The moveable feast: Kings, kebabs and curries
One doesn’t remember when Annapurna’s Ghar-E-Kebab opened. I remember it in the 70’s as being, if not the only then the most popular Indian food restaurant in town. It still is nearly three decades later.
Said Raju Ghimire, the Food and Beverage Manager of The Annapurna, “Today we have taken over a much larger space than when the restaurant was above The Coffee Shop. Our tables are bigger because we want to serve our food in the authentic Indian way in kadais and tawas which require space. Some of the changes are cosmetic, but the others are to enhance the beauty of the restaurant. The gold rimmed cutlery is from Thailand and is a well known brand called Royal Cutlery. And to maintain ancient traditions, we are serving our food in brass and copper dishes. Even the glasses are copper.”
Under the guidance of Ghimire, a totally new menu has come into creation which retains
some of the dishes so popular over the years but are deftly mixed with new inspirations.
For starters, we chose two mutton dishes over the tempting prawns and fish tikkas. We went for The Nasheeli Raan Patialashahi, which is leg of mutton soaked in beer, blended with north Indian herbs and spices flambéed. It had to be flambéed because the old Maharaja of Patiala went French while other Maharajas were going Indian. The faint taste of lemon with the beer balancing it and a mélange of spices made for juicy eating. It was a favourite of the great gourmet Maharaja Bhupendra Singh.
The Sikampuri Kebab has all but vanished from menus and the Annapurna’s Sikampuris are a form of kebabs that the Nizam of Hyderabad loved. They are deep fried mutton kebabs stuffed
with hung curd, chopped onion, coriander and mint. Lemony with spices permeating the minced meat with the stuffing just as I remember it in the 60’s. A soft delight with the onions giving you a delicate wallop which the mint calmed down. Truly great.
For our main course we had a Pashtooni Qualia which is a kind of Korma. The word Qualia comes from the Mughal word meaning gravy. It came served in a mini copper chaffing dish, which Ghimire discovered in Murarabad.
We opened the fabulous chaffing dish and got to eat the equally fabulous Qualia. The Qualia, a kind of Korma was soaked in yoghurt with a myriad of spices which ran all the way from ginger, a hint of coriander, no turmeric (Kormas don’t generally use turmeric) all adding up to a very good reason to stop the Afghani war and get on with eating great food.
Another peacefully beautiful mini chaffing dish brought another pleasant surprise which is a Dalcha accompanied with Pulao deftly served by Rudra Rimal, the Maitre of the restaurant.
Madhur Jaffrey spends a whole page of her Curry Bible on the Dalcha which is mutton in lentil created in South India and spiced to give you a slow burn removed by eating it with Pulao or rumali roti. Both the Pulao and rumali roti at Ghar-E-Kebab are delicious. We asked Chef Alam what made the Dalcha so hotly special. Said Chef Alam, “We cook mutton with onions, ginger, chilli powder, coriander, cumin and whole garam masala. We cook the Chana Dal separately and mix the two in just the right proportions.”
Chef Alam comes from Lucknow where the Dalcha is called Halilma. As the old saying goes, a gorgeous taste by any other name tastes delicious. In fact so delicious is the food at Ghar-E-Kebab they deserve several tastings.