HYDERABAD: It’s not often that you can taste food of different regions on one single platter especially when they are from far off and hardly-discussed pockets like Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa or Jammu. But when these are savoured together as a la carte the experience can be one of its kind. At Kanak, the Indian specialty restaurant at Trident, the food festival ‘Incredible Cuisines of India’ sums up very much that, if not wholly. The food items are served with small intervals for the taste to settle on the taste-buds. There are delights both for the vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
The foodie affair begins with Aloo Debarre a crisp starter item from Jammu. It is a chop filled with mashed potatoes, fried till crispy layer forms on its besan-dipped exterior. It’s relished with radish and tamarind chutney. The next dish on the platter lands straight from the southern most part of the country. Yes, we are talking about Kanyakumari. It’s another appetiser named Thattai made from pulses which are coarsely ground, to it are added green chillies slightly pounded that you get a crunch of their skin. No need to panic you non-vegetarians; there’s plenty on the platter. From the centre of India, Madhya Pradesh the aroma of lamb kebabs greets you. It’s Bhopali Keeme Kii Seekh prepared from minced lamb meat to which are added onion and reduced milk for that mouth-dissolving taste.
Ever seen a poor farmer’s food from Bihar travel all the way on the high-end dinner-table of a five-star hotel? Well, Aloo Chokha with Litti is a dish to savour. Made of humble wheat dumplings filled with roasted gram flour that is mixed with spices. Before serving it is dunked in hot ghee. The dumplings soak the ghee and that gives it a unique flavour and aroma. Aloo Chokha is nothing but mashed potatoes with salt and some oil. Litti at the platter was too hard to be broken even with hands. I had to struggle. The farmers in Bihar, during chilly winter nights while they guard their crops, make this Chokha Litti for a hearty meal. They light a bonfire to keep away the chill, sing songs and enjoy their humble night-out.
Next on the platter Ambal from Jammu. It’s a pumpkin curry cooked with jaggery, tamarind paste, chillies and mustard oil. It looks diaphanous golden and is served as a large cube. That taste is both tangy and sweet. Tastes well with naan or paratha. For non-vegetarians the delights from Maharashtra, Jammu and Orissa are worth a try. Mutton Kolhapuri cooked with chillies, mustard oil and other regular condiments is red in colour and tastes hot given the use of red chillies. Next is Tawa Chicken also from Jammu. The chicken pieces are cooked on griddle with onion paste and lots of tomato chunks. The taste is a bit smoky because of the use of tawa. But the real smoky flavour comes from ‘Jan’ a smoked chicken specialty cooked with vegetables of the season. It’s from Arunachal Pradesh and looks delicious when served on the platter.
The accompaniments with these dishes from various parts of India are bread, rice preparation and puri. From Orissa there’s a mildly sweet rice preparation named ‘Kanika’. It’s bright yellow in colour given saffron is added. The sweetness, perhaps, comes from addition of fried nuts in the dish. Then there’s rustic bread named ‘Kyur’ made with flour and cooked on griddle. Topping all the accompaniments is Masala Poori from Bihar. Made from a mixture of refined flour and wheat-flour the puri is has a filling of sattu, pounded green chillies and other spices which give it a melt-in-mouth taste. For dessert Orissa again appears on your plate in form of baked cheese cake. It’s a thick slice a bit heavy in structure but a bit too sweet. The food fest has been designed under the guidance of chef Manik and is on till January 30. It’s a la carte and the charges for two are `2,500+ taxes. In all, those who haven’t travelled to different pockets of the country will find the platter delightful, almost a culinary travel via food.