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 Festival Review | Dehlvi cuisine @ The Oberoi, Gurgaon … celebrating the flavours of India #India #independenceday

“Delhi is the twin of pure paradise, a prototype of the heavenly throne on an earthly scroll”
Amir Khusrau

Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonHappy 68th Independence Day India. I’m reliving it with memories of the soul stirring and nostalgic meal at threesixtyone°, The Oberoi, Gurgaon. That we ate till we literally dropped, was bound to happen. It’s not often you get to taste a well researched authentic finger licking good spread of Dehlvi cuisine. The ever gracious Mallika, Manager Communications, invited a handful of us to experience this rare curated spread from a city that belongs to us.

North India, Old DelhiDehlvi cuisine {pertaining to the Delhi region} as the name suggests is an evolutionary melange of the cuisine of the Mughals, Rajputs, Punjabis, Marwaris, Kayasthas and Vaishyas blended by the centuries. As the British empire moved it’s capital from Bengal to Delhi, it brought with it a potpourri of folk to run the administration. As Delhi became the  hub of political, social and commercial activity, people from different communities found livelihood here. With them came interesting and unique culinary influences.Old Delhi, Purani DilliAfter all, food is the ultimate comfort and each region and community contributed their little bit. What evolved over the ages was a very interesting platter. Aromas that were unique and rare, flavours that seemed improbable. Where else would you find the tropical guava in a curried savoury version. That was indeed a highlight of the meal, Amrut sabzi. Yes, we had seconds too.

Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon This season, threesixtyone° pays tribute to the flavours inspired by old Delhi. The menu includes delicacies that have been researched from over centuries in a medley celebrated as ‘Delhi 6′, all curated by Chef Dirham Haque, our Indian masterchef. Dehlvi cuisine is flavoured by treasured spices that enhance and distinguish the flavours of one community from another.

Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon Talking to the very sweet Chef Dirham, who obligingly kept us company through the meal, the meal took on nostalgic flavours. He spoke with passion about the origin of every dish, his trips into Old Delhi to get to the root of the origins, his search for rare forgotten ingredients, and the connect he made with the different communities. This brought new light to the meal, a celebration of culinary history.

The uniqueness of Dehlvi cuisine lies in its fascinating mix of traditions, geography, culture and community influences that have partaken to lend their own intrinsic stamp: The Mughals after their many invasions, the hardy Punjabis after Indian partition and settlement, the Kayasthas and their peppery flavours, the Vaishyas and the Marwaris with their rugged aromas. The myriad blend of spices, aromatic infusions, base ingredients and staples juxtapose with earthy relish in the vast array that’s Dehlvi cuisine.

Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon For the table, which had a mix of us from different communities and food backgrounds, it was non stop banter. Put seven excited ladies on a table with celebrated chefs, good food and culinary history, and you will be assured of a noisy corner! The beautiful threesixtyone° at The Oberoi is well lit, surrounded by a body of water, was somewhat noisy that afternoon!

Khari Baoli, Old DelhiThat it was popular was obvious. There were folk constantly walking in to savour the delicacies, maybe to connect to a cuisine somewhat forgotten. For locals, it’s a nostalgic connect as the flavours of Old Delhi charm you, an environment that is as colourful as it is captivating. As you can see from my photographs, I go to Old Delhi  often.Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon We began with Mufarra, a royal version of the ordinary sherbet, a drink of Delhi’s aristocrats or Farmaishi Khwan of Shajahanbada {Mughals}. It was quite sweet. Then it grew on you. Saffron, rose, mica, sandalwood I think … it had all the trappings of royalty!

Dahi gujjia, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonThe first course offered a window into Saadgi Khwaan or comfort food as well. Dahi ki gujjia with a special chaat masala, sprinkled over with the quintessential pomegranate pearls and chutneys. From here onwards, it was a journey through the streets of Old Delhi which took us from the mansions of the rich to ordinary everyday street food, from Farmaishi Khwaan to Sadgi Khwan. A well curated meal, stellar company and never a dull moment.Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonThe starters had a selection of flavours from Delhi’s different communities. Gilawat ke kebab, Silbatte ki shammi, Tandoori tangri, Gosht methi doka, Teekhe matar ke kebab each of them were uniquely spiced. The Gilaawat got my vote, with the Gosht methi doka and Shammi not far behind; something for everyone’s pallet!

Mains, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon Then on began the never ending mains, an exciting medley of flavours. Dehllika mussalum, tender baby chicken filled with forcemeat napped in a golden rich nutty gravy, Thande masale ki machli, Bharwan Karela, Kunni Dal, Dhlvi Nalli Nihari, Amrut Sabzi, Paneer Lavang Latika, Bharwaan Tindora Keema … and so much more. Recipes taken from old homes in Babar Lane, cooks of Mathur households, delicacies of the  Vaishyacommunity, specialties of old Punjabi households… we dived into them all. Deliciously!

