Swaad Amritsar Da Jawaab Nahin!
Honest Confession: I share an intense love-hate relationship with Punjabi ‘khaana’. I mean, I adore the ghee-laden crisp mooli-aloo-gobhi-paneer parathas, rajma-chawal, chole bhature, makki ki roti-sarson da saag, lassi etc but dont particularly care about where it ends your digestive sytem or yourself. I have ended up all sluggish and slow, much like a sloth bear after a heavy Punjabi meal. (must add here, not the home-made variety). And the irony is that the stuff is so delicious that you cant stop pigging out!
Also, for some reason Punjabi food promotions have been really done-to-death on the F&B circuit, so when I spot those posters and bill hoardings announcing Oye Punjabi etc, I almost involuntarily shudder. So, when Sheraton Hyderabad hosted its Aromas of Punjab festival, I was not too enthused by the invite to a bloggers table from which I also did try to wriggle out of.
I am glad that their PR team did a good job of convincing me, as the food showcased was anything but the usual. For starters, Chef Sodhi runs an immensely successful dhaba in Amritsar called Sodhi & Bros. And he was around to host us and ensure everything tasted the way it did back at his dhaba at home.
The Sheraton team had done a great job of recreating some of the robust and shaandaar Punjabi ambience right from the entrance of Feast, the all-day dining of Sheraton, where the festival was being hosted. A lassi station, live chaat counters, charpoy, truck (cutout only!) and stewards dressed in colorful Punjabi turban and lungi set the right chirpy tone.
The spread was huge with plenty of live stations, like the chaat-aloo tikki-pakode-lassi-chai counters and some starters being served on the table too. I went and helped myself to some perfectly fried paneer pakode (soft paneer on the inside and crunchy besan on the outside) with a delicious pudina chutney, followed by rounds of aloo-pyaaz ke pakode too. Bhatti da Murgh, a chef’s barbecued chicken special was uniquely presented, vertically on skewers and a chef’s special amply displayed its uniqueness, with its smoky and robust flavour. Amritsari kulche chole was served to us with a delightfully tangy imli chutney made crunchy with chopped onions. I loved the kulcha with its potato-onion filling, chatpata and fun!
Plenty of more Punjabi staples followed like, Amritsari Macchi (fish fillets dipped in a besan batter with masalas and deep fried), Makki ki roti with Sarson da saag (which I was careful about trying only a teeny-weeny bit as the stuff can fill you up completely!) etc.
Main courses were aplenty but since I was full up (thats why the love-hate vibe with this gorgeous food), I could only try a couple of them and in the smallest bites, like Mutton Rara, Butter Chicken (the gravy was creamy perfectly done with the subtle aroma of kasuri methi and with the subtlest sweet aftertaste) and Aloo Moongodi ki Sabzi…all yummy!
Desserts time and I picked up some jalebi with rabdi (yummmy), phirni and shared a bite of the drop dead delish Malpua, with the right amount of moisture and soaked in sugar syrup but not overly sweet or greasy. How Chef Sodhi managed that has got to be a trade secret….So with the yummy kesar lassi which washed the heavy meal down or one hopes!
(Aromas of Punjab is playing out at Feast, Sheraton Hyderabad for lunch and dinner until September 2nd ).