half of the family. Kutch, being a part of the state of Gujarat meant the food overlapped.
So, when Firdaus, the Indian fine dining restaurant at the Taj Krishna Hotel held a Gujarati food festival, in association with Gujarat Tourism to celebrate the ongoing Navratri festival, I knew I was going to enjoy this one.
The starters included Patras [colocasia leaves, on which a spicy sweet gram flour paste is smeared, and the leaf rolled and steamed]; Petis Corn Tikki [Petis being the Gujju pronunciation of the word patties]; Handvo [a savoury, steamed cake made with lentils]; Methi na Muthia [gram flour and fenugreek leaves made into a dough with spices and steamed]; Dhoklas [steamed semolina dumplings] and above all, Khandvi [gram flour mixed with sour, spiced buttermilk, cooked, then smeared on to a thali and cut into rolls]. khandvi
The Patra and Dhoklas were done to perfection, and the Khandvi, an absolute favourite of mine since childhood, I was happy to note, was delicious. These three starters were my pick of the lot and I could have made a meal of them alone. The Muthiyas, a very healthy snack were well done, but, along with the Petis, paled in comparison to the ones I have mentioned. The Handvo was a bit of a let-down as it was a tad too sticky and heavy on the palate.
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The main course had traditional Gujarati fare with concoctions like Valor Muthia Nu Shaak [a curry made with broad beans and muthiyas], Undhiyu [mixed vegetables usually made in winter]; Sev Tamatar Nu Shaak  [a tomato based curry with sev – fried gram flour crisps used in bhel puri]; Bharwa Ringna [stuffed brinjals], Gujarati Dal, Kadhi,  Bardoli ki Khichdi, Khatta Meetha Bhat [sweet and salty rice], and Indian breads like Methi na Thepla and Bajra roti. Needless to say, some of the dishes were sweet, as Gujarati food does have sugar added to a few staples. While all of them were cooked well, under the expert guidance of Executive Chef Nitin Mathur, the quantities were huge, so one couldn’t do more than have a sampling of each of them.thali 1
The desserts were a quiet end to a lavish meal as the Dudh Pak [a milk and rice pudding]; Urmo [a sweet made from broken wheat or lapsi] and Mohanthal [a gram flour based barfi]. The Urmo, what we call Lapsi nu Seero was the best of the lot, sweetened just right and the grainy texture of the broken wheat intact.  dessert
The menu has the thali and a la carte options for lunch and dinner right till the end of the month. Be prepared to leave the place with a full stomach though.

 

Date: Till 30th September 2017

Firdaus, Taj Krishna

 

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Punjabi by Nature

Often, when an iconic brand rolls into Hyderabad, the hype and curiosity overshadows everything else and for some time, everyone is talking about it. Then, there are some brands, which have made a name for themselves in other cities, and make an entry that quietly announces they are here for the long term.

Punjab Grill, a well-known chain of restaurants, with its USP of Punjabi food, served in a fine dining ambience, more than lives up to its reputation. The cuisines of the North West of the Indian Peninsula – Punjab, Afghanistan and Pakistan – are served here; however, Punjab Grill takes the food to the next level. Exquisitely presented, delicately garnished, kebabs, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian; unique mocktails, making the most of desi flavours; and the international favourite butter chicken – all make a statement; subtly so.

The mocktails are innovative to say the least. The Paan Meetha  mocktail mixes gulkand (a preserve made with rose petals) with a betel leaf and brings out the flavours of both in a manner that can only be called refreshing. Another very Indian flavour was in the Lime Pickle Soda – where spicy lime pickle is mixed with soda and a bit of syrup and even served in a pickle jar.

paan-meetha

The starters tell a different tale. The Veg Kurkuri are wonton skins filled with mushrooms, celery, olives, onion, pine nuts, tomatoes and cheese, rolled in a bed of vermicelli and deep fried to a lovely golden. Served with a sweet chilli sauce, this dish is my pick for what vegetarians must try from the choice of starters. Another must try is the Dahi ke Kebab – made with hung curds that has been delicately flavoured with coriander and cardamom.

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The non-vegetarians will be in gastronomic heaven here. There are plenty of options to choose from. Chicken starters include Murgh Malai Tikka, Tandoori Murgh, and Bhatti da Murgh;  Chaamp Tajdar made with mutton; Tandoori Duck; and a seafood kebab list that includes Tandoori Crab and Tandoori Pomfret. My favourite however, is the Salmon Tikka, where Norwegian salmon has been marinated in dill leaves, fennel, ginger, honey and a touch of mustard oil. This fish does not easily lend itself to the Indian style of cooking; but here the flavours assimilate so well that unless told, you wouldn’t know you are eating a fish associated with Mediterranean and European styles of cooking. Do not miss this dish – it is worth the price they charge for it.

salmon-tikka

How can anyone go to a restaurant serving Punjabi food and not have Butter Chicken? The dish, that is perhaps India’s best known culinary export, tweaked a million ways to serve Caucasian palates more used to eating bland food; definitely rules the roost here, pun unintended. Though the franchise owner, a young lady by the name of Bhargavi Yerram, informs us that the vegetarian dishes are more popular for some reason, the restaurant gets full marks for cooking Butter Chicken to perfection. Having tasted some too oily or too sweet versions of this dish, I cannot say I have truly eaten a well-made butter chicken. Till now that is. Served with a choice of rotis and naans, the chicken and the gravy just melt in your mouth.

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Then comes the Dal Panjratni – which explains why the vegetarian dishes are so popular. A combination of five lentils, cooked to a creamy level of deliciousness seldom experienced in dals; if you eat only this dal with rotis at the restaurant, you will have sampled one of the best dishes it has to offer.

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Desserts. Never leave without tasting them. The efficient staff ply us with a platter of gulab jamuns, in different flavours such as cardamom, white chocolate, nutella etc. Phirni – a milk pudding and the unmissable Litchi ki Tehri – a sweet milk concoction with litchis, raisins and toasted makhanas on top.

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Finish with a Paan shot – a mouth freshener made with paan leaves and you will be remember this meal for a long time.

For a fine dining experience with food that celebrates the richness of Northern cuisines, in luxurious surroundings, overlooking the sylvan KBR Park; Punjab Grill is my pick. It is not light on your pocket but well worth the expense.

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Punjab Grill

4th floor, Guru Raghavendra, Road No. 1, Jubilee Hills Check Post

Tel80083 33555

12.30 pm to 3 pm; 7 pm onwards

Peninsular Thalis

When it comes to a balanced Indian meal, nothing beats the thali. No matter where in India you have one, the medley of dry and gravy based vegetables and chicken/meat/fish dishes, a dash of pickle, curds, papad, along with rotis or puris; and rice and dals, make it a wholesome meal, often available at reasonable prices. The scientifically… Continue reading Peninsular Thalis