The essence of Punjab

Published On: March 24, 2017 12:15 AM NPT By: Priyanka Gurung

Normally, people tend to mainly focus on the spices and flavoring while cooking Punjabi cuisines but the upcoming festival is looking to take the traditional, wholesome menus up a notch with their modern and progressive approach to it.

Think of Punjabi cuisine and delicious, flavorful, aromatic hearty meals come to mind. This food is obviously famous for packing quite the punch with their many special masala ingredients and butter laden dishes. So no wonder, new executive chef at Hyatt Regency, Santosh Kumar believes in taking on the cuisine for their patrons to be an apt start to his kitchen journey. Hyatt Regency is all set to hold a Punjabi Food Festival at their all-day dining restaurant, The Café, from today, March 24, and it will go on for a week till March 31.

“Punjabi food may be famous right around the world but the interesting thing is, be it home cooked, restaurant style or authentic dhaba, the taste of the food can vary significantly. With the upcoming Punjabi Food Festival, we plan on presenting our own take on the dishes,” says Kumar.

Normally, people tend to mainly focus on the spices and flavoring while cooking Punjabi cuisines but the upcoming festival is looking to take the traditional, wholesome menus up a notch with their modern and progressive approach to it. Think lighter variations of the tandoors and kebabs with more focus on the quality of ingredients, their new interesting combinations, redefined presentation and no prospects of overly oily or spicy items whatsoever. 

As it is, one of the most impressive things about Punjabi food is its variety. While meat lovers can never have enough of the evergreen Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken or Amritsari Machchi, the vegetarian items are equally delightful and the Punjabi Food Festival at Hyatt is looking forward to further flaunt this specialty as well. 

Chef Kumar seems to revel in the prospect of introducing new tastes to people in these upcoming days. “Majority of us just stick with what we know. We eat every day but it is almost always the same things. So I believe my job is to sort of coax people out of this comfort zone and encourage them to try something new,” shares Kumar.

He and his team certainly seem ready for the challenge presenting their own exciting new takes on some of the most beloved Punjabi dishes.  Before the official start of the food festival, they gave The Week a sneak peek of their menu in a bid to make people aware about what’s in store in the coming days. 

Tomato dhaniya ka shorba
It’s not exactly the way we are used to having our soup but as you shall find out, it’s exactly what you needed to whet your appetite. Regardless of the modern presentation in a cup, this clear tomato soup tastes authentic. Apparently, it was cooked with raw masala and one can taste it in the very first spoonful itself. The strong flavor, however, is nicely balanced with the mascarpone (Italian cream cheese) that is placed on top of the bread. This tomato dhaniya ka shorba certainly sets the bar high from the get go.

Mixed kebab platter
The history of Tandoori dishes has always been famously traced back to Punjab. Whether you are deep or shallow frying your protein or vegetables, the dishes always pack quite the flavors and so is the case with the mixed kebab platter here. These are vegetables we see everyday tweaked to bring out a different side of their taste.

The hariyali tikki made of green peas, spinach and potatoes, for instance, has been prepared in a flat grill and stuffed with cheese. Similarly, even the shrimp has been marinated with yogurt, cumin, coriander and grilled with chaat masala. There is just something so familiar yet distinctly different about the flavors. Since each item on the platter has been cooked a different way, they are completely different in terms of taste. It shall certainly give something for everyone to savor. What’s more, the chef plans to alter the items on the mixed kebab platter each day of the week. Look forward to more interesting variations of food during the festival.

Again, at first sight, these may look like modern western desserts but on the contrary, these are Chef Kumar’s progressive take on traditional Indian sweets that we all are more than familiar with. Here we have rajbhog with vanilla cream and mascopani, kalakand and the sweet and savory mix of rasmalai with dal makhani. These sweets haven’t only been presented in a different way but they have also been beautifully complemented with chocolate. You can see that chocolate has been either sprinkled on or used as a base.

So, this one is definitely for those with a sweet tooth. If you aren’t overly fond of the sweetness though, we recommend you at least try, the rajbhog with mascopani. Despite its creamy texture, they are surprisingly light with just the right hint of sweetness.

By bringing European desserts together with modern as well as authentic Indian desserts, Kumar talks about catering to a diverse crowd from different cultures and backgrounds. He has apparently come up with a jalebi and stuffed banana recipe. By adding chopped bananas to the jalebi batter or perhaps even caramelizing apples, he hopes to serve memorable desserts at the upcoming Punjabi Food Festival.

The food festival gives diners a wide range of Punjabi dishes to choose from, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian from fish amritsari, tawa keema kaleji, patiyala shahi seeken, mini kachori, samosa chat, aloo papdi chat, badami shorwa, murg makhani, ratlami gosht, maa rajma dal and kesari jalebi. The promotion is open for dinner only and is served from 6:30 PM till 10:30 PM, and is priced at NPR 2,000 per person plus taxes.

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