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{Eating Out ~ Review} Parsi Food Festival at Firdaus, Taj Krishna

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After browsing through numerous photographs of Parsi food across the interwebs, reading the elaborate descriptions of their slow cooking process, the blend of spices and the traditions and food stories, I was very excited to be invited to try the food at the Parsi Food Festival at Firdaus, the Indian restaurant at one of Hyderabad’s most beautiful hotels, Taj Krishna.

A weekday is always made better with the prospect of good food and company and despite declining many previous invites from the good folks at the hotel, I made the trek half around the city to sample what I expected to be a gastronomic treat. I’ve only eaten Parsi food made home style and have sampled a few of their most famous dishes. I’ve always loved their Brown rice and have made versions of it in my own home several times. Their desserts are legendary and there was nothing to stop me from plunging headlong into many thousands of calorie laden decadent sweets :D

Firdaus is a fine dining elegant restaurant that is cocooned by huge gardens. The setting makes for a very pleasant dining experience.

Chef Manoj Vyas of Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai

Chef Manoj Vyas of Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai

Chef Manoj Vyas, from Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai is helming the kitchens for the festival and comes with the experience of dishing up exotic Parsi dishes which still retain the flavours of the West coast and blend with it the original influences of ancient Persian cuisine. The specially designed menu showcases some of the most well recognised favourites.

We begin with the starters. Parsi cuisine loves its cutlets and kebabs. This was on full display with the assorted appetizers that were served.

Appetizers ~ Cutlet

Appetizers ~ Cutlet

The Chicken Farcha a cutlet made of minced and mildly spiced chicken, coated with beaten egg and shallow fried to give it a  crisp and delicate papery exterior. Served with the khatta meetha sauce, this was the first item served. I found the sauce overwhelmingly sweet and completely overpowered the delicacy of the cutlet. Had on its own, the cutlet is a nice contrast of textures from the batter coating

Lacy Cutlets made with ground mutton was similar to the chicken version, the spices again mild and subtle.

Kolmi nu Kebab this was minced prawn meat, spiced and batter coated before being shallow fried. The flavour of the prawns lends itself very well to this dish and I would recommend this if you like sea food. As a blanket rule, skip the sweet and sour sauce, unless you like dousing your food with jam.

Khatta Meetha Paneer Kebab

Khatta Meetha Paneer Kebab

For the vegetarians, the Khatta Meetha Paneer Kebab which is batter coated tangy paneer bites shallow fried was pleasant. The Vegetable cutlet, though it had a nice crunch with small chunks of vegetables as against the homogenous mash one usually encounters in cutlets, was very densely coated and needed a little more seasoning.

Over a few glasses of red and white wine and conversations on how the Parsis in India are famed for their interest and possession of the best antiques, rubies and automobiles, we moved on to the main course.

We were served an assortment of side dishes, with rotli (roti) and brown rice. A crescent shaped plate with bowls of Saas ni macchi, Mutton dhansak, Salli marghi and Zardaloo gosht arrived. Next came the Patra ni Macchli and Papeta par Edu.

The Main Course Platter

The Main Course Platter

The names are exotic and exciting, but the dishes didn’t exactly live up to my expectation. First up the pale yellow sauced Saas ni Macchi ~ Parsi style fish fillets in a gravy made out of eggs and flour (similar to a roux) the tang comes from vinegar and it has the by now expected balance of sweet and salt. I felt like I was eating lemon custard with pieces of fish. Tis dish has a very continental vibe to it.

The Mutton Dhansak is tur dal cooked with spices and simmered till it is almost mashed, mutton is added and this is slow cooked till all the flavours blend well. I loved the flavours, deep and rich and very comforting. I could draw parallels between this dish and Hyderabadi Daalcha which is a lentil and meat dish, cooked with spices. The vegetarian version of Dhansak also did not disappoint.

The pick of the lot was the Zardaloo Gosht ~ succulent pieces of lamb meat, slow cooked to perfection in a mild gravy, sweetened with apricots. I spooned out almost all of my portion.

Salli Margi

Salli Margi

The Salli Marghi ~ spiced chicken curry with fine fried matchstick potatoes was similar in taste and flavour to the zardaloo gosht, the matchstick potatoes adding the crunch and texture to the dish. This too paired well with the Brown Rice ~ Rice flavoured with deep fried onions, goes well with any of the side dishes, and flavourful enough to be eaten on its own

The Papeta par Edu is another classic potato and egg preparation which I instantly liked because the eggs baked sunny side up on a bed of curried potatoes, looked so good! This is definitely a dish I would want to recommend and also try making in my own kitchen.