Dahi gujjia, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon 9My favourites here were the Amrut sabzi {can guava ever be so charming in a curry?}, Nihari {beautifully cooked, served with all the trappings}, Kunni dal and the Bharwan Tindora Keema. Oh and the Bharwaan Karela too {despite not being a fan of the bitter gourd, this was finger licking good!}Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon On the side arrived a selection of parathas inspired by the famous parathas of Pandit Dayachand Shivcharan of Daiba Kalan – mattar , aloo anaardaana, gobhi aur adkrak. Also on the side, a Mirch nimona saada pullao, Sarai ki biryani and interestingly Naan e bakumach. So much goodness that we were thoroughly spoilt.

Meetha, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonThe cherry on the cake had to be the dessert or Meetha. The cup of nostalgia overflowed. How could each of us not connect to the Royal Fruit Cup! Taking us back to the good old days of tinned fruit, a moussey custard whipped cream, reduced milk or rabdi.

Royal Fruit Cup, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonIt was magic in a cup, a recipe that Chef Haque said possibly took him the longest to get right. It was well worth the effort and worth every spoonful! Then arrived the show stopper. An old fashioned hand churned ice cream maker, wooden trappings and all. Gently and royally wheeled to our table, we were served the most creamy delicious hand churned mango ice cream, just like we enjoyed as kids.Oh yes, the royal meetha also included a very Bollywood inspired Kulfi khaas madhubala Dehlvi. a great end to a sumptuous meal.Dabba Ice Cream, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon

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Blog Event |Indiblogger and alphabet soup – just words, no pictures #BeautifulFood

” A picture is worth a thousand words ….”

Well this is going to be a difficult post for me … words only, no pictures. For an obsessive shutterbug this might prove to be the most difficult challenge yet, but with a little shove from a dear friend, I am game to give it a shot!

“They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Can you use words to describe a great picture? Using words alone, write a blog post that describes a mouth-watering, perfect meal and how you can make it more beautiful with Borosil Glassware from myborosil.com.”

Interestingly we’ve had a few meal experiences on our very recent trip to Leh, some good, and others best forgotten. The best one possibly was our first one on the banks of the river Indus. The open air tented breakfast and lunch room at the eco camp is set by the gently bubbling Indus. The river is low on water as the summer heat has yet to melt the ice on the glaciers that feed it.

Set amidst beautiful greens, nestled in the Himalayas at 11000ft,  we would have never imagined a meal under tents, the brown wood and canvas blending perfectly with the surroundings. Keeping us company were a few cows from nearby villages, a mongrel called Kali, a wild cat who endlessly bothered a handful of warring black billed magpies, finches and oriental turtle doves, also wild asses grazing just across the river.

Lunch was soon served by the very efficient chef who has honed her skills in Delhi {ex Olive} and now develops recipes to serve at the camp using local ingredients. Just my kind of chef. She has another tough job on hand … adapting the recipes to cook at high altitude. It’s a different ball game altogether, one which she seems to have perfected. {And it’s not an easy one as we were to learn later!!}

Fresh local salad greens and watermelon balls tossed in the most awesome honey mustard dressing was the first to arrive. Mixed together with pretty and delicate bamboo salad forks from Meghalaya, it was the best salad ever! It has inspired endless salads that we enjoy everyday since our return. {Wish I could share a picture!!!}

We were really hungry ; must have been the mountain air and the lack of oxygen. It was Budh Purnima which meant Ladakh has to be ‘vegetarian’ on the day. The meal was simple yet bursting with flavour. The Palak Paneer {spinach cottage cheese} made from local spinach and cottage cheese had a nice tang to it, pleasingly different from the one we eat here in the NCR. I loved it!! On the side was a stir fried Zeera Aloo {cumin potatoes} also beautifully seasoned and cooked just right. Fresh chapatis {flatbreads}, a yellow dal and short grained boiled rice completed the menu. I can well imagine how beautifully the essential combination set would fit in with this menu!!

Did I just say completed the menu? No wait, there was more! An absolutely smashing good banofee pie set in the sweetest little glasses. The toffee sauce, whipped cream and bananas were marriage made in heaven. Scrape, scrape, scrape … we could have licked the glasses clean! I can visualise how stunning the dessert this might look layered as it were in the borosil glass katoris! Desserts do look wonderful in glassware.

The meal was one of the most memorable and picturesque ones we’ve enjoyed of late. Hopefully I managed to convey the picture of #BeautifulFood!!

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