Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wine, Wazwan and conversations at Taj Lands End + Mutton Roganjosh Recipe

Wazwan is one of the most famous and still untouched cuisines of India. Very few restaurants foray into this rich food culture and those who do, do not go beyond Roganjosh or Kashmiri Pulao. Well, there's a lot more to this cuisine which is influenced by Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims from Samarkand and surprisingly Buddhist Monks who migrated to Kashmir from Laddakh. My interest in Wazwan was generated when I read Salman Rushdie's Shalimar The Clown several years ago and that's what took me to Kong Poush, a now shuttered Kashmiri restaurant in Oshiwara which was my real introduction to Wazwan. Given the extreme unavailability of Wazwan food in Mumbai it was tough to say no when an invitation to taste the Kashmiri food came my way. 

Masala Bay at Taj Lands End in Bandra is celebrating the elaborate cuisine till the 31st of March and has flown down Chef Sewa Singh from Vivanta by Taj in Srinagar to prepare the delicacies. Apart from the bloggers and the people from media the Executive Chef of Taj Lands End, Chef Anirudha Roy also joined us for dinner. It was an extremely fruitful evening with good food, good wine and conversations about the history of Wazwan, the food culture in Kashmir and books. The normally media shy Chef spoke to us at length on various topics. 

As far as the food is concerned I am in love with the subtle flavours used in Wazwan dishes. The spices never overpower the principal ingredient. Wazwan, which is mainly a celebratory cuisine comprises of 36 dishes. Well actually the original cuisine had 105 dishes but most of them are lost in history. The menu at Masala Bay has included at-least 15 dishes out of the 36. They also serve a Peach mocktail garnished with kesar which gels well with the food. 

Although soup or shorba - very mildly spiced lamb broth, is not really a part of Wazwan it has been included in the menu and was a pretty good start to the meal.

The Kashmiri sheek kebabs were succulent, moist and full of spices unlike the dry sheek available at Mumbai's most famous joints. Try them with the Apricot chutney served on the side.

Nadir or lotus stem is probably the most important part of Kashmiri cuisine and after eating the Nadir kebabs you won't be wondering why. The soft and crunchy kebabs are made with a mix of lotus stem and dryfruits.

While the vegetarian options are limited the Paneer ki tikki is something that'll keep you happy. Made with fresh cottage cheese, anardana and dryfruits the tikki is a fabulous blend of sweet and spicy flavours.

The main course has dishes like Rista which is served at the beginning of the meal. Rista is made with pounded meatballs (there's a long process to prepare this meat where it is pounded till the red meat turns white and then it's made into balls) cooked in a Kashmiri gravy made with moval extract, asofoetida, fennel and other spices. Gushtaba which is served at the end of the meal is the same meatballs cooked in a tangy yogurt gravy. We were blown over by both the dishes. The Mutton roganjosh was cooked with no onion or garlic in just ginger, asofoetida and fennel gravy and had meat falling off the bone. This with Kashmiri zafarani naan was a combination made in heaven, and with the food coming straight from the heaven on Earth I wouldn't question that.

The rich Rajma made with small kidney beans and the Morel pulao was again something that had subtle flavours. Chef Anirudha told us that the technique to make the morel pulao is again very long and complimented which is one reason we don't see it on a restaurant's menu.

Another special addition to our meal was the small grained Kashmiri rice which the Chef had brought from the land itself. Now here's an interesting fact that rice is actually the staple diet of a Kashmiri. A lot of their agriculture is based on rice. Bread on the other hand is mostly eaten for breakfast with Nun chai or salted tea. Rice or baatha is so important that during a Kashmiri wedding there's a special function which involves cleaning of rice for the wedding. Only the closest female members of the family are invited to clean the rice. You can read more about it here. We were served this rice with Tilapia, Kashmiri fish cooked in red chilli gravy, another pair made in heaven.

The dessert wasn't the usual Phirni, surprisingly, but was Suji ka halwa instead. The mildly sweetened semolina halwa had bigger grains instead of the regular small and fine ones.

The meal ended with a flavourful Kahwa, a Kashmiri tea which doesn't have any tea and is made of cinnamon, cardamom, clove and fennel. 

It's a pity that we are not aware of a cuisine which is so vast and is a culture in itself. I wouldn't be exaggerating if i say that Wazwan is not just food, it's a way of life.

The Wazwan Food Festival is on till the 30th of March.

Chef Sewa Singh
Post our meal we met the man behind all the goodness that we had just devoured, Chef Sewa Singh. The Chef might be a bit camera and people shy but he is the master of the art of cooking. Very graciously he shared his recipe of Mutton Roganjosh with me and here it is for you all to try.


