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"United By Flavors"

North West Frontier Fest by Chef Mujeebur Rehman

                Being a foodie , your biggest perk is meeting some amazing, passionate chefs who put their heart and soul into this competitive and most-pressurized culinary world. Some of them go beyond and bring in their experience to bring in some of the most unexplored cuisines. Esteemed Chef Rehman Mujeebur is one of them and people who know him, know his expertise in Kashmiri (Pandit & Wazwan), Awadhi, Rampuri, Typical Mughlai, North West Frontier cuisines which not many people experiment and eventually expertise. Chef is back in Hyderabad and this time he brings in the North West Frontier cuisine as "United by Flavors" fest featuring regional delicacies and is curating a special one of a kind experience with Amara @ Trident Hyderabad and the festival is till 16th.


             The North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) was a province of British India & established in 1901 until 2010. With lot of history riding of course results in amalgamation of various cuisines and results in some amazing unique but yet similar dishes from Peshawari and Pashto cuisine. The Pashto refers to the cuisine of the Pashtuns predominant in eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan. This cuisine is covered under Afghan cuisine and Pakistani cuisine, and is largely based on cereals like wheat, maize, barley and rice as well meat dishes that includes lamb, beef, chicken, and fresh fish. 


                 The NWFP cuisine uses the simplistic style of preparation, where large chunks of meat, seafood and vegetables are marinated sparingly and cooked in the clay tandoor at high temperatures so that they remain tender. The spices and flavors are judiciously used so as not to overpower the preparations and to be acceptable to every palate. The rusticness of the cuisine and the focus on preserving the flavors and ingredients is another USP of this cuisine.  duplicated. The other important factor is that the method of cooking is quite adaptable to vegetarian ingredients also. While the preparation seems simplistic; the standardization of recipes, quality of ingredients used, marination time, temperature of tandoor, type of tandoor and the standards set, are followed religiously. The most popular aspect of this cuisine is tandoor cooking. The food is cooked in rustic style on slow fire for a long time especially for dishes like Haleem and Dal Makhani, which tastes best when cooked overnight on slow fire.


                Well this is all I got to know after I had the dining experience with the Chef himself but the dinner and the servings proved exactly the same as I read about this cuisine which means Chef has thought through this deep inside to ensure there is authenticity in the cuisine dishes but also a few tweaks to address to hyderabadi palate. But Overall I should say this is a very unique cuisine where dish looks very similar to lots of other similar cuisines but yet simple in the terms of marination, cooking style and of course not-dominant flavor levels. All excited, hop along as we get to savor some dishes in that dinner.

Note: This review is based on Food Tasting Invite but review and opinion stands unbiased in interest of readers.

        The spread was indeed vast with one section focussing on regular spread like salads but my focus was only the other side which had the aroma out in the air whiffing some royal spices focussing on the festive cuisine. So I'm going to focus more on the dishes from the cuisine itself

         Chicken PasandaChicken Pasanda dish (which means it's SO much better!) is made with chicken breasts that are tenderized in yoghurt, chillies, cumin, peppercorns, and garam masala, then cooked in the creamy pasanda sauce made with roasted almonds. But here comes the twist, Chef did put in a very secret ingredient and it kept teasing your palates and we couldn't decipher it for long . then on unveiling we went WOWOWOW. Yes, he added jaggery in it which gave that subtle twist and not make it super spicy but a mild spiced chicken kebab dish. Now imagine this jaggery with chicken and how it tasted. Ain't it so unique?


      Aatishi KhumbThis dish looked like a slow cooked mushroom tandoor dish. It had a thick marination coat all over and alos aroma was completely different. The flavor was on the sour side due to the mushrooms but the spices well complimented for it and since the button mushrooms were indeed juicy, the overall dish was something very unique but flavorful as well.

       Gosht Ke Kofta - This is very similar to Kheema balls but then the making style is completely different more to be similar to veg kofta balls. The meatballs were indeed flavor packed though a bit try for my liking. The flavor was again subtle and you can eat it as much as you want if you are a meat balls lover.

