Sunday, June 6, 2010

Peshawri - Northern Indian Cooking

Yes, it's been a week since I've been in India, and I have yet to post my favorite and most exciting mouthtertainment excursion.  And I really do have to move on so I can share my latest Mexican tasty bits with you all.

Yet another restaurant in the ITC Maratha was Peshawri, which was highly recommended as it specializes in Northern Indian oven cooking.  So after arriving back to the hotel late one evening, I had a date with myself and entered the dim, rustic, and boisterous space.  I immediately felt like I needed my band of Merrie People so I could also join in the lively din, but my book would have to do.

They set my table with a plate of raw red onions and fresh limes, some crisp, cracker-like bread, the hard wood menu, and helped me put on my...apronapkin - which tied around my neck and went all the way down to my knees.  I did a doubletake, and only after I started eating did I appreciate having a napkin dress.

As I waited for my grilled kebab of prawns and chicken, I watched the chefs through the looking glass and took my fair share of pictures.  Sometimes, I tend to be so focused on the food or cooking apparati, that I forget there are people around, and after taking this picture of one of the chefs working the hot tandoor oven, I looked up and saw a whole bunch of them posing and gaggling for me to take a picture.  

You can see the cooked kebabs waiting to be served in the background, and in the foreground, the hot tandoor oven where the long skewers of meat are placed in to be cooked.  At the tandoor station right next to him, another chef was working the oven, but to cook naan bread.  He shaped the dough into a teardrop, placed it on what looked like a fluffy round pillow a little larger than the size of his hand, and stuck the bread onto the side of the oven.  Slather some garlic butter on it, and voila - Garlic Butter Naan.  So good.  

The entree came out, and my server said, "Fingers - dig in."  I had read that one should not eat with the left hand.  That hand was designated for less tasteful tasks, ahem, and as I looked at the plates before me, I made a good effort to do so.  But like I said in a prior posting, the prawns are the size of a Nerf football, and as you know, I like to combing all the flavors together.  So I looked around to make sure no one was really paying attention to the lone Asian gal sitting alongside the wall, and dove in with both hands.  A little naan bread, topped with a little morsel of deliciously tender prawn, balanced some raw onion as a third layer, then dressed it with mint chutney and the Dal - their specialty lentil stew that was slowly cooked for 24 hours.  Spectacular.  That little taco was a flavorful little haven, and however the women on those chocolate commercials look as they eat the chocolate was about what I was feeling.  Tremendous.  

And tremendously messy.  I have never had so much food on my hands, but I was careful to leave a single pinky free of any fare, for occasionally, I would eat some strands of my hair, and I needed that one tool to carefully pull it away.  Other than that, I looked like a toddler attempting to eat his strained peas.

The meal was finished off with this amazingly fragrant ice cream called Kulfi.  Made with cardamom, cinnamon, and a number of spices, it was a sweet aroma bomb that first touches your tongue, then pervades the sinuses and overtakes the senses.  I tried not to eat  it all, you know, the waistline, and I'm pleased to say, I was successful in leaving a spoonful.  

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