Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the tag “Delhi”

Review: Cooking Up A Storm With ‘Chef In A Box’

How many of you, in the confines of your kitchen, have wanted to create restaurant style dishes. I personally believe that plating, even for dinner for one on a cold weekday night, elevates the food just that much. You want to eat something pretty. And trust me, it’s not tough. If I can, so can you.

I’ve been reading a lot about these new ventures whereby one can order restaurant dishes and eat them at the confines of their home. What’s impressed me about Chef In A Box is that you get to create restaurant style dishes in your kitchen in a matter of minutes (ok, not minutes but easily enough) and then eat them till your tummy fills up. At least, that’s what I did!

Well-packed ingredients

Well-packed ingredients

Gayatri Iyer is passionate about food and she decided to pursue this venture giving up her job. As a customer, I fully support her decision. Not only do you get variety to choose from the menu but I tried two dishes on the opposite ends of the spectrum — they were both delicious.

As a Bengali, the more I miss home, the more I want to eat food from my region. Hence, I chose the Potoler Dolma which for a layman is Pointed Gourd with a meat filling cooked in succulent tomato-based gravy. Then, I also ordered for Rich Dark Chocolate Pots for desert. I was not disappointed. Not only did they turn out exactly as the pictures on the recipe leaflets but tasted so delicious that I’ve decided to order other items from the menu when I’m in the mood to create dishes usually cooked by professionals.

Fresh stuff for the Potoler Dolma

Fresh stuff for the Potoler Dolma

Easy Ordering Process

Ordering is simple. Just log onto www.chefinabox.in and sign up. Once you do, the options are plenty. You have food items based on the time needed to cook, non-vegetarian and vegetarian options and cuisines. One gets a variety to choose from – Thai Green Curry to Burmese Khao Suey to Bengali delicacies. Choose what you want to order and pay online, the boxes with the freshest ingredients get delivered to your doorstep the next day from the restaurants associated with this venture.

Potoler Dolma turned out exactly like the picture on the leaflet!

Potoler Dolma turned out exactly like the picture on the leaflet!

The Cooking Bit

I love cooking and I find my time in the kitchen therapeutic. But if you don’t and yet want to create something restaurant quality, don’t worry, it’s easy. Every ingredient is boxed carefully so as to avoid spillage. Then, a recipe card with a step-by-step process tells you how to achieve the desired results. All you need to do is follow one step after another and voila, you have your dish on your plate.

What I Made

I tried the Potoler Dolma and Rich Dark Chocolate Pots. Both came in cardboard boxes with instructions. Every ingredient was fresh and what I liked about was it was a no fuss affair. The potol was cleaned ands scooped out, the mutton came in individual portions for each potol while the gravy which was so tasty was already made. All I needed was to put in a bit of effort to create something delicious. It barely took me time, maybe a maximum of half an hour. The chocolate shots were even easier. The chocolate, cream, liqueur and chopped nuts came in individual containers. I just had to melt the chocolate, add the cream and liqueur, freeze and then eat with a layer of chopped nuts as decoration!

I've had to fill two glass up to the brim because I broke the two! But it's perfect for 4, a lot for 2!

I’ve had to fill two glass up to the brim because I broke the two! But it’s perfect for 4, a lot for 2!

Value For Money

I feel what you spend on these recipes is full value for money. For example, the dolma was Rs 280 while the desert was Rs 455. The dolma, though for one person, can easily be had by two with a plate of steaming rice. The desert is decadent and serves four. The other items on the menu range from Rs 250 – Rs 1400 approx. The portions are perfect and I feel that you’d end up playing a lot more if you eat out than if you order in and make it yourself with just a tiny bit of effort.

Book and chocolate, the perfect way to indulge an evening

Book and chocolate, the perfect way to indulge an evening

Go check out  www.chefinabox.in or follow on Facebook and Instagram

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Affordable eating in Delhi

There’s something about eating out. I love cooking, but on days when you are left with no vegetables or meat in the refrigerator, or feel lazy (which happens personally about once a week), you either dress up or order in still in your night clothes with your hair in a bun. And on days, a mud pack covering your face.

Now going out to eat is an experience which everyone loves. I’m yet to come across a person who says, “Going to a restaurant sucks.” However, the one thing everyone complains about is the pocket pinch. I talk of the common people of course, not the ones carrying Louis Vuitton clutches, interchanging clothes from Prada and Gucci as frequently as drinking water!

Where I come from, eating out is still affordable. Back home in Calcutta even the most poshest restaurant street will find customers from all walks of life. As college goers crowd the smoky Oly pub, a family of four will wait in line patiently just to taste the Chelo kebabs at Peter Cat. And, I repeat, it’s affordable because a meal for two, including a drink and dessert, will come under R2000. That’s inclusive of taxes mind you.

In my current city, I can’t even think of going to a posh restaurant regularly because just the entrees and a drink will push my bill to over two thousand! Forget posh ones; even a regular, decent eating joint will make you cringe at the end of the meal. Thus, you are left to order food from the little eating shacks which line up every neighbourhood in Delhi, selling everything from stuffed parathas to pan fried noodles. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating in the little places but it does get a bit repetitive.

For food lovers trying out new places are a must. You learn new tastes, understand different flavours, know of different cuisines. It doesn’t always have to be something exotic or from a faraway country. If you’re from northern India, trying flavours from the southern part of the country will seem new and different. The same goes for western Indians when eating north eastern food. That’s the beauty of this country. Each region has a different approach to food. The spices are sometimes similar but their usage becomes varied.

If you’re in Delhi craving food and willing to try different cuisines but have a budget; the various state-run Bhavans (google translates it to mean large building) would be your best bet. You can choose to have spicey food at the Andhra Bhavan (near India Gate) or try the delicious Raja mirch-flavoured pork at the Nagaland House (diagonally opposite the Race Course metro station).

