Tasneem’s tasty bites

Kathmandu :

Any meal can be festive given a dish or two ordered from Tasneem’s Indian Kitchen, a THT discovery some seven months ago.

From a handful of dishes, Tasneem has expanded to 18 delicacies including the rare, filling multi-tasting Dhansak — a dish from Bombay about which Camellia Punjabi in her 50 Great Curries Of India says: “Dhansak is the best-known and liked dish in Parsee cuisine. Dhan in Gujarati means wealth, but in Parsee Gujarati, dhaan means rice. Sak means vegetables. Dhansak is a meat, vegetable and lentil curry eaten with a caramelised brown pulao rice. Although there are many ingredients, it is quite simple to prepare.”

The flavour of Tasneem’s Dhansak is a lusty one with tamarind, chilli powder, and green chillies adding sharpness while pumpkins, aubergines and potatoes cool things down, and fenugreek or methi adds a high note. There are 23 ingredients in this chicken cooked with lentil and vegetables including several kinds of daals or pulses and it is not on Tasneem’s menu but those in the know just order it.

Says Tasneem, “Dear to me is the three-layered rice. As it was invented by my mother. It consists of a base layer of rice, on which comes a layer of spiced chicken or mutton mince and toped with a layer of chutneys of hot garlic sauce and green chillies with ground coconut. Incidentally, this was the first dish I chose to cook at a family gathering organised by my in-laws after my marriage and they haven’t stopped talking about it till date”.

The three-layered rice has so many tastes from pungent to almost sweet, it requires many samplings.

My friend Rajan particularly enjoyed the Tapeli-na-kababs, which is a dish made of minced meat, potatoes and peas with each of the three main ingredients interchanging flavours. Says Tasneem, “Tapeli-na-kababs is a dish you won’t find in any recipe book as it is a home grown invention. It consists of mutton mince meatballs, steamed cooked with potatoes and peas originally cooked in earthen pans.”

Special to me too is a forgotten recipe the bhida-ma-ghost or bhindi ghost were the okra or bhindi acts like the minced meat gravy in a Rara Ghost and the chunks of meat that float in the bhindi curry, which is especially flavoured and is an explosion of taste in your mouth. The bhindis absorb the fulsome juices and are plump with them so when you bite they burst deliciously.

A popular item with Tasneem is her Chaat chicken, which is a chicken dish of which she says, “A totally Mumbai invention which consists of garam masalas, chaat masalas cooked in rich, thick curry of cheese and cream.” You can imagine the taste when you know that chaat masala is a tangy seasoning used in popular street snacks and has coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black salt, peppercorns and pomegranate. It is a rich dish best eaten in silence and alone so that flavours can be enjoyed, even the processed cheese, which as a paste is a brilliant under taste for the dish.

For the one vegetarian, Tasneem sent a kadhai paneer of which foodie Jiggs Kalra says, “The piece de resistance among vegetarian people recipes in the kadhai (pot) genre of cooking, Kadhai Paneer is chilli-hot, semi-dry and colourful.” So delicious was it that everyone had a little.

Says Tasneem, “For the vegetarians my utensils and ladles are separate and there is no kind of non-veg traces in the veg food.”

And equally for carnivores, like me, there are no traces of vegetarianism in Tasneem’s glorious non-veg dishes. Make a party. Call 5548622.