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The Great Indian Food Journey!

The Back Story  –

While serving the intensely thick Shorba or soup made with loads of nut paste and chicken broth, Chef Nadeem Qureshi smiled. I was delighted looking at the creamy soup whose thickness and aroma was invigorating.

The Chef quipped, “well its no surprise as Awadhi royal cooking is all about flavours and how you finely balance the spices. I am just following the authentic tenets and adding my own creative elements to cater to an exclusive category of diners, who believe in fine, luxuriant food”.

We sit down over the newly launched lavish menu at the luxury Indian restaurant Soma of Grand Hyatt, Mumbai while engaging in a free flowing conversation with Chef Nadeem Qureshi, the creator of the refreshingly distinct and authentic menu.

Before I got into the divine act of savouring the platter, knowing where`s Nadeem`s touch of personal signature comes from was important.

Who does not know of the infinite kebabs and biriyanis that adorn the Awadhi royal food fare but what is fairly unknown is the beauty of the flavours used in the cooking of Awadh and the large range of spices associated. The other interesting quirk is the unique combination of vegetables and meat, in common parlance not easy to imagine.

The Chef quipped, “My grandmother used to combine simple vegetables with meat and they used to transform into the most exotic dishes. Moong Dal (split peas ) and mutton or bottle gourd and mutton. The flavour of each dish was distinct and tasted unparallel. Then there would be a Baghar Ka Chawal ( a rice dish) a fairly close cousin of pulao. At the household level too cooking was about spending much patient hours and the main fuel had to be invariably charcoal fire and nothing else. Here at Soma, I have reintroduced many of these culinary techniques, tracing from generations of authentic royal cooking of Lucknow.”

The Chef disappeared as I started my gastronomic indulgence, cherishing the select menu served at Soma.

Lobster Malai ( Lobster in Coconut Cream)

The luxuriant food fare had loads to savour with varied dishes like:

Dum Anari Jhinga ( lobster with pomegranate), Raan-e- Sikandari ( an authentic lamb dish)
Ammi Ke Kache Gosht Ki Galawati ( Mum`s lamb kebabs)
Kale Jamun Ka Murgh Tikka ( Chicken Tikka in Black Plum)
Assorted Non-Vegetarian Kebabs
Creamy Dal Makhani ( Pulses in thick gravy)
Lobster Malai  ( Lobster in coconut cream)

Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani
Mithai ka Dabba – The Dessert platter

The sprawling restaurant oozed aroma`s wafting through the air, drawing me to the food served.

Here`s the three top dishes that I would recommend for the indulgent connoisseur in you.

Lobster Malai  ( Lobster in coconut cream) – An extremely tender lobster dish, this is meant for slow savouring. Cooked in the freshly extracted coconut cream sauce, the traditional one does not use curry leaves. But as the chef had mentioned, signatures only get created with innovation. Thus the curry leaves were the new add on, creating a very mild aroma, familiar to the luxury diner of the city, an instant connect with the coastal taste.

Kale Jamun Ka Murgh Tikka ( Chicken Tikka in Black Plum)

Kale Jamun Ke Murg Tikke – ( Chicken tikka in black plum)

Who can even think of plum being a key ingredient to a poultry dish, the Kale Jamun Ke Murg Tikke of Soma is a delectable twist in form of lip smacking dish.

Carefully crushed on a hand mortar, the tangy taste of plum is then combined with spices and murg or chicken transforming it into a dishes that is enticing and addictive least to say. 

Mithai ka Dabba – The Dessert Platter

Mithai ka Dabba – The Dessert platter

Served in a decorative wooden chambered box, Mithai Ka Dabba translated literally the dessert box is a world in itself. Along with the popular ones, finds place the more exotic sweet dish like Thande Gulab Kheer or The Frozen Rose flavoured Rice Petal Pudding or Malai Makkan – the Sweet Buttery Cream.

