Feature | Walking through the streets of Old Delhi on a cold winter morning #winter #food #props #delhi

‘Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.”
Jonathan Safran Foer

Old DelhiThere can be nothing better than an impromptu walk through the streets of Old Delhi on a cold winter morning. Unplanned turned out even better. One day, a couple of weeks ago, I tumbled out of bed feeling restless and tired of work. The cold had been getting to me, work progressing slow and somewhat unsatisfactory! I needed a fix, and for me it was an instant decision.

Old Delhi With Mr PAB away in HKG, it was a free day. I literally tumbled out of bed into a very foggy and cold morning. Then bitten by the familiar addictive ‘old delhi bug‘ once again, within the hour I was on a train into the beautiful old city. The experience is always enriching, and to my delight, I found this impulsive visit an eye opener.Old Delhi 3For me, Purani Dilli or Old Delhi, or the walled city too as it is sometimes called, is synonymous with two things. Prop shopping is the big bait for the incorrigible prop collector that I am. And obviously, some of the best places to eat in Delhi is the other. It’s the ambiance that charms you, tempts you to go back over and over again – the flavours, the sights and sounds, the cacophony!

Old Delhi No North Indian food is complete without sweets, and the streets of the old city do not disappoint! Having never been to Old Delhi during the peak of winter, I was elated to dive straight into a light, airy and heavenly bowl of the elusive Daulat ki Chaat. Pure love!! It was everything Pamela Timms wrote it to be in her beautifully written book on Old Delhi – Kheer, Korma & Kismet! In the back of my head, the pages of her book turned, one by one. So much connect. Felt like kismet.

Old Delhi A quick chat with the gentle, sweet salesman and a few quick clicks later, I set off towards Jama Masjid. I wandered down the street which is home to some of the best restaurants in Delhi that offer old world rustic charm. Fresh, artisan food, aromatic, as spicy as you like it, flavours hard to find elsewhere. It was early and I wasn’t hungry for a meal, so just took in the flavours wafting through the air while lunch was being prepared. No sense of urgency at all, a languid charm, a nip in the air, lots of tea brewing everywhere..

Old Delhi Like most restaurants in Delhi, there is plenty of choice on offer here, though mainly North Indian cuisine. Since I was alone, I had plenty of time to take it all in. One place that caught my eye was a tiny little eatery offering Wazwan, Kashmiri cuisine. The tables already full with folk enjoying a late breakfast or an early lunch perhaps, the restaurant owner, an old man, was quite happy to chat with me. Old Delhi We talked about Srinagar since I had been there just last year, typical dishes {goshtaba, rajma, haaq, tabaq maaz, rogan josh}, that they cook everything on the first floor, how people come from far and wide to eat their food. I was really tempted but alas, with no appetite, instead opted for a nice cup of Kashmiri Namak Chai {salted tea}. What a revelation. Salty tea … deep, earthy, warming. Almost soup like! The best part was that the old man refused to take money for it. And that stunning samovar… a thing of everlasting beauty!

Old Delhi The samovar reminding me of why I was here, but sadly the shop I went in search for was shut. Quite disheartened, I hailed a rickshaw back to Chawri Bazaar and reluctantly stopped at a random copperware shop. Must have been my lucky day as the owners were more than happy to oblige! I returned giddily happy with stuff I fell in love with, stuff they couldn’t understand why I was so happy to buy. Once cleaned up, it shone. And how!!Old Delhi , food propsSpirits revived, it was another rickshaw ride again, this time to Khari Baoli as I had a promise to keep. Since it was past noon, the market is packed. Being Asia’s biggest spice market, trading is at a frenzy. The crowds carry you along, and it’s easy to get lost in all this mayhem. Visit it during winters as in summer the crowds can be pretty overpowering if you know what I mean. Bought some enamelware for a friend, some dry fruits that are always a part of the shopping list, took in the sights, sounds and smells… then very satisfied headed back to the train station. It was time to go back.

Old Delhi With a head full of memories and a bagful of goodies I reached home cold, exhausted but so so happy! I love any trip into the old city. The next trip will be on an empty stomach and with friends. The charm beckons you, the aromas call your name … kormas, rotis, rusks, sewain… it’s a food paradise. A food prop paradise too if you are lucky!

