Ever since Chennai became a hotspot for people to find work, Indians from other parts of the world have travelled to the metropolis, settled and brought with them their culture.
However, ask those migrants about Delhi food that is sold here and immediately, the answer will be the same (and in chorus), that it is not authentic and that there is something missing.
That authenticity comes with various factors including masalas, the way they are ground, the vessels used and, more importantly, water.
The Purani Dilli and Amritsar Food Festival, being held at ibis Chennai OMR till 12 July, works with the same concept. The makers want Chennaiites to taste the best of what Delhi can offer.
Featured as a buffet, there is a multitude of delicacies on offer for non-vegetarians and those who stick to eating plants. These include Old Delhi’s famous kebabs, chaats and more.
The first thing that people need to try is Ajwaini Panneer Tikka that had a beautifully crispy texture on the outside with the soft panneer core still steaming.
But the best thing for people to try would be the famous Delhi tandoori chicken. That along with the mint chutney can never be beaten in taste, according to me. The chicken was tender, tasty and had all the juices intact and correct. If anything, the bland dip made it a bit subdued rather than make it pop out. Keep it separate and everything was lovely once again. Then there was Mahi Tikka that was tender, as it is supposed to be.
The whole experience revolved around tasting traditional Delhi spices and cooking methods. For instance, the chaat had flecks of pomegranate and cumin seeds, mashed potato and other ingredients. Mixed with a bit of curd and sauce, it was rather different to the ‘authentic’ Delhi food available here!
There are bread varieties that include different types of parathas (Delhi style, obviously) and Amritsari Kulche. All had good heat in them, were crispy where needed and soft elsewhere. The bread should be had with the famous Nihari Khaas. I reckon the broth itself is worth drinking alone. But because it is not seen as cultured to do so, I restrained myself. As for the meat, well, it hardly stuck to the bone, meaning it was made the right way. And it was soft, very soft.
For vegetarian eaters, there was Khumb Mutter and Panneer Makhani and there is the ubiquitous Rajma Dal that is mandatory during the entire festival. There are three other types of dal as well – Dal Amritsari, Dal Dhaba and Dal Makhani. Steamed rice is present along with Aloo Methi Ki Tehri, Subz Dum Biriyani, Bhunne Pyaz Ka Pulao. For dessert, there is Gazala Badam Kheer, Moong Dal Ka Halwa, Ananas Halwa along with Falooda.
Chef Ashwani Kumar from Delhi Accor group has fondly re-created the delicacies of Delhi and Amritsar. Speaking with News Today, he found this reporter is not well-versed in Hindi. Immediately, he proclaimed, “Your Hindi weak… my English weak.”
As far as I could make out, the chef said he has designed the menu to attract people to the real taste of Delhi. He, too, was of the same belief that the authentic taste of Delhi is nowhere to be seen in Chennai. So, he took it upon himself to bring it to namma Chennai.
There are tonnes of varieties of food on offer that one cannot taste, let along eat, all of them. But, if you can, you very well should, for it will be worth every rupee and some more.
(The fest is on till 12 July. It is open for lunch between 12 noon and 3 pm and for dinner between 7 pm and 10 pm. For details, contact 89398 42272.)