The World on the plate

Delhi’s streets meet the world at Café Delhi Heights’ International Street Food Festival, featuring culinary delights from Thailand to Spain, curated by chef Ashish Singh
Spanish Empanadas
Spanish Empanadas

Delhi’s streets are a haven for food lovers and Delhiites cannot resist the siren call of roadside golgappas, or hearty bites of chole bhature, momos, chaat, tikkis and more. This time, they can savour street food not just from the capital, but from around the world at the newly launched International Street Food Festival at Café Delhi Heights (CDH). TMS visited the Saket outlet and was enveloped by its inviting ambience. Soft daylight fused with dim-lit cane lanterns ensured that we were able to see vibrant colours on our plates.

Ashish Singh, chef, culinary director and COO of CDH, joins us to discuss the first-of-its-kind food festival since its inception in 2011. “While we have specially curated meals for festivities like Lohri and Navratri, and seasonal concepts like Mango Festival in the summer and Chai Pakore during the monsoons, they’re all very generic. This time we wanted to do something different and bring street-side flavours from Thailand, Greece, Jamaica, Japan, Canada, Latin America, West Asia, Russia and Spain with a gourmet touch. The meals are prepared by over 600 chefs across our outlets,” says Singh, who, along with his team, has travelled the globe, relishing various culinary delights.

Palate pleasers

After a sip of a sweet-tangy mix of strawberry lemonade, we await the arrival of the first dish — Canada’s beloved street food, Poutine (`315). These golden crispy fries delicately layered with gooey cheese curd and served with a savoury dip gave it an edge over the usual fries that are eaten with burgers. The chef reminisces about buying it from food trucks in England, which is why he had to include it in the menu.

“Potatoes are eaten everywhere on the planet. I love Canada’s version because it skips mayonnaise and uses a light amount of cheese and brown sauce. The brown sauce comes from the stock made from roasting a goat or a chicken bone.” However, to suit the Indian palate, the chef gave it a vegetarian spin, making the sauce with a fine blend of flour, butter, and charred vegetables.

Shawarma originated
Shawarma originated

Another popular option on the menu is the shawarma (`345) widely relished in India. This West Asian dish, originating in the Levant, promises a symphony of flavours — the wrap with tender grilled meat inside delivered a rich umami flavour. Complementing it were creamy and tangy condiments from the region — the luscious Tahini sauce and the fragrant Levantine salad, Tabbouleh.

Next comes up the crowd-favourite, Ramen (`325). While K-pop culture’s raving popularity in India might lead one to think it’s Korea’s gift to the world, the dish originated in China in the 19th century and became part of Japanese cuisine as a power meal. We dive into a soul-warming noodle soup, filled with slices of grilled chicken breast, boiled eggs, green onions, Chinese cabbage and seaweed, offering comfort in a bowl.

The best part — it does not leave a pungent aftertaste despite the seaweed. “Ramen is an energy-booster meal savoured by the Japanese because it gives them all nutrients packed in a bowl and is quick to prepare. Seaweed is rich in micronutrients and acts as a good antioxidant, eggs are rich in protein, Chinese cabbage is a good source of fibre and shiitake mushrooms have medicinal properties. Above all, the thin noodles are made from wheat, not refined flour (maida).”

Indian look-alikes

Latin America steps onto our table with its iconic street speciality, Empanadas (`325). Think of them as the distant cousins of our Indian gujiyas—these crispy pockets are filled with cheese and finely chopped vegetables. While they are a little heavy to munch on, our hearts still yearned for the familiar taste of the good old gujiya!

The chef also included Pelmeni (Rs 315) from Russia, a dim-sum look-a-like, to cater to “Delhi’s love for momos and dumplings.”

Finale flavours

Our favourites? Pad Thai (Rs 425) is one of them. The irresistible flat rice noodles, served with shrimp and a topping of crunchy peanuts make for a wholesome meal with a nutty taste. Moments later, the chef adds a fiery kick to our meal with Jamaica’s top street food, Jerk Chicken (Rs 400). The marinated chicken wings covered in spices are slowly cooked over fire and satiate our craving for something zesty.

We close the meal with a saccharine delight from Spain — Churros (`285). The cinnamon-laced sugary, fried fritters have gained global fame spurring unique variations across continents. In Argentina, the pipe-shaped dessert is filled with caramelised milk and sugar; in Cuba, it’s served with fruits, however, in Spain and Mexico, it is paired with melted chocolate. Ours come with a drizzle of classic chocolate, ending our globe-trotting experience on a decadent note.

The International Street Food Festival at Café Delhi Heights is on till May 10 at all outlets from 12pm onwards

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The New Indian Express