         Next in the menu offering was the exciting big bowl of richness labelled "Kaleji Boti". This exotic yet simple dish of lamb liver pieces had a distinct aroma but on savoring, it also feels so pepperish that we are familiar with boti fry but yet the subtleness makes it even more complicated as the after taste coats the palate differently on every bite. Something looking so simple but then is so unique in flavors.


        Then the other starter that was served on the table was "Sauf Badiali Machhi". This is basically a tandoored fish made with marination out of sauf (Fennel seeds) and cooked slow over tandoor to get the char flavor and pack it with the Indian spices to make it soft and succulent. The fish was super fresh and so the kebabs were absolutely brilliant as well.

           As we moved to mains which had amazing curry options, one dish caught my attention and it was "Gajjar Mirchi Ki Sabzi" . The carrot and chillies combination looked so weird yet exciting and I had to try this dish. The sweetness from the carrot and the spice from the chillies compliment in a balance of basic subtle flavors but the cook made it interesting that they were half crunchy and so the overall dish as such is something so unique and flavor packed. 

         We had to go and savor the mains as the curries looked insanely rich and aromatic. We started with  "Karachi Murgh Makhani". This dish looked exactly like one of my all time favorite curries - butter chicken gravy but on discussion with Chef, this is a whole different preparation and spice mixture. The oiliness oozing out from the butter coating the chicken chunks was insane , I had to dig in with the sheermal naans that were served on table. The flavor was exactly like the butter chicken but then there is the subtle variation that you can decipher on after multiple bites that makes it not so sweeter like butter chicken but has an earthy makhani flavor that makes it so unique.

           Next was one of the highlights of the night  "Qurbani ka Gohst" you could tell the richness of the curry by just whiffing off the aroma it filled with and the super shining look on the mutton. I tried it with both sheermals and roti but I felt I would prefer Sheermal any day with this. The mutton was cooked almost to "fall of the bone" softness and all you had to do was just give a gentle pressure via your hands and the meat just comes out without any stress. The curry might not appeal to many as its very subtle , earthy and aromatic but not spicy for Hyderabadi palate. But whoever loves marag or nahari for its clear flavors, they would love this curry to the core.

            Last in my curry try was "Maahi Rezala". Rezala is very popular and authentic dish originated in Bengal and highly influenced by Mughlai cuisine. “The chunks of chicken in a rich and aromatic white based gravy” is mostly served in restaurants. The white gravy is made with curd, cashew nut and poppy seeds paste, flavored with subtle spices which are not commonly used in normal dishes. Apart from cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, the dish is spiced with rose petal powder, jayphal – javitri (nutmeg – mace) powder,kebab chini, shahi mirch powder (white pepper powder) and got contrasted by whole dry red chili. The fat used in the dish is ghee/ clarified butter. That’s why the dish is very royal. This dish screamed royalness in terms of an after palate coat you get from the white curry rich in cashew and curd which is not what you expect based on a perception of the dull white curry look and appeal.


           I was too stuffed and couldnt try to savor the two rice dishes on the fest "Sindhi Murgh Pulao" & "Methi Ki Khichdi" but just a spoon of them they were delicious. Wish I could savor them more but I was completely stunned and filled with the richness of those curries and numerous gulps of Sheermals accompanying the curries.

Verdict :

         The whole dining experience with Chef Rehman Mujeebur and Trident Hyderabad's own executive Chef Dharmender Lamba was one of a kind experience in terms of knowledge gained, talks about food scenes and it was mesmerizing to keep hearing both chefs share their journey and their views of cuisines and experimentation. Such curated food fests are not just about food, its about the knowledge you get from behind the scenes of Chef's vision and the indulging conversations you get to relish for life.

Festival is on till 16th for dinner and if you are one who always love to explore new and authentic cuisines , you will be in for a treat with this "United by Flavors" fest. Do not miss it.


Note: This review is based on Food Tasting Invite but review and opinion stands unbiased in interest of readers.

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