Kitchens of India

Kitchens of India

As he makes his way out of the kitchen in Masala Bay,Taj Lands End,Bandra’s specialty Indian restaurant,Chef Sarfaraz Ahmed keeps his elbows tucked in and head slightly bowed.

As he makes his way out of the kitchen in Masala Bay,Taj Lands End,Bandra’s specialty Indian restaurant,Chef Sarfaraz Ahmed keeps his elbows tucked in and head slightly bowed. The chef who’s visiting from the hotel’s property in Hyderabad,exudes the air of someone who feels out of his elements in the dining area. But dive into a bowl of velvety smooth Haleem,or pick a tender piece of Patthar ka Gosht,and you instantly know that he’s a master of his craft — Nizami cuisine from Hyderabad.

Mumbai may not have a shortage of Gosht and Nalli Nihari — options are available at Muhammad Ali Road,especially during Ramzan,and the Golconda Bowl,a relatively new speciality restaurant. But to sample the cuisine of Hyderabad royalty is a rare opportunity for Mumbai’s food lovers. Hence,the Hyderabadi festival is a welcome change. “I want people to know more about Hyderabadi food and give them a taste of authenticity,” says Ahmed,who has been in Mumbai for over 10 days for Taj Lands End’s Cuisine of Nizam’s festival. “I’ve brought with me special spices from Hyderabad and a traditional coal sigdi for dum dishes,” he says.

With the dynamics of the city’s restaurants changing,several restaurants are now taking keen interest in regional cuisines. This means the restaurants are looking beyond the usual Awadhi and South Indian food festivals. Surjan Singh Jolly,executive chef of Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre and Hotel,Powai,recently spent time in Rajasthan’s Mewar region exploring different culinary techniques,and is currently having a Mewari food promotion with dishes he learned from Shriji Arvind Singhji Mewar,the Maharana of Udaipur,who is also a trained chef. To stress on the diversity of South Indian delights — both non-vegetarian and vegetarian — the ITC Grand Central,Parel,recently hosted the Southern Coastal Food Festival with the help of Chef Harish,who was brought in from the hotel’s Chennai property. To celebrate Independence Day,Courtyard by Marriott will showcase nine different Indian cuisines — Awadhi,Punjabi,Lucknowi,among others — culminating in a brunch on August 15.

“We may promote international festivals — Italian,Japanese,Mexican — but we must remember that along the length and breadth of this country is a vast wealth of food that is yet to be tapped,” says Rajdeep Kapoor,executive chef,ITC Maratha,Andheri,which is going to host a Bengali food promotion in the first week of August. It will also hold a festival titled,Beyond Borders,showcasing different cuisines from across the country.


For Jolly at Renaissance,it’s the opportunity to learn something new and tell a region’s story through its food that inspires him to organise such festivals. “The cuisine we’re presenting at the Mewar food festival can’t be found in any cookbook,” he says,having learned dishes such as of Pania Churio,a corn bread steamed in a clay pot,and Khad kokada which is roasted in a pit dug in the ground. “Money can’t buy this experience and I really want to share what I’ve learned,” he states.

Personal experience and the opportunity to learn and present something outside of their specialisation is something that excites most chefs. But one of the biggest advantages of these festivals is the idea of regional cuisines getting a wider audience. “For many people,Indian food means tandoori,butter chicken and rogan gosht,” says Chef Surendar Mohan executive sous chef at The Leela,Mumbai. “A lot of Indian culinary traditions are dying. This is one of the ways to keep it alive,” he says.