I was recently invited to Dakshin, ITC Maratha and without a second thought, I grabbed the opportunity to go and explore one of my favourite cuisine. Franco-Pondicherry or Pondicherry cuisine, has been union territory’s best-kept secret. The flavors are mild and the fusion between the French and Podicherry is what makes this cuisine unique and different from rest of India. Meat or fish is sauteed with dry spices and ghee is often used in the cooking. Tomatoes are sparingly used and coconut milk is the base for most dishes. Though seafood is found in abundance, the locals prefer to cook with beef or mutton during festive seasons. Eggplant, drumsticks and mangoes (when in season) are used for vegetarian dishes or mixed with meat and cooked together. Markandam Dalcha (lamb blanquette dalcha) is one such example, recipe from the book “The Pondicherry Kitchen” by Lourdes Tirouvanziam-Louis. Creamy dalcha is a combination of lamb, dal & mango.
The Pondicherry Kitchen is a cookbook which showcases the true authencity of Pondicherry cuisine. I’ve tried 4 different recipes for one of our monthly dinners at Coral from appetizer to dessert. The author’s few notes before the recipe displays some of the best kept secrets of Pondicherry cooking. Each recipe is unique and more profound than the other.
What I also noticed at Franco-Pondicherry fest at Dakshin was that the gravies were treated more like sauces and were much thicker than other Indian gravies. My personal favourite was chicken curry with coriander and mint (kothamalli puthina kozhi kari). In traditional Tamil cooking, tamarind is used as a souring agent but in Pondicherry cusine you will see a distinct taste of vinegar used in their gravies too. Raw mangoes are used in gravies and chutneys for sourness. Desserts served were semolina cake with rose petal basundi and baguette with basundi. Basundi is traditionally made with thick milk but, this particular one was made with coconut milk – mild, light and delicious.
I would like to share a recipe of one of my favourite appertizer from the cookbook – Erral Masala Vadai (prawn & channa dal fritter). It is an ideal snack for the monsoons and very easy to make.
Ingredients for prawn & channa dal fritters:
1/4kg channa dal
2 big onions
3-4 finely chopped green chillies
1″ ginger, finely sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, crushed
8-10 curry leaves, crushed
2tbs finely chopped coriander leaves
200gms small prawns/shrimps
salt to taste
oil for frying
- Soak channa dal in water for 2 hours. Drain and coarsely grind.
- Mix the channa dal with all of the above ingredients, except for oil.
- Heat oil in a wok. Shape the ingredients into a ball, flatten a bit. Deep fry until golden brown on medium flame.
- Serve hot with some chutney or sauce.
I have always visited ITC Grand Central for conferences and never for food. Hence this time when Megha and I were invited to get a taste of the new menu created by Kebabs and Curries, we were set to make a full night, belly up. Surprisingly pleasant weather was due and we came back home satisfactorily full but not choked!
ITC opened its first hotel in 1975 called the Chola Sheraton (My Fortune) at Chennai, what they also did at the time; was to order a Speyside Single Malt whiskey cast in oak barrels and brewed specially for ITC called ITC Glenfiddich! A taste of this smoothness can only be had at the ITC hotels and is highly recommended.
While you enter ITC Grand Central, do pay attention to the exquisitely carved snippets of Mumbai history which are engraved in the architecture of the hotel. From the clock tower to the fountain and the life size frame and photo album at the entrance, Mumbai has been set into this beautiful hotel. A walk through the corridor to the restaurant reveals a host of awards that the hotel has won from conservation to food.
At the end of the corridor, ‘Kebabs and Kurries’ is setup as three divisions of seating called the quila, maidaan and kheema (community dining area). While the divisions are quite clear the comprehension may not be so pronounced. ‘Quila’ has bright lighting and comfortable chairs for a dinner and hence was a natural choice. The restaurant does have a lot of space and can accommodate a ‘daawat’ (meaning: invitation, historically to a wedding or large number of people to dine in).