Lamb cubes (with bone)                1 kg
Desi ghee                                           110 gms
Turmeric powder                             10 gms
Kashmiri chilli powder                   25 gms
Dried Kashmiri chillies                  30 gms
Lamb stock                                       1 ltr
Dry ginger powder                           50 gms
Fennel powder                                 25 gms
Green cardamom                            5 nos.
Cinnamon stick                               4-5 nos.
Dry mint powder                             10 gms
Lamb fat                                            30 gms
Salt to taste

·         Blanch the lamb and wash to clean off all impurities.
·         Boil the whole chillies until soft, wash and make a fine paste with water.
·         Take ghee and lamb fat in a vessel, add cardamom and cinnamon, allow it to crackle.
·         Add salt, turmeric, red chilli powder, and red chilli paste and lamb stock.
·         Now add lamb, and cook until tender.
·         Remove lamb, strain the gravy and cook further till desired consistency.
·         Check for seasoning, finish with ginger powder, fennel powder and mint powder & serve hot.

Spicy mutton curry Maharashtrian style

I have always been amazed by the people who cook the best non-vegetarian food but are pure vegetarian themselves. How can you cook something without knowing how it tastes like or how it should taste like? My mother is one of those people. She cooks the best non-vegetarian food I've ever had. Another such person I know is the Husband's grandmother (for some reason the whole world calls her Mami). So Mami has been a vegetarian all her life but started cooking for her husband cause he just loved eating. She is famous for her Gavran Mutton and Chicken curries which are known to burn a whole in your sole. She visited us recently and knowing of my low tolerance to chilies she made the less spicier version of it. I stood next to her observing the recipe and here it is for all of you to try. Make it, eat it and let me know how it turned out.

Mutton - 600 gms
Onions - 2 medium sized
Garlic - 5-6 cloves
Ginger - An inch long piece
Cinnamon - An inch long stick
Black cardamom - 2
Green cardamom - 2
Bay leaf - 1
Grated coconut (dry or fresh) - 4 tbsp
Chana dal - 2 tbsp
Rice - 2 tbsp
Almonds - 2
Cashewnuts - 4
Dry coriander powder - 2 tsp
Red chili powder - 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Refined oil - 4 tbsp
Fresh coriander for garnish

  • Wash mutton properly and keep aside.
  • Roughly slice onions, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the onions till they are golden brown. Remove and keep aside.
  • In the same pan roast the grated coconut, remove and add to the fried onions.
  • Roast the dal and rice too in the pan and add to the onion and coconut mix. Adding dal and rice to the preparation balances out the flavour of the spices and you don't end up eating mutton which tastes more of garlic and cinnamon.
  • In a blender take fried onions, garlic, ginger, coconut, rice, dal, cinnamon, black and green cardamom, almonds and cashewnuts, add water and blitz them to a fine paste.
  • Heat rest of the oil in a heavy bottomed pressure cooker and fry the paste for 5 minutes.
  • Add mutton pieces, coriander and chilli powder and fry for atleast 10-15 minutes before pressure cooking it.
  • Add 5 cups of water, salt and put the lid on. 5-6 whistles and your mutton will be ready.
Garnish it with fresh coriander and serve with hot rotis or rice. I prefer rotis slathered with ghee.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

So, this was cooking in Bandra - Singkong Review

Months after the quiet exit of The Tasty Tangles, a new restaurant Singkong has settled itself at the same place. Owned by Dish Hospitality (they also own Aurus and Sancho’s) Singkong serves Pan Asian cuisine and has a wide range of dimsum and sushis on the menu followed by soups and mains. A small fleet of stairs took me to the restaurant with glass wall to the left and an open kitchen to the right. There’s a small sushi bar too on the right as soon as you enter. The decor is casual with mostly browns, greys and a bit of red thrown in.

I plopped my hungry self at the table reserved for media and bloggers. Our meal at Singkong started with a mix of dimsum, sushis, starters and a Thai basil martini (Rs 375), highly recommended by the staff, to go with it. If you love a dash of coconut in your drink, this one is a must try; a concoction of vodka, fresh basil leaves, coconut syrup and pineapple juice. For starters we were served Oriental shrimp nest (Rs 395), Wasabi prawns (Rs 395), Grilled lemon grass chilli basa (Rs 345), Pandan leaf wrapped spiced cottage cheese (Rs 275), and Rock corn (Rs 225). The shrimp nest was crispy deep fried prawn skewered on a sugarcane stick served in a shot glass with ginger soy sauce and chilli dipping sauce, I don’t know if it was the presentation or the taste that impressed me more but I loved the preparation. The second favourite was the wasabi prawn – deep fried prawns coated with wasabi mayo and topped with a sweet and spicy mango salsa, while the description said strong wasabi mayo it was actually pretty mild but whi is complaining? The vegetarians should definitely try the melt-in-mouth cottage cheese cooked in chilli soy and coriander and wrapped in pandan leaf. We also tried the Steamed bun with honey Hunan roasted pork slice (Rs 225). The dish had a strange presentation; it came on a heavy stone platter with two buns resting on a huge black stone which somehow reminded us of a Shivling, a flat ShivlingThe sweet buns and sweeter sauce didn’t impress me much.

