InterContinental The Grand is hosting a Kashmiri food festivalA shikara with more than a sprinkling of yellow and orange chinar leaves, artificial chinar trees, hookahs, kahwa kettle and servers in `sadri' and traditional Pathani suit - all these create an ambience of the Valley as you enter Baluchi restaurant at the InterContinental The Grand. It is a fitting way to usher you in to a sumptuous Kashmiri food festival concluding this Sunday.As you enter the restaurant, the aroma of Kashmiri spices triggers the appetite. The reason, Chef Noor Mohammad reveals, is wazwan, which is a bouquet of 36 courses cooked all night long. Wazwan gets its name from the team of chefs called wazas.There are seven items for Shuruaat (the beginning). The famous taba maaz, rib mutton cooked on a griddle, and nadar ke goolar, kabab of minced lotus stem, are best to opt for. Chaman ka tikka, chunks of cottage cheese flavoured with Kashmiri spices, and shami kabab are other delicious options.In the main course, goshtaabaa, rista and roghanjosh are usually recommended. The chef informs us that goshtaabaa and rista are minced on a special stone in Kashmir which lends them an earthy fragrance. The dish is not fully melted and is very spicy. The curry also is thin. This is in contrast to the preparation favoured in Delhi, where the lamb dumplings are minced in a machine, the curry is thick and contains less spices. Here, however, you can have original rista and goshtaabaa cooked in original Kashmiri spices brought from the Valley. Zafrani kukoor, which is chicken stewed in tomato with saffron and Kashmiri spices, and khatti machchi, or fish cooked in tamarind gravy enriched with cinnamon, are for those who love fragrant food.
For vegetariansFor vegetarians, haak saag, the greens Kashmiri is famous for, is a must try. The green leaves are seasoned and cooked in a wok with garlic cream. Besides, seasonal Kashmiri vegetables, tamatar chaman, dum aloo are some good choices. Unlike in Delhi, the dum aloo, the chef says, is not stuffed. It is pierced and put directly in onion gravy. All the meals are traditionally eaten with rice and not rotis. Hence, gucchi pulao, yakhni pulao, steamed, plain rice are served with the gravy here. But taking into account the Delhi palette, some varieties of bread such as badaami naan, lava sa, khasta and sheermal are included in the rich menu.Besides there is the characteristic drink of Kashmir, the fragrant kahwa. As you make an exit, satiated, delicious pan is served, much to remind you of your roots.RANA SIDDIQUI