You might have come across many Awadhi, Lucknowi or Konkani food festivals in Mumbai. But how about a Himalayan food festival, with unique flavours from Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir and Uttarakhand cuisine? Although Kashmiri cuisine is popular, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have many hidden gems in its cuisine, which remains relatively unexplored. Chef Jeewan Singh Rawat, the Head Chef of Indian specialty restaurant Maya at Trident, BKC, realised the true colours of the Himalayan cuisine and is all set to treat Mumbai with a delectable Himalayan lunch and dinner buffet at O22. He is extremely comfortable with this kind of cuisine, as many of these dishes are classics that he grew up with. The Great Himalayan Food Expedition at O22 started from 17th of this month and will be on till 27th February, 2015.
In The Great Himalayan Food Expedition at O22, authentic dishes from the Northern India—across the states of Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh—will offer you a good choice of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. It is incredible to see how the chef used indigenous ingredients, some of which procured right from the Himalayan regions, to create wonderful flavours with a rustic appeal. The authenticity in Chef Jeevan’s dishes come from the traditional way of cooking, in addition to using ingredients like pahari noon (salt), jakhiya (black spice used for tempering), bhatt ki dal (lentils), jhugar (rice) and mandua (grain).
As I settled down to taste the menu, Mridul Khosla, the Communication Assistant at Trident, BKC, joined me. We tasted a local Himalayan detox drink made from Rhododendron. It was a simple, yet a satisfying sweet drink with a mild floral smell. Served in an earthen kullar, I felt de-stressed after sipping this cool drink.
We tasted the salads. I was impressed to see that there were five kinds of salads in the buffet. Mridul and I both agreed that the Ande aur Tamatar ka Salad was fantastic with the mustard kick.
We tried the Sukhe Aam ka Salad. I have never had dry mangoes in a salad before. The sourness was cleverly balanced with sweet apple. The Hara Moong aur Naashpati ka Salad (salad of sprouted moong dal with pears) was an interesting combination of sweet, sour and spicy notes. I found the Kashmiri Paneer Salad to be okayish, whereas the Achari Gosht ka Salad was delectable!
The meat in the Achari Gosht ka Salad was melt-in-the-mouth delicious with a spicy tang. There were different kinds of pickles and chutneys served as the salad dressing. I loved the Prune Chutney the most, as I am very fond of sweet-n-sour flavours.
In one of the live counters, a chef in traditional Himachali costume, was frying the Tabak Maaz: a lamb delicacy from Kashmir. Here also, there was a range of chutneys to try with the Tabak Maaz. I paired mine with the radish chutney and some pungent onion rings. With a Mai Tai cocktail to accompany, the Kashmiri Tabak Maaz, straight from the tawa to my plate, was crispy from outside and juicy from inside. Although I would have loved my Tabak Maaz to be a bit softer from inside, tastewise, it was awesome!
The main course at The Himalayan Food Expedition left me speechless, and I mean it! As I tasted each dish, I was reminded of my childhood spent in Delhi, where I had tasted homemade Himachali and Kashmiri food several times at my classmates’ homes. If you love to relish the joy of perfectly cooked cuisine from the North, this is the place.
The two rice dishes are so balanced in spices and flavours that you might just settle for these. But then of course, you will miss other really flavourful surprises in the menu. The choice is yours, after all.
In the main course, I loved the subtle flavours of the Kashmiri Pandit cuisine: the Al Yakhni. This dish is a vegetarian delicacy, made up of bottle gourd rounds in a yogurt-sauce gravy. This Al Yakhni was perfect with the Himachali Pulao from Kashmir. This vegetarian pulao was cooked well and was light enough to be paired perfectly with any of the rich curries. Just when I was pretty sure that no other rice dish can complement the Himalayan spread than the Himachali Pulau, I tasted a spoonful of the Kashmiri Kukur Pulao (with chicken). It was absolutely delicious and pleasantly light. The main course had other choicest Himalayan dishes, such as Churkani, Pahadi Shikar, Gahat ki Daal (Uttarakhand), Rajma ka Madra (Himachal), Palak Nadir (Kashmir), Aloo Anardana (Himachal), Chaman Kaliya (Kashmir), Thechuani (Uttarakhand), Murgh Dhaniwal Korma (Kashmir), Chaa Gosht (Himachal), Gaad Choont (Kashmir) and Palak Kachmuli (Uttarakhand).
I loved the Thechuani – a classic vegetarian dish from Uttarakhand. The marriage of radish and potatoes with mustard was just wow! When I tasted it, I felt as if I was sitting in a Garhwali home and eating the food right there. The scrumptious Himachali Rajma ka Madra (with lots of yogurt in the gravy) tasted way different than the Delhi’s popular Rajma-Chawal. I absolutely loved the Bhatt ki Churkani from the Kumaon region. Chef Jeevan explained that this dish is from Uttarakhand and is made with special kind of black beans which are tempered with cumin. These black beans are very special as these are not found easily here in Mumbai. So he procured these beans from the local farmers in Uttarakhand to get these lentils for the Himalayan Food Expedition at O22, Trident, Mumbai. Don’t give the Bhatt ki Churkani a miss, if you really want to savour the true taste of Himalayan cooking. You will fall in love with the texture of the black beans for sure!
The Aloo Anardana (potato and pomegranate curry) from Himachal did not appeal to me much. But the Gaahat ki daal (from Uttarakhand) was such comforting! As I sunk my tastebuds to other vegetarian wonders, such as the Palak Nadir and Chaman Kaliya (both from Kashmir), I completely forgot how much I love non-vegetarian food. Even a carnivore will fall in love with such “pahaadi” vegetarian beauties!
Let me also tell you that all the non-vegetarian main courses were outstanding! My favourites were the Palak Kachmuli (meat cooked in spinach gravy), Chaa Gosht (lamb cooked with yoghurt and onion) and Gaad Choont (a tomato-based flavourful meat gravy).
When I thought I had tasted everything in the main course, Chef Jeevan came to me with a special bowl of lamb curry. This lamb curry reminded me of my mother, who loves to add potatoes to the Sunday-special mutton curry. I tell you, I loved that big piece of potato in the bowl of lamb curry. It was such home-style and something that touched my heart. The chef explained that the meat was first roasted with the skin. Then, the skin was removed and the meat was cooked in a delicious gravy with a smoky flavour. This was outstanding!
The desserts always beckon me. The Lapsi and the Baal Mithai (both from Uttarakhand) were good. The Baal Mithai from Chef Jeevan’s birthplace in Almora, was something unique, with tiny sugar balls coating the khoya-based sweet. But the Phirni (Kashmir), Khubani ka Halwa (Kashmir) and Jalebi (Himachal) were simply delicious.
This festival packs flavours from the traditional recipes of the Kashmiri Wazwaan, Himachali, Garhwali and Kumaoni cuisine. It’s a one-of-its-kind culinary experience in Mumbai. Don’t miss it!
The Great Himalayan Food Expedition is on till 27th February 2015.
Venue: O22, Trident, Bandra Kurla, Mumbai.
Time: Lunch & Dinner.
Price: INR 2100 + taxes
For reservations, call 022-6672 7610.
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