Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kayastha Khatirdari pop-up

How do you describe a meal that you’ve wanted to experience for the longest time? Well, one can only try. Skeety’s special meal was at food writer Anoothi Vishal’s well-known Kayastha pop-up aptly called Kayastha Khatirdari which she prepares along with her family at home, showcasing food of the community. The evening kicked off with a round of drinks to warm up to old friends and make some new ones. And what else can you do but enjoy when you are in the company of a lawyer, a quizmaster, a home chef, a tea sommelier, an architect and many more such. The meal hosted at the newly launched Delhi Pavilion (erstwhile Baywatch) at WelcomHotel Sheraton, Saket.

The amuse bouche was kulle ki chaat. A trademark of Old Delhi chatwallas, this version is how it is made at homes by Kayastha families (with distinct use of smaller chickpeas). A cucumber was hollowed and stuffed with the chickpeas, lemon juice and the notoriously famous chat masala that the Old Delhi kulle wallas use. An individual platter of aptly portioned starters was made up of Mangode or moong dal pakodis, Kalmi Vadas and Vegetarian Shami Kababs. With every morsel, Skeeter tasted a different note. Mangode came with an added punch of whole coriander; one has to taste it to believe what a simple addition can do to the humble snack. The Kalmi Vadas that Skeeter is used to in her plate of chaat in Old Delhi, is not a patch on what she ate at Kayastha Khaterdari. These were crisp and stiff on the outside revealing a semi-soft interior on biting. They were not-excessively oily from all the frying, neither tough on the tooth. It Skeety could go on about the texture, but they tasted superlative too. They were spiced to perfection and the lentils combined with the spices complemented with the correct frying technique and temperature, made them a delight to the senses. The star of the appetizers, however, were the Vegetarian Shami kababs that melted in the mouth and had a supreme meaty flavour, derived from lentils again. These were delicately spiced and salted to perfection. Although Kayastha food has a lot of meat based preparations, many Kayastha ladies eat vegetarian fare and these preparations are their inventions/ adptation of meaty dishes to vegetarian ones.

Skeety was already in a food wonderland when there was an onslaught of platters mounted with Bedmi Pooris and bowls full of Urad Dal. The Bedmi pooris were again different from the ones we’re used to. Skeety has seen many a cook make this and the general preparation goes like this: Bedmi flour (coarsely ground) dough is filled with a thumb impression of the pitthi (spiced stuffing made with dal and coarsely ground spices again). At home, we call it pitthi poori as well. The maharaj who used to come home or even the halwais Skeeter encounters in Old Delhi quite often have this fast yet rhythmatic movement of filling them with a thumb of pitthi, rolling them and dunking in a hot wok of oil. The joy to watch them puff up is something else. Skeeter being Skeeter would only take those that puffed up like a balloon. Anoothi’s Bedmi pooris were a revelation: soft, thicker than normal and smeared generously with the pitthi and not just a thumb in the center. They went so well with the homemade pickles (green chilli two ways and tangy karonda pickle) that you’d not need anything else to gobble  them down with.  But there were the kacche kele ki machli, a mock non-vegetarian preparation of raw bananas, cut like fish which was interesting; kathal ki sabzi or jackfruit, a very homely and unique preparation and the Urad dal that had a tiny yet strong hing tadka sitting somewhere on the top of the bowl underneath slivers of golden fried onions. Thought it seemed like a simple dish, to do the Urad Dal right is an art; and this comes from not-an-urad-fan, so there! There was a matar-ki tehri too. The meal ended with a quiz that had the guests bundling up in teams and there was makhane ki kheer (lotus seed pudding) and lauki ki launj (a barfi made from bottlegourd) to end the evening on a sweet note.

(The Kayastha Khatirdari festival is on at Delhi Pavilion till 27th November)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ziu, Sangam Courtyard: High on Thai

Vegetarian Thai food is often hard to come by, especially when you are in Thailand. Things are changing for the better in that land, albeit slowly. And when Skeeter heard of Ziu, a progressive Thai restaurant in Sangam Courtyard at R.K.Puram (Delhi), a reservation was instantly made. Run by Gurmehar Singh Sethi who is the chef-owner of Ziu, the kitchen is in expert hands. Gurmehar hails from Delhi but his Nobu and Le Cirque background sets the bar high for Ziu. Before ordering her meal,Skeeter quizzed Gurmehar about the fish sauce substitutes where required,  and was told they use fresh Soybean paste (flown in from Thailand) to make the vegetarian Thai food at Ziu. Needless to say, Skeeter was sold.

