I have always been an ardent fan of the traditional food of the land of Punjab. The fares are humble yet high on flavor and entail an understated complexity. My recent tryst with a few of the local delicacies during my recent trips to Chandigarh and Amritsar has further gone to enhance my penchant for this gastronomy.
Therefore, I was elated when I came to know of Punjab Grill holding the Rangla Punjab food festival. The festival brought some of the culinary treasures of the Punjab heartland to Mumbai in an incredible way.
Here is a look at the delicacies from the set menu of the festival my friends and I indulged in:
I had a yummy start to the meal with KAALI GAJAR DI KANJI. This was earthy, fermented concoction of winter season special black carrots, sarson (mustard) and hing (asafetida). A little crunch was added to this drink by addition of chunks of the carrot. This mildly spiced drink ended up activating my taste buds and building up my appetite for the hearty meal that was to follow.
MACCHI DE PAKODE were your quintessential fish fritters. The use of besan (Bengal gram flour) added a nice crust to the fish. This crunchy exterior was laced in spices like red chilli powder and turmeric that imparted a lovely subtle flavor to the dish. The fish was beautifully cooked and moist. For vegetarians a similar styled appetizer of baby corn was served.
KOTKAPURA DA ATTA CHICKEN
I had heard a lot about the intriguing way in which whole chicken was marinated in a secret blend of curd and spices then cooked in a tandoor (clay oven) sheathed in muslin cloth and encased in dough. This traditional culinary marvel from Kotkapura in Punjab was recreated with a refined touch in the kitchen of Punjab Grill. The chicken was cooked beautifully and retained its juices even though it was exposed to harsh temperatures of the tandoor. A filling of almonds in the bird brought a nice nutty flavor to the dish and added a layer of crunch as well.
The introduction to the main course was done with a platter of accompaniments arriving at our table. This tray comprised of three different types of lip-smacking pickles – GOBHI SHALGHUM (Cauliflower & turnip) DA ACHAAR, MUTTON DA ACHAAR and CHICKEN DA ACHAAR. My picks were the non-vegetarian pickles that comprised of small chunks of respective meats in a blend of condiments that included kalonji (Nigella seeds) and mustard oil. MATTHA or a kind of thick, frothy buttermilk was served as drink with the main course.
Gurh (Jaggery) and Makhhan (homemade butter) were also served to go along with two types of piping hot, traditional breads – MAKKI (corn) DI ROTI and mini ajwaini, pudina and laal mirch (Carrom, Mint and Red Chilli) LACCHA PARATHAS. HARE CHOLIYA DA PULAO was a simple, slow-cooked rice preparation flavored with whole spices and adorned with generous amounts of green peas.
We relished the aforesaid breads and rice with the following preparations:
PIND DA SAAG: This was the dish I was most looking forward to as part of the Rangla Punjab festival. In simple words this was sarson da saag, a delicious, rustic preparation of mustard leaves cooked with onions, ginger and dollops of desi ghee (homemade clarified butter). The flavors of each ingredient stood out perfectly.
KUNNA MUTTON this was a scrumptious preparation of mutton that had been simmered away in an earthen pot till the meat was tender and was falling off the bone. The flavor of cinnamon in the gravy was evident and sublime.
This was a rich creamy preparation of paneer (cottage cheese) that had flavor notes of elaichi (green cardamoms). The dish had a slight sweetness to it that appealed to my taste buds.
MA CHOLE DI DAAL
This was a very simple yet flavorsome dal (lentils dish) consisting of chana (Bengal gram) and urad (split black gram). A quantity of desi ghee equivalent to that of the lentils is added while cooking this dish. The recipe is then finished off with a tadka (tempering) of cumin seeds and turmeric. This dish felt straight out a mother’s kitchen who labors with love to serve mouthwatering and nutritious food to her family. But, this magical taste was the brainchild of Chef Sunny Guleria.
After a gluttonous affair with the savory dishes, it was time to end the meal on a sweet note. Three types of sugary delights were laid out in front of us. The first sweet dish I tasted was simply called GURH, which were bite size chunks made of jaggery, desi ghee, ginger, elaichi powder and black pepper powder. The next dessert was GURHWALE CHAWAL (rice). This comprised of puffed rice sweetened with jaggery and flavored with spices like star anise, cinnamon and fennel. The dish was finished off with a garnish of dried dates and charoli (chironji seeds). Lastly, we had MAKHANE DI KHEER. This was rabdi (a kind of sweetened condensed milk) to which deep-fried foxnut (makhane) was added. The deep frying had ensured the fox nut remained crisp when added to the milk. This dessert was flavored with elaichi powder and was finished out with a crunchy topping of pistachios and fox nut.
If I was to sum up our experience of the meal, I can say Chef Sunny Guleria did a very impressive job of recreating the flavors of the heartland of Punjab in Mumbai. The entire dining experience was indeed a memorable one. The festival just concluded on 16th March 2016 and I only hope Punjab Grill brings back flavors of the festival soon to Mumbai again.
Till then, HAPPY EATING…
- Regional Indian Food & Travel enthusiast