The Andhra Bhavan canteen is always crowded, believe me. Either go early before the lunch hour rush begins or after 2.30 pm when the crowds begin to disperse. With the set-course unlimited vegetarian thali (meal) you can choose to add mutton, chicken or prawn. Everyone is served rice, roti, various vegetables and lentils, yoghurt and sweet. But that doesn’t stop you from adding mutton or chicken fry and prawn curry. With an aerated drink each, a meal for two comes under R400!  My personal favourite is having the rice with ghee (clarified butter) and gunpowder (a spicy lentil powder) with mutton fry. It’s just divine.

Can’t visit Kerala? Why not try authentic food at the Kerala House staff canteen? You can walk to Jantar Mantar Road from the Rajiv Chowk metro station and then tuck in to a hearty meal  of brown rice with sambar and seasonal vegetables. The chilly beef and Mackerel are a must. And the pocket pinch? Under R400 for two.

Love pork? Visit Nagaland House for the ribs. The spices are just right and the meat is sinful. You can have the rice and lentils served with a helping of boiled vegetables along with the famous fish chutney (made with dried fish, tomatoes, chillies and secret spices) but it’s the pork which makes the meal unforgettable. For two, you spend less than R500 which makes it the deal clincher.

Missing the Goa beaches? I can’t promise you the beach view but Goa Niwas in Chanakyapuri serves authentic Vindaloo, Xacuti and Bebinca which takes your taste buds down memory lane. The pork vindaloo is just as it should be while the prawn peri peri calls out your name. And the traditional desert Bebinca hits the sweet spot. Price for two – R500.

When in Chanakyapuri, try out Assam Bhavan too. For a traditional taste of Assamese cuisine, the thalis are a must-have which serves rice, lentils an vegetables. For the a la carte-minded, do try the chicken in bamboo shoot gravy, the tangy fish curry or fish Tenga and the Bhut Jalokia chicken. You will not be disappointed! Again, it’s a reasonable fare, so allow R600 for two if you’re really hungry.

These are only a few examples. There are plenty of other state-run Bhavans to try from. For instance the Banga Bhavan (for the typical Bengali food lover), Jammu and Kashmir House, Maharashtra Sadan, Tamil Nadhu Bhavan, Orissa Bhavan (a must for crab lovers) and Sikkim House.

So go ahead. Eat without feeling the pinch. With great food at such reasonable rates, what’s stopping you?

PS: Check out Magicpin for recommendations on where to eat in NCR

The Burmese influence

When you hear the word Khao Swe or Khow Suey what do you imagine? Personally, my mother’s recipe which is the best in the world. Call me biased but hey, I’ve never been to Myanmar to actually taste it. 

If you were born in a Bengali household, it’s impossible to have grown up without having tasted this very very tasty noodle-coconutty dish. Each house has a varied recipe where you mix and match the condiments to appeal to the unique tastebuds. And, every child will firmly call their mother’s or father’s recipe the best.

It’s almost as if Bengalis after having firmly grasped the concept of the noodle dish, began to call it their own. Unfortunately, the name gives it away and thus they grudgingly give due respect to the origin!

It’s weird when I say origin. I tried searching online as to how this particular dish became so popular in India but unfortunately, didn’t get a satisfactory answer. Literally, the words mean ‘coconut milk noodles’. It’s said that Burmese immigrants (not being very politically correct, sorry) after the second world war, brought the recipe over to Eastern India and from there the influence grew. One could even compare it to the far-reaching influence of the Tibetan Thukpa. Both similar one bowl soup dishes. And both loved by the Indian palate.

To be honest, in all these years, I’ve eaten the dish plenty of times but only recall three occasions when I simply fell in love with it.  First as I’ve said above, my mother’s recipe. She makes it with egg noodles and chicken. The chicken has a rich gravy made from coconut milk, turmeric and is garnished with fried garlic, coriander, eggs, prawns, fried onions and chips. It is finger licking delicious believe you me. But again suitably modified for an Indian palate where spices are a must. (Not clubbing every region together but referring to those where spices play a major influence on food).

Secondly, at a friend’s aunt’s place (who turns out to be our neighbour back home). She had made her version with deliciously thin rice noodles and a very light coconut broth. The condiments served were similar to the ones my mother serves. But the taste was so different yet so delicious that I went back for seconds.

Now, I recently went to The Kitchen at Delhi’s posh Khan Market. I was told their specialty was the Khow Suey and I must must try it. So I did. And I was not disappointed. It was different than the versions I was accustomed to. They served it with a thick coconut gravy and egg noodles. Their condiments were laid out in the form of fried onions, fried garlic, peanuts and something which resembled a crispy fried chip. As you squeeze your lemon wedge over the smooth pearly gravy, it gives off an aroma of home. And as you dig into your bowl (large for me), you simply cannot stop eating it. If any regret, I wish it had been beef instead of chicken but well, it’s not a perfect world. But do drop in to The Kitchen if ever in Delhi. The small restaurant has a cozy feeling and with a large bowl sufficient for two, the setting could be perfect for a first date! Just a warning, the prices on the menu are not very steep but then do keep in mind the various taxes the government imposes.

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Could I compare the Khow Suey to something like Chilly chicken? The Chinese never really invented the dish. It was created to suit the Indian tastebud. But today, it’s a staple in every Chinese-influenced restaurant in the country. What Indians have done to this Burmese dish is adapted it to suit their tastes. There is no harm in that because if food can’t evolve, neither can humans. In fact Myanmar’s national dish is Mohinga but it’s the Khow Suey which have crossed the borders.

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