Showing posts with label Royal Cuisine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Royal Cuisine. Show all posts

Friday, 23 October 2015

If one was to define Indian cuisine and the dishes that constitute it, I’m sure it would be a colossal effort. For Indian cuisine is not as simple as it may sound. To put in simpler terms, Indian cuisine is more a collective term and in true essence significance should be in mentioning the varying regional cuisines that are prevalent within India.

But if there was to be one such regional cuisine that has created an identity of Indian cuisine in the western world, then it’s got to be the Awadhi cuisine that originates from the Lucknowi region of Central India. The Awadhi cuisine is not completely indigenous to India as it was brought to India by the Mughal rulers from Persia. But over the centuries, the cuisine has adapted itself to its new found land.

The common saying goes that the true essence of Awadhi cuisine can only be felt in two places – one the kitchens of the royal family descendants and the other in the streets of Lucknow. Unfortunately, I still haven’t managed to gain an audience at either of the places. But luck struck when I was told that Awadhi Cuisine was going to make a stopover in Chennai. But being the food snob, I wanted to check it out only if it was going to be authentic. But when it came to my knowledge that it was being hosted by none other than Vivanta by Taj – Connemara, I knew it could possibly be the closest I can get to Lucknow.

The Awadhi food festival at Vivanta by Taj Connemara is spearheaded by Chef Shamshad Ahmad from the famed Oudhyana restaurant at Vivanta by Taj – Lucknow along with Chef Jaffer, Executive Chef at the Connemara. When I heard that they had flown the chef from Oudhyana, I knew for sure that the authenticity of the cuisine could be guaranteed. The festival takes over the complete menu and is in the form of a buffet spread with starters and soups served on the table as is the custom.
(Mutton Shammi Kebab)
(Murgh Gilafi Kebab)
(Paneer Tikka Hariyali)
(Khoya Khubani ka Kebab) 
The evening started of with a ‘Murg ka Shorba’, a mildly spiced chicken soup. The depth of flavours in the soup was immaculate and paved the way for a great meal ahead. The first of the starters to make way were from the non-vegetarian stable, with the ‘Murg Gilafi Kebab’ which was the followed by the ‘Mutton Shammi Kebab’. The Gilafi kebab was a variant of the sheek kebab with a mix of exotic Awadhi spices. One thing that was a standout was how rigid the kebab was in spite of taking the shape of a sheek as sheek has a tendency to break down to pieces once we begin cutting into it. The Shammi kebab on the other hand was equally delectable with a good texture. This was followed by the vegetarian kebabs with the mighty paneer making its way in the form of ‘Paneer Tikka Hariyali’. But the highlight of the evening has to be the ‘Khoya Khubani ke Kebab’. This was a combination I’m hearing for the first time. I’m sure most of us know the famous Hyderabadi delicacy, Khubani ka Meetha but a kebab made of Khubani (Apricot)? Well it turned out to be the star dish of the evening. It was loaded with flavours and had a very soothing textural effect on the palate. I loved it so much that I don’t even remember how many servings I’d had. If you happen to chance upon this dish anywhere in an Awadhi environment, please do not miss it.

(Chicken Awadhi Biryani)
(Dum Kofta Biryani)
(Rumali Roti)
(Nihari Gosht)
(Murgh Korma)
With the starters taking a major portion of our palate, there was very little room for the mains. So I settled in for some Rumali Roti along with ‘Nihari Gosht’ and some ‘Murgh Korma’. The Nihari Gosht was perfectly cooked with the meat falling of the bone effortlessly. The curry had a very aromatic taste thanks to the special secret spice mix that goes into it. On the other hand, the Chicken korma too was delectable but the Gosht was a clear winner. To take in some rice, I’d requested for some ‘Chicken Biryani’ and ‘Dum Kofta Biryani’. The Chicken Biryani was in true Awadhi style and was a marked contrast from the Muslim household biryani that I’m very accustomed to. But Biryani being biryani, no two cooks can cook the same style of Biryani. I liked the infusion of saffron and how the masala was light with the rice being unevenly coloured between white and yellow. The Kofta biryani was also very similar to the Chicken biryani barring the fact that the chicken was replaced by fried kofta which added another textural element to the dish.
(Dessert Platter)
To bring closure, we were served with the Awadhi desserts that shared space with their regular dessert spread. The desserts on the platter were a ‘Shahi Tukra’, ‘Sheer Korma’ and ‘Zarda Ananas’. The Shahi Tukra is a dessert that finds its place quite often in Muslim households during functions. It is a dessert made using bread which is soaked in ghee, fried and topped with dry fruits and nuts. The Sheer Korma resembled our kheer quite closely excepting it had a Date flavour to it. The Zarda was a saffron and pineapple flavoured sweet rice which was neither too sweet nor too dull. But comparing to the grandeur that is expected from Awadhi cuisine, I felt that it could have been upped a bit more.

