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Royal favourite

Skewered and grilled, kebabs make a great meal at the `Best of Peshawari' festival



Grilled delights at Peshawari — Pic. by S. Thanthoni

SOME PEOPLE say a bunch of innovative horsemen invented the kebab. As they rode through the silvery desert, they were so hungry that the moon probably conjured up more images of cheese than long-lost sweethearts preening on faraway balconies. (Hunger has a way of knocking the romance right out of you.) Then, some bright spark figured out that their bonfires could be put to use. And, before you could say `sheesh kebab,' the whole gang impaled hunks of meat on their swords and the world's first kebabs began grilling over the crackling flames.

Dramatic makeover

Obviously it wasn't long before the Indian kings got wind of the desert kebab. Soon, it got a dramatic makeover from the royal chefs who sliced, diced, minced, grilled, roasted and fried with an enthusiasm probably fired by the fact that all lousy kebabs were fed to the family lions, garnished with lousy chefs.

If young chef Hormuzdry Gabba of the Chola Sheraton's Peshawari had headed a royal kitchen then, he would have been a pretty smug guy. After all, in the tradition of the best kebab chefs, he has redefined kebabs, taking them from hunks of sloppily charred meat to intricately flavoured gourmet food.

The secret of a good kebab, they say, is in the marination and cooking. Rather than just cloaking the meat with robust Indian spices, generally the lazy-chef route, a good chef works on accentuating and fine-tuning the meat, or fish, to create a harmony of flavours. The current festival on at Peshawari brings together the best of their three previous food fiestas. Vegetarians may feel a little less-loved here, since the non-veggies get to gloat over an extensive menu while they only get an abridged version. However, the navratani sheek, made with fresh skewered and grilled vegetables, is rather good, and makes for a great meal along with Peshawari's famous dal and buttery kulchas.

Try the jhinga anari if you're intent on spoiling yourself. This obstinately non-spicy dish underlines the innate sweetness of jumbo prawns with pomegranate juice. While the ivory chunks of fish tikka look more exotic than they taste, the finely minced, delicately spiced sikampuri kebab — a tender lamb mince stuffed with yoghurt, lime and chilli — is, quite literally, melt-in-the-mouth. The meal concludes with a rather rubbery malpua rabri and a bar of divinely sticky shahi tukda.

The fest is on till December 26. Call 28110101 for reservations.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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