Anglo Indian food has been a closely guarded cuisine, accessible only to those with close connections with families of Anglo Indian origin. Having grown up with a smattering of Anglo Indians in the family and subsequently having close friendships with them, I am privy to their life – their food, fashion and quirks. If one thing is clear, it is their love for the good life and that includes good food. Anglo Indians love their mince, several of their dishes use minced meat of chicken or mutton and beef liberally ranging from cutlets to their version of kofta curries called ball curry. However this is a cuisine that is slowly dying and in need of more attention and credit. A lot of the populace has migrated overseas and the ones that remain, have integrated with other communities via marriage, such that it is rare to find a true blue Anglo Indian.
The cuisine is no doubt a legacy of the British Raj, who trained Indian Cook staff at their establishments such as the Railway service, Mail service, Clubs and corporate establishments. Soon trained butlers were confident enough to marry very western preparations such as cutlets, roasts and steaks with locally available produce and very Indian spices of red chillies, pepper, cumin and cloves. As the empire spanned the length and breadth of the country, influences of Bengal, Kerala and the coasts is unmistakable in the use of mustard oil, potatoes, coconut milk and tamarind amongst others.
I was invited by Trident Hyderabad to sample the food at their ongoing Anglo Indian Food Soiree, at Kanak their speciality Indian Restaurant.
We started with the Chicken Pantras ~ pancakes stuffed with minced chicken, parsley and with a hint of spice from the cinnamon and cloves. Subtle and yet flavoursome, this is a must try dish.
Next up was the Grilled fruits and Vegetables Salad ~ fruit such as pears and green apple, skewered alternatively with sweet potato, tomatoes and pickled gherkins. This the chef told us, the inclusion of grilled fruit and vegetables was a very british inclusion. I liked the taste and texture of the pear and apple, but didn’t like the extreme acid of the pickled gherkins.
Vegetarians will love the Rawalpindi Potato Scones ~ patties made of indulgent ingredients such as potatoes and cheese, subtly flavoured with herbs and Kashmiri chilli. These scones are melt in the mouth and very filling. A must try for potato and cheese lovers.
Travancore Fried Fish took me by surprise. The menu takes into account all of the places that have Anglo Indian population and Chef Manik Magotra has included dishes from all over the country, some which rightfully deserve more attention. I will be honest that Kingfish is’nt a favourite of mine. Usually it ends up tasting very woody either because it is not prepared well or stored (frozen) properly. The minimal spices in the Travancore Fried Fish made sure the fish stands out and yet is succulent. With a squeeze of lime, this was one was a winner.
We moved onto the main course and I was most excited to try the famous Railway Mutton Curry. Legend has it that this curry was made palatable to the mild British palette by reducing the fiery hotness of the spices with the addition of coconut milk or / and yogurt. The Mutton curry was first served on the East Indian railway lines and hence has a strong Bengali influence. Soft pieces of lightly fried potato perfectly mingled with succulent pieces of mutton in a well spiced but nuanced gravy made with dried red chillies and whole spices. This is one curry that has gained popularity and is well recognised.
The dish of the evening tho, was the Dak Bunglow Murgi Roast. Stories about the history of these dishes abound. Mostly legends make up where authenticity fails. The British empire apart from establishing the network of rails, which gave birth to many a recipes that were served to passengers enroute, the mail system which employed a relay of men for delivery gave rise to the Dak Bunglow – dak meaning post and Bunglow meaning house. These relay carriers would have to rest enroute and hence they stayed at these houses, staffed by the Indians, usually in really small places with very little access to ingredients etc. The cooks employed at these places used their ingenuity to come up with recipes that married the methods and dishes of the British with locally available and Indian ingredients and spices. This dish is a perfect example of this method. Chicken is marinated with very Indian spices and slow roasted to perfection, roasting was a very western method of cooking. It is served with a thick gravy spiced liberally with whole pepper corns and accompanies either rice, vegetables or bread. The chicken was succulent, the gravy robust and it was easily my favourite dish of the meal.
The other famous dishes such as Country Captain Chicken Curry and a Shrimp and Egg Curry is also on offer.
Subz aur Paneer Jalfarezi ~ assorted vegetables and paneer tossed in spices and thick tomato sauce is a vegetarian main course option. I was pleasantly informed by the Chef that Jalfarezi was a very fusion recipe, I’d always assumed it was a punjabi dish. A word that according to wikipedia combines the Bengali colloquial word ‘Jhal’ meaning spicy food and parhezī means suitable for a diet. This meant that leftover meat was stir fried with onions and spices and made suitable for eating, in a time when eating leftovers was not an allowed Hindu practice.
The unique combination of Bamboo and Bhindi Quoorma ~ Okra and Bamboo shoot in a light Quorma gravy was the discovery of the day. Whole okra, soft and simmered with the crunchy bamboo shoot was very unique and I loved both the flavour and texture of the dish. Having only eaten Bamboo shoots in oriental cuisine, this was a delightful surprise.
The Anglo Indians love their “doll curries” lentils simmered again in very little spices, Doll is dal in a new avatar. The Doll Churchuree, with the medley of atleast 4 lentils I could make out (bengal gram, moong, tur and black gram) and simmered with apples, raisins and Indian spices was silky smooth and gained from the individual textures so unique to each lentil. The apples and raisins adding a delicate tart and sweetness to the dish. Pale in colour, this dal dish is very rich in flavour and taste and is a must have with Indian flat breads like naan or lachcha paratha.
To mop up all the gravies, we were served a subtly fragrant saffron rice.
To end the delightfully nostalgic meal, we had a rich Shahi Tukhra, deep fried pieces of bread, soaked in sugar syrup and flavoured with saffron, topped with indulgent rabri. This was a little on the sweeter side, as is typical of all Indian sweets.
It is rare that food of this kind finds its way to a food festival. The effort, research and intention is admirable and very visible. The Anglo Indian food festival is available on A La Carte and set menus based on the selections made by the guest on request are also available.
Recomended Dishes: Chicken Pantras, Bamboo Bhindi Quoorma, Dak Bunglow Murgu Roast, Doll Churchuree
Dates of the Festival: 16th June to 28th June 2015
Price: A meal for two (A la carte) would be approximately Rs. 3500 + Taxes.
Hours: 7.30 pm to midnight.
Location: Kanak, Trident Hyderabad, Hitech City, Hyderabad
Credit Card Accepted: Yes
Valet Parking: Available
Telephone: 91 40 6623 2323
PS: The meal was complimentary as I was invited by the hotel to the restaurant, however the views are my own.