Chef from Lahore are here

It's about good times, good food and good conversation which promise to chase away your blues. Well, how can anyone remain forlorn when on offer is the best of Lahori delicacies, beginning with sweetened lassi, fried spicy chicken fingers and a unique mutton dish from the community of Chinioti?

The finger-licking cuisine will send all your ideas of dieting flying out of the window. So while you are still trying to decide what is better -- the aroma, look or the taste of the fare that melts in the mouth, you for sure will not suffer guilt pangs about over-eating.

If you have an afternoon to spare and have an appetite that craves for a huge spread, a must try is --``Memories and Flavours of the Other Punjab'' at the ITC Mayur Sheraton hotel here inNew Delhi. On offer at the 10-day festival, which begins on July 7 is tala murgh, chapali kabab, aloo pehalwani, tibbi yakhani (soup), talee macchi, gwal mandi, murgh tangdi and the unique mutton dish chinioti mutton kunna.

Giving you a taste from the ``other side'' is the duo from Avari Hotel in Lahore -- chefs Mehboob Ahmad Khan and chef Mohammad Asghar. Chef Mehboob Khan claims that his current obsession is certainly a far cry from the mornings when he was packed off to school with a thick parantha overlaid with ghee -- (For strong bones and a quick mind). Now while he talks and makes Lahori food with a passion to match the taste, he will also tell you the benefits of being a vegetarian.

``Pakistan is a through and through meat-eating community. Vegetables we believe are for the poor. For us a party should have preparations of lamb, chicken and fish -- dals and vegetables are low on the priority list,'' says Mehboob Khan.

The current festival as he puts it, ``is an interesting interplay of historical forces which has the flavours of the communities of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims mixed freely forming an unique composite culture. The food back home still carries that culture,'' he asserts.

Besides the fare on offer, the chef also has other accomplishments to his credit. He cooked for the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, during his visit to Pakistan. Mr. Vajpayee, however, did not touch the fresh prawns but opted for the vegetable preparations, Mehboom Khan says. The Pakistan President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, however, is a meat eater -- his favourite being chicken tikka, says the chef.

His dream now is to see the Taj Mahal, Jama Masjid and Qutab Minar. Of course, all that will have to wait till the festival is over.

By Bindu Jacob