As a glutton I have immense obsession with street food. I consider street food to be simple in preparation yet exciting in presentation, intense on flavors yet restrained on use of ingredients and most of all impressive on the palate. Select lanes dotted with numerous food stalls or khaugallis as one would put in parlance of Mumbai and Delhi are my go to places for my dose of street food.
However, this time I did a little detour in search of comforting street food and landed at Saptami restaurant at Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport. This all-day dining restaurant is holding a street food festival during its dinner buffet until April 2016. Conceptualized by Executive Chef Sudhir Pai, this festival is showcasing some of the sought after delicacies of the streets of Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Amritsar and many more cities alongside some regular fare in the buffet.
Upon entering the restaurant, I was greeted to the site of a life-sized cutout of one of the most famous public transport vehicles plying the streets of Mumbai, the auto rickshaw. From this point on the restaurant was decked to replicate the common sites of streets with bus stop signs, street flags, chaat corners, hawkers’ carts selling pav bhaji, gola etc. Absorbing all these sites, I set on my gluttonous expedition of the buffet.
Here is what I ended up chomping:
I started my gourmandizing with chaat-style salads. The first one was aloo (potato) chaat using boiled potatoes. The seasoning was spicy and had a lovely mint flavor. Lemon juice brought a lovely acidity to the potatoes. A quintessential garnish of sev (fried Bengal gram flour noodles) completed this salad. Next, I munched on the kala chana (Black chickpeas) chaat. This was flavored with onions, tomato and green chilies and a drizzle of lemon juice. The third chaat I devoured was a mixed fruit chaat comprising of chopped apples, pears, dragon fruit, raw mangoes mixed with red chilli powder and garlic. The different types of fruits had lent the chaat a sweet and sour flavor.
A live chaat counter was created in a manner similar to the chaat thela or hawker’s corner seen in numerous locations across cities in the country. I indulged in following dishes at this counter:
VADA PAV & PAV BHAJI
Now it was time to indulge in two favorite bread based, prevalent, street food preparations of Mumbai. VADA PAV is popularly referred to as the Mumbai burger. The dish entails a mashed potato fritter flavored with curry leaves, green chilies and garlic stuffed in ladi pav (a kind of roll bread). We were served piping hot, spicy and delicious vada pav with the usual accompaniments of red chilli-garlic chutney and deep fried green chilies.
The restaurant has set up a live pav bhaji counter similar to one seen on street corners. The chef at the counter dished out a flavorsome bhaji or mixture of mashed vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, green peas cooked in a very special blend of spices. Ladi Pav was the bread accompanying the dish and this was heated with butter in the same griddle as the bhaji was cooked on.
It was time to tuck into some non-vegetarian food after having treated myself to a lot of vegetarian delights. On offer for the day were Gilafi seekh kebab of Lucknow, Macchhi Tikka of Amritsar and tangri kebab of Mohammad Ali Road, Mumbai. The seekh kebab consisted of minced mutton mixed with garam masala and skewered to cook the meat. The meat was moist and the spices had imparted a nice heat to it. Macchhi Tikka were batter fried pieces of basa fish. I did not enjoy this dish as the coating of the batter was too thick and had not crisped up well. The tangri kebab were chicken drum sticks marinated in spices and then cooked in a tandoor (clay oven fired by charcoal). The chicken was succulent, had a lovely smokiness and spicy flavor.
The hot weather and spicy food had left an urge for me to sip on something chilled and refreshing. In true street food manner thick sweet Punjabi lassi (whipped curd) and masala chaas (spiced buttermilk) were served straight out of earthen pots. Both the preparations were delicious and revitalizing. For those who enjoy frozen delights, the gola or crushed ice popsicle was present and had a cart to itself. Various flavor syrups were available to add zest to the popsicle. I opted for the sour kala khatta flavor, which is one of the popular flavors for this popsicle.
Already having eaten scores of dishes, the only dish I could taste with my remaining appetite in the main course was Chicken Biryani. The chicken biryani was cooked and served in a degchi, a traditional aluminium cooking pot in which scores of curries are seen simmering in the bylanes of Jama Masjid in Delhi. The biryani had beautiful aroma and a mild flavor of spices.
While the dessert counter had an array of pastries and other sweet delights to offer, I settled for three very street food style desserts – Malpua, Jalebi and Kala Jamun. The malpua is a flat bread of refined flower deep fried in ghee (clarified butter) and then soaked in sugar syrup. The one served in the buffet was soft and perfectly sweetened. Jalebi is a preparation made from wheat flour and deep-fried. It is also finished off by soaking in sugar syrup. The jalebi in the buffet was scrumptious. I did not enjoy the Kala Jamun, which is a refined flour dough ball fried in ghee and sweetened by soaking in sugar syrup. The dough ball was very dry and tough for my liking.
I had an enjoyable time at this street food festival. Do check out this street food festival and let me know of your experience.
Till then, HAPPY EATING…
- Regional Indian Food & Travel enthusiast