Interestingly roses had always been used as an edible ingredient in the royal cooking and this delicious exotic sweet dish is cooked in milk and rosewater combine, before finally being topped with edible dried rose petals.

My lunch left me satisfied, not because the food was heavenly but because the food fare was a magical journey into taste and aroma.

Soma,

Grand Hyatt Hotel and Residencies

Bandra Kurla Complex Vicinity,

Off Western Express Highway,

Santacruz East, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400055

Phone: 022 6676 1234

https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/india/grand-hyatt-mumbai/mumgh

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Turkey On My Plate

Welcome to the delicious world of Turkish Foods – said the man on the mural

Follow Us In Our Food Trail – Looking out for some Must Eats of Turkish Food

If you love food in all categories from starters to dessert to a cuppa and a lite bite then Turkey, the seat of erstwhile Ottoman Empire is the place to head off to. Actually Turkey is one of the few countries where even a ordinary conversation can turn into a delectable food experience.

From its mezze or platter of appetizers to its succulent kebabs locally addressed kebaps to its buttery pilaf and an array of absolutely fine desserts.

Turkish food is all about flavours and subtlety.

Turks love their vegetables, rice and meats that form the major elements of the local cuisine. Aroma is important in Turkish food and so is the freshness component. Copious quantities of garlic, tomato, fennel, aniseeds, cinnamon, basil, nuts and yogurts are used leading to its really flavourful dishes

Trailing through the universe of Turkish food that`s an empire in itself here`s the must on the list which without being savoured the food experience would remain incomplete.

Moutabel – a lip smacking grilled eggplant dip – an element in the famed Mezze

Meze – Little is big here. In the world of appetisers , if there is something that lilts one and all, it has to be Meze. The possible variations of meze are interesting a chapter in itself, the ingredients remain healthy yet enticing. Such is the popularity of meze that there are designated restaurants called ‘meyhane’, that specialise in serving meze. The most sought after meze’s to name a few are, ,Grilled Eggplants with Yogurt (Patlıcan Ezmesi), Grilled Eggplant Salad (Patlıcan Salatası) Mint Yogurt Dip (Haydari), and the not to miss, Chili Tomato Paste (Ezme) purely because tomato is omnipresent in Turkish cuisine.

Kebaps or Kebabs – an anytime food, a must in Turkish cuisine

Adana Kebap – Lovers of mutton and non-vegetarian fare will never find themselves short of choices in Turkish cuisine. Adana kebap named after the city of Adana is a must have. The process of preparation is detailed, the result sinfully tempting. Minced meat is kneaded to a finer consistency, then added with minced garlic, grounded cumin, dried green hot pepper, fresh local red peppers to pack it with a punch of aroma, awakening the taste buds.  Mounted on metal or wood skewers, it is charcoal grilled slowly and evenly. Served on a warm lavaş (a thin bread that`s pita like) accompanied by parsley, grilled onion, roasted tomato and a green / red pepper.


Kuzu Mutancana – a delicacy made of lamb shank, loads of dried apricots,fresh pomegranates and nuts







Kuzu Mutancana – A dish made with mutton shank, this delicacy literally melts in your mouth with hardly bothering you more than a few chews. The mutton is draped by dried apricots, abundant use of nuts is as rich and sumptuous as a dish can get.  The finesse of this dish made me speak to the chef Mehmet who said “ this does require long and patient hours of cooking before it is served on the plate but all worth in the end when one hears praise or sees the satisfied expressions of the discerning diner on the table”.  The smiling chef before rushing off back to the kitchen mentioned a Turkish proverb, “ The world is a pot and man is its ladle”.

Balkabagi – Sweet Pumpkin Roast – a fine delectable dessert

Bal Kabagi –A  Turkish dessert, made out of pumpkin chunks soaked in sugar syrup overnight. Once the chunks gets cooled down, they are dressed with walnuts and lots of fresh cream or even yogurt. The visual of this dessert actually can make you dive right in. Very simple, yet a refreshing sweet dish, this one is surely not to be missed. Although a traditional, seasonal dessert made during winter months in many Turkish homes, it is now served in restaurants throughout the year.

