Book Review | Vicky Goes Veg … green, fresh and exciting – and a copy to giveaway

‘Going green has never been so deliciously exciting. Bon Apetit…’
Farhan Akhtar

Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad, Vicky Goes VegRoasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad from Vicky Goes Veg. Everything about the book is colourful, fresh, exciting, full of flavour and vegetarian of course! It’s an exciting new book by Chef Vicky Ratnani and holds a LOT of promise. Vegetarianism is no longer considered ‘second food. Slowly but surely vegetarian centric cookbooks are appearing on bookshelves, grabbing eyeballs as they do so!Vicky Goes Veg @ The Palms, GurgaonWe were hosted by Harper Collins & Nachiketa at the lush and beautiful ‘The Palms‘, Gurgaon for the book launch. Vicky Ratnani has infectious energy, is animated and absolutely passionate about food. I was fortunate to meet him in Jan last year at a tea & food pairing session, and it certainly was a pleasure to meet him again.Vicky Goes Veg, The Palms,.Gurgaon

Vicky Goes Veg He held fort by the poolside under the blazing setting sun, which shouldn’t have been quite so blazing in Mid March … but was! Sporting that he is, he didn’t blink an eyelid, no complaints nothing. He was there well before the guests began to arrive and after a short delay {thanks to the TV crew}, he fired up!

Eggplant & Bok Choy in Sambal, Vicky Goes VegSauteing, chatting, sharing tips and trivia and a load of his passion, he held the attention of the select audience. As he stirred up magic, we were served the same from the kitchen alongside. The flavours blew us away! Who wants to eat non vegetarian food if vegetarian food can be so exciting. Not me!! The Braised Plantain with Thai spices was out of the world good, as was the Eggplant & Bok choy in sambal.

Local produceI love the energy throughout the book. It entices you to ‘try’ something different. I also love that Vicky has stuck to the concept of  sourcing local produce, something that makes the locavore in me do a merry dance. The photographs that liberally colour the pages are a journey of the food chain in India including the merchants and the local bazaars.

Carrots,beets, home grown 2Vicky is often seen arm in arm with the guys who matter … yes, those who grow, deliver and sell local produce. It’s refreshing to see so much space dedicated to the local sabziwala i.e. vegetable vendors. The recipes in the book are unique, hail from across the world but come with an Indian twist, all green and fresh!

Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad, Vicky Goes Veg The good thing is that Vicky encourages you to think out of the box, constantly innovate and evolve. He offers his book as a stepping stone for new ideas in vegetarian cooking, and tells you to be fearless. If you don’t have this, use that. There’s plenty of trivia tucked within that makes the book even more interesting. One downside is that the number of portions or ‘servings’ aren’t specified.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad, Vicky Goes Veg So I set off to make the Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Broccoli Salad.  Of course, my heart followed his advice and my recipe meandered off as I was short on time. I didn’t blend the dressing, only whisked it. Substituted apricots for walnuts, simplified the dressing a bit. I also made Stromboli from the book which disappeared too quick!

If you’d like to win a copy of the book, VICKY GOES VEG, please leave a comment below telling me which your favourite vegetarian dish from across the globe is. Please be sure to leave a valid email address so I can contact you. This giveaway is open to residents of India, or anyone with an Indian mailing address. {Giveaway sponsored by Harper Collins}

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Restaurant Review | Purani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House … from the young and foodish!

“Time spent in India has a extraordinary effect on one. It acts as a barrier that makes the rest of the world seem unreal.”
Tahir Shah

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House You walk into a heady mix of the aroma of fresh kebabs, refreshing earnesty, a set up in the heart of Gurgaon where modern meets traditional and you hit a comfort zone! Varun Veigas puts you at ease instantly. His passion shines through, his brutal honesty surprises you but in a nice sort of way. He appreciates good food, from his competitors too, never one to play anyone down!

