My earliest memory of street food is from the time when we had just one channel on television, namely, Doordarshan. In those days, Sunday evening was movie time. Every Sunday, before the movie began, Mum and I used to religiously walk down to a small street eatery called Geeta Bhavan for paani puris. In those days no one except Geeta Bhavan served paani puri with iced “paani”. I still drool at the thought of those spicy treats. (Unfortunately the place closed down in the early 90’s.) So I was extremely excited when I received an invite for a street-food cookery workshop and dinner. It was a chance to learn how to cook new street foods from around the world. We eat at road-side stalls, but to actually get a chance to learn those dishes : what could be better than that?
When we arrived at Novotel Hotel, Ms Vaishakhi Phadke introduced us to Executive Chef Amit Chand. The street-food cookery workshop commenced with Chef Amit and Chef Shailendra teaching us Chicken and Vegetable Sui Mai, a type of steamed dumplings. We then went on to learn Thai Red Curry. The chefs gave us options in regard to the variations possible for Thai Curry. We also learned to cook Murtabak. This is a roti quite similar to “Baida Roti” with a filling of mince chicken or lamb. Next, was Mexican Fajitas stuffed with refried beans, served with a salsa. Lastly, they taught us Greek Souvlaki; a grilled chicken dish, served on a skewer.
A team from Food-Food channel was present at the workshop to cover the event. What was truly memorable was that the chefs did not just teach the recipes; they also invited attendees to their work table to assist them. This gave the attendees a chance to interact with the chefs and learn by doing, not merely by watching. There were many fun moments in the midst of the workshop which made this a remarkable experience. Also, the chefs answered all questions put to them with great patience and clarity thereby making the interaction between the professionals and the amateurs a very pleasant experience.
When I spoke to the Chef Amit Chand he informed me that this was the second workshop conducted by them and they plan to have one every month covering different cuisines and different forms of cooking. These workshops are priced at rupees 500 plus taxes.
After the workshop ended we headed down, for dinner, to their restaurant ‘The Square’. They had a ‘Street Foods of the World’ festival at the restaurant, with cute street carts done up with lanterns and slate boards. We tried an array of street foods including the preparations covered in the workshop.
The first thing they served us was delicious, crispy Paani Puri. This was followed by the Chicken Sui Mai, which was insipid with a dense filling of chicken mince. I wish they had added some spring onion, garlic, ginger and chilies to give it more balance and flavor. The Vegetable Sui Mai, on the other hand, was pleasantly light and flavorsome. It beat the Chicken Sui Mai hollow. The Chicken Satay and Prawns Satay served after, were superb. A definite must-try!!
The Fajitas were quite bland. We were taught in the cookery workshop that Cheddar cheese was to be added to it. We searched for it but somewhere along the way, from the food cart to our table, the Cheddar had done a disappearing act. They also served tacos, which were delicious. There was a Shawarma grill which served us delicious chicken with Hummus and Pita Bread. I would recommend these in a jiffy. The Paneer and Chicken Tikkas from the Indian Khau Gali were also perfectly cooked. The paneer was a melt-in-the-mouth delight and the chicken tikkas were cooked to succulent perfection that totally satisfied my ‘foodie-soul’.
We tried some of their summer mocktails. The Virgin Mojito, my all time favorite, was excellent, as was the Mango-Orange Sangria. The Mango Margarita, though, hardly had any mango flavor. We could taste the lime and the light spices but if mango was the main ingredient then we would have preferred a stronger flavor of the same.
Chef Amit sat with us and told us about the hotel and their restaurants. He also invited us to try their main course but there is only so much we can stuff ourselves with, hence we just tried the Chicken-Mushroom Soup, the Mud Pudding and the Jalebis. The soup looked extremely uninviting but was a warm, satisfying and delicious soup. This was a lesson for me to never just go by the look of the food. The Mud Pudding was gooey and delectable. I’m a big fan of the humble Jalebi but I prefer them straight off the stove, into the hot sugar syrup and on to my table. I requested the server to check with the chef if they could make me just one or two piping hot ones. They very kindly obliged. They told us there would be a wait of ten minutes so this puppy waited and happily tucked into them when they arrived at the table. They were superb!
It was a pleasant afternoon of new interactions, new recipes and new experiences. It was also an evening of delicious street foods. All in all, each and every one at Hotel Novotel, especially Chef Amit Chand and Ms. Vaishakhi Phadke, ensured that our experience at the workshop and at dinner was a very memorable one.
The ‘Street Foods of the World’ festival is on at Hotel Novotel from May 16, 2014 to May 26, 2014.
Address: Novotel Pune, Weikfield IT City Infopark, Viman Nagar, Pune | Telephone: + 91 (20) – 67056000