Last Sunday, in a chilling cold, in an open courtyard with efforts to warm up the ambience with some live fire Sigree, I enjoyed an amazing dinner in a Food Pop Up curated by Chef Rajan Bedi. The three-course meal started with Amalokhi Soup, Chicken Tikka and Rampuri Seekh Kebab as starters. The main course included Lahsooni Dal, Amritsari Fish Curry, Murgir Jhol and Lal Maas. The accompaniments included Bhut Jolokia Chutney, Aloo Pithika and Khorisa (fermented Bamboo Shoot) Pithika. And the wonderful fare wrapped with Malpua topped with Moong Dal Halwa. What an experience and what an achievement of mine !!
Somek Choudhury, my FB friend with whom I have been connected online for a couple of years, and met him for the first time about ten days ago, had organised this Food Pop up at Courtyard By Virasat (Check my FB post here). I fell in love with this place, at first sight, and fell in love with the food by Rajan Bedi, with the first spoon. And I am really proud of my achievement, as a foodie or a sort of Blogger. The story goes like this.
First let us talk about how our evening took off.
After exchanging pleasantries with each other, we, a group of around 17, were offered a warm Amalokhi Soup in an earthen tumbler. Amalokhi or Amla or Indian Gooseberry as we may call it, had that natural tang which was complemented very well with a punch of ginger and black pepper. This actually helped to warm up in that cold and activate the taste buds.
Soon, this was followed up with a plate having Chicken Tikka and Rampuri Seekh Kebabs. Chicken morsels had a mild tangy marination which had seeped deep into the meat. Each morsel was tender and juicy. The Mutton Seekh too was juicy and full of flavours, The meat mince was coarse providing a texture and had that typical Mughlai flavour which complemented the meat having mild spices. I was told that during preparation, the animal fat was added which gave that flavourful punch to it.
Now let us talk about my achievement.
Alongwith the main course, we were served Bhut Jolokia Chutney. Those who don’t know about Bhut Jolokia, here is a quick crash course.
Bhut Jolokia is a Red Chilli which is grown in the North Eastern States Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. This one is small in size, is also known as Ghost Pepper and is exceptionally hot The measuring unit for the heat in Chilli is known as Scoville. So, in our Kashmiri Lal Mirch or Deggi Mirch it would be around 2000 Sccovilles, in Tabasco Sauce it would be around 5000 Scovilles and Bhut Jolokia is more than 10 Lacs or 1 Million Scovilles, making it the hottest. Search the net for Scoville ratings. It is quite interesting.
Coming back to our Bhut Jolokia Chutney, Rajan Bedi forewarned us that it has to be handled with utmost care and not to be eaten with Lal Maas, at all for the dish already had a high punch from the red chillies. Most of my co-diners abstained from undertaking the adventure.
I sized up the dark red Chutney. About 5-7 ml of it, placed on one side, looked quite inviting and challenging. Cautiously, with a tip of the spoon, picked up a tiny, very tiny portion and tasted it. Phew !! It blasted the taste buds with the heat. And yet when the heat settled down, it had that flavour and aroma of red pepper, had a crunch and tang (Rajan told me that he had used Mizo Ginger for the crunch and that unique tang) and had that punch of Mustard Oil. I was no more a novice now. I started enjoying the Chutney by mixing it bit by bit with the steamed rice and enjoying every spoonful. I finished it !! This was a no mean feat. My palate was full of flavours and yet on fire. I was almost sweating in that chill and I was enjoying. No one else on the table dared finishing it. Wow, what an achievement I am proud of. And yes, now on, whenever I get a chance, I would surely eat it.
Similarly, the Assamese Aloo Pithika, a concoction of mashed Potatoes with a punch of Mustard Oil and the Khorisa Pithika done with fermented Bamboo Shoots were great condiments which went perfectly well with the meal. Aloo Pithika is my favourite.
Now was the time to graduate to the other dishes, one by one.
So, first the Dal. This yellow Moong Dal preparation appeared to be basic and yet the first spoonful in the mouth told me it was no mean thing. The Dal had a slightly thick consistency, each grain had its identity and yet it was a pasty texture. Very basic spices and yet the mild punch of garlic and ghee beautifully complimented the flavour of the Dal.
I stepped up to Amritsari Fish Curry. Yes curry. While Amritsari Fish is synonymous with Fish Fry, they also do a curry version. So, this was there in my plate. This brownish yellow curry had a slightly thick gravy which gave out the aroma of fish done in mild spices. This Rui or Rohu Fish was soft, silken and amazingly tasty. It was a sort of melt-in-mouth that was full of flavours. The curry had a slight tang with mild flavours of spices. Went very well with the rice.
Next in line was the Bengali Murgir Jhol, a light Chicken Curry prepared in Bengali households. This has a slightly red colour gravy which is runny in consistency. I tasted the gravy first and it hit the right spot. This light gravy had the punch of spices and the tang of curd. It was so well balanced that neither the spices nor the tang overpowered. The meat was again soft and succulent. Was moist inside till the bone and was coming off the bone, effortlessly. Again a great authentic dish.
Now I graduated to the Rajasthani Lal Maas, the iconic Rajasthani Mutton Gravy which is fiery red in looks and the taste too. Is predominately done in ghee and red chillies. The gravy tasted great with ghee and spices balancing each other. True to its nature, it was fiery and had that high heat quotient. The meat was soft and on the bone. While it was not falling off the bone and yet it came off effortlessly. Tear the morsel of meat and it was pinkish inside. This colour inside indicated that the meat was slow cooked (Rajan told me it was slow cooked for over four hours). This was the dish which was a great hit amongst all the diners there. Everyone voted it as the best.
I liked every single dish.
The great dinner was wrapped up with a unique dessert combo. I am fond of Malpua. And I am really really fond of Moong Dal Halwa. Both these were served as a combo; Halwa served over Malpua !! Never had this together and it turned out to be a superb combination. The soft and moist Malpua was mildly sweet. The Halwa done in Desi Ghee was granular with that aroma and taste of roasted Moong Dal and had a right amount of sweetness. I would say a perfect culmination of a culinary journey in a royal ambience.
I am told that Rajan Bedi does weekend events in the courtyard quite often. I look forward to be part of those, as and when I could, to enjoy the ambience and the great food. If you have you been here, do share with me your experiences. Till then…
Bon Appetite !!