The dish I was most disappointed with was the famed Patra ni Macchli ~ supposed to be fillets of fish marinated with a green herb and coconut chutney, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. This is a classic Parsi preparation and has a legion of fans. It is a dish that is a must have for all festive occasions. I found the dish too sweet even tho the palette was now expected a hint of sweet in all savoury preparations. I assumed this was how it was meant to taste, but when my lunch mates some of  who were not new to the cuisine pointed this out to the chef, we got a rather blase comment about how native Andhra / Telangana palettes, accustomed to loads of spice would not like this delicate dish. I protested, because I found the explanation ill informed and in very poor taste. Also one has travelled enough, eaten at many places, not to mention countries and tried enough variety in food to know the difference between a dish that has subtle undertones of sweet and one that is overpowered by jaggery. To me this dish tasted like a coconut jaggery sweet made with a tasteless fillet of fish. I would like to taste this again at an authentic Parsi joint to check if my expectation was incorrect or my taste buds un-evolved.

the yummy pickles

the yummy pickles

A special mention to the delectable range of pickles, both vegetarian and non vegetarian, piquant, tangy and very fresh tasting!

For the vegetarians, Parsi cuisine is a tricky place. The cuisine is meat heavy and it was interesting to see what was in store. We were promised that the vegetarians would not be disappointed. For the main course, we were served a sampling of the Lagan nu Stew which was a mixed vegetable sweet and sour stew. The base seemed to be made of tomatoes and that comes through quite strongly.

Vegetarian Main Course

Vegetarian Main Course

The Khara Papeta looked and tasted like a home style potato curry and I was beginning to tire of the meal by now.

The Dhansak dal which was made minus the meat was just as flavoursome as the non vegetarian version and was the stand out dish in the vegetarian platter. Like its fish friend, Ravaiya whole brinjals stuffed with the herb and coconut chutney and cooked was disappointing, no flavour, not fully cooked and full of seeds.

Just as I was mentally checking off this meal, a major change of pace happened when the desserts appeared. I imagined I wouldn’t be able to eat another mouthful of anything sweet considering how much of it was had during the main course. But how wrong I was. We were served a trio of much loved Parsi desserts – Lagan nu custard, Parsi Sev and Parsi Kulfi.

IMG_7918

The Parsi sev was a subtle sweet dish of fine vermicelli, roasted golden in ghee and garnished with finely sliced pistachios and almonds. This reminded me very much of one of the sweets made in Hyderabad during Ramzaan. I enjoyed the simplicity of this dish.

Lagan nu Custard is everything it ought to be, rich, creamy, decadent and so indulgent that one needs to crawl onto a couch after eating this dish. It is thick and creamy and full of richness and yet that doesn’t stop you from gulping it down. Sort of a cheesecake made with condensed milk and eggs, which give it a pale yellow colour.

Parsi Kulfi, again sweet, rich and made with condensed milk is a treat for sweet lovers, the basil seeds and vermicelli used to garnish it adding texture to this dessert.

By this time I was fairly happy with the end to the meal. The desserts really were the stars of the meal experience.

Read what my friend Siri has to say about her experience here.

PS: All photos in this post are courtesy of Siri. As is characteristic of my forgetful self these days, I landed up for lunch minus the battery for my camera.

Thai Style Noodle Salad

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thai style noodle salad

Have been in a blog funk for a while now and i realised that most of the things that i found pleasure in, I have abandoned….and the newer interests I have picked up do not end/ begin with food and so there is less to write here. With all the other stuff that’s going on, meals are the last priority right now. It helps in weightloss if food is not the focus of your life… I’ve learnt that much over the last 6 months from K.

Losing my food pictures because of a crashed laptop also meant that i was more heartbroken than i wanted to admit. It also stripped me of a bank of pictures that i could post here to keep the blog posts coming.

We went on a holiday recently to the Land of the Thunder Dragon – Bhutan. I had friends from college who were Bhutanese and they kept telling me to visit. It has taken 11 years to finally get there and I am glad we finally went.  K’s work has kept him so busy that we hardly manage to spend time together during the work week. Deadlines drive me crazy and bring out the zen like calm in him. Which is ridiculous because he is the one chasing those damn deadlines! I just watch from the sidelines, am supportive and try to be as gracious about giving up our time together. So this was a welcome break. And what a beautiful break it was.


Bhutan is gorgeous. Period. Its green, the climate was chill but pleasantly so for this time of the year and it is spring time, which means Cherry blossoms are in full bloom all over the country. They take your breath away even if you are just walking down a village road. the people are wonderful, humble and amongst  the most self respecting i have ever come across. The children are picture perfect and you feel like sticking a camera in every face you see. The houses, hotels and every other building is similar to look at from outside due to the building regulations in place to ensure they continue to build  the model of the traditional building structures, which use a lot of wood, intricate carving and paintings. the monasteries are beautiful and either nestled next to an icy glacier fed river or clinging precariously to the side of a sharp cliff. And if you think the V king is handsome…. you should see his father!

Choose to drive in the mountains, visit the monasteries, trek through the country or get lost in the colour and essence of a cultural festival. You can also choose to get a massage and soak in a hot tub, the water is heated by placing red hot stones in another compartment of the tub. It was surreal and just the relaxing holiday we wanted.

