Indian Muslim’s best-loved dish.

Heady aroma wafting in Curry is most certainly Indian Muslim’s best-loved dish.

The heady aroma wafting in of the curries being arranged on the buffet counters, as we enter the ball room is hugely distracting and tests one’s patience in keeping one’s appetite in chicks
Whoever who invented this dish is a genius! It’s one of those home style dishes from Punjab ( prevalent in both the Indian and Pakistani sides) that just leaves you with wanting more. The way spinach is able to create a gravy that gently coats tender chicken and makes it better than anything is really an unexplainable thing. I had been wanting to make this dish for too long now after tasting a version of this recipe done with lamb chops bya Indian Muslim who’s an excellent chef. Just as good!
The City of Nizams has had an extremely charming cultural connect with Turkey; three First Ladies to grace the palaces of the Nizam(s) of Hyderabad, across eras, came from the Ottoman Empire.
The earliest of them, the ravishingly beautiful Princess Durru Shehvar, married in 1931 to Prince Azam Jah, the eldest son of the last Nizam of Hyderabad state, Osman Ali Khan, also held the title of Imperial Princess of the Ottoman Empire. Durru’s first cousin Princess Niloufer, also among the Ottoman’s last princesses, was married to Azam’s younger brother Moazzam Jah.
It is, however Princess Esra, the former wife of Mukarram Jah, the last (and current) Nizam of Hyderabad, who is largely credited with the restoration of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s valuable heritage sites, such as the Chowmahalla and Falaknuma palaces. In fact, the restoration of the former also fetched it an UNESCO Heritage award.
And now, with the Turkish Consulate opening office in Hyderabad, a window opens to establish trade, business and cultural opportunities with this Eurasian nation, with its amazing history.
Hyderabad will be the third Indian city after New Delhi, where the Turkish embassy is located, and Mumbai, which also has a Turkish Consulate. Hyderabadi cuisine is also believed to be have Turkish influences, and with talks of a Turkish restaurant opening in town in the second half of this year, a Turkish food promotion held recently at the Park Hyatt Hyderabad, was extremely well-timed.
Having enjoyed Mediterranean cuisine on a short trip to Doha a few years ago, I had a smattering of know-how of Med\Turkish food, beginning with the basics of mezze platters, pita breads and hummus. Also, that it had the Asian strains, like pilafs (our pulaos, but much lighter), kefte (koftas), doner kebabs (now a fast food rage globally). Last, but not the least, I had just adored the delightful Turkish black coffee, which was dispensed from quaint looking copper samovars, at coffee houses, which also had the hookah or sheesha or hubbly bubbly, as I amusedly remember seeing on the names.
I also remember carrying back packets of coffee, which, alas, didn’t taste quite as exotic, when I brewed them in my porcelain\glass\steel coffee pots at home!
I trotted off, with my eager palate, therefore, to sample the exotic Turkish fare to be dished out by Chef Turgut Tonbul, being flown down from Grand Hyatt Istanbul. Turgut, with about two decades experience across hotels in Turkey, happens to hail from Bolu, which apparently is the cuisine capital, of sorts, of Turkey.
Chef Tonbul explains to us, in extremely soft-spoken English, the basics of Turkish cuisine, which he shrugs off us as quite distinct from Greek or other Mediterranean food, when we point out the similarities. Turkish food is quite healthy, as besides the lamb, fish, poultry etc, there is extensive use of vegetables such as eggplant, peppers, beans, lentils, onions and tomatoes, as well as fruits like oranges, apricots, figs, plums and dried fruits, especially pine nuts and olives, both as garnish and freshly pressed organic olive oil.
We begin on two Turkish beverages, ‘Ayran’, a chilled yoghurt beverage spiked with salt and similar to our ‘lassi namkeen’, and ‘Kamayadarin’, an apricot-honey concoction, delicious in a soul-filling way.
Interestingly, yoghurt, one of the key ingredients of Turkish cuisine is itself derived from the Turkish word ‘yogurt’ related to the verb ‘yogurmak’, which means to be curdled.
Meanwhile, the cold Mezze platter of healthy short eats, and a conversation-cruncher at most Turkish meals, appears at our table. There is an assortment of cold dips: the classic Hummus, Baba Ghanouj and Cacik, (yoghurt-finely diced cucumber-dried mint-olive oil) to be had with pita bread. Cacik, the Turkish version of the Greek Tzatziki, with its creamy-fresh aftertaste, is especially appealing. Dolmas, vine leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts and fresh herbs are also part of the mezze platter, but the rice remains a tad uncooked.
Hot starters follow, crisp calamari fritters and yummy Cheese pide, or Turkish pizza, the crust of which is a little plump but crisp, the slightly sour and salty cheese, (a Turkish cheese made from sheep milk, called Beyaz Peynir, (similar to feta cheese, but not as strong, and does the word Peynir sound familiar, its our very own paneer, which after all is cottage cheese!) topping giving it that edge. The calamari fritters are also pretty good.
Chef Turgut is on a roll, as he sends us this exotic lentil-based soup, which is his special, and which is out of the menu. Its endearingly called ‘Mother and Daughter’ Soup, with the minced lamb dumplings being apparently the Mother, being larger than the chickpeas, which are the daughters!
Minced chicken moussaka follows, and any suggestion of it being similar to the Greek moussaka is again shrugged off nonchalantly by the chef. Similarities of the Anglo-French love-hate relationship in Turkish-Greek relations, perhaps?
Declaring that he has something, which every Hyderabadi will like, up his sleeve next, Chef sends us some Adana Kebabs, which look and taste exactly like our mutton seekh kebabs. Apparently, these kebabs, which are hand-minced lamb (male only and up to a year old) are the spiciest of Turkish kebabs, as they come with minced red pepper, and chilli flakes, as well as pepper.
Confessions to being a seafood freak reap rich dividends in a bowl of shrimp guvec, which is more of a shrimp casserole or stew in a lovely red-hued gravy, which comes from the tomatoes, it’s also dotted with plenty of vegetables, like peppers and mushrooms. Its aromatic, wholesome and just too good! Though I have barely any appetite, I have a morsel of Grilled Sea Bass. Fish is popular in Turkish cuisine, as its easily available, especially sea fish like anchovy, sardine etc although sea bass is gaining popularity in modern kitchens.
Since we can’t refuse baklava, we do have a bite too of the flaky pastry, with a walnut filling.
But the best is truly for the last. My Turkish coffee treat awaits, served with a green sugar-dusted cube of pista‘lokum’. The coffee is just the right shade of bitter and a bit grainy, but perfect. Apparently it’s the technique of roasting-grinding and brewing in their copper samovar, and added with a dash of cardamom, which gives Turkish coffee that edge.
The lokum, also referred popularly to as Turkish delight, makes for a delightfully chewy (and slightly sticky) end to an excellent meal. I carry away with me the bitter-sweet aftertaste of a country, with indeed a rich cultural culinary legacy.readmre Heady aroma wafting in Curry is most certainly Indian Muslim’s best-loved dish.
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