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Crazy about kebabs?

If it's crunchy veg kebabs at Peshawari, then it's a low calorie, steamed buffet at Shanghai Club, this season



Variety on a platter: Chef Gabba and his kebabs. — Pic. by N. Balaji

THESE DAYS, Chef Gabba is a nervous man. He sits on the edge of his chair at the Chola Sheraton's Peshawari, and warily eyes a tray of just-created piping hot kebabs, like they're going to jump up and bite him. "It's Pongal," he says, wringing his hands. (Oh. Ok... he didn't actually wring them, but we're just trying to bring you some soap opera drama to spice this story up.) "So, a good part of our clientele turns vegetarian this week."

And, of course, since Peshawari has always been known for its deliciously meaty kebabs, inventing an equally good completely vegetarian menu to keep his regulars happy must have kept the chef up at nights.

Which, of course, brings us to his `hara kebabs,' made of spinach and channa, generously stuffed with thick, crumbly khoa and held together with potato. "It's much more difficult to create vegetarian kebabs," says Chef Gabba, explaining that they have a tendency to crumble and hence need to be held together with binding agents such as potato, corn flour or even khoa, which is concentrated milk.

Delightfully crunchy

With vegetarian kebabs, inventiveness is essential, and at a time when more and more people are realising the benefits of vegetarianism, it is likely that the veg kebab will soon acquire a following.

Peshawari's Pongal collection includes a delightfully semi-crunchy mewe aur ankur ki tikki, made with sprouted beans, dried fruits and a well-browned potato crust, and vegetable goolar kebabs, with a surprisingly meaty texture. Their dahi ke kebab, a mix of spiced up hung curd and gram flour, is rather unusual and takes some getting used to because of the strong flavour of uncooked gram flour. They also have a dhoodhiya kebab, which is basically two slabs of paneer stuffed with spicy potato, which is... well, paneer and potato.

But the festival is worth checking out, if you're looking for a change of scene. On for lunch and dinner till January 23.

Low cal buffet at Shanghai Club

Doing things differently seems to be the flavour of the season at the Chola this year. Their Chinese restaurant, the Shanghai Club, has just introduced one of the city's first attempts at a `low calorie, steamed buffet,' which forms part of their regular round-the-world buffet.

Perhaps the best thing about the buffet is the fact that they've managed to prove that low-cal doesn't necessarily mean "yuk" — even if you're the type of person who strongly believes that deep-fried food, lashings of ghee and fistfuls of potato are `real food' as opposed to sissy stuff like green broccoli.

The meal begins with a warm chicken and broccoli soup, followed by a selection of dimsums, steamed dumplings generously stuffed with spicy meat and vegetables. The buffet includes piles of bright, crunchy vegetables (here's a tip from the Senior Sous Chef Rajeev Saxena: Just dump your favourite vegetables in an idly cooker and let them steam. It's the most nutritious way to eat them.)

They also have tender steamed fish, and an interesting chicken curry made with just yoghurt and spices. "When you steam meat, it releases its own juices," says the chef, adding, "that's why it's so soft and juicy. There's no frying... nothing."

Since Chef Saxena believes that "every region, in every part of the world has it's own steamed cuisine, like idlis in Chennai, puttu in Kerala or dim sums in China," they will be changing the menu regularly to give guests a chance to taste the healthiest of cuisine from all over the world.

And once you are done with lunch, cash in on all the calories you saved by diving headfirst into their dessert counter. There's even a steamed pudding: a sizzling concoction of dark, gooey chocolate chunky with walnuts.

Call 28110101 for reservations.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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