Khari Baoli, Old DelhiPurani Dilli or Old Delhi, the walled city, holds eternal charm. The sights, the sounds, the chaos, the mayhem, the colours all characteristic. I’ve gone there often to take in the ambiance, the pick up dry fruits and masalas from Khari Baoli, to shop for props … and of course to savour the cuisine. I love Old Delhi, and it’s wonderful to find at least the food a step closer to home! Purani Dilli, Old DelhiPurani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House offers to recreate the charm of traditional purani dilli cuisine in the heart of bustling Gurgaon. They serve fare from the walled city near Jama Masjid, and do a pretty good job with it! Varun’s partner Umez Bhai has been running a restaurant {Afsar’s Al-Karam} which lies in the shadows on Karims and Al-Jawahar but claims to be only better. Varun invited us for a private tasting a few days ago.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House The USP is fresh, good quality ingredients, honest prices and authentic flavours! Old Delhi or Purani Dilli is dotted with restaurants we’ve visited time and again. Sometimes the ride into the heart of Old Delhi for food you crave can prove cumbersome and out of reach. For times like these, Purani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House is like a breath of fresh air!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House Under the able supervision of Umez Bhai, the team is professional, dedicated and focussed! The quiet and affable Varun joined us at the table. With bits of trivia peppering our conversation, his honesty and passion hit us! Mr PAB couldnt resist asking him if people mistook him for the young Rahul Gandhi. Varun burst into a smile and nodded. The gentle charisma shone through!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House The menu here has over 40 items on offer, all from the heart of Old Delhi. We began the evening with expertly made sutli kebas, where ‘sutli’ refers to string. These are tenderized mutton {or chicken} kebabs that are held together with string on skewers as they are very delicate. Absolutely delicious with a generous side of fresh onions, tomatoes and a green yogurt dip.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House This was the beginning of many kebabs, each characteristically different. The mutton shami kebabs {deep fried} were melt in the mouth good, delicately flavoured and delicious. So was the chicken tikka … simple, mildly spiced and done just right, reflecting the freshness of the produce. The purani dilli chicken tikka followed next, these had a teeny bit of gravy that they were tossed in after being barbequed. Both tikkas had been tossed in a special dry masala mix and melted butter, very different and very delicious. Oh to have a larger appetite!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House What followed was the surprise dish that Varun was really excited to bring to the table, the keema stuffed naan … deep fried Indian puri style bread with a stuffing of delicately spiced mince meat. Mr PAB declared this to be the star of the evening. Despite being off wheat for the past so many weeks, he went on to devour the whole naan without a care in the world! Delicious he declared again, enjoying each morsel. I had a nibble on the side…it was truly good; very different. You must try this if you stop by. It’s a meal in itself, but you could dip it into some curry too!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House The curries were comforting, homey and reminiscent of the old world charm. The haleem was delicious. Gently flavoured, meat just right, slivers of ginger and almonds, this is a meal in itself. If you love haleem, then you’re at the right place! The other haleem I really enjoyed was the one at Dum Affairs. The nihari was yum too, beautifully coloured due to brown onions and minimal spices. The chicken ishtoo dished out for us was brilliant. Of course it was spicy with a liberal dose of red and green chilies, but the flavours were wonderful. If you like a hot curry, this one is for you. Fresh tandoori rotis on the side and you go back singing!

