Unravel mysteries at the Great Kebab Festival

There is something irresistible about secrets, especially when they are related to food. If you are one of those who love mysteries too, then the Great Kebab Festival at the Residency should intrigue you.

It was at a National conference of Chefs at Hyderabad that Chef Ashok met someone who held the key to delicious kebabs. He had recipes that had been nurtured, honed and perfected over generations. Naturally, he was not about to part with the secret ingredients to anyone. But, he was willing to provide the masala that would give the kebabs turned out by the Residency chefs a distinct identity! And so, came about the Great Kebab Festival.

Let us start at the very beginning. A basket of the mandatory papads was served, along with three different chutneys. A green one (we have all had that), a chilli one (delicious but nothing very different) and a third, that was fantastic. Try as one might, it was impossible to figure out what it was made of! The guessing game began. Peanuts? No. Chutney Dal? No. Chana dal? No…Chef Ashok finally spilled the beans and told us that it was simply sautéed garlic ground with some chillies. (I am guessing there is something more to it, but that is a secret!)

Since vegetarian food is healthy, let us start with those. A delectable mutter kebab was set down with a flourish. All we knew from its name was that it was made with peas and cooked with kalonji or onion seeds. I am not sure, but I did detect the fragrance of ajwain too. It was crisp on the outside, absolutely melt in the mouth inside and we made short work of it.

What would you say if you were served with kasoori methi flavoured tikka stuffed with cheese? Nothing. You would simply eat it and ask for more. I had heard of Jamavar shawls. But, Jamavar tikki? Yes, and they were as beautiful. And, here is where the great Indian cooking tradition of using unusual vegetables is at its best. The tikkis were made of sweet potato and the result was incredible. It was the same with the Yam Kebabs, and the one made with Arabi.

The nice thing is they offer the Assorted Vegetable Platter. It will have a little bit f everything and you can always order more of whatever you liked best in it.

You could do the same with the non-vegetarian fare, so that you don't have to agonise over the menu. But, when we enquired into the sighs of delight from the next table, we found out that they were having fish. You could have chunks of fish infused with garlic and yellow chilli (Tandoori Samak) or perhaps go for the Angari Machili which is a tandoor-cooked spicy affair flavoured with coriander. The exotically named Raan-E-Jahangir (lamb, eggs and nuts), Lavash Tandoori Jhinga (Prawns and sesame seeds), Safrani Murgh peda (chicken and saffron) sound, smell and look tempting enough to woo any non-vegetarian.

Varying degrees of marination and of course the special masala is the key to the flavours and textures of the kebabs. Rare and expensive ingredients like the yellow chilly have been specially sourced for the festival. Natural colours, freshest of spices and the best possible selections of meat, fish and vegetables have been used.

And, if you are still thinking of health and calories, the kebabs are a great option. You could choose the grilled affairs that are not too sinful. Also, there were rumali rotis made of wheat instead of maida. And, the egg paratha we were informed contained only the whites of the eggs. So, dig in.

There are a dozen or so each of vegetarian and non-vegetarian kebabs. And, assorted rotis, parathas and other curries are there too. But, quite honestly just the kebabs make a fine meal by themselves.

The festival is on till March 14 at the Afghan Grill. For reservations and details call 0422-2241414

PANKAJA SRINIVASAN

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