The meal
Looking at the menu at Ziu, one may detect some regular Thai menu offerings but prepare to be amazed. They treat the way they serve you, differently, and that sets them apart. Tom Yum soup (Rs 295) was a hearty portion, easily devoured by two. The flavourful veggies came seated in a polished coconut-shell bowl with a hint of smoke enticing you; the spicy and sour soup was poured from a little jug over the veggies at the table. Subtle and flavourful, this soup grows on you. You can adjust the spice levels with bird’s eye chilli powder and chilli oil that is served on the table.

                                                                   Tom Yum Soup

Skeeter ordered a Som Tam salad (Rs 295), next, quite unsuspectingly. Sipping on her Pineapple cooler that was served in a flute glass (champagne style) with a hint of chilli Skeeter was amazed to be greeted by a bowl of hitherto unknown ‘fried’ Som Tam salad: Juliennes of raw papaya and carrot fried in rice flour batter to a perfect state where they retained the softness yet were crunchy to bite in. These were tossed in a light dressing, adorned with cherry tomatoes, and could certainly make a hearty lunch with a bowl of Tom Yum.

Pineapple cooler (left); Virgin Mojito (right)

Som Tam Salad

A hungry table of two ordered Kanom Krok (Rs 295) and Meing Khum (Rs 255) next. Kanom Krok were wondrous coconut crème brulee bites filled with sautéed tofu, galangal, super finely shredded kaffir lime leaves in a finger-licking good tom kha and chilly lime dressing. Skeeter could volunteer to be the brand ambassador for these. These were washed down with a Virgin Mojito with Ziu’s twist of freshly shaved coconut swirls. One can’t resist those! And the Meing Khum took us by surprise. Skeeter forsees people writing about it as Thai version of Indian Paan. But the similarity ends there. These were the most incredible palate cleansers-cum-salad. Wild pepper leaves were stuffed with chopped lime, chilli, fried garlic, shallots, peanut, ginger, toasted coconut and tamarind jam. Skeeter will ask for extra tamarind jam and a notch higher chilli level, when she visits Ziu next. And the presentation was appealing too! Besides, the portion is generous for a table of two.

                                                                      Kanom Krok
Meing Khum

Saving more appetizers for another visit to Ziu, Skeets hopped on to the mains of Tofu Song Krueng (Rs 525) or Pan seared tofu cakes, topped with wok tossed seasonal vegetables. What caught Skeeter’s fancy were the tofu cakes and what made her wary was the standard wok-tossed line written in menus. Soon enough, she was proven wrong. The hearty tofu cakes were encased in a crunchy peanut coat and the wok-tossed vegetables (like morning glory) had her craving for more.

                                                        Chef-Owner Gurmehar Singh Sethi at work

Saving more appetizers for another visit to Ziu, Skeets hopped on to the mains of Tofu Song Krueng (Rs 525) or Pan seared tofu cakes, topped with wok tossed seasonal vegetables. What caught Skeeter’s fancy were the tofu cakes and what made her wary was the standard wok-tossed line written in menus. Soon enough, she was proven wrong. The hearty tofu cakes were encased in a crunchy peanut coat and the wok-tossed vegetables (like morning glory) had her craving for more. The burnt garlic fried rice were the perfect accompaniment.
Tofu cakes (left); burnt garlic fried rice (right)

But the true test came in the form of their Phad Thai noodles (Rs 295), a make or break for Skeeter. And these didn’t disappoint either! They tossed in oodles of veggies with the noodles, and everything blended together with a lovely homemade tamarind sauce. Besides attention to freshness, they use home grown microgreens and herbs in their dishes and that gives them an edge too!
For dessert, try their coco-nutty twist on the classic Tiramisu, if you find even a wee bit of space left in your tummy bag and you’d dream of the meal when you turn to bed. Skeeter did!