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Feature| Thai Masterstrokes …Masterclass at Neung Roi, Radisson Blu, Delhi … and a Tom Kha Gai

“Thai food ain’t about simplicity. It’s about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord it’s got to have a smooth surface but it doesn’t matter what’s happening underneath. Simplicity isn’t the dictum here, at all.”
David Thompson

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi 800Thai Masterstrokes! It was back to the classroom after a LONG time, and it was a half day of fun and delicious learning. There’s good food and there’s learning how to cook it with a master, yet it’s not always possible to have your cake and eat it too. It happened one day where we got the best of both worlds! We attended a brilliant Thai Masterclass at Neung Roi, Radisson Blu, Delhi … followed by a sumptuous Thai lunch.

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi It was an invite to ‘Thai Masterstrokes’ … to experience cooking classes featured at the award winning Thai restaurant Neung Roi, to sharpen your culinary skills as you learn the art of cooking Thai delicacies by the culinary goddess, Yenjai Suthiwaja. It was everything it promised to be and more. If this is what school is about, I’m ready to go right back!Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi We were a group of food bloggers invited to attend one of the masterclasses which is being run for cooking enthusiasts in the city. I have to add that we were quite an exuberant bunch, very chatty and comfortable back benchers who were thrilled to be there. Kudos to sweet Chef Yenjai who comfortably accommodated our chatty group, making sure we were part of the class, involving us equally. This is the kind of class to be in!

 Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi 5The class much to my delight began at the stroke of 11am, the designated time. So refreshing to see the attendees already seated, a smiling chef and her helper at the cooking station, a well organised counter with Thai cooking ingredients displayed aesthetically. The backdrop of the kitchen added to the appeal. These are paid classes that run at the restaurant, and are well attended. The beautiful mustard interiors add to the overall appeal.

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi The set of recipes chosen for the class that day were well balanced and in hindsight so simple to make. It’s one thing to order and eat, it’s quite another to watch the dishes being cooked under your nose, inhale flavours, watch the dish taking shape … and then eat. The connect is greater and so also the appreciation. The food talks to you and the flavours all come alive. Of course, the magic was created by Chef Yenjai who patiently took questions from her class, painstakingly explained ingredients, what they were called in Thai, substitutes etc. She was sweet to constantly praise her team who have made Neung Roi as popular as it is.

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi On the menu that day were two non vegetarian mains – Pla Yang Kamin, grilled sea bass, which was given a quick marination in fresh turmeric and herbs like galangal, lemongrass etc. Chefs tipkeep the skin on otherwise the fillet tends to break. Gently grilled to perfection, it was served with a tamarind chili dip which simmered while the sea bass marinated. The second main was Gai Kaprow or a stir fired minced chicken with chili and a Thai hot basil. Both the mains were beautifully plated and presented.

Yam Tuea Plu, Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza DelhiBetween the two mains was a very interesting salad, Yam Tuea Plu or a winged beans salad. Making it even more interesting was the fact that these delightful beans are served raw. The complexity of flavours and ingredients made it intriguing, and the roasted coconut & tamarind dressing had us ready to dive right in. We had to wait though…

Tom Kha Gai, Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza DelhiThen came another huge favourite Tom Kha Gai or chicken and coconut milk soup. Simmered with typical Thai herbs, this was a soup I knew I would love. Heard there was a vegetarian version too, Tom Khai Jay and I was in love with the very idea!

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi The last course to be demonstrated, dessert of course, and another love story to follow. Tub Tim Krob or water chestnut in coconut jasmine syrup. We were smitten. Such a pretty, flavourful and simple looking dessert, yet so exotic. Loved how the chef served this up. In a matter of two and a half hours, she demonstrated an entire meal, slowly, patiently, lovingly. Of course we were quite hungry and impatient now…the food beckoned us!

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza The cooking classes are followed by an exotic Thai meal paired with wines, beer and soft drinks. The private dining room was reserved for us and we couldn’t wait to dig in. Amidst a lot of laughter, tons of requests ‘not to serve‘ the hungry audience until pictures were clicked, we embarked on possibly the most delicious and wholesome meal of late.

Pla Yang Kamin, Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza DelhiPleasing everyone with varied tastes, and taste-buds is no mean task, that too a heady mix of vegetarian and carnivorous guests. Chef Yenjoi excelled. The grilled sea bass was light, bursting with herby good flavour and drizzled with a tamarind chili sauce that paired beautifully. This praise from a non fish eater…you can imagine how good it was!

