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Mouthwateringly delicious Indian food
Kishore Singh |
September 23, 2005
This week, I learned some things about Indian food I bet many of you didn't know either. Chiefly, that a qorma is different from qaliyan is different from salan. And if, like me, you thought an Indian gravy was just that, well, baby, you have a lot of catching up to do.
ITC Hotels had organised a workshop in Delhi with consultants and speciality chefs from different regions contributing rare, distinguished or unusual recipes from their repertoire for a massive cookathon at the Maurya Sheraton.
While the theoretical classes (however interesting) were just that, it was the lunches that were the highlight of the whole exercise.
But to begin at the beginning: a salan is the kind of gravy that's cooked and served every day of every week at your home and mine.
A qorma, on the other hand, is made especially for feasts, and consists of a richer gravy, thickened with browned onions, dried fruits and such.
The qaliyan (I didn't even know the term existed) falls somewhere between these two, has a gravy with a thinner consistency, has a more than usual hint of the sour flavour, and uses turmeric so the overall colour tends to be yellow.
Therefore, on the final day of the workshop -- the salan day -- if you went expecting home food, you'd be disappointed. Each of the salans was exceptional -- whether the brain and chopped spring onions contributed by Kulsoom Begum, the chicken breasts wrapped around green chilles and cooked in white masalas and gravy, a tangy fish (in thanda masala -- don't ask! I did, but the reply was so complicated that it would take up the whole column), chicken and mutton rizalas.
You've got to understand that this wasn't a vegetarian affair: most offerings were determinedly fish or fowl. On the day of the qormas, for instance, consultant Salma Hassan had a preparation of tongue (Zaban Ka Qorma) that tied with the Paya Qorma (er, that's the part with the hooves) and another 31 dishes for prime taste.
There were no clear winners (and certainly no losers). Specialities included almond- or pista-based qormas, cuts of meat, dynastic references (Turki, Qutub Shahi) and, because of the harmony of spices, herbs and condiments, there were no sharp tastes to bother the palate.
There were some vegetarian options the day the chefs experimented with the qalians. "You've got to remember," explained Javed Akbar, the group's Mumbai-based cuisine development, food and beverage coordination and communication leader (now where else would you find a designation like that?), "that when you felt like eating vegetables, you simply added them to the meat."
It's what's called infusion in the trade with reference to white spirits (pepper vodka) or olive oil (gherkin flavoured) -- imagine okra infused Gosht Qorma, or Lauki Aur Machchi Ka Salan and you've hit bull's eye.
Dipak Haksar, head honcho at the Maurya Sheraton, says some of the recipes could get incorporated into the Dum Pukht menu, others might be enlisted into banquet menus, but for most part they would be archived for future reference -- and use.
"What's exciting," he explained, "is that for so many days we've had our F&B team talking, dissecting and experimenting with just qormas, qalians and salans -- where else would you find this?"
Where indeed! Or luck across the Maandi Gosht the ITC team has imported from Aurangabad, the maandi being a kind of jeera-speckled roomali-like roti that, at 40 inches across (yes, we measured it!), could be bigger than the tablecloth on which you'll have your salan (give or take the occasional qorma). Beat that.
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