                                                          Dreamy dessert: Coconut Tiramisu                      
Meal for two: Rs 1800
Address: Sangam Courtyard, Major Somnath Marg, Sector 9, R K Puram, New Delhi. 
Phone: 011 26180711

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Skeeter’s day out at Asian Hawker’s Market & The Grub Fest in Delhi

With three food fests happening simultaneously in town, Skeeter was a busy girl. Busy eating, ofcourse! She could do justice to two, and here’s what the experience was like. The first stop was Asian Hawker’s Market at Select CityWalk. A well-curated one with a choice of space that already has good footfall on weekends; they did a smart job! True to the name of the festival, there were oodles of noodles, pot stickers, dumplings, satays & Sushi aplenty. Spicy Sushi at En made Skeeter happy and the Asparagus cream cheese roll at Guppy by ai has always been her go to favourite. These were washed down with a Cucumber n Kaffir lime cooler at Pan Asian.

Spicy Sushi at En


Absolutely fabulous Cheese and pepper Takoyaki at Yumi Yum Cha were savoured with Orange & Kaffir lime cooler in the cutest takeaway bottle ever! Fantabulous veg pot stickers at Jade were had too. Dessert was again at Yum Yum Cha: Mango Mochi icecream. Couldn’t have ended better! Free entry was a winner. Everything was pegged between Rs 100 & 500.

The Grub Fest was entertainment of another kind. This time round its bigger and better. Delhiites like Skeeter would have to make a trek to Gurgaon (well almost), but once you are in, you thoroughly soak yourself in the ‘foodie’ spirit of the city. To reach the grounds, one enters through the Grub Market. Skeeter suggests to have a look on your way in and pick up stuff on your way out. At the grounds, there are an array of restaurants, cafes, bakeries, food trucks offering some great grub. The waffles at Eggjactly were okay, Momocha's soupy jhol dumplings were yummy, Bombakery is dessert bomb; try their Nutella cookies for sure! Bombakery is also offering single origin coffee on the grounds and it is just what you need when you get a little tired with all that walking! 

Eggjactly food truck

There's SodaBottleOpenerWala, Social, Smokey's, The Backyard, Lalit Food Truck, Duzoku tribal kitchen, Budweiser, Olive Bistro, Chaayos, Chai Thela to name a few. While there visit Grub Stories, a multi-storey travelling restaurant, with chic design and interiors, offering a terrace bar which provides fantastic views of the ground. Sunset is marvelous from up there! Skeeter didn't try any food there, though. On her way out she picked honey twigs (honey measured in a sachet for one serving!), cold pressed juices at fabulous offers, cold pressed edible oils and a lot more!

360 degrees view of the fest

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ek Bar - Once upon a time (a preview)

Delhi has a new bar dedicated to the drinking culture of India and Skeety visited to get a feel. It is kitschy, it is sassy and it is a neighbourhood bar called Ek Bar by AD Singh of Olive in partnership with the very talented Chef Sujan Sarkar. Ek Bar is located in Defence Colony and the place gives a carnival-like vibe with a giant merry-go-round installation just above the bar. One walks in at Ek Bar to witness eager bartenders doing their shaking jig and that sets the tone for the evening. 

City of Nizams (right)


All drinks have an Indian touch. They are re-imagined in the Indian way. You can sample, murabba, amrak (starfruit), gondhoraj lime, Indian spices and such in your drink. The names of the drinks are quirky and Indian: Murabba Mule, Platform @ CST, Sher Singh, Susegad and more.