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi We were really fortunate to have the very food experienced Ruchira with us, she asked for favourites to be added to the listed menu. That hit the ball out of the park. Take her with you when you eat out! Seriously the pomello salad was the BEST I have ever eaten. I couldn’t get enough of it. Can you fall in love with a salad? YES! The winged bean salad was also really really good. Crisp, crunchy, divine balance flavours, a great dressing…Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi I love Thai food because no matter how much you tuck in, and overeat, it doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted and full. Loads of fresh raw or barely cooked vegetables, no carbs that I can recall {other than the corn fritters that appeared as a chef special}, gluten free too I think. And dipping sauces galore! Tangy, chili, fresh with undertones of herbs, we carried on with them much after the ‘dipping’ was done.

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi 12Hats off to the chef for having been able to develop a vegetarian Thai menu  for Neong Roi as it couldn’t have been easy. The mushroom satays {YUM!!} served with a different and very addictive sauce, the stir fried vegetables crisp and flavourful, and the cherry on the cake, the vegetarian version of the Tom Kha Gai! The Tom Kha Jay or the coconut soup was the best soup I have ever had. Beautiful lilting flavours, gentle on the palette, smooth and light. I think I could survive on Thai salads and soup for the rest of my life!Tom Kha Gai, Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi More praise was due to be heaped when the dessert appeared! Tub Tim Krob was remarkably light and good! Water chestnut + coconut milk + jasmine = pure heaven! Such delicate flavours, so satisfying. Not too sweet too. It was the perfect end to the perfect masterclass and meal! We also tried a pumpkin dessert Fugtong Chum, which comprised of candied pumpkin and was beautifully presented again. That was quite sweet for me, yet was a hit with some others on the table!

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi Little wonder that Neong Roi, an award winning Thai restaurant, is so popular with it’s patrons. It’s a true labour of love and passion. The chef and her team are really passionate about what they do, and have got it right all the way! A masterclass @ Rs2000 with such a wonderful set of dishes taught, and then to get to eat them as a meal too is worth every penny, or rather paisa.

Thai Masterstrokes ,Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza DelhiThe fact that the class was packed and the students were there seated before time is testimony to how popular it is. It’s worth mentioning that seats are limited and that means quality! Thank you Radisson Blu Delhi was hosting us so wholeheartedly! We loved being there!

Food feature | RIVAAYAT … A Royal Indian Experience at Saffron, Trident, Gurgaon, & a Murgh Hara Pyaz recipe from Chef Izzat Hussain

“Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.”
Mark Kurlansky

Rivaayat - A Royal Indian Experience at Saffron, Trident, Gurgaon 600Food is the greatest healer, the greatest giver of comfort, and offers the best form of nostalgia to the culinary senses. It climbs up a few notches higher when it enters the royal kitchen. Imagine next, an intriguing combination of medicine and food. ‘Rivaayat – The Indian Culinary Conclave’ an initiative by The Oberoi Group made this possible with Izzat Hussain @ Saffron, Trident, Gurgaon.Rivaayat“Food is Medicine” is a term which was originally coined by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine. It was his belief that eating wholesome food is the basis for good health, and it is this belief that forms the foundation of {Dr} Chef Izzat Hussain’s food philosophy. The uniqueness he brings to the table is how he seamlessly weaves Unani medicine and research of ingredients into his repertoire of royal Awadhi recipes. ‘Rivaayat – The Indian Culinary Conclave’ As part of this unique culinary initiative of The Oberoi group, I had the pleasure of experiencing a finely created meal at Saffron, Trident, Gurgaon. The fine dining Indian speciality restaurant has celebrated Chef Izzat Husain unveil secret recipes at Saffron. Rivaayat invites you to experience the magnificence of the royal kitchens of Awadh as he recreates treasured Indian classics like the Kakori Kebab, Gosht Yakhni Pulao, Zafrani Nehari and Baqakhani

Izzat Husain is known for taking Awadhi cuisine across the globe. He is a food enthusiast, working hard for several years to search and revive authentic recipes of Mughlai, Awadhi & Lakhnawi cuisine. He has learnt the cooking techniques and procedures from old cooks, house wives and foodies of royal families. Few of his specialities are Murgh Mewazad, Karhai Ghosht and Kebab Makhmali.

Rivaayat - A Royal Indian Experience at Saffron, Trident, Gurgaon With the ever so sweet Mallika {Manager Comm, The Oberoi, Gurgaon} and Executive Chef Sandeep keeping me good company at aesthetic and beautiful Saffron, I set off on this delicious journey. The starters {or fillers as I call them} were specially good, and for me a meal in themselves. I loved the Gosht Parchay, the Chicken Tikka which were vastly different from any I’ve had before; a melt in the mouth goodness about with addictive flavours. The Galouti Kebab on the little ulte tawa ka paratha was a winner too. The 2 chutneys accompanying the starters were amazing. An Olive Green Chutney {fresh coriander and olive oil} and a Thoom Chutney {emulsified raw garlic chutney} both fresh, bursting with flavour, robust and earthy. Chef Izzat Hussain doesn’t believe in using water in his cuisine. The chutneys had a base of oil, and his curries are cooked in milk!

