Sweet and spicy reasons to try Indus Express food festival at Taj Malabar Resort & Spa
As we enter Pepper restaurant that overlooks the Vembanad Lake, we are unsure of what to expect from Indus Express—a curation of varied dishes from regions along the ‘land of five rivers’. Our tasting session starts with chefs Vijay Kumar and Nandram Rastogi from New Delhi-based Taj Vivanta, Dwarka explaining the elaborate story behind the menu.
“Old Punjab was divided between India and Pakistan and had a mix of unique recipes unfamiliar to most of us. This festival is a culinary journey through the authentic flavours of Patiala, Ludhiana, Lucknow, Amritsar, and Lahore,” says chef Vijay, who hails from Delhi and has been with Taj for about 30 years now.
Set off smooth
The ensemble began with Punjabi makhaniya lassi, a tall glass of churned yoghurt flavoured with saffron, cardamom, and nuts. This sweet and sour drink prepares you for the spicy adventure that follows. The selection of soups is quite interesting as well. Unlike Western preparations that are creamy enough to possibly kill your appetite before a heavy meal, shuraat is a consommé that you can easily down in a couple of scoops. One could go for a warm portion of dal dahi da shorba, a curried lentil soup, or a hot and spicy pot-roasted chicken broth with herbs.
A hot start
A variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters is definitely the highlight of this menu. Nandru ke kebab is a dish made from shallow fried lotus stem patties stuffed with molten Kashmiri prunes. According to chef Vijay, this healthy appetiser would be extremely hard to find in Kerala as lotus stems are handpicked and brought all the way from Bengaluru.
“Taste of spices tends to change with regions. The ones you find in Kerala would be quite different from the mix you see up North,” he adds. Peshawari seekh kebab with skewered and grilled lamb mince is a must-have from this segment. It presents a lingering aftertaste of spices like ginger and garlic that leave you craving for more. Appetisers are served with mint chutney and moderately spicy onion-peanut dip that stimulate your palate.
An assembly of dishes using Sialkot, nihari and Rawalpindi spices make the main course an olfactory treat. If you are a seafood lover, kadai jhinga is bound to delight you. Freshwater prawns are cooked with crunchy onions and capsicum in this moderately spicy curry. Nihari gosht also requires a special mention for the perfect, slow-cooked lamb slices that melt in your mouth.
Vegetarian options on the menu, especially the paneer dishes, lean more towards a spicy yet creamy Pakistani style. “Beyond the border, preparations come with rich and heavy gravy compared to ours. Some of their dishes even have coconut milk,” adds chef Vijay. A must-try from the selection of bread is Peshawari naan stuffed with saffron, raisins and nuts. If you ask us, this sweet appeal is the best way to wrap up your Indus Express journey.
On till July 20.
From 8 pm to 10.30 pm