HEAVENLY HIMALAYAN TRIALS
by chef aungshauman & pawan
bidri, marriott hyderabad
Fine dine brands always keep up the buzz in social media and amongst its customer base by doing various forms of food festivals and celebrations which is the norm in recent times. It always is an opportunity for the brand also to explore something thats not part of their offerings and to excite the customers to come and relish one of a kind dining experience. To be on safer side, for past years, being foodie/influencer we have experienced the much explored or rather exploited - punjabi cuisine, bengali cuisine and may be south Indian which is predominantly the theme of many of those. Marriott Hyderabad off-late has been doing the research and home work above and beyond to bring in some thing that's round around the mill.
This is quite evident in the fests that Chef Aunghsuman has curated quite a many times. Even their previous promotion of "The Lose Cuisines of India" was a stellar orchestration of dishes from age old recipes which modern generation has no relevance or even basic exposure too.
Following that, they have started another unique promotion namely "Heavenly Himalayan Trials" which has started on Oct 5th and going to run till Oct 15th (dinners only @ Bidri). The man behind this fest is Chef Pawan Manhas, who has been steered to do the research to stick close the authenticity of the cuisine. Being a Punjabi but stayed mostly in Uttarakhand, Chef Pawan Manhas has indeed pushed himself to travel out those regions, explore the homemade local recipes and not the commercial ones. He has ensured to learn it from the people at the roots of the history and making of these dishes. As he explained the concept, one thing was evident in it which was the focus on the ingredients local to the 3 regions covered - Kashmir, Himachal, and Uttarakhand. The stress on sourcing local ingredients was to ensure to replicate the dishes in its most authentic form. Each cuisine sticks to his authenticity only when made with local ingredients as made at home. His speech and his hard work in getting this curated under the guidance of Chef Aungshuman were evident that the fe(a)st arranged for our influencers meet is going to be indeed ONE OF A KIND experience and there was no second doubt about it.
The fest offers the dishes in thali format - Veg Thali priced at 1450 ++ and Non-veg Thali priced at 1750++. Their trout which is a signature dish (must try) in this fest is to be ordered separately at 800++. We got to try the starters from both veg and non-veg and for thali, I chose the non-veg as some dishes just made me a curious kid.
What I loved the way it started was we were explicitly instructed by Chef Pawan that no cutlery in this lunch and its all about HANDS ON and also how they ensured we relish the food first and then we will be set up for photography. I also loved the fact that outside space was used to do live grill and also cook in earthen pots the dal which gives it a whole new aromatic texture. The live grills were sizzling and both chicken and mutton delicacies were being grilled super hot to serve as fresh as it can get. The live ingredients section on display also gave us an insight into the local regional ingredients which are used to prepare this cuisine. One key among was the "ACHAR NIMBHU" aka pickled lemon which had sweetness and tanginess well intervened so perfectly that you keep tasting it to explore what's the real flavor profile. Such a brilliant preparation.
Fun Fact: Chef Pawan did ensure to bring the regional ingredients (some are very rare to even locate to get in Hyderabad, from his hometown on his way back from his research and insisted to use them to give that authentic touch and no compromise on that. Some of them were pretty new to us that we haven't seen or heard about that. Mainly the green radish and the horse-gram style gram that they use for dal were pretty educational to us.
We started off with the array of chutneys amongst which 2 caught my attention. One was the Bhanga or Bhang Chutney a famous one in Uttarakhand to keep the body warm in those winters. the other Tomato and garlic chutney though looking normal had a unique flavor due to the roasting of the tomatoes and garlic. Then came in the grilled starters amongst my veg winner would be KACHALOO KI TIKKI made out of sweet potato and seasoned with green chili chutney, lemon and black salt. This is a staple specialty from Uttaranchal region and melted in my mouth. From the meat section, it was the crowning dish for me - KABARGAH - simple fresh mutton ribs cooked in milk and whole spices & wrapped in gram flour batter. This was a definite star of a dish due to its milky and meaty flavor. RADA MURGA - a dry tangdi preparation made out local spices was specialty from Himachal region while SEKUWA was grilled meat skewer like dish famous in Uttaranchal and Nepal border but was quite not my favor due to its undercooked meat texture and flavors. NADUR MONJI - lotus root spicy fritters from Kashmir region was quite delightful.
Following this came the KULLU TROUT - the Himalayan specialty is served as whole fish smeared with a host of Indian spices, pan-fried and goes terrific with rice. The trout are known to swim against the current and feed themselves and succulent varieties and one of the best you can try. The dish as such was perfectly marinated and spiced to appeal to any foodies palate. Have it as-is and it's a blissful dish. It was served alongside with nimbhu achar which as mentioned above is probably one of the unique pickle preparation that I loved.