The cuisine of North-west Frontier region of our Indian subcontinent has always intrigued me. This region comprises of lands stretching from Kabul, Kandahar, Peshawar to Lahore. This was the same route that the Mughal emperor Babur took to make his way into present day India although back then all these provinces fell under the jurisdiction of the Mughal Empire.
As a food blogger my intrigue for this gastronomy lies in the fact that modern day adaptations in most so-called Mughlai food eateries have their roots of kebabs, pulao, tandoor preparations stemming from this North-west Frontier cuisine. Chef Mujeebur Rehman has curated this 'CHRONICLES OF NORTH-WEST FRONTIER' food festival at Poolside restaurant at VITS Luxury Business Hotel, Mumbai. With his over two decades of experience researching and cooking this specific cuisine, he was very kind in shedding light on various aspects of North-west Frontier delicacies.
Rice preparations predominantly include pulao comprising of meat and vegetables cooked together. The North-west Frontier cooking is heavily skewed towards use of meat owing to the abundance of cattle population in this land. Also, greater emphasis is laid on use of whole spices in moderate quantities to arrive at flavorful and mildly spicy dishes.
The making of flat bread in tandoor was introduced by the Mughals to the Indian subcontinent when Mughal Emperor Babur brought with him tandoors (charcoal fired ovens) from his motherland to enjoy his favorite bread in his newly conquered territories of North-west Frontier.
Soaking myself in these interesting facts I began my indulgence in the grub at this food festival that is showcasing special North-west Frontier dishes during dinner service only as part of the regular buffet. Also, a lot of vegetarian renditions of various special preparations have been created during this festival taking place until 29th Jan, 2017.
So, here is a look at my gluttony with the North-west Frontier cuisine speciality dishes at this place:
- CHAPLI KEBABS
These were the best minced mutton kebabs I have had in my culinary journey so far. The mince was mixed with minimal gram flour for binding, loads of green coriander and a mild spice mix with a touch of ginger. The meat was then shaped into palm-sized discs and cooked on an iron griddle. The outcome is a kebab that is crispy on the outside and having a juicy core.
- KABULI MURGH TIKKA
In this dish boneless chicken cubes were subject to a rich marination of cream and cardamom. Post marination the chicken was cooked in tandoor or charcoal-fired oven to yield succulent kebabs.
Although the North-west Frontier primarily pairs vegetables with meat in most dishes, Chef Rehman has attempted to adapt flavors of dishes for the vegetarian palate.
- AATISHI KUMBH
These were button mushrooms cooked in tandoor and having a conspicuous and delicious mustard flavor.
- DHUNGRA PANEER TIKKA
Silken textured paneer was given a marination of tomato, mawa and spices to arrive at this sweet and spicy appetizer.
MAIN COURSE (Non-Vegetarian)
- BALUCHI GOSHT
Goat meat on bone was cooked in an almond based gravy with whole spices to create this beautiful gravy.
- MURGH KUNDAN
This was a creamy, cashewnut-based gravy consisting of boneless chicken pieces. The main spice element was pepper that rendered the dish with subtle heat.
- AFGHANI GOSHT PULAO
This was long grain rice preparation entailing goat meat chunks and carrot. The flavor profile was very similar to what we popularly consume as Yakhni Pulao in Northern part of our country especially Kashmir.
MAIN COURSE (Vegetarian)
- BATINJAAN PULAO
This was a yum and flavorful preparation of long grain, aromatic rice infused with saffron, flavored with whole spices and lightly fried eggplants.
- DAL MEHTAB
This was flavorful urad dal cooked in milk and tempered with ghee and cumin seeds.
- SABZ KATRE MASALA MEIN
This was a quintessential mixed vegetable gravy made with khada masala or whole spices. It had a slight tangy and spicy flavor.
- TAMATER DULMEH
This dish draws influence from the Syria dish called dolma where vegetables especially gourds are stuffed with rice and dry fruits like raisins.
- ZAFFRANI DUM PANEER
Cottage Cheese cubes were simmered in a saffron laced gravy to give rise to this sumptuous dish.
The delicious gravies were paired with three types of tandoor made bread namely Plain Kulcha, Sheermal and Naan-e-Tanak. Each type of bread was flaky and while the sheermal amd kulcha were characterised by a hint of sweetness to them.
- SHEER KURMA
This is the most popular sweet dish of the North-west Frontier that is popularly preparation on Eid. It is a rich recipe comprising of milk simmered with generous amount of dry fruits and sevaiya.
- ANANNAS KA HALWA
This was a semolina and pineapple sweet delight. This treat was lightly sweetened to let the tart flavors of the pineapple rule the palate.
It was indeed bliss learning about and indulging in delicacies of the North-west Frontier region of the Indian subcontinent. This special food festival is taking place only until 29th Jan, 2017 at Poolside. So, do visit and let me know of your experience.
Till then, HAPPY EATING...
- Food & travel enthusiast