We were stuffed despite making sure we were served tiny helpings, maybe half a kebab, or a spoon of curry. Just before dessert was served, we sampled some achari chicken biryani. It was was spot on, each grain of rice separate, pickling spices standing out.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House How could we leave without dessert? The excitement in Varuns voice was palpable. He loves that he can offer patrons ‘meetha‘ or dessert straight from the streets of Old Delhi. Steaming hot little bowls of the famous purani dilli ka habshi halwa were the first to arrive. Rich, warm, gooey and not too sweet, this is a famous part of Old Delhi culinary history. Made from sprouted wheat, loads of dried fruit, reduced milk and more, it is best enjoyed in winter and promises to warm you up! Did I say rich? Clarified butter oozed out of the fudge like halwa, yet the bowls scraped clean! Delicious as can be!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House They also proudly serve the best kulfi in town, straight from Kuremals in Chandni Chowk. Kuremal, a legend in Old Delhi, has over 500 flavours in house, some which are as innovative as custard apple, kala khatta, phalsa and tamarind. The flavours on offer at the Kebab House are rose, paan, anjeer {fig} and kesar pista. I went with anjeer and the hub with paan, while Varun joined us to devour the rose kulfi. The paan one was like eating a meetha paan I heard. I enjoyed the anjeer one immensely.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House While the interiors are very basic and spartan, incidentally like you would find in the heart of Old Delhi, the area is buzzing with activity. A steady stream of patrons flowed in all evening, some purposefully headed this way, some following their noses to the delicious aromas that rose from the barbecue. A word about the team. Very gentle, polite and courteous staff, who let you know in advance to expect upto a 30 minute waiting time. Most folk like to stand around the bbq which has a nice open area around it. Well located, we hear that folk like to drive in and be served in their vehicles, like the good old drive ins!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House So if you are longing for some authentic Purani Dilli grub, would rather just hop across to somewhere closer than a ride into Old Delhi, this is the place to head for. Priced very reasonably {where else would you find a moorish generously stuffed keema naan for Rs 50}, Purani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House offers you good great value for money, and delivers authentic taste too! They do serve a few vegetarian dishes too. As an added advantage, have a chat with the large hearted Umez Bhai who supervises efficiently and knows Old Delhi like the back of his hand!


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Restaurant Review | Guppy by ai … Japanese cuisine at its tastiest best!

“I’m fascinated by Japanese cuisine.”
Eric Ripert

Guppy by aiIt took just one visit to Guppy by ai. It left me bowled over, wanting to return for more. I have an affinity for anything Japanese, yet little connect with Japanese cuisine but for a single trip to Japan 2 years ago. The visit to Guppy awakened my memories of that visit where I accompanied the husband who had a conference in Tokyo.

For me anything Japanese means harmony, balance, art, neatness, fresh appeal, fine aesthetics, colours that soothe, and delicate presentation. Of late, there has been delicious frenzied activity celebrating the return of Guppy by ai, the contemporary Japanese Bar & Kitchen, in a new avatar. It was an invite I couldn’t wouldn’t turn away!!

Guppy by ai Guppy by ai under the flagship AD Singh brand has reopened much to the delight of Delhiites! The reviews are out and they are all good. One visit to the eatery and you know what you’ve been missing. From the moment you step in, the ambiance wins you over. The vibrance of the anime inspired interiors greet you. They are peppy, colourful and eye catching!

Guppy by aiClever use of origami, sculpted metal lamps, ceramics that warm your heart. You can spend all day here taking in the magical surroundings. Origami kimonos adorn the walls, neat frames, little pikachus leaping from the menu card, distressed wood beamers that cleverly hide the air conditioning ducts, Kokeshi dolls, metal stacked tiffin boxes, the soothing sound of water flowing … a lot of bric a brac and vintage finds bring out a unique character. Designer Anshu Arora scores a perfect 10 to deliver a seamless and stunning ambiance.

Guppy by ai As the interiors impress, Guppy endears itself even more once the food starts flowing in {literally}. Sangeeta and I managed to make it together on the same night, accompanied by our better halves. We were greeted by the gentle, ever friendly and passionate Chef Vaibhav Bhargave, a chef I’ve known for a few years now. I’ve followed him in delight over the years at Olive and he seems to have broken new ground at Guppy.

Guppy by aiHe explains with passion…the salad bar, fresh ingredients, authentic Japanese condiments, a lavish {and very delicious} vegetarian spread, an equally rocking non vegetarian one, salads to make the heart sing with joy, pot stickers that warm the heart, gentle sauces on the side that excite but don’t overpower. The choice is amazing.

