Showing posts with label Verandah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Verandah. 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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