Rivaayat - A Royal Indian Experience at Saffron, Trident, Gurgaon Time for the main course which arrived in gleaming katoris, little bowls of wonder. Lots of them. The menu is vast, and very interestingly offers a huge selection for both vegetarian and non vegetarian options. By this time the gentle Chef Izzat had joined us at the table. His belief is that milk or dairy cuts the acidity of the meat, thereby allowing easier digestion. I loved his signature Malai Boti Kebab which just melted away into oblivion. Also the Murgh Begum Pasanda, and a Mahi Korma, royal treatment all the way. I liked the way every little katori {bowl}  held its own ground with stand out flavours and spice blends.

Izzat ki roti, Rivaayat - A Royal Indian Experience at Saffron, Trident, GurgaonWhat took my tastebuds to happiness was the Paneer Chukandar. I loved the way the chef brought this pairing together. So creative! The Sabut Moong with saffron was comforting, though cooked with cream, so a little heavy. Next the veg Shahi Korma, pillowy soft vegetable koftas wrapped in a luscious gravy. That tomatoes were not part of the ingredients was something quite enjoyable. This is what I like about Awadhi cuisine….caramelized onions and dairy that bring about beautiful red hues to the dish.{The camera had been done away with by now}. On the side were breads … Sheermal, Gullafi Kulcha and Izzat ki roti. The Izzat ki Roti was by far the best. A multigrain, crisp flatbread that was addictive good, one that you could nibble away at all day long! The name of course comes from the creator …Chef Izzat Hussain. The chef said that this special roti is now very famous across Lucknow.

Rivaayat - A Royal Indian Experience at Saffron, Trident, Gurgaon Did I mention the Buraani Raita? Yum! Found it’s place on the platter alright! Oh yes, and there were 3 biryanis/pulaos that followed. A good to the last grain Kaju Biryani, and a couple of others – Gosht Tursh Pulao, and a Chicken Biryani which I could not try. Alas! Too full. Some Awadhi murrabba might have worked digestive magic here…. was I stuffed! That the meal was royal was obvious. ’twas heavy food I tell you.

Rivaayat - A Royal Indian Experience at Saffron, Trident, Gurgaon Dessert was delightful as dessert should be. Despite obviously being stuffed to the gills, the array of desserts tempted. I sampled the Chhena Kheer, Taar Halwa and Shahi Tukda. The Shahi Tukda was my absolute favourite … a full bodied Stollen like bread with raisins and saffron formed the base. I have to say all 3 desserts were excellent. Not cloyingly sweet as a halwa or kheer can threaten to be. They were just right for me, with Exec Chef Sandeep letting me on Izzat Hussain’s secret. A dash of lime juice will always cut away the feeling of dessert being exceedingly sweet! Nice tip!
 I also came away with a box of the most yum fudge chocolaty cookies, a gift from Exec Chef Sandeep!

Trident, Gurgaon is presenting its Rivaayat, a celebration of the Indian Royal experience at its award winning Indian cuisine restaurant – Saffron between 19th January and 25th January 2015.

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Lucknawi cuisineAwadhi cuisine hails from the city of Nawabs, Lucknow. This cuisine consists of elaborate dishes such as kebabs, kormas, biryanis, kaliyas, nahari-kulchas, zarda, sheermal, roomali rotis, and warqi parathas. The richness of Awadhi cuisine lies not only in the variety of cuisine but also in the ingredients used like mutton, paneer, dry fruits and rich spices like cardamom and saffron.Lucknow mainThe Lucknawi cuisine I have had in the past has been vastly different. Lighter on spices and milder to taste, obviously the food I’ve had in the past wasn’t this royal!! With my mother belonging to Lucknow, it is a city and cuisine which I enjoy a lot. I did ask for a simple, quick flavourful everyday recipe from Izzat Hussain’s vast repertoire. Here it is, a Murgh Hara Pyaz {Chicken with Spring Onions}, and as the tagline goes …  absolutely fresh, delicious and healthy!Hara Pyaaz Murgh It’s a light, summery, quick, fresh dish. I added a dash of cream towards the end to make it a ‘winter comfort food dish’, more lime juice, green garlic and onion scapes and loads of fresh coriander to make it ‘wintery’. It was really good with fresh lachcha parathas!

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India