The food – is heavenly. fresh, comforting and has a homemade quality, just what is needed in a cold country. I was apprehensive about  the availability of vegetarian food, but was pleasantly surprised. Although on the bhutanese vegetarian menu there are mostly only three variations of their famous cheese curry (with chilli, potatoes or mushrooms) with red rice, its all washed down with the best dark rum and coke i’ve have ever had.  indian, chinese and continental food is easily available at most places. the restaurants in thimpu and paro can serve you almost anything you want, from lebanese to thai cuisine.

We went to this lovely thai restaurant called Baan Thai in Thimpu and the food there is so outstanding that it compelled us to return to have our last meal there before we left Bhutan. Its tricky to order vegetarian Thai food, because almost everything calls for shrimp paste and fish sauce. This restaurant has excellent service and is very quick by Bhutanese standards and each dish from the red and green curry, sauteed spinach with chilly and glass noodle salad was outstanding.

Landing back home into 38 degrees C from 0 degrees when we left bhutan has left me craving for cold meals. I tried to make some version of the noodle salad and it was so refreshing for a hot summer afternoon. Its pretty easy to put together and since i substituted ingredients for whatever i had on hand, i would say this is a very adaptable recipe. the sharpness of the lemon and chilli dressing, refreshing crunch of the chilled vegetables and the starch provided by the rice noodles made for a complete meal.

Thai Style Noodle Salad (Serves 2)

1 cup cooked rice / glass noodles (I used rice noodles, soaked a handful in boiling water covered with a lid for 3-4 minutes, drained and immersed in cold water till needed)

1 cup peeled cucumbers sliced like matchsticks

1/2 cup peeled carrots sliced like matchsticks

1/2 an onion sliced fine

1 medium sized tomato, halved and sliced

2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves or thai basil (i did’nt have this on hand) rinsed and shredded

2 tablespoons fresh spring onions, green parts only

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons fresh lemon / lime juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder

salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)

In a bowl add all the ingredients for the dressing and mix till the sugar is dissolved, taste and adjust. Add the chopped veggies and mix well. Add the cooked noodles and toss. garnish with green onions and fresh coriander leaves. Let stand in the fridge for atleast 15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld. Serve chilled

Can garnish with some toasted sesame seeds or toasted crushed peanuts, i forgot as i was eager to dig into it.

shopping info :

in hyderabad, you can buy the rice noodles and glass noodles at spar, hypercity, qmart or ruci and idoni

 Edited to add: Its been eons since i linked to any blog event. This salad is off to Fun in the Sun, the summer event at Tickling Palates who is celebrating four fab blogging years!

popular picture?

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harabharakabab

after the tryst with DC, i did a little search of my food pictures to find that this particular one of the hara bhara kabab is quite popular. attractive enough for it to be used, not once, but twice without permission.

A blogger called hitchwriter, used the same image and when i wrote asking why my picture was used without permission, removed the picture after saying he frequently uses google images. then there’s a site called reciperita who has not replied nor removed my picture despite writing in 3 times. the owner of the site deleted my first comment on the site.

i found an edited picture and the exact recipe of my kalonji aloo on this site…. i’ve left a comment there…. let’s see…

What next? how can one keep tab of where pictures and copy is being used without permission? its irritating and disgusting and totally such a drain on my time.

Deccan Chronicle uses images without permission……. post updated with the reprinted picture and response from DC editor

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DC dutifully reprinted the picture. Not quite acknowledging they “used” it without permission, but a picture with my name credited. here it is….

dcpicturehere’s what happened………….

hara bhara kabab

I’d been reading about images and content being used in print media without permission, taken from blogs, online resources and especially pictures taken from online photo sharing sites. at Diwali i noticed pictures from two fellow bloggers being used in the Times of India supplement, i intimated the bloggers and they will take whatever action they deem fit. This morning, I was quite shocked to see one of my pictures being used in the TV guide supplement of Deccan Chronicle in a recipe for Hara Bhara kabab, taken from my flickr stream.

harabharakabab

While I am quite flattered that one of the largest circulated english dailies in India thought my picture was worthy enough to print, i am absolutely shocked that they do this without any attempt to seek permission to use the image, compensate and credit the owner of the picture.

I wonder if the editors even know of this practice, or are actually endorsing it. I’ve written to A T Jayanti who is the editor of DC in hyderabad. Am awaiting her response.

there is a blogpost by Twilight fairy that talks of how she dealt with her pictures being published without permission. the issue has since been solved, thanks to her following up of the matter.

Update: the editor of DC was quick to respond. Jayanti wrote back with thanks of bringing this matter to her notice, saying there was no explanation for having used the picture and the “young team” knows it is plagiarism and they know its unethical (pray then, if they know it is, why do they do it?). Also with her sincere apologies, has promised to republish the picture in the next edition of TV Guide with credit given to me.

Everyone said this was normal for newspapers to take pictures off the internet and use them and that i shouldn’t make much of it, and just let it be. I am glad for the fact that I didnt. The question in my mind is this, is an apology enough? Plus lets just see if they keep their word and actually republish the picture with credit to me….

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