Foraging in the capital

stomach

“So much to eat in so little time”

Delhi was impending as I waited for work to get finalised before and after the long weekend so that they fit in a manner that I get a fair share of play between work. While it does sound like a clinical plan which is too good to be true, with some luck on my side, I somehow managed to execute it with a fair amount of success. And while August was a hot month to go around in the capital, we were determined to go out and about to explore some destinations on our list. There was a fairly large number of places our friends had recommended, and we were glad we made it to a few in the time we had.

Rosang Cafe, for example. This place serves traditional NE Indian cuisine from the seven sister states and was highly recommended by friends from the capital. We headed there on a very hot day for lunch, and were so very pleased with the fare we were served. The Jadoh (rice cooked with pork fat/blood/both) and Dohnieng (pork cooked in black sesame paste) made us nostalgic for Meghalaya, whereas the wild red rice tea was very refreshing and somehow reminiscent of the Dashi often served in Japanese joints alongside your meal. The hospitable co-owner suggested I have the tea slightly warm since it
brings out the aroma and flavour of the tea, and he was so right. We took this opportunity to engage him and his wife Mary into a long tete-a-tete on the history of the place, why they had to move locations, their vision for the Cafe and how seriously they take every single review on the internet. We strongly felt and suggested they should open up one in Kolkata for sure, and predicted people queuing up for such a sumptuous meal. Their simplicity, politeness and hospitality touched our hearts and we really wish them all success and many outlets across India in the coming years.

Jadoh, Pork ribs, Dohnieng @ Rosang

Jadoh, Pork ribs, Dohnieng @ Rosang

Another new surprise was venturing out in the cyber hub. If I ignore my colleagues who thought I am stupid to be hanging out on weekends at a place so close to my office, I have to say this is the best thing to happen to Gurgaon in a long long time. I don’t count the malls though – I think they were the worst because it only added to the pressure on existing (or non-existing basic infrastructure) and inflation of property prices. Cyber hub houses a string of the best restaurants and pubs in town as of now, which are spacious and vivacious and situated in a big open space where you can actually breathe. I wish I could try out every place that has opened up there, but sadly I can only eat and drink so much in so little time.

I managed to check out the Wine Company where I tagged along with the husband who was meeting his friends and thank God I did. We had a great time with the wide array of wines on offer, most of which were very affordable by the bottle and practically at the ‘thek’ rates. The food was good, the music was better, and by about 9pm, the place was swarming with people who stood and danced because there was no place to sit. Apart from some whiskey infused meat balls and a chicken
starter that was doused in oyster sauce and sesame oil (pardon me for forgetting the names for it was a pub night), we ordered for something we saw on every other table – something they called a ‘Karari Roti’ – it looked like a huge paper thin crisp bowl, a cross between a papad and a paratha, sprinkled with coriander, chilly powder and a good amount of ghee. We fell in love with it, and I would highly recommend it whenever you go drinking at the Wine Company.

Prawn patio and Berry Pulao @ Sodabottleopenerwala

Prawn patio and Berry Pulao @ Sodabottleopenerwala

Sodabottleopenerwala was always on my list as the first Parsi restaurant to open up the the capital. I went there with my colleague, settled for a clean comforting lunch of a very fluffy and light mutton berry pulao and deliciously crispy prawn patio. The berry pulao is a fairly lighter version of what one would find at Britannia – that’s not to say which is good or bad for I am a big fan girl of the latter. However, on a working day lunch, lighter is always better especially since our office does not (yet) have a couch to catch a siesta in.

Soi7 was another place I had heard was very popular, and decided to check it out with my colleagues one evening since it had been a while we had all let our hair down together as a team. The place was, true to its reputation, booked out but we managed to grab a space on their huge terrace which is equipped with really large, almost industrial, dessert coolers, good music, an open bar counter, and for some reason, a boxing ring in the middle. Like the name suggests, the menu is Thai. We ordered for some prawn and crispy lamb starters and were very happy with it. The main course items were but slightly damp, but I guess who orders for main course in a pub duh! (except we did :-/) I also wished they said a yes to our beer choices, in fact I wish every pub has drinks they list on their menu, in stock all the time. Otherwise how can someone like me who salivates at Hoegaarden on the bar menu then settle for a Bud? Not done sir. Not until we start getting Belgian beer in our city of little-joy-these-days.

Fresh warm donuts @ Krispy Kreme

Fresh warm donuts @ Krispy Kreme

These apart, I learnt Krispy Kreme makes donuts much softer than Dunkin’. Smokies’ makes amazing slow cooked/braised red meat – lamb shanks, choicest beef cuts or a good ol’ hamburger, they do it with well-placed confidence. Fat Lulu’s indeed
makes good paper thin pizzas, and their salads aren’t too bad either, although their fruity iced-lollies may just be an acquired taste. Saravana Bhavan continues to dish out culinary comfort of the highest order in form of their quick lunch, and a coconut icecream at Mamagoto does justice to the sweet tooth like few do.

Coconut Icecream @Mamagoto

Coconut Icecream @Mamagoto

I also learnt there is absolutely no need for Gurgaonites to head to INA market anymore since, thanks to the growing expat population, grabbing a pack of jasmine rice is as easy as buying Rajma off the shelves of the several super markets in their neighborhood. I managed to bring back a small tin of wasabi powder and a packet of Ghosari (Korean dry herb used profusely in Bibimbap) although when I bought the latter I had no idea what it was and just picked it up on the whim. It has a texture akin to black fungus and gives a bite to the bibimbap (or a regular stir-fry where one is experiencing a feeling of too much homogeneity in the mouth). More on that later hopefully in one of the upcoming posts.

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Oriental Chicken and Cucumber Stir Fry

Chinese cuisine is an absolute favorite with me because there is no combination of ingredients it does not embrace. There are only two considerations – texture and taste. As far as the popular tastes go, honey soy, soy ginger, soy garlic, chilly garlic, ginger sesame, oyster sauce, Hoisin sauce, plum sauce are some of the usual options but then again the list is endless. I commonly use the soy ginger combination for stir fries, using more of light soy (which is mild and slightly sweeter) and very little dark soy (in lieu of which a tiny speck of black bean sauce works too).

Ingredients: (Serves 2)

  • Chicken breast: 1 no. (diagonally sliced against the grain)
  • Cucumber: 1 no, sliced into diagonal strips
  • Carrot: 1 no, sliced into thin long strips
  • Black fungus: a handful, soaked in warm water
  • Spring onions: a handful, chopped inch long
  • Ginger: 1 inch, thinly chopped
  • Garlic: 3 cloves, chopped
  • Green chilly: 2 nos, chopped
  • Soy sauce
  • Cornflour: 2 tbsp
  • Oil
  • Sugar to taste
  • Sesame oil for garnish

Method:

  • Marinate the chicken slices in some soy sauce for about 10 mins (if you have the
    time) and sprinkle them with cornflour
  • Heat a tbsp of oil in a wok.
  • Add the chopped garlic and ginger, stir for a minute
  • Add the chicken slices and stir fry on medium-high heat
  • Add the cucumber, carrot, rehydrated black fungus and green chillies
  • Mix a tbsp of light soy in 1/4th cup of water, add a tbsp of cornflour and some sugar
    to taste, add this mixture to the wok and stir vigorously
Storm in the wok

Storm in the wok

  • Finish off with sprigs of spring onions and a few drops of sesame oil
  • Serve with sticky rice, jasmine rice or plain white rice
Oriental Chicken Cucumber Stir Fry

Oriental Chicken Cucumber Stir Fry