Taj Banjara, which has an alfresco restaurant – Kebab-e-Bahar, is currently hosting a Kashmiri food festival. At the outset, let me say that this festival is for those who love their meats, do not care much for chilli and are curious about this cuisine. Having said that, Kashmiri food has a unique blend of spices and flavours, and I am assuming, because of the cold climate, the use of chillies is largely minimal.
But, the cuisine does have a rich legacy, and the Wazas, descendants of the master chefs of Kashmiri aristocracy, have crafted a menu for a special Wazwan cuisine fest. Chef Waza Tariq, who has flown down all the way from Srinagar, where he works with the Vivanta by Taj, put together a compilation of dishes for us to sample.
We started with the Nadru Malai Tikki, minced lotus stem mixed with Kashmiri spices and cooked on a hot plate. The tikki was quite bland, enhanced only with the green chutney accompanying it. This was followed by the Tabak Maaz, a lamb starter cooked on a hot plate and shallow fried with spices. I gave it a miss, but I am guessing meat lovers would like it.
The main course included Mutton Rista and Gustaba, both of which are essentially minced meat dumplings or koftas, cooked in gravy. One was cooked with yoghurt and the other with spices, so the white and red colour denoted which was which. Again, I gave it a miss though I did try the Kukkar Badam Korma, chicken cooked in an almond based gravy, but it was as bland as chicken soup and did not appeal to my taste buds.
The vegetarian dishes however, were way better and much tastier. The Kashmiri Dum Aloo and the Kashmiri Rajma, kidney beans cooked in a tomato base, were a good option to have with the butter roti and the Saffron Rice. The rice had the rich aroma of saffron and could be had on its own too.
Dessert included Badam aur Suji ka Halwa and Phirni, but I am not a fan of either, so I would say, you can give them a miss.
I wondered why the internationally popular Mutton Rogan Josh, a rich, thick lamb curry, dominating the cuisine, was missing from the presentation. It is on the menu but it wasn’t part of the bloggers’ lunch menu. Frankly, when you have such a show stopper on your list, why bother with the little known items? Especially in a city like Hyderabad, where chillies rule the roost, and spice is the order of the day for every dish. I would have much preferred to sample that and some yoghurt based curries that Kashmiri food is known for. Purists might disagree, and while the Rista and Gustaba are equally well known, I am not sure they will be popular here.
This festival is on till the 30th of November and is for those who like to sample authentic food cooked in a traditional way by someone who knows the cuisine well. Or for those, who like to ask for a side of extra chilli, no matter what they eat.