Lohri, the short and long of it

Catch up on a festive menu by checking into Moti Mahal anytime this week to have your fill of Sarson Ka Saag, Amritsari Fish and Gud Ki Kheer that are as much about winter as it is about Lohri
Sarson Ka Saag
Sarson Ka Saag

If Delhi can be considered a book of food history, then Moti Mahal is a chapter you don’t want to miss. Its claim to be the first one to “dig up a tandoor” in the middle of an eatery, thus leading to the creation of tandoori chicken, is just one of the many stories that has become part of its lore. The brand travelled from Daryaganj to south Delhi, adding ‘delux’ to its name and becoming a new chain altogether; managed by Yuvraj Kohli, a Lohri Special menu was introduced by him for the first time this year. “This menu traces my lineage back to Punjab and celebrates the culture I grew up in,” says Kohli.

Established in the early 1960s by Kundan Lal Gujral in Daryaganj, Moti Mahal’s expansion to south Delhi was facilitated by Kohli’s grandfather, Amrit Lal Kohli. Drawing inspiration from his childhood in Amritsar, his mother’s hometown, Kohli reminisces about Lohri celebrations through his specially curated menu. “I would go there every Lohri and eat a lot of food, the taste stayed with me. So, this year I thought, why not we (Moti Mahal Delux) curate an authentic Lohri menu?” he says.

The menu takes you back to Punjab, where Lohri is in full swing. Being a regular fish eater myself, I am excited to try the Amritsari Fish ( `950)—the sole fish dipped in egg and mustard batter, coated with gram flour and then deep-fried has an unexpected tenderness without the lingering mustard aftertaste.

The main course has an “authentic Punjabi platter” with Methi Parantha (`140) and Sarson Ka Saag (`650). The mustard leaves boiled, minced and tempered could be best summed up as soul food for the winters. Kohli shares that he went to the spice markets of Old Delhi and Sadar Bazaar and handpicked authentic whole spices. This combo is, for me, the winner.

The Chholia Paneer (`650) impresses me with its balanced combination of green grams and cottage cheese, offering a subtle interplay of sweet and spicy elements. However, my experience with the two non-vegetarian dishes in the main course, the Keema Meat Tawe Wala (`725), featuring minced meat cooked with whole spices and sautéed with capsicum, and the Tangri Masala (`1,295), a spicy chicken leg piece, is not quite what I had expected. While each dish had its distinct taste, the amalgamation of various spices created a slightly confusing blend. I could perceive the rich flavours of the spices but found it challenging to identify specific elements within the mix.

The meal concludes with the eagerly anticipated Lohri special desserts. The standout is the Gud Ki Kheer (`280). Made with freshly harvested sugarcane jaggery, this dish is a perfect blend of rice, milk, and jaggery—striking a delightful balance, without overwhelming sweetness. The Til Ke Ladoo (`280) and Gajak (`190), two quintessential Lohri desserts, provide the perfect closure to the Lohri special menu. Their presence is indispensable in defining it as a true ‘Lohri Special’ experience.

The Lohri Special Menu is on at Moti Mahal Delux, E 31-32, South Extension II, till January 31 from 12pm to 11.30pm.

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The New Indian Express