North Indian cuisine is limited to mostly Punjabi or the occasional Rajasthani or Gujarati cuisine for the city of Hyderabad. So it was interesting to hear of a Himachali pop-up being curated to show case dishes of the Himalayan land. Hosted by Bidri at the Marriott in Hyderabad, curated by home chef Sherry Malhotra, the festival brings under the spotlight a very refreshing set of dishes.
The interaction with Chef Sherry included an interesting conversation about Himachali food. Much of the cuisine, especially in the winter months when fresh vegetables are scarce, relies on dried legumes, lentils and other such. The chef learnt many of the dishes from her grandmother which reflected in the home style taste and flavours that were retained in the dishes which renders so much more authenticity to each one.
I was invited for a preview of this pop up along with a few other bloggers and it began with a wonderfully interactive cook off session between two groups. The dish we had to recreate was the Chana Madra, a light yet fragrant yogurt based gravy of boiled chickpeas and cottage cheese. I fulfilled my childhood fantasy of cooking in an actual hotel kitchen with this!What is remarkable of this cuisine tho, is that despite not having too much fresh vegetables, especially in the winter months, the range of dishes is a vegetarian’s delight. The preparations are simple, using basic spices from an Indian kitchen which are easily available and uses lots of dairy particularly yogurt in a lot of dishes, also tamarind to flavour gravies. This ensures that the flavour of the ingredients shine through and are not overpowered by spices.
The vegetarian starters included the Channe ki tikki (Pan fried tikkis stuffed with a tangy tomato chutney/ relish) for me this was the stand out offering from the vegetarian starters.
There was also the Moong dal ki pakodi and Arbi aur moongphalli ki seekh (Colocassia and peanut skewers cooked in the tandoor) I had this seekh at the preview of their set menu as well.
For the non vegetarian starters we had Dahi ki chaap (Lamb chops braised in buttermilk with fennel seed) The yogurt renders the meat succulent and the spices are very subtle. We also had the Macchi fry usually prepared with trout, but this was seer fish marinated with fresh ground spices and pan-fried. The spices are marinated with mustard oil and the flavour of the mustard oil stands out remarkably. I enjoyed this preparation. We also had the Methi aur saunf ki murgh chaap (Chicken leg marinated with fennel and green chilli marinade and cooked in a tandoor)
For the main course, we had the Channa Madra (Chickpeas cooked with yoghurt and lotus seeds) which I liked a lot for its simplicity.
Naashpati ki subzi
There was the delightful Naashpati ki subzi (Sweet crunchy pears cooked with whole red chillies and fennel) this was the stand out dish and the opinion was unanimous at the table! I also loved the Sepu Wadi (Urad dal dumplings, steamed and then cooked in a spinach puree). The grainy texture of the urad dumplings giving the creamy spinach gravy a nice contrast.
There was also Bhey (Lotus stem cooked with yoghurt) which retained the crunchy and chewy texture of the lotus stem. Maash dal (a home style urad dal dish cooked with yoghurt) and Kaale channe ki maani (Black chickpeas cooked with tamarind and onion spinach fritters) This was delicious, not just because of the spinach fritters, but the tamarind gravy was light and yet flavourful.
We enjoyed this with Babru, which is a deep fried bread, made out of fermented dough and stuffed with a coarse paste of urad / black lentils. Something like a bhatura with more personality. An assortment of other flatbread including makki ki roti is also available.
For the non vegetarians, there are dishes such as the Chaa Gosht which is Lamb braised in a yoghurt and gramflour gravy, tasted very similar to a yakhni gravy. There was also the Methi Macchi (Fish cooked with fresh fenugreek and tomatoes) which for me was one of the best fish preparations I’ve tasted, the flavour of the methi a sharp contrast to the mild flavour of the fresh water fish.
There was also a very fragrant Tudkiya Bhaat (Basmati rice, tempered with spices and tossed with assorted vegetables and yogurt) what I loved about this rice preparation was that even though it uses cooked rice, the flavours are like a pulao.
Khus khus aur makhane ki kheer
To end the meal on a sweet note, we had Meetha Bhaath a very mild rice dessert, flavoured with fennel and saffron. The knockout though, was Khus khus aur makhane ki kheer (Poppy seeds and lotus seeds cooked in milk with cashewnuts, raisins and dates) the flavours were so beautifully blended, the texture of the poppy seeds, offsetting the almost velvetty-ness of the lotus seeds, it was a terrific end to the very interesting meal.
Chef Yogender Pal has given this city a very beautiful insight into the cuisine which would otherwise remain unknown, he deserves all compliments for conceptualising and bringing to life this pop-up. If you are in Hyderabad over the weekend, don’t miss this one. It is on till the 28th of this month.
The options are served as a set menu where one gets to sample a wide range of starters, main course and dessert. Vegetarian (Rs. 1200 + Tax), Non Vegetarian (Rs. 1400 + Tax)
The menu changes every day, so it would be a good idea to call and check what’s on offer.
Recommended Dishes: Channe ki tikki, Arbi aur moongphalli ke seekh, Dahi ki chaap, Machi fry, Methi Machi, Channa madra, Sepu wadi, Naashpati ki sabzi, Tudkiya bhaath, khus khus aur makhaane ki kheer.
Hours: 7.30 pm to midnight.
Location: Hyderabad Marriott Hotel & Convention Centre & Courtyard by Marriott Hyderabad, Opposite Hussain Sagar Lake, Hyderabad – 500080
Credit Card Accepted: Yes
Valet Parking: Available
Telephone: 91 4027522999