|Sweet Potato Shells|
The First Annual Varli Food Festival happened last night where curry smells and blended colorful tastes took over the Altman Building for nearly four hours. Guests had the opportunity to experience in first person flavorful, spicy and unique Indian foods from a number of local Indian restaurants and top chefs. Lentil donuts courtesy of Kamasutra Lounge, chicken kebabs, chicken Tikka and Tandoori, dal, fried okra and plenty of rice were some of the mouthwatering and often spicy samples offered to guests from Tamarind, Devi, Pranna, Chola and Tusli, Heritage of India and Bombay Palace restaurants amongst others. Brick Lane’s Samosas brought memories of my days in London where those spicy, pyramid-shaped pastries stuffed with potatoes or ground meat were abundant in corner shops and street vendors. Notable were the beet and spinach Naan – the traditional Indian bread as they call it, similar to pita. But the most innovative and unique sample dish of the night was the Indian sushi, an intelligent culinary invention that took everybody by surprise. A selection of chicken Tikka, chicken Schezwan or Chilli Paneer sushi, all nicely looking, were even better in the palate.
Add some Lassi –the refreshing creamy yogurt drink and your night was complete. The ground floor was for the sweet lovers: plenty of candied ginger, Indian cakes and spiced desserts were there for guest to try.
This well-designed event produced by Varli Magazine that was sold-out, featured an exclusive performance by celebrated Indian songstress Tina Sugandh and some of the top Indian chefs included Vikas Khanna, Jehangir Mehta, Floyd Cardoz and Hemant Mathur.
The event’s objective was to bring Indian cuisine and culture to the forefront of mainstream consciousness so guests were invited to browse the Festival’s special Spice Market, where they received an exclusive Varli Food Festival tote bag and selected various Indian spices, chutneys, rice, flour, juices, teas and snacks to bring home.
Let’s hope that we will see some corner shops selling pakoras and samosas soon!
Indian Food 101
Here is a list of basic dishes in Indian cuisine:
Naan, the Indian, flat bread
Pakoras: deep-fried gram flour batter stuffed with two of the following: onion, eggplant, potato, spinach, plantain, cauliflower, tomato, chilli and occasionally chicken
Samosas: pastries stuffed with potatoes, onions, peas, coriander, and lentils
Chicken Kurma: vegetables with coconut paste used for dosa or chappathi or rice
Chichen Tandoori: roasted chicken, yogurt, and spices
Chicken Tikka: baked skewers with small pieces of chicken
Palak Paneer: cottage cheese cubes in spinach gravy
Dal: assorted types of lentils, such as toor, urad, chana, masoor dal
Biryani: spicy rice dish with vegetables or chicken or mutton or fish or prawns
Tali: a selection of different dishes, usually served in small bowls on a round tray. The round tray is generally made with steel with multiple compartments. Typical dishes include rice, dhal, vegetables, chapati, papad, curd (yoghurt), small amounts of chutney or pickle, and a sweet dish to top it off. It is very similar to assorted appetizers from the European South or the Bento Box of Japanese cuisine.
And for the record, five are the basic spices of the Indian cuisine: mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cajun pepper, all or some of which constitute the curry powder. Curry, when used alone, means stew or soup and is rather the westernized term pointing at a spiced dish. In Britain, "go out for a curry" means: "go to an Indian restaurant".