Chef Ishmeet Singh Kapoor takes us through the immense detailing in the menu; which has been broken down into the meaning of each category and makes it easy to choose, rather than go through an endless list of items which may need assistance to decipher, main course from aperitif. He also goes on to show us that the last page contains english translations and origins of each category of cuisine. I found this very useful to both Indians and foreigners who are still not acquainted with the origins of north Indian cuisine.
The restaurant offers a variety of dishes from tandoor prepared with an iron tandoor, and pather (stone) grills along with angethis and tawa to Quormas, Qaliyas, Do Piaza and Salan. Off course with Awadhi and Mughlai cuisine naans and biryani complete the meal.
We were initiated with a rose flavoured pomegranate welcome drink, refreshing taste, light and preferably sipped.
A platter of kebabs followed.
While my main attraction was the Sikandari Raan, I was pleasantly mesmerized with the Murg Shami and Dum Ke Bhole. Murg Shami is a chicken patty that is flavoured with sweet spices and stuffed with tangy raw mango cooked on a tawa. It melts in your mouth with a savoury feel but sweet taste with a crunch. Dum Ke Bhole, particularly important for vegetarians who visit, is a paneer roll stuffed with a blend of carrots, capsicum and cheese but not before dipping it in creamy saffron batter and cooked on a tawa. In short, I preferred the ‘tawa’ dishes to the ‘angethi’.
While the Sabut Lobster was quite an eye full, marinated in yogurt, black cumin and carom seeds, the flavours were hard to get while the lobster itself was a tad squeaky. I love seafood and was hoping this was not a perfect representation of the extensive seafood menu with Jumbo Jhinga, rohu and fillets, trust my experience was an aberration.
From the top RHS corner on the pic above.
The chef’s own recipe that is created by exposing lamb shanks dum cooked in their own cardamom tinged juices and marrow finished with saffron. This has been a succulently pleasurable experience. The bite is tender and flavourful; no, it does not melt but lingers in your mouth and every bite takes you closer to wanting more.
Do Piaza: Ghost Hari Mirch
Single bone chops tossed into green herbs and whole spices with garden chillies. A dash of lemon to vinegar the meat. I am rather sensitive to mutton and have always been skeptical of ordering mutton due to it being rubbery or less tender. The meat was a let down, but let that not cloud my judgement, the dishes were well cooked and definitely provide justice to the Hyderabad cooking techniques.
Diced Kashmiri morels and green peas simmered in asafoetida flavoured golden yogurt gravy enriched with khoya! You cannot go wrong with a dish that uses khoya and yogurt gravy with green peas. Sounds just as good as it tasted. A perfect accompaniment for Warqi Paratha (prepared by flour balls layered into a tower of smaller flour balls and beaten down into a clay oven).
A special mention goes to the Dal Bukhara cooked overnight and beautifully crafted into a not to miss dish that butters your palate with the taste of great cuisine brought in by the Mughals from central Asia.
Alphanso mangoes, the king of fruits is pureed and frozen onto a rasgulla that floats in rabdi and crowned with a golden leaf served on a glass filled with crushed ice.
Could not resist re-ordering the dessert even after this wholesome meal. This is a must have dessert and ITC Kebabs and Kurries prides itself with this dessert that obviously sells like air-conditioners in summer.
Thanks to Arundhati Ghosh for making the evening a pleasant experience with opulence and grace.
Rushina (Blogger, Consultant & Blogger meet organizer) from the Perfect Bite organized the bloggers meet at the ITC Grand Maratha in Andheri. I confirmed my attendance and was ready to go for the event. However, past few days have been busy with the festive season around the corner and i2cook (retails peanut butter & mustard made from organic ingredients) is flooded with orders….which is a good thing but I soooo wanted to go for the dinner…..With the last minute yes or no…..I decided to go and have a good time with my fellow bloggers. Darn!! I’m so glad I did 🙂