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!

Don’t miss a post Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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 | A Zoroastrian Rhapsody @ The Oberoi Gurgaon with the oldest Parsi chefs Tehmtan and Shernaz Dumasia

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”
Virginia Woolf

@ the Amaranta Oberoi for a special Parsi lunch created by the legendary Tehmtan and Shernaz DumasiaJust back from a trip to Leh, an invite to a Zoroastrian Rhapsody with the oldest Parsi chefs Tehmtan and Shernaz Dumasia promised to be fun, exciting, engaging and invigorating. It certainly was. Parsi cuisine is an involving experience,and offers the old world charm of a tradition well preserved. The exclusive lunch created by the Dumasias for a bloggers table of eight filled the ‘Amaranta’, Oberoi Gurgaon with endless cacophony and laughter…aMy first visit to the property wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. The Oberoi stands tall … very modernistic, high ceilings, loads of natural light, minimalistic too, ‘glassy‘ and quiet. Then the lovely Mallika walked in with her positive energy and enthusiasm and the silence was history. We met at The Piano Bar, greeted at the door by a stunning sculpture by new age contemporary artist Valay Shinde.Sculpture by Valay Shinde 2

This stunning sculpture in bronze discs and pocket watches is created by Mumbai- based sculptor and video artist, Valay Shende. He uses non-traditional materials like metal, fibre glass, copper and pocket watches to create stark, traditional images- trucks, animals and this dabbawalla!

@ the Amaranta Oberoi for a special Parsi lunchThere has been a bit of Parsi cuisine in our neck of the woods of late, the first that comes to mind, Soda Bottle Openerwala. Both offered different experiences, starkly different at times, yet both special. SBO with it’s endless energy, loud music,casual dining, constant movement, colour, noise etc while Amaranta is quite the opposite in ambiance. Fine dining, pin drop silence {until we spread our wings of course} … everything working like clockwork.

@ the Amaranta Oberoi for a special Parsi lunchThe Oberoi Gurgaon’s fine dining Indian coastal restaurant offers cuisine from nine coastal regions of the country. Guests can enjoy the best of the morning catch flown in everyday from the 7500 kilometre long Indian coastline, just in time for lunch. What impressed me at the Amaranta was the fusion cuisine we were served. A bit of Indian fine dining coastal in perfect harmony with the Dumanias hand cooked Parsi cuisine. @ the Amaranta Oberoi for a special Parsi lunchWe began with a fabulous in house ginger ale, served alongside some addictive bread with interesting sea salts trademark of the Oberoi Gurgaon. Curry leaf & Coconut Powder, Goan Spice, Kerela spice and Lentil & Curry Leaf … stirred into some olive oil offered a magical accompaniment for the fresh bread. In jugalbandi, or perfect harmony, were papad {crackers} served with the Dumanias trademark carrot date chutney. Finger-licking good stuff!

@ the Amaranta Oberoi for a special Parsi lunch 2Loved the starters, though was a bit iffy about the Parsi Lamb Cutlet coz it was a brain cutlet! Jabbering got the better of me, and before I knew it I chomped my way though them without realising that was brain. It was delicious … full of flavour, crisp with a semolina coating. The Chicken Farcha was yum too.

@ the Amaranta Oberoi for a special Parsi lunch created by the legendary Tehmtan and Shernaz Dumasia What made the meal complete was that the chefs joined us at the table. Parsi food is homey, comforting, traditional is satisfying only in good company. Chef Tehmtan talked us through his life, how his day pans out, the celebrities who love his food, the club he runs in Mumbai, songs he sings at the Christian gym every Friday {there’s nothing he doesn’t do}. Up at 4am every morning, he sets off to buy fresh produce, then comes back to wake his beautiful wife … and off they go to cook! Together since 17, the two are inseprable and you can see the harmony they share. He is outgoing, social, media savvy, a quick thinker, cracks jokes every minute. She is a little reserved, cooks diligently, smiles all the time, and looks completely relaxed.

@ the Amaranta Oberoi for a special Parsi lunch We continued to eat amid incessant chatter. Justice was done to everything we were served.Mutton Dhansak with kebab, Patra ni Machi / Banana leaf wrapped steamed pomphret, Jerdaloo Salli Murghi / Chicken cooked in roasted onion and apricot gravy … a champagne sorbet woven through too! It was good food, great company …

@ the Amaranta Oberoi for a special Parsi lunch Time flew by … and soon dessert was served. This was the part I loved the most. Haven’t had a better Lagan nu Custard {a rich baked pudding served at Parsi weddings} ever. Also excellent was the tender coconut ice cream … both desserts in perfect harmony again, and a perfect end to the meal!

Photo courtesy Anamika  @ Anandini Himalaya Tea

Photo courtesy Anamika @ Anindini Tea

Thank you Chef Tehmtan and Shernaz Dumasia for taking precious time out for a table for us, and for sharing the recipes for Patra nu Machi and Lagan nu Custard.. Thank you also Mallika for hosting us at the Oberoi Gurgaon, and Anamika for organising this.  It was a memorable afternoon indeed!