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Culinary cruise

The Asean Food Festival at Shilpakalavedika brings the world on a table

NOW IT'S not just biryani and kebabs for the Hyderabadis. The local populace who swear by these ubiquitous items now have a virtual feast in store for them. A treat for the gourmet and a new taste for the hoi polloi. The Asean Dance Festival and Food Extravaganza to coincide with the Afro-Asian Games are being held at Shilpakalavedika, Shilparamam till October 30.

Hyderabad is slowly moving towards becoming a melting pot of cuisines and this is a step towards promoting it as a global destination. An international food festival of this kind is not new with rapid globalisation and inter-country and continental exchange. The frequent flier may be used to myriad tastes but such a food festival may expose the discerning citizen to flavours of the world. "Such a concept is part of tourism promotion as well. With representatives (athletes, officials and dignitaries) from 97 countries acclimatised to different tastes, this is the first festival of such a large magnitude which will cater to international cuisine," says G. Kishan Rao, Director Tourism, Government of Andhra Pradesh.

The whole concept has been worked out by Sanpra Projects and Services (Malaysia) in association with the Department of Tourism ably assisted by Jude Mohaan of Dream Merchants (they are strategic marketing advisors, planners and executors). Dan Nelson, a culinary consultant has worked on the menu with Chef Norfandi Abdul Marek. About five chefs from Malaysia ably led by Chef Marek are on the job of feeding thousands of people.

"The idea is to provide the official visitors from the continents with a taste of home," says Jude Mohaan. So it will be a potpourri of cuisines across continents truly in keeping with the motto of the games x Two continents x one spirit. The table will be laden with authentic goodies from Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei, China, Japan, Mediterranean, African and some European food.The focus will nevertheless be on the culinary caravan of the Orient.

Surely it is a gargantuan task judging by the large-scale preparations in the kitchen, which is a beehive of activity. The din of cooking gas and exhaust fan and people's voices subsumes all other sounds. Mountains of veggies, meats and chicken, crockery and other condiments greet a visitor in the huge kitchen. The culinary spread includes a few Indian items x main dishes and desserts including the famous biryani (can it be far behind in Hyderabad?). Different menus have been chalked out for the five-day festival comprising soups, starters, kebabs, main courses and desserts. Satays (the Malaysian dish which has captured worldwide attention) and sushi (from Japan) are out. "Satay is so popular that it is even served on flights too. We decided to have other items," says Jude Mohaan. "It is difficult to make sushi here," adds Chef Marek. But the tongue-twisting names surely induce a level of curiosity and beckon the visitor. In fact Chef Marek says "we have a lot of spectators in the kitchen." Spices, herbs and sauces have been flown down in large quantities for the authentic taste. "We will be getting Chinese black mushrooms as well," says Chef Marek. Sample dishes from the two continents plus the Mediterranean and Europe come alive in the Chicken Teriyaki (Japan), Crabs Nyonya (Malaysia), Tom-yum soup (Thailand), Chicken Adobo (Philippines), Chobara hamara (Algerian soup), Lamb lahali (Egyptian), Chobra rik (African soup using burghul wheat) and a variety of pastas (penne, macaroni, fettuccini and spaghetti). The Indian fare includes north Indian, Mughlai, Andhra and Hyderabadi specialities.

"The infrastructure and facilities at Shilpakalavedika is world class and there is nothing lacking here," say Nelson and Jude Mohaan.

This food festival will be the precursor of food concepts to be initiated by Dan Nelson at the behest of the Department of Tourism. 'We will be looking at introducing some Italian, Chinese, Mexican and American food," says Nelson.

For now, buy a coupon of Rs. 300 and undertake the Oriental sojourn at the hi-tech auditorium.

* * *

Meet the chefs

Dan Nelson (right) was inducted as Member of the Worldwide Society of Chefs at the age of 27 - a rare privilege.

Norfandi Abdul Marek (centre) worked in the Royal House of Brunei. Was chef for three years to the Sultan.

Christina has been involved in the kitchen of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.


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