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Pandit delicacies enamour Delhiites...

Food festivals come and go but the Kashmiri Pandit Food Festival at the Chor Bizarre has been a fantastic affair, appealing to all those with an open mind on matters of food...

AFTER THE grand success of the Benarasi and Marwari cuisine festivals it is back to the grindstone for the supremely gifted chefs of Chor Bizarre, the restaurant at Hotel Broadway, in Delhi, which is synonymous for its Kashmiri delicacies.

One might be puzzled at the name of this restaurant. But the truth is that the resplendent furnishings and décor have been painstakingly collected from various `chor bazaars' across the country. The aim has been to retain the age-old charm. With music from the evergreen hero, Dev Anand's flick being played one gets a feeling of déjà vu. More foreigners than Indians can be seen eating and drinking to their hearts' content.

Since Kashmiri food has come to be associated with Kashmiri Muslim cuisines like Rista, Gushtava and Tabakmaz the food of the minority community from the Valley, the Pandits, is less known. So to make Delhiites know that the taste of Kashmiri Pandits is no less tasty and has as many meat dishes as their neighbours - Chor Bizarre roped in the services of Master Chef, Ved lal Pandita. The festival ends today.

The vegetarian plate is available for Rs. 165 while the elaborate non-vegetarian thali is available for Rs. 185. The vegetarian dishes like Rewangun Chaaman, Chaman Kaliya and the famous Haaq are not only good to look at but also taste excellent. For non-vegetarians the mutton is not only succulent but also less spicy. It is chewable of course and not undercooked mutton -- which has to be cut between the teeth -- like they do in the Valley. For non-vegetarians exotic Aloo Bukhara Kofta and Nanya Kalia are really outstandingly good. Potato has been stuffed inside the kofta, made out of mincemeat and Nanya Kaliya, the mutton dish, will make you feel that you have never tasted such a dish.

One would be surprised to know that Pandits are probably the only community, oops the Jains too, who cook their meals without onions and garlic. The reason being that all Pandits from the Valley are Brahmins but because of the topography and chilly weather there are certain days when they eat mutton. Though they don't touch chicken, which they consider as unclean and also beef, their fondness for mutton is well known. As can be exemplified that on the day of Shivratri they cook a sumptuous feast in which there are dishes of Roganjosh, Yakni, Kalia, Koftas and Kalejis. The taste of hing permeates in all their dishes. The Muslims add ghee while the Pandits make their dishes in mustard oil. While the Kashmiri Muslim cuisines are termed as Wazwan the Pandits call it Buttwaza.

Says Master Chef Pandita, "The most commonly used spices are hing (asafoetida), sonth (dried ginger powder), saunf (fennel), red chillies and spices like cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon and saffron."

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