Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Food Festival | Thai Specials at Threesixty

I love the buzz at Threesixty at The Oberoi, New Delhi. Take your pick from the freshly rolled sushi or bite into a woodfired pizza, sit back and soak in the verdant view and enjoy impeccable service. And if you like people watching, this is the place to see and be seen! But that’s not why I am writing this post.

Threesixty has always had a limited yet good selection of Thai dishes. But if you’re one of those who have often wondered why Baan Thai shut down despite its unparalleled popularity, you would definitely enjoy the Thai food promotion that is currently on. Chef Tam, visiting from Rim Baan, The Oberoi, Bengaluru is cooking up a storm until October 31st. A few of Chef Tam’s specials are available at the lunch buffet, while a more elaborate choice of Thai dishes is available for a la carte dinner.

Thai food promotion at Threesixty.
Left to Right: Thai Green Curry; Chicken Satay;
Kai hor Bai Toey.

As delicious as the salads sound – there’s Yam som-o, or the Thai pomello salad with prawns, and Yam khaidow which is Thai for deep fried egg salad, our meal starts with a stir fried fish in black bean sauce. Although I have mostly associated black bean sauce with Chinese cuisine, I’m glad it’s part of this menu because it is fantastic. Next come the Chicken Satay and Kai hor Bai toey, or chicken marinated in Thai herbs cooked in Pandanus leaves. While the satay is pretty much as one expects it to be, the latter is a better option for an appetizer if you were to choose one of the two; and if you like to eat with your eyes before tasting a dish, then again this one is the winner for its pretty presentation.

Pad Thai; Stir Fried Chicken, Fish in Black Bean Sauce

While we stuff ourselves with the mains including a stir fried chicken with cashews, padthai, steamed rice with a very flavourful green Thai curry with vegetables, a surprise awaits us: Chef Tam’s special Khaophad tom yam or stirfried rice with tom yam paste and herbs. There’s a choice of chicken, prawns, crabmeat and vegetables. We have the vegetarian one, and all I can say is that I could have made an entire meal of this rice. Again, beautifully plated, every bite is packed with flavour. If you like your food to be flavourful, without it being too hot and spicy, you’ll be happy to know that Chef Tam has kept the dishes mildly spiced, while sticking to authentic flavours.

Chef's Special Tom Yam Rice.

We finish our meal with a Thai dessert, Tub Tim Krob or water chestnut in coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. Light and refreshing, it sums up the meal perfectly. However, if you're not very experimental with your desserts, just opt for a tiramisu or a decadent chocolate cake.

Threesixty, The Oberoi, New Delhi, Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg
New Delhi - 110 003.

Ph: 011 24363030.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Special Cuisine | Dum Pukht: Celebrating 25 Royal Years

Over the last few months one has been seeing the revival of lost recipes and food festivals featuring ancient Indian cuisines in some of the finest hotels of the NCR. This may be called a current trend, one that we hope will continue until the dishes of our rich culinary past come to the fore once again. But, there is one restaurant that has been using an ancient technique of slow cooking called dum, consistently for the last 25 years.

Dum Pukht at the ITC Maurya has been famous for serving the softest kakori kebabs and immensely aromatic biryanis to many heads of state, global icons and celebrities besides their regular guests. The celebrations that are on this week include a ceremonial unveiling of the Grand Dum Pukht Biryani at 9pm everyday. The evening that I am there, Grand Master Chef Imtiaz Qureshi, the one who introduced this cuisine at Dum Pukht, carves the purdah biryani amidst much fanfare with bagpipers marching through the restaurant. Then there's a draw of lots, from which one of the tables is chosen as Mehmaan-e-Khaas, which means that their dinner is complimentary.

Top: Dum Pukht
Bottom Left: Chef Imtiaz Qureshi; Bottom Right: Chef Ghulam Qureshi.

As we are served one delectable dish after another, we are enthralled with stories by Chef Imtiaz as well as his son in law and the current Chef De Cuisine, Master Chef Ghulam M. Qureshi. Over discussions of how dum cooking developed in Lucknow to the explanation of qorma, qaliya and salan comes our first course. The silky smooth Kakori Kebabs simply melt in the mouth. The Sheekhampoor Kebabs are flavoured with spices and orange zest from the special Nagpur narangis and served with a navrattan chutney. But what surprise and blow me away are the Jhinga Dum Sunheri. These tiger prawns come doused in a luscious golden gravy with a liberal sprinkling of saffron, and are fantastic.

Top: Kakori Kebabs
Bottom Left: Narangi Sheekhampoor Kebab
Bottom Right: Jhinga Dum Sunheri.

Chef Ghulam shares that the trick of this cuisine lies in the precision it requires right from the beginning. “Since dum cooking involves tightly sealing a round, heavy-bottomed pot, or handi, with dough over a long period of time, one cannot adjust the spices and seasoning at the end of the process,” he says. The sealing of the handi allows the rich flavours of the herbs and spices to release, and the food is cooked slowly in its own juices. This creates an inimitable aroma once the seal is opened. Thus follow the succulent Nalli Gosht and the Murgh Narangi Korma. What I appreciate is that there is absolutely no ghee/oil floating on the curries. The richness of the dishes comes from the clean cuts of the meats used and just enough fat that the dish requires. Amongst the vegetarian options there’s a Guchhi Korma, Dal Dum Pukht and a delicious mélange of seasonal vegetables cooked in a smooth green puree of spinach and fenugreek called Subz Miloni. I do like some greens on my plate when I’m having lots of meat, and this is a fantastic way to do that. Another balancing factor is the Awadhi Kulcha that has just the right amount of khameer in it that makes it delicious as well as healthy.

Top: Murgh Narangi Korma with Awadhi Kulcha
Bottom Left to Right: Nalli Gosht; Dal Dum Pukht;
Subz Miloni.

Then comes the Dum Pukht Biryani. I opt for the mutton biryani. Unfortunately I cannot describe the beautiful aroma that wafts out when the atta seal is opened. But it is divine. Chef Imtiaz shares that the meat and rice are cooked separately before being layered and sealed in the handi. Laung, elaichi and dalchini that are used while cooking the mutton are washed and strained until only their rich essence is left, while javitri, jaiphal, ittar and kewra are used to flavour the rice. The accompaniments include a Mirch Baingan ka Salan and a garlic infused raita. For me, biryani doesn't get any better than this.

Dum Pukht Biryani

The Meetha includes a mildly sweet Malai Gilori and Taar Halwa. But the dessert that I really like and am thrilled to carry home with me is a beautiful handi of Seviyon ka MuzzafarThe dry seviyan have been cooked with khoya and topped with almond slivers and silver sheet.

Desserts: Malai Gilori and Taar Halwa.

There are rare times when we know that certain experiences will be cherished for times to come. This evening has been one such experience. The grand celebrations, delectable food and the illustrious company of legendary chefs…

Dum Pukht, ITC Maurya, Sardar Patel Marg, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi-110021.
Telephone: 011 2611 2233.
Timings: Dinner only 7pm -11.45pm.

Prices: Master Chef Ghulam Qureshi’s ‘Shahi Dawat’ menu featuring delicacies crafted exclusively for the occasion at Rs 6,000 per head available till 11th October. A la carte also available.