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Succulent sizzlers

Steamed, fried or grilled... there is a delicious variety at the kebab fest, which is on till October 11 at Chola Sheraton.

IT'S A brand, a very successful one at that. In fact, it has been so successful in the 17 years of its existence that not many changes have been made to it. Managers and executive chefs may come and go, but the `makhani dal' and `murgh tandoori' at Peshawari, Chola Sheraton endure, without change.

The ITC's new ready-to-eat food line, `Kitchens of India', featuring dishes from its restaurants Bukhara and Peshawari, is itself a testimony to the cuisine that these restaurants excel in. So when Kuldeep Bhartee, General Manager, Chola talks of sticking his neck out with the Jashan-e-kebab Fest, first ever food event at Peshawari, there is the risk factor of entering domain, which is holy cow!

The fest, which on till October 11, features 21 of the 100 kebabs presented at New Delhi last year, by kebabchis from all over the country. The Executive Chef, Vijay Malhotra, says he wants to demolish the narrow definition of kebabs as chunks of raw food cooked only on a tandoor. This he does very efficiently with an array of kebabs that are fried, steamed and grilled.

`Bater talaavi' or the quail kebab, doesn't fit into the conventional kebab mould at all. But that becomes a non-issue with the first mouthful. The bird simply melts in the mouth with a heady fragrance of ghee. It's a sensual overload and deserves all your attention and energy.

My pick of the evening, `machi charmagaz' goes further. We are discussing bliss now. Taste it, you hear ocean. Remember the fisherman who risked his life to get you this delectable morsel? You appreciate the artistry of the chef and are thankful for the simple but exquisite pleasures of life.

Among the vegetarian kebabs, `kathil ka kebab' was outstanding. To think that the jackfruit, a plain Jane, could turn out to be a knockout! Succulent and tangy, this is a `must try' item.

The chef has paid attention to the modern sensibilities and come out with a `soya ki sheekh' too.

Oh! The variety is unlimited. What is most impressive is that we have a wonderful style of cuisine that is centred on one of the most primitive of kitchen equipment, the tandoor. It's beginnings go right back to Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Millenniums have gone by, yet the basic style has not changed much.

And that makes the everyday tandoori roti special, doesn 't it? The desserts were the classic `shahi tukda' and `malpua rabri'. Their magic never wanes. Chef Surat Singh is the other person behind this remarkable repertoire.

MARIEN MATHEW

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