Mogito-6 (right)
At Ek Bar you decide what mood you are in and pick a card (menu) accordingly. There's A,K,Q andJ. Choose your drink and get going. The bartender who came with Skeety's drinks had a story to tell with each of them, making the experience superlative. Our welcome drink was the Royal Indian touch. Nitin Tewari, Skeeter's bartender for the evening told 'Punch' is derived from the Sanskrit word which means five and was first made in India in the 16th century using five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. When Britishers came to India they enjoyed the drink and took it back to their homeland from where it became popular globally. At Ek Bar, this Punch is served in an intricate teapot that comes with cups to depict the community drinking culture in India.  The Mo'g'ito 6 is Ek Bar's take on a mojito. In India, most pronounce it wrong and hence it is deliberately misspelt at Ek Bar. The story behind the drink goes thus: If Mojito was made in India, it would have our local citrus fruit Amrak or starfruit. And Amrak is sold in Old Delhi during winters, so the bartenders added 6 spices to this drink that they procured from Khari Baoli spice market in Old Delhi. This drink could do with less ice, though! 
All drinks are claimed to be made within two minutes and the ingredients like shrubs, bitters, juices are all homemade.
The Royal Indian Punch (left)
Ek Bar - Granola Bar (right)
 The City of Nizams is gin & tonic, done the Indian way. This bright yellow hued drink comes with  Gin, turmeric, orange syrup and tonic water. While fancy icecubes may be the way the world is going, at Ek Bar, this drink had Katori shaped ice in it and inside the icecube was a blade of mace. As Skeety sipped her drink slowly, the mace broke out of ice to lend a hint of added flavour.

Nitin Tewari, mixologist at Ek Bar 

The grub

The Ek Bar Granola Bar is joyous. It is made of Jhalmuri, Avocado and imli gel with frozen Dahi Bhalla ice-cream on the side. This one sets your mouth on fire and Skeeter would go back just for this. It goes very well with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Fresh local Burrata comes seated on a bed of tomato kut and is topped with a coriander and walnut chutney crumble. The freshness of the Burrata is stunning and the tart-sweet tomato kut beneath only adds to it. What is really good about Ek Bar is that they have engineered the menu that is full of nibbles and finger food. Skeety always wanted a place where she can just snack, drink and be happy and Ek Bar is just that. 
The Veg Thali is just a name. It is essentially appetizers put together to form the Thali components. In the Thali, mushroom galouti hot dog was innovative, beetroot and peanut coin was okay, ricotta stuffed bhavnagiri mirchi packed the punch, rawa fried paneer was different from the tikkas that the vegetarians are dumped with, rajma hummus was fresh and creamy and the charred roti made a perfect accompaniment. They have a cheese Thali too and Skeets would want to go back and try that some day. End your meal on a sweet note with some carrot halwa cake and savoury buttermilk icecream. This combination was delightful and reminded Skeeter of her garam halwa-thandi malai winter eating ritual.

Where: Ek Bar, D-17, Defence Colony (corner building near petrol pump).

Note: The place opens for public on September 23rd. This was a preview on invite.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Flavours of Shahjahanabad

When Old Delhi comes calling one has to oblige. Having heard of the feasts put together by the Jalalis and experienced one herself, Skeeter met the Jalalis one on one over a lunch table hosted by them at at Le Meridien, Gurgaon. And it couldn’t have been better! Osama Jalali, a food writer has curated the dining experience and the meals are prepared by his mother Nazish Jalali & wife Nazia Khan. What one gets to sample is the kind of food that is found in the homes of Old Delhi or Shahjahanabad. Nazish Jalali or Ammi as she is fondly called is a passionate cook who learnt her craft from the khansamas of the nawab of Rampur before she got married and came to Shahjahanabad, where she added more recipes to her repertoire.

Emperors Aurangzeb was a vegetarian, Humayun turned vegetarian even if briefly and Akbar was vegetarian towards the latter half of his life. This did not mean they lost on sampling the best flavours that the khansamas had on offer. There were vegetarian delicacies prepared to pamper these emperors. Some of the recipes may have been lost in time, yet others live to tell a tale.
These Mughlai recipes by the Jalalis are showcased at food festivals across prominent hotels time and again. This time round the focus was on some interesting vegetarian ones. The first of these was a very flavourful Kathal ki Galouti. Skeeter has sampled unusual preparations of Jackfruit but this one outshone them all. Steamed and boiled jackfruit is mixed with lentils and whole spices for a well-textured, sublime galouti. French beans ki Shammi appeared next. Again, a well-made, melt in the mouth preparation, which forces the French beans out of their stir-fry, sabzi, pulao and other avtars. And the third stellar appetizer of the day was a daliya ki tikki. Yes, there’s more to daliya than light/diet food.

