My first ever exposure to Indian food was a few years ago thanks to my Dad. He ordered this flat floury bread called the roti, and it came with this piping hot bowl of orange chicken curry along with the instructions ‘tear, dip, and eat’. My first bite was a revelation I can’t find any words to describe. I couldn’t believe how the taste of the roti and curry perfectly intertwined with each other in my mouth. I had to wonder how it took me so long to discover this. It was then that I knew Indian cuisine was poised to make its way into my list of favourite cuisines.
I find it a bit strange how some people are averse to Indian food because they are afraid their tummies might protest from the “exoticness” of it. Some believe that Indian food equals spicy food- perhaps because of the colours of the dishes- but I think the more appropriate term would be well-spiced. The Indians are masters at combining spices to create dishes that are as multi-dimensional as their culture. I’m lucky my family enjoys Indian food so I get to eat it every once in a while, but frankly not as often as I’d like. In fact, I probably need to thank Makati Shangri-la for feeding me my first Indian meal of the year!
To be quite honest, I get a lot of restaurant invitations, but this was the only one so far this year I was most excited about. I guess I miss Indian food more than I was actually aware of, because I did not think twice before I said yes to attending this event. I had literally begun to imagine all sorts of yummy Indian dishes as I sent my confirmation e-mail.
You see, starting March 3rd up until the 14th of March, Makati Shangri-la will be holding its Indian food festival called Delights of Delhi over at their Circles Event Cafe. Indian Mughlai dishes will be available for lunch and dinner buffet, and guests will get a taste of the very rich dishes hailing from the Northern regions of India. Mughlai cuisine was actually adapted from the imperial kitchens of the Mughlai Empire, which makes the dishes produced fit for royalty. What’s more, the chefs who will prepare the food for this festival have come all the way from Shangri-la – Eros Hotel in New Delhi, so this is as authentic as it gets, ladies and gents.
I’m sure by now you all want a sneak peak of the food?
While we were waiting for other guests to arrive, we snacked on some papadum with an assortment of dips. These crisp flatbreads were the perfect vessel for either mild-tasting dips like the yoghurt-cilantro, or the more robust pickled veggie dip.
Next we were served some appetizers to kick-start what I could tell was going to be a meal I would greatly enjoy. They brought out a plate of Turra (chicken) & Shami (lamb) Kebab.
And while it’s very easy to fall for the patties of savoury lamb, I found myself loving the fall-off-the-bone chicken more. It was coated with a flavourful pesto-like marinade which I’m guessing has some cilantro in it.
There was also the Zaffrani paneer tikka (pan-fried cottage cheese) which was a pleasant surprise to me because of how much I liked it. I confess I’m not much of a cheese person, but when it’s mild like this and lightly toasted with some hints of spices, apparently it could win me over!
They brought out the salads next. The Chicken tikka salad (savory chicken salad) and aloo papadi chat (potato salad) are salads that are more common to me. But the phalon ki chaat, a fruit salad in this striking red spicy sauce, was without a doubt my favourite. There was pineapple, strawberry, and even watermelon in there, but whatever fruit you picked the sauce was there to kick the flavour up a notch. It literally provided a party in my mouth.
Our soup was the Dal kali mirch ka shorba, a lentil and black pepper soup. You could really taste the full peppery flavour.
And now we get to the main dishes. The great thing about Indian dishes is how they’re so saucy they lend themsleves so well with either bread or rice. You have a choice of eating them with either the Chicken biryani…
Or with the Missi and Gizwani Rotis. Those are specks of toasted almond on top right there!
I had a bit of trouble trying to figure out which dish to try first, seeing this spread before me. So I went for the plate that was nearest to me.
The Paneer haryali korma (cottage cheese with spinach) was a sauced version of the cottage cheese dish. The spinach sauce really adds a certain savouriness to the mild cheese.
The Subz diwani handi is a mixed vegetable dish drenched in this beautifully thick orange curry. It has a nice hint of turmeric and was perfect with the rice.
Of course I can’t imagine a meal without Murgh shamina (chicken curry), which is probably one of the staple, most-requested dishes in Indian restaurants.
One of my favourite dishes was the Dal Qurashi, a gloriously thick yellow lentil dish with full body and full flavours. It was reminiscent of risotto in texture, only the play of flavours was so interesting it’s easy to eat one mouthful after the other as you try to guess the spices within the dish.
This Jhinga dum anari is interesting as well. Though the shrimp feels a bit overcooked, the sauce makes up for it in its tanginess. The sauce has the texture of fresh tomato sauce, but the secret ingredient to the tanginess here is actually pomegranate juice. Yummmmm. I love the flavour of pomegranate and in here it was very light, but it provides that sweet note.
Indian cuisine is one of the most colourful I know of, and putting all the dishes on my plate side by side only proves this point. This meal was both a joy to look at and to consume!
For dessert we were served with a ramekin full of Shrikhand, Indian yoghurt with the dominant taste and scent of cardamom. Cardamom is always a lovely addition to any dessert. I believe this particular shrikhand was also flavoured with mango, thus the yellow colouring. Sprinkled with pistachio it looked like a dainty dessert, but it packed a big cardamom punch indeed.
Being a lover of lassi, I could not let pass the chance to get a shot of this Rose water lassi. Call me biased but I absolutely loved it!
If you love Indian food, or have been wanting to try something with more authenticity, then I recommend coming to Makati Shangri-la’s Indian food bonanza- Delights of Delhi. Remember it’s from March 3 to 14 only, so come quick!
I went home this day with more than a satisfied appetite for Indian food. I got to bond with my good friend Gilbert who I asked to come to the event with me, and I got to meet some new people. Always something that should happen to a quiet and kind of shy gal like me, to encourage me to break out of my shell. Aside from food for my belly, this meal provided me with some food for my soul too! Thank you to Chef Abhinandan who flew all the way from New Delhi for this food festival. Thank you as well to Makati Shangri-la Communications Team, and everyone who made this event possible!
I fervently hope this kind of food introductions continue so Filipinos can become more exposed to international cuisine!
Full disclosure: I was invited to this event by Makati Shangri-la but all opinions expressed, as always, are my very own.