A round of dimsum and sushi platter called for another drink and we ordered the Singkong signature martini (Rs 375) – Old Monk, espresso vodka and a dash of cream dusted with cinnamon powder. If you can tell your prawns from the cottage cheese after this drink, well hats off to you. From the sushi section I recommend the California uramaki (Rs 445) – crabstick, avocado and sesame seed sushi coated with Tobiko or fish roe and Crispy Philadelphia uramaki (Rs 445) – smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado & cucumber. Frankly I would prefer the sushis at Aoi over the ones at Singkong especially the tomato-cheese and beef one. 

The dimsum lovers might be a little disappointed because despite the variety I couldn’t put my money on a single one except for the Steamed prawns which came wrapped in a fresh looking spinach roll (Rs 245). The edamame and water chestnut dimsum was too sticky and without any flavour, avoid.

Within an hour of our entering the restaurant it was packed to the brim with a mix of couples, young group and families walking in to dine. Good news for the families is that the restaurant is kid friendly and has high chairs for the little ones.

If you manage to get past the starters, dimsum and sushi and manage to order the mains (because you will be full by that time) then go for the Chilli beef with red onion (Rs 395) – tender chunks of beef cooked in dark soy and Stir fry king prawns in Sambal Oelek (Rs 495) – prawns cooked in a sauce made with bird eye chillies with Celery and garlic rice (Rs 225). The main course preparations were a bit too salty for some reason so if you like your food less salty you might need to tell the Chef in advance.

I didn't wait till the dessert arrived but have heard that they have pretty good Carrot cake so please try and let me know how it was. Will I go back to Singkong? Yes, for the starters and martinis if nothing else.

Must Try: Singkong martini, Oriental shrimp nest
Price: Rs 2500 + taxes (with alcohol)

Pinnacle House, 1st Floor, 
PD Hinduja Junction & 15th Road, 
Khar West, Mumbai
Landmark - Above Sancho's
022 6709 4455

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Singkong.Restaurant
Twitter: @SingkongMumbai

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Food Review - Royal Sindh, Versova

Andheri is home to a new Sindhi restaurant which serves North Indian dishes along with few signature Sindhi ones. I went there for dinner this Monday and was quite bowled over with the simple food that they served.

Royal Sindh sits to your right as you walk towards Yari Road from WTF! The small 16 seater eatery is owned by Harsha Vishnu. While Harsha has designed the menu it’s her home cook Ranjit who dons the Chef’s hat. Ranjit, who has been with her family since past 20 years has learnt the nuances of Sindhi cooking from Harsha's mother-in-law. I went there with Amrita Rana, a Sindhi bahu and her husband Vicky to get some gyan on the food that we were going to devour. I must say I came back with tons of knowledge about Sindhi food.

The decor is simple and the limited seating area suggests that the restaurant is focusing more on home deliveries and take-aways. The menu has a mix of North Indian and Sindhi food and we found few traditional dishes like Tuk aloo, Sindhi kadhi and Dal pakwan. While dal pakwan is a Sunday special rest of the dishes are present throughout the week.

On Harsha's recommendation we started with Tuk Aloo (Rs 100) - fried potato sprinkled with chat masala, Aloo tikki Sindh se (Rs 70) - deep fried potato patty, Paneer lahsuniya (Rs 110) - deep fried cottage cheese stuffed with garlic based masala, Dhaniya wala chicken (Rs 110) - chicken cooked in spicy green coriander masala and Mutton tikki (Rs 110) - deep fried minced mutton patty. Despite being a carnivores that I am it were the vegetarian starters that got my attention. Tuk aloo was crisp with tangy masala, aloo tikki was soft and had peas thrown in for the added flavour and the paneer lahsuniya just melted in our mouths. The dhaniya wala chicken had a brilliant masala but the chicken pieces seemed a tad under-cooked. Mutton tikki on the other hand was crispy with dal, spices and few chunky pieces of mutton. Something similar to the shami kebab minus the smooth texture.