So when you are in Turkey – don`t forget to check out these absolute delicious delicacies!

My Magical Moments – Mercure Maldives Kooddoo

Motly Krew Explores

Maldives had long made a place in my visual recall of images of surreal blue waters, pristine white beaches, and luxurious accommodation. The sense of being one with nature and in touch with elusive serenity. It was my time to experience the magic.

A smooth Go Air flight from Mumbai to Male was an awesome start to the trip.
Spending some hours at Male airport in a comfortable lounge it was time to head to Gaafu Alifu Atoll , where my stay was booked with Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort, the choice of which was highly recommended by a friend and frequent traveller, who has had a very satisfying experience of many years and stays with Accor Hotels.
Seeing the azure blue waters from the 24 seater plane was nothing short of a spectacle.
The images that had settled in my heart and mind found an instant connect with what was…

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Hong Kong Tiffin- 4 best breakfast choices!

Steamed vegetables in sauce.

Hong Kong is a city of great cuisine, traditional food art, discerning patrons. Simply put, it’s a food lover`s paradise and in this gastronomic world, breakfast tops the list. You can always find a crowd in numerous of its famed eateries, the largest footfall is during breakfast hours which definitely has lots of choices.
 Food of Hong Kong is about absolute authenticity and tremendous innovations, with infinite possibilities.

Braised Beef Dim sum in broth
Ranging from the most recognizable and popular,  instant noodles with fried eggs or luncheon meat on top, beef egg sandwiches, pineapple buns, toasts of infinite kinds to the ubiquitous egg tarts and milk tea, breakfast in Hong Kong is lots of delicious, lip smacking food at a price that`s mostly unthinkable in any other global cities!
Most breakfast bills would be below HK $50!
 
The traditional tea houses or locally called cha chaan tengs a little hard to identify though are ones to aim for!
They offer the best experiences for a breakfast both authentic and sumptuous.
Even before you step in, be prepared for mostly set menus but often these would be the dishes for which the customers come from another end of the island city.
 
Barbequed Pork Bun

Buns and chops infinite :
 
Okay! Hong Kongites love their buns. Buns had been inducted in local breakfast few centuries back and no locals seem to be unhappy about it. In fact, the barbequed pork buns and pineapple buns are the most sought after. If you like a little sweetness to start your day go for the pineapple bun if not then settle for the meaty ones. Make sure you go for the thick condensed milk or the tall glass of silky milk tea with these buns. In fact Michelin star eatery Tim Ho Wan, a brain child of Chef Mak has excelled in its barbequed pork bun to such a scale that any traveller to the city makes it a must eat at their Sham Shui Po outlet.
 

Cantonese fresh shrimp dim sum with rice sheet cover


Hong Kong loves its morning noodles. These noodles are soft instant ones peculiarly called doll noodles by the locals which come by in unbelievable variety of toppings. The more formal name is Gongzai noodles. The first brush with this flavourful breakfast dish would leave a mark on you.
I still have vivid memories of the light savoury brown broth in which my noodles came floating in, not runny, not thick just what I wanted with a poached egg on top whose yolk was strangely intact despite tossing and turning! This is the classic dish available in all tea houses and the ones that are famous would surely have ques running up to the table.  If you are not the eggy kind, then you can go for shrimps, luncheon meat, minced pork or beef and even tofu as your topping !

The dim sums of Hong Kong are unbelievably delicious and had stood their taste of time.
Don`t get ruffled by the waiting crowd in the more famous dim sum spots.
Once inside make sure to order fast from the menu, as these eateries are often crowded and deal with huge volume of footfall.
Try the succulent steamed ones like the fresh shrimp dumplings which comes in steamed rice sheet cover or the braised beef dumplings. Then move on to the deep-fried varieties which are crispier and yet meltdown from the core. Choose from the meat and leak deep fried dumpling, pan-fried green pepper with fish or the teriyaki eggplant dim sum. The list is endless so keep trying.
 