Vegetable Biryani 

For the mains we sampled sookhi Urad dal, both black and yellow; the recipes of which come from the kitchen of the Nawab of Rampur. These were very simple preparations that were fluffy and flavourful. A robust Mughlai paneer preparation made in a yoghurt gravy had Skeeter hooked onto the curry. An earthy and dense preparation of Chana dal bharta (mashed lentils) was rich in texture and chopped green chillies complemented it well. Osama calls it desi hummus and well, why not?!

Sookhi Urad Dal 

Chana dal bharta 

The Jalalis 

All these were served with a rustic Khamiri Roti or yeasted flatbread and a mildly sweet Sheermal which is saffron-flavoured, leavened bread. Both are usually paired with greasy non-vegetarian curries in the bylanes of Old Delhi. There was Vegetarian Biryani too! It looked simple but was a pot of myriad flavours. The rice were aromatic as they soaked flavour from the whole spices and each vegetable lent a layer of its flavour to the dish.

After being overwhelmed by the appetizers and the mains, it was time to be besotted by dessert. Aloo ka Zarda, made with shredded potatoes, saffron and sugar was sampled for the first time. It was sprinkled with chironji. Skeeter was looking forward to this one but was underwhelmed by the taste. Maybe she needs to get used to the idea of having spuds for dessert? The Shahi Tukda, which was not liked by some on the table, made Skeeter quite happy. Those who didn’t like this version prefer crispy bread against the soft one which was served. The Gulathi, which was somewhat like a phirni, was the best dessert of the three. It is made by reducing milk in dry fruits and made a fitting end to a sumptuous feast.

Aloo ka Zarda 
Shahi Tukda 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chor Bizarre- Pop-up

Kashmiri spread reminds Skeeter of Haak/Haaq that she makes at home, of Rajma that the relatives generously share on their trips back from Jammu, of Kehwa (Kahwa) that she loves brewing at home. Chor Bizarre reminds Skeeter of all these and more. When CP was the hub of all good restaurants and malls hadn't made a debut, Chor Bizarre at Daryaganj was buzzing with activity, enthralling expats and Indians alike. Skeeter still gets nostalgic about their salad cart set amidst a vintage car. At Chor Bizarre (literally meaning thieves’ market), no cutlery is alike and the decor is a mismatch. Yet, it all comes so beautifully together. There may be restaurants serving better Kashmiri fare, but Chor Bizarre stands tall. It has stood for 25 years to tell its tale and even gone international (they are now in London). As they celebrate 25 years of serving Delhi, a selection of Chor Bizarre signature dishes can be sampled at Drift, Epicentre, Gurgaon where they have appeared in a pop-up format. Chor Bizarre serves dishes from other parts of the country too, but on the day Skeeter was invited they were showcasing Kashmiri fare apart from few starters.

We started with the Kurkuri Makkai and Dahi ke Kebab. Both reiterated that Indian food isn’t all about lots of spices. The Kurkuri Makkai was extra crunchy on the outside and soft inside, making a perfect match. Dahi ke Kebab were subtle and flavourful. Nadru or lotus stem chips coated with a little spice and served with muj chatin that were a showstopper. Muj Chatin is a condiment made with grated radishes tossed in greek yoghurt, chopped green chillies, salt and sprinkled with walnuts. The two make an awesome pair.

Nadru chips with mooli-akhrot chutney
This was followed by a lavish Wazwan (multi-course meal served during Kashmiri weddings) served in a Tarami (an embossed Kashmiri Thali). Of course the non-veg Wazwan is what people make a beeline for, the vegetarian one that Skeeter sampled was equally good. Tamatar Chaaman, Dum Aloo, Khatte Baingan, Nadru Yakhni, Haaq, Rajmah, Mooli Akhrot Ki Chutney & Laal Pyaaz were served on a bed of rice. The highlights for Skeeter were the Dum Aloo pricked a 100 times, deep fried and then, cooked in a spicy gravy. The Rajmah were unputdownable and the Haaq was flavourful with a bite, just the way it should be. 

