The moveable feast : A festival of India everyday at Ghar-E-Kabab
You start with the kababs at Ghar-E-Kabab, Hotel Annapurna’s always full Indian restaurant on Durbar Marg. Chef Reji Alam Khan came to open the restaurant 24 years ago from the famous Karim’s in Delhi and Rudra Rimal who is the restaurant manager has been at the Annapurna for 21 years. The Indian kabab started in Persia but was quickly adopted by the Hindus who, during the ‘Mahabharat’ epic had a tradition of morsels of meat marinated in yoghurt spiced with ginger black pepper and a variety of spices.The sheera malai tikka is tender chicken pieces soaked in a combination of spices that one food writer insists, must include yoghurt made exceptional with ginger, garlic, paprika, to which Chef Reji adds nutmeg. Soft and possessed of a gingery garlic taste the sheera malai tikka is a dream as is the kesari boti, the chewy mutton kabab made delicious with saffron and the mixture of spices that hit the palate giving you a soft glow.
William Makepeace Thackeray the famous poet wrote a poem called ‘Curry’ in the 19th century in which he talks about his Darling Girl, Minx, Little girl cooking a curry with Epping butter. The recipe he gives in verse is simple compared to the heavier and richer Bharwan Murg Jaffrani which comes straight from the Mughal courts and was a favourite of the Emperor Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal and had all-white banquets in the full moon at the Agra Fort. The dish is a variation on the traditional theme and comes from the Jama Masjid mosque area of Old Delhi where Chef Reji comes from. In the original Shah Jahan recipe single cream milk, yoghurt, fennel and chicken are used to produce a gravy that is white and made tasty with ground pistachios. At the Annapurna, the recipe is almost the same but a breast of chicken is stuffed with saffron, nuts, condensed milk and then simmered in a pistachio gravy.
The Mughlai classic, nahari khaas, has mutton cooked in 23 herbs and spices including mace, cinnamon and crisply fried onions. Says a food specialist Afsha Mumtaz, “This is a much loved breakfast or brunch dish, to be eaten with naan like breads.” It was the patrons of the Ghar-E-Kabab who created the makai paneer hara pyaaz which started with a Rajasthani corn dish with an accent on coriander and then the Indian cottage cheese and the green onions were added to make a very unusual delicacy. The baingan bhartha is common in India but is made unusually brilliant at the Ghar-E-Kabab. The difference being mild spices finished with mint. The smoky taste of the brinjal comes through when they’re minced and served herbed. Back to Thackeray and his poem which aptly sums up the evening at Ghar-E-Kabab by saying,” ‘Tis, when done/A meal for emperors to feed upon.” And as my friend Dorji Sherpa of 20 years who is ex-Soaltee, ex-China has taken the reins of The Annapurna into his capable hands, things will begin to get from merely good to par excellence. He’s done it before.
For Indian Feasts call the talented, Anup Thapa at 422-1711.