Remember the traditional dumplings are served in baskets and the rule of the game is to savour them warm!


My Magical Moments – Mercure Maldives Kooddoo


Maldives had long made a place in my visual recall of  images of  surreal blue waters, pristine white beaches, and luxurious accommodation. The sense of being one with nature and in touch with elusive serenity. It was my time to experience the magic.






A smooth Go Air flight from Mumbai to Male was an awesome start to the trip.
Spending some hours at Male airport in a comfortable lounge it was time to head to Gaafu Alifu Atoll , where my stay was booked with Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort, the choice of which was highly recommended by a friend and frequent traveller, who has had a very satisfying experience of many years and stays with Accor Hotels.
Seeing the azure blue waters from the 24 seater plane was nothing short of a spectacle.
The images that had settled in my heart and mind found an instant connect with what was now before my eyes.

Maldives has become a very popular destination for travellers, , obviously for the lovers of sea, the ones seeking solace and rejuvenation, few days from the grueling city life, which offer memories for a lifetime. The divers, snorkelling lovers and the ones who love lazing in the sun on the beaches all flock  to Maldives The romantics and the honeymooners find the setting dreamlike.


Reaching the very stylish and appealing location, a stay at  Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort proved to be such an amazing and unforgettable experience.
A friendly and welcoming staff ready with smiling faces made the vacation much more comfortable and easy.

The 68 villas including 43 located over water and 25 scattered along the white sandy beach are just a beautiful layout in itself.  Bright colours, comfy furniture with attractive and relaxing interior designs create a perfect ambiance to soak in the Maldivian culture and the spirit of travel.
With its spectacular white sandy beaches, sunny skies, crystal blue waters and lush greenery, the resort is like a jewel in a paradise. The island getaway with ample facilities, unspoilt nature and fantastic diving locations makes me long to be back there again.





Sunsets are magical at Maldives and each sunset is unique.
 
The magic of travel is after the trip is over, a connect is born and evolves, into a lyrical feel of longing.
Maldives, I shall see you soon!
 

5 Cities, 5 Sunsets, Emotions Unplugged.

Dal Lake, Kashmir- “I cry very easily. It can be a movie, a phone conversation, a sunset – tears are words waiting to be written.” Paulo Coelho
Kooddoo, Maldives- “Get outside. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel big or tiny? Because there’s something good about feeling both.” Amy Grant
Sharjah, UAE- “There is nothing is more musical than a sunset. He who feels what he sees will find no more beautiful example of development in all that book which, alas, musicians read but too little – the book of Nature.” Claude Debussy
Juhu, Mumbai- “When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.” Mahatma Gandhi
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan- “There’s never one sunrise the same or one sunset the same.” Carlos Santana

Tulip Teaser

I have never seen anything like this, other than the art of Henry Dudley Murphey, I thought to myself, as I entered Asia’s largest tulip garden in the early hours of the morning. The vast ocean of colours was just tulips, swaying gracefully in the breeze.

The Tulip Garden in Srinagar, Kashmir opens for the season in the first week of April every year.

1.2 million tulips across 60 varieties have been cultivated in the garden that has the most perfect setting: on the banks of the Dal Lake with the lower slopes of the Zabarwan Hills for backdrop.

If you’re planning to go, here’s what you should know:

  • The tulip garden is located in Srinagar, an easy 15-min drive from city centre on the Boulevard Road along the banks of the Dal.
  • The garden is open every day from sunrise to sunset through most of  April every year. The best time to visit is either early morning or late afternoon. Prepare to spend at least two hours here.
  • From here you can carry on to the beautiful Chashme Shahi and Pari Mahal gardens 10 minutes away.

A glimpse of the beautiful garden for those planning to visit it in the coming years, here are some postcards from this slice of paradise.

Sunrise- Tulip Garden
Burning Bright
The bloom
Creating memories