Rich, robust and bold flavours of Punjab come together as a surprise package when Chef Sweety Singh creates authentic Punjabi dishes at the ongoing Punjabi Rivaayat popup at Maya, Trident BKC. Exploring the tradition of good taste with humble Punjabi food cooked to perfection, is just what you should expect on your plate. At Maya, the Punjabi flavours are full of life, just like the people of Punjab. Be it the lip-smacking Dhaba food or an expedition to rediscover forgotten historic recipes of Punjab, Chef Sweety Singh has nailed it for sure!
Don’t think of this Lassi simply as a drink. It has many stories behind it, many of which are laced with the memories of a sumptuous meal at perfect roadside dhabas on an Indian highway, or the memories of a loving Punjabi granny making that perfect creamy, nutritious drink by hand-churning the tastiest homemade curd ever. For others, a filling glass of Lassi revives the memories of undivided Punjab or that of their childhood summers! At the Punjabi Rivaayat festival, we (AN and I) preferred to sip the sweet Saffron Lassi rather than its salty cousin, and it did bring back a few memories of my childhood and college days spent in Delhi.
Although there is no concept of a soup as such in a traditional Punjabi meal, Punjabis do have excellent shorbas and kanjis in their repertoire. Although I didn’t see my favourite drink, the Kaale Gajar ki Kanji, in the Punjabi Rivaayat menu, the shorbas did keep me happy. We think, the Tamatar ka Shorba (tomato broth) or Kharode ka Shorba (a light broth of lamb trotters) are just perfect to comfortably settle you for a hearty Punjabi meal afterwards. We kicked off the meal with the Kharode ka Shorba. It was a very light soup with a dash of fresh lime juice. It felt so comforting when the soft piece of the trotter melted in the mouth as soon as we ate it!
Punjabi cuisine is known for its variety, be it meat, fish or any tandoori delicacy. The Arabs brought the tandoori cooking style from Persia. People in Punjab had been experimenting with different tandoori dishes since then. Tandoori Chicken was believed to be born around 1930’s in Punjab, and is popular since then. But, Punjab has many more dishes than the oh-so-popular Butter Chicken. Chef Sweety Singh wanted to show the world what homemade Punjabi food is all about. The chef has thoughtfully included many interesting dishes in the Punjabi Rivaayat appetiser menu, such as the Parat da Paneer Tikka (tandoori cottage cheese filled with mint and cashewnuts) and the awesome Lahori Paneer Tikka (tandoori cottage cheese, with onions, peppers and tomatoes). Other tandoori dishes include Aloo di Pothri (tandoori potatoes filled with cottage cheese and nuts) and Tandoori Khumb (marinated mushrooms charred in a tandoor). Want more tandoori starter options? Go for the outstanding Tandoori Bhuniya Meat (Lamb chops and rump roasted in a tandoor): absolutely spot-on and succulent meat.
Yet another tandoori starter, the Anari Murgh de Tikke, was equally good. These boneless tandoori chicken pieces marinated with yogurt and anardana (pomegranate seeds) are just perfect for any occasion. These Anari Murgh ke Tikke couldn’t get any better!
The Ajwaini Jheenge were just awesome and a flawless starter. We loved it! These were perfectly cooked yogurt-marinated prawns that were just so juicy and soft, with the robust flavour of carom seeds (ajwain) doubling up as a digestive for the elaborate meal to follow.
All the dishes made by Chef Sweety Singh were toned down in terms of ghee and butter. Also, he ensured that no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives were used. With Punjabi Rivaayat as a medium, Chef Sweety wanted to spread the message that Punjabi food is not about those thick cashewnut-based monotonous gravies that you often come across in Indian restaurants. Punjabi cuisine is vast, and there are so many dishes that one can experiment with, including an array of healthy dishes!
As Punjab is the land of wheat, many kinds of Indian bread varieties exist in the Punjabi cuisine. With these breads, Punjabis love to eat Mukke da Pyaj as an accompaniment, which is nothing but raw onions broken with the force of the fist. You will get this, as well two of the traditional Punjabi pickles, with any food you order here at Maya, Trident BKC. Try their Kulchas for sure: these are soft and supple, and have a delicious potato-based stuffing in them. These warm Kulchas are best eaten on their own, smeared with a generous amount of butter.
The Dahi Vada was nicely flavoured, and the sweet curd was rightly seasoned with toasted and coarsely ground cumin seeds and dried red chillies. What we didn’t like was the texture of the vada or the lentil balls. These were crumbly from outside and very dense from inside. We have had so many complex dishes at Punjabi Rivaayat that were cooked perfectly, but it came as a surprise as well as disappointment to find such a basic dish not executed properly!
But, overall, we loved what we ate there. In the main course, a must-order is obviously the evergreen Sarson ka Saag: fresh mustard leaves ground and tempered with homemade butter and garlic. It tastes the best with the Makke ki roti and some jaggery and home-churned butter. The Pindi Chole was also tangy and yum!
There are many vegetarian options at the Punjabi Rivaayat at Maya. Choose from a carefully planned main course menu. There are Aloo Wadiyan (Punjabi-style potato curry with spiced lentil nuggets), Punjabi Phool (a cauliflower dish with cumin seeds, ginger and coriander) and Dhaba Shahi Paneer (a cottage cheese curry with tomatoes and cashewnuts), among others. We chose to try the Masale wale Kathal, which were made of raw jackfruit tossed with onions, tomatoes and chillies. The jackfruit curry was disappointing: we did not like the flavour and texture. The jackfruit was very hard to chew and the preparation was extremely dry.
However, we loved the royal Mattar Kofta Aloo Bukhare de Naal, which had a nice gravy with green peas thrown in. The pea koftas were soft and the spices were apt. The filling of Aloo bukharas (fresh plums) was to die for. This is another must-order in the vegetarian main course.
We skipped the popular Punjabi dishes like Murgh Makhanwala and Saag Paneer, and ordered the Amritsari Meat. This traditional lamb curry from Amritsar was a star. We loved the gravy and the fall-off-the-bone delicious mutton in it. Next up was the Jheenga Masale de Naal, which was one of the best prawn dishes that I have had in months! It was a simple dish of prawns cooked with chillies, onions and tomatoes, but the clever balance of sweet and sour notes in that dish made it stand out from the rest!
Among the five desserts on the menu of Punjabi Rivaayat at Maya, Trident, we chose the all-time-favourite Gajrela: a popular winter-favourite made with grated red carrots, reduced milk and nuts. We were not sure if the Gulab Kheer would please us, but when we tasted it, we knew that this is the dessert that we would love to try again. Our new favourite, the Gulab Kheer, is simply divine, with thickened milk and fresh rose petals doing all the magic, while the foot-tapping, energising music of dhol played in the background.
The Punjabi Rivaayat Popup is curated by Chef Sweety Singh and is on till 21st of January 2016. For reservations, call +91-22-6672-7650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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