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Not just Kalra's kababs



Jiggs Kalra. Photo: V. Sudershan.

HE HAS written nine books on food, and is now poised to come up with a new addition to his repertoire every month. Yet, it is when he is relating stories that the inimitable Jiggs Kalra holds you spellbound. Not for him the politeness of words or subtleties of expression. He speaks from the heart, addresses it too. At Noida's Radisson MBD Hotel, he prefers to communicate about food, his early years, his passion. And his eye for detail and beauty.

He talks of Tabu. He talks of Jaya Prada. He talks of the chef's smile. And his own trip to the U.S. with a friend. And another forthcoming one to Dubai. In between he talks of his love: kababs. Here at Made in India restaurant they melt in the mouth faster than the ice-cream drips off a cone. The ambience is perfect: it is soft, elegant, nothing loud, nothing screaming for attention, detracting from the menu which offers delights like Bhatti da Murga, Chooza Makhana, Amritsari Machi, Bharta Rawalpindiwali, Sarson da Saag, not to forget Narangi pulao.

As one starts off with matha, buttermilk spiced ginger, coriander and cumin, chef Arun Tygai talks of the whole concept. "Our idea was to start this restaurant with many festivals of cuisines from different parts of the country. This Festival of Punjab is the first in the series."

With the first bite of Khaan khatai kababs, Kalra goes on a trip down memory lane. "In the days of the Nawabs, the kings would swap chefs for any dishes that they liked. What was called a simple kabab in some parts, or gilouti in others became Khaam khatai in Punjab taking its name from a popular Indian cookie."

The food on the table is constant replenished. Amritsari machchi and Bhatti da murga occupy the plates. And Kalra is ready with some more of his anecdotes. This time he goes back to 1972, and his first brush with journalism. And his proximity with the one and only Khushwant Singh. As meat is supplanted by pulao, Kalra reveals that the only way one can judge food is by the quality. Never go through the ingredients. "Many a famous cook has had only approximate measures, not by so many grams for any recipe. But it is the end product which matters," he reveals.

At this first-floor restaurant with nice soothing ghazals of Jagjit Singh and Lata Mangeshkar in the background, food tastes even better.

Talk by raconteur Kalra, ghazal by Lata, food festival by Tyagi, and the inimitable stamp of Chef Jiggs Kalra over the food, could one ask for more!

ZIYA US SALAM

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