The meal ended with Shufta and Phirni followed by Kehwa. Phirni is the Kashmiri take on kheer. Kehwa is a warming brew made with green tea leaves, sliced almonds and some spices. It is traditionally brewed in a Samovar. 

Kehwa served from a traditional Samovar

The Shufta is something Skeeter tasted for the first time. Shufta is a dessert made with nuts tossed in a sugary saffron syrup and has a hint of cardamom. It provides much needed heat to the body in the cold climes of Kashmir. Delhi could borrow it too, for its harsh winters or whatever is left of them.


At: Drift, Epicentre, Gurgaon from August 16 - September 30, 12noon - 3:00pm / 7:00pm - 11:00pm

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lavaash by Saby - a preview

2015 is Skeeter's year to discover new food, chart culinary territories and eat the best grub on offer. In her quest for new food, she ended up sampling Armenian food with a Bengali twist presented by Chef Sabyasachi Gorai at a preview dinner at his restaurant Lavaash by Saby (Ambawatta Complex, Mehrauli).

Armenian-Bengali proximity

A chance discovery of an old grave picture led Chef Saby to reconnect with his childhood spent in Asansol (in West Bengal) that bore touches of Armeninan culture and food. Asansol was an Armenian colony some 200 years back. Chef Saby tells that the Asansol hood was named after Armenian families: Apkar Gardens, Agabeg bridge, Evelyn Lodge. More importantly, the Armenians gave to India, the tolmas, the tonir (tandoor, which is still widely used in India), the Lavash (an unleavened bread), paneer, curd among others. Chef Saby calls his offering the A-cuisine. Lavaash by Saby bears Armenian motifs across its interiors. Viplov Singh and Svabhu Kohli have given shape to the initial moodboard of the place made by Chef Megha Kohli and Chef Saby. Skeeter visited the restaurant at night, but is sure it looks dreamy and romantic during the day. With a beautifully done terrace dining space, Lavaash by Saby is bound to be a hotspot this winter.

Armenian grub

The food on offer is new, but not alien. You get the basic (yet most delicious) Claypot bread with a generous dollop of butter and scatter of chironji seeds. It is Saby's version of Matnakash, an Armenian bread. It is called so, as the bakers fingermarks are imprinted on the bread before putting it in the oven. Along with this bread, you sample the most divine Pumpkin Manti (Armenian ravioli) cooked and served in a clay vessel and scattered with pine nuts. The outer wrapping has a soft, crusty rumali kind of texture and the filling of sweet pumpkin with walnuts, yoghurt sauce and cheese melts in the mouth. The use of nuts characterizes Armenian food which they use for texture as well as nutrition. Skeeter cannot wait to try the Mushroom Manti on her next visit.

Pumpkin Manti

Claypot bread

Baked Mochar Puff 

The baked Mochar Puff filled with a fragrant banana blossom and potato mash and served with a tomato relish is your everyday Bengali household grub revamped and how! This simple twist will leave the Bengali bhadralok craving for more.

Rice Tolma

The Rice Tolma (as opposed to the mideastern Dolma) are grape leaves stuffed with rice, peas, saffron, coriander, mint and melted butter.

Panir and spinach kofte 

Dumplings and stews also feature in Armenian cuisine. The Panir and spinach kofte at Lavaash by Saby are the most delicious version of cottage cheese Skeeter has sampled by a Bengali person. Soft, fluffy balls of cottage cheese with a well-seasoned spinach lining inside are a work of culinary art. Studded with nuts and served in a way that it remains hot, this dish is best eaten with another Bengali staple: fragrant gobindobhog rice with butter and gondhoraj lebu (a local lemon). Together, these two make a sublime combination.

Chef Megha Kohli

Chef Megha Kohli is ever smiling and suitably educates guests about Armenian food. Chef Saby's sister, Sarbani, has helped him give the right Bengali touches to the food.


The Ponchiki or square doughnuts filled with nutella are addictive. I recommend you sample them with some good coffee or the pomegranate tea that Lavaash by Saby has on offer.

An old fashioned chocolate mousse is just the right way to end your meal. Skeeter couldn't keep her hands off this one. Sinful and indulgent!

The restaurant opens its doors to public next week.