As we waited for our main course an old gentleman next to our table voiced his disappointment on not seeing some of the very traditional Sindhi dishes on the menu. Taking notice of that Amrita and Vicky realized that a few delicacies like doda  - flatbread made with jowar and fresh garlic, lola and beeh – lotus stem preparations are missing. However, we were told that more dishes will be added in the menu soon.

The main course justified the expectations that were built by the amazing starters. Bhugha mutton (Rs 170) - mutton cooked in dry, yogurt based gravy was light with minimal spices and tender mutton falling of the bones. We wiped it clean with hot phulkas slathered with ghee (Rs 15), Bhindi tali hui (Rs 99) - deep fried okra and Aloo gobi (Rs 99) - a very home like rendition of the cauliflower sabzi. The Sindhi kadhi (Rs 130) - a concoction of gram flour, tamarind and vegetables and rice was unanimously liked. We were surprised to find out that there are 16 different ways of making Sindhi kadhi. Well, I haven't tried all of them but the one I ate at Royal Sindh was something I can go back for.

For dessert we ordered Chashni bread (Rs 40) which was a relatively guilt free version of Shahi tukda. The fried breads were dunked in sugar syrup and were topped with cream instead of the heavy rabdi.

Sindhis are known for their ability to eat papad with almost anything but we were surprised to see none of it on the table. Papad or no papad Royal Sindh definitely gets thumbs up from us. Dal pakwan, here we come!

Must try – Bhugha mutton, bhindi tali hui
A meal for two – Rs 800 + taxes

Shop No. 2, Ground Floor,
Opp. Jewel Shopping Centre,
J.P. Road, Versova,
Andheri (W)
Mumbai - 61
Phone No.:
022 6535 6625/26, 98205 60835

Facebook: www.facebook.com/royalsindh1
Twitter: @royalsindh

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sabudana Wada in Fortune Rice Bran Health

I usually use mustard oil for deep frying since it is a healthier option. While it goes well with pakodas the strong mustard flavour doesn't blend with bread rolls or sabudana wadas. Hoping that the new Fortune Rice Bran Health will reduce the guilt factor a bit I decided to make sabudana wadas in it. The result was good, a healthier option with the taste intact. Here's the recipe for you.

Medium sized potatoes (boiled) - 5
Sabudana or tapioca pearls (soaked for an hour) - 100 gms
Bread - 2 slices
Groundnut - 50 gms
Green chilies (chopped) - 2
Fresh coriander (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Amchoor or dry mango powder - 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Fortune Rice Bran Health oil (for deep frying) - 200 ml

  • Peel and mash the potatoes.
  • Drain the water from sabudana and mix them with the potatoes.
  • Dip the bread slices in water and mash them in the potatoes and sabudana mix.
  • Crush the groundnuts roughly and add in the above mixture.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients except oil and mix well.
  • Heat oil in a deep wok, make round patties with the mixture and fry on high flame till they are golden brown. keep adjusting the flame to maintain the temperature so that the wadas do not get burnt.
  • Serve them with thick yogurt or green chutney
This post is a part of Healthy & Tasty Recipe Contest with Fortune Rice Bran Health Oil & BlogAdda.com 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Green Thai Chicken Curry

A few days ago I was shopping in Food Baazar when my hand reached out to pick a bottle of Thai curry paste. The husband who was busy buying his favourite Haldiram bhujia, looked up and asked me why don't I make the paste at home, from scratch? Challenge accepted, I though and bought the ingredients to make the Thai curry paste instead. Without beating around the bush too much I post the recipe here which is inspired from BBC Good Food Mag. Only, it was a red curry which I modified and made into a green curry.

Boneless chicken - 300 gms
Coconut milk - 200 ml
Oil - 2 tbsp

For curry paste
Shallots (roughly chopped) - 3
Green coriander (roughly chopped) - 1/2 cup
Garlic cloves - 3-4
Green chilies - 3
Galangal or Thai ginger - a 2 inch x 2 inch piece
Juice of 1 lemon
Soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Ground cumin - 1 tsp
Ground black pepper - 1 tsp
Lemongrass stalk (roughly chopped)
Dried Kafir lime leaves - 3-4


  • Blend all the ingredients for the curry paste together till you get a smooth paste.
  • Heat oil in a pan and add the paste, fry for 10 minutes.
  • Add the coconut milk and bring it to a boil.
  • Throw in the chicken pieces and let them cook. Boneless chicken will take around 15 minuted to cook. You can replace the chicken with tofu, fish or prawns. Add some broccoli, bell peppers if you are making the curry with tofu.
Serve with steamed rice and enjoy.

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