Guppy by ai If like me, you have a pretty limited knowledge of Jap cuisine, you are in for a revelation. Raw fish is not my cup of tea, and I associate it largely with Jap food, almost synonymous with sushi and sashami. How wrong could I be? Vaibhav talked us through every dish, the origins etc. And then, with the ever knowledgeable Sangeeta, the place was a treat that night! I was set to conquer Japanese cuisine, fish and all! {My photographs didn’t come out as I messed up the lens, so I’ve borrowed some from Sangeeta and used a few of mine}

Edamame Sea Salt Chilli GarlicThe menu is refreshing and exciting. With comfortable seating, we began with the starters or small plates as the menu suggests. A beautifully spiced Edamame Sea Salt/Chilli Garlic awakened our senses, the edamame was taken to delicious levels, chili and garlic being 2 of my favourite flavours. With mocktails on the side, {the liquor license was yet to come through}, we ate our way through fresh, crisp and delicately flavoured salads. First up a Guppy house salad with seasonal vegetables, palm hearts & bamboo shoots in a karashi mustard dressing {sans greens}.

Chirashi Seafood salad Next up was the Chirashi Seafood salad, an assortment of pickled prawn, tuna, salmon, crab and baby greens in goma-ae dressing. I gingery tried the seafood salad on the insistence of my good companions … it was fabulous. Beautifully balanced fresh flavours and not fishy for my discerning palette. I love good fresh salads, and I could see the sweet chef at the live sushi and bar across working diligently to stir up the goodness!

Guppy by aiStarters followed the salads. With an emphasis on the extensive vegetarian selection, and non vegetarian options too to spoil us, we were happy campers. Rice Paper Vegetables Roll, Chili Lime Dressed Agedashi Tofu, Exotic Mushroom Gyoza {Gluten-free, crisp bottom steamed pot stickers, served with ponzu soy dipping sauce}, Crisp Vegetable Harumaki {exotic vegetable filo rolls, crisp baked in oven and served with yuzu miso}, Prawn Gyoza {Black tiger prawn pot stickers, pan fried, served with ponzu soy sauce, and finally Guppy Signature Pork Belly {slow braised pork belly, glazed with soy honey and served with mustard miso sauce}. I love pot stickers and both the GF mushroom gyoza as well as the prawn gyoza were outstanding, the latter absolutely addictive with ponzu soy sauce. It was interesting to see a gluten free version included.  I didn’t eat the pork belly, but those who did found it chewy and tough, a little disappointing for a signature dish!

Wok Tossed Exotic Teppan Vegetable

Photo courtesy Sangeeta Khanna

We were rather full, yet were told that this was just the beginning. We hadn’t even touched the main course. It soon arrived and despite the protesting tummies, it was happy meal time again. We skipped the noodles, rice and carbs of course! Teriyaki Glazed Artichoke & Tofu and Wok Tossed Exotic Teppan Vegetable glazed with sesame soy were the first to arrive. I am not a fan of tofu so I gave that a miss. The wok tossed vegetables were excellent, delicately flavoured, a good bite to them.

Black Cod, Guppy by aiThe show stopper of course was the baked Black Cod which arrived dramatically, sizzling on a large smooth pebble. The good server did the honours of taking it off it’s menacing perch. I bravely volunteered to taste it as well, and it was the best fish I have ever eaten. The miso marinated cod was light, delicate, cooked just right and hit the ball out of the park! I loved it!

Guppy by ai And then there was more but I was far too full. The Grilled Jumbo Prawn served with assorted vegetables and pepper garlic was devoured by the rest of the gang. There was Teriyaki Glazed Artichoke & Tofu too, but most of skipped as the cod gave us a happy feeling.

Guppy by ai Dinner ended with their signature dessert … warm carrot cake drizzled with mascarpone. I skipped it as was happily satisfied. What I loved about the meal was the lavish inclusion of vegetarian fare on the menu, as also an interesting medley of fresh salads. All the dishes were delicately flavoured and each stood out separately. With the well designed interiors, it made for a memorable meal, a place I would return to!

Thank you Vaibhav for spoiling us that night, and thank you Guppy by ai for hosting us. I would definitely recommend Guppy to everyone. Step in and experience the ambiance. The magic will touch you. There is something for everyone here, vegetarian and otherwise, including gluten free!

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