The overall experience was quite frankly exhilarating as this was the closest we could get to being in Lucknow. However, there was one thing missing and I just couldn’t control myself from asking the Chefs present there about it. If you have guessed what it might be by now, I’m sure you have either read my reviews consistently or a great admirer of Awadhi cuisine. Yes, how can an Awadhi festival be complete without the mighty ‘Galouti Kebab’. It was then that the chefs confided in me that an important ingredient was not available matching to their high standards and as a result, they decided to leave it out for that evening. However, I was not to give up. Couple of days later, two other food buddies and I made a visit again just to savour the galouti’s made by a true lucknowi chef. And boy did we not regret for coming back again. Although mildly spiced, the galouti was bite sized and when combined with the Shirmal (Saffron flavoured Sweet Bread), Onions and some Pudina ke Chutney, it was just mind boggling. A perfect combination of flavours and textures exploding in the mouth with every gnaw. I just couldn’t resist and could have easily gulped down about 5 mini rolls.
(Galouti Kebab - Pic Courtesy: Chennai Foodie)
This experience has once reiterated the belief that the Awadhi cuisine can rightly be termed as India’s Royal Cuisine as it delivers to that title on every bite. The Awadhi Food Fest at Vivanta by Taj – Connemara is up until the 26th of October, 2015 at their all day dining restaurant ‘The Verandah’.

Vivanta by Taj – Connemara is located in Egmore between the iconic Spencer Plaza & Ethiraj College with the buffet priced at Rs. 1500 plus taxes per person.

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Friday, 11 September 2015

Each and every time one thinks of Royal Cuisines in India, it is more than often associated with the Mughal cuisine. Coming down to regional cuisine, the erstwhile Hyderabadi royal cuisine plays a dominant role. However other regional royal cuisines seems to have been lost with time in spite of the region being home to several famous kingdoms.

Thanks to one of the leading luxury brand of hotels, we may now have a glimpse into these long forgotten royal cuisines. The ITC group of hotels are conducting a pan India food promotion titled “Kitchens of India – Royal Repast” that showcases regional royal cuisines. Keeping in line with the theme, ITC Grand Chola in association with the Nawab of Arcot bring us to glimpses of the Nawabi cuisine from this region. In order to provide a truly royal experience, the family chefs from the Arcot Nawab’s house tirelessly worked along with the expert chefs from ITC Grand Chola’s Madras Pavilion restaurant to bring their cuisine in an ITC style. 
(Badami Shorba)
(Paya Shorba)
(Nawabi Shikampur)
(Mahi Talko)
The evening started with two Nawabi styled Shorba – ‘The Paya Shorba’ and ‘The Badami Shorba’. Both Shorba had royalty embodied on them as they were both rich and flavourful. This was followed up with four different varieties of Kebabs – two non veg and two veg. The non-veg kebabs of the evening were the ‘Mahi Talko’ and ‘Nawabi Shikampur’ while the veg options were ‘Subz Gulkhand’ and ‘Palak Anjeera’. The ‘Nawabi Shikampur’ is very similar to the Shammi kebab except that it’s made using chicken instead of mutton. Although it was flavourful, I would have loved it even better had it been a little juicier. I skipped the other kebab as it was a grilled fish and I’m not too keen on fish kebabs. On the veg, I only tried the ‘Subz Gulkhand’ as it seemed intriguing to find how the flavour of gulkhand would be used. It was nothing to be wowed about but was a bit different in comparison to the different varieties I’ve tasted over the years.
(Arcot Biryani)
(Non Vegetarian Curries)
(Paneer Amir Shah)
Coming to the mains, the highlight of the evening was the ‘Arcot Biryani’ and the regular accompaniments such as ‘Raita’ and ‘Bagarhe Baingan’. On the curries, it was a trio of lamb, poultry and seafood with ‘Goolare Gosht’, ‘Murgh Shahi Korma’ and ‘Laal Baingan Jhinga’ and for the veg it was the ‘Paneer Amir Shah’. Coming to the curries first, I liked the Murgh Korma better than the rest as it was packed with spices that emanated a rich taste along with the rotis. The Jhinga and Gosht were equally good but the Murgh was better. However the Paneer was a disappointment as the core ingredient itself was very chewy and hard. I assume it could be because of being on the counter for quite some time. Now coming to the highlight of the day, the ‘Arcot Biryani’ was truly outstanding and the chefs have probably got this spot on from the Nawab’s chef. With a tinge of saffron and well cooked meat the biryani had all characteristics of a true royal meal.
(Double ka Meetha)
(Badam Halwa)
(Meethi Dahi)
How can a royal meal be complete without some great desserts? The desserts on offer for the evening were ‘Double ka Meetha’, ‘Badam Halwa’ and ‘Meethi Dahi’. To start with, the ‘Double ka Meetha’ was just one word - YUM. The bread were soaked delectably in milky sugar syrup while still retaining some crunchiness. I loved it so much so that I helped myself with two servings of the same. While the dahi was not unique, the halwa was great in its own way. Not being very heavy on the palate, the halwa had a nice texture and a very comforting feel. Overall the Arcot cuisine on that evening had a few misses but the plusses made up for more than that. Simply the Arcot Biryani and the Double ka Meetha can keep one going on and on.

The food promotion is part of the regular buffet menu at the Madras Pavilion and is on till the 14th of September. The buffet is priced at ₹ 1950 plus taxes on all day for dinner.

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