“My dad wanted me to be a scientist like himself and in those days chefs were not considered the specialised, creative professionals they are today,” he adds.
In spite of specialising in European food, Nimish has made it his mission to promote and popularise contemporary Indian cuisine.
He goes on to explain, “I started researching the cuisine of Baluchistan when I opened a speciality restaurant. I discovered that the kebab originated there and people used to prepare it in advance and carry it to work, eating it cold with baked breads. It is the Middle Eastern equivalent of Western delicatessen food where cured and smoked meats are served which are healthy and fat free. Most people expect a kebab to be spicy and served hot, I serve it cold.”
Nimish works on cuts of chicken, lamb and fish using a delicate blend of spices, sometimes a mixture of olives and herbs. He then slices the cooked meats thinly serving them with interesting relishes or salads.
“We have several digestives in our traditional food like yogurt. I use a dense smoky flavourful version which tastes like smoked cream cheese. The yogurt is smoked in an earthen pot for a couple of hours. Tiny roasted veggies like aubergine or tomatoes filled with this mixture makes a great accompaniment to a meal or even excellent cocktail hors d’oeuvres.”
“Traditional Indian cuisine is often over spiced and smothered with gravies. It is not popular with the health conscious diner, who is also finicky about taste and presentation,” he says.
While this kind of food is not freely available in the City, it is doable in the home, he advises. “Grilled meats can be thinly sliced and served deliciously cold on a chapati or a naan. It is a perfect summertime meal or snack. Work on presentation and use garnishes attractively if laying it out on a platter. It’s important that food looks appealing when it is served. Cut out heavy gravies and spices and keep oil to the minimum. You don’t have to compromise on taste to eat healthy.” ________________
'Baluchi Cuisine Is Not Spicy But Aromatic'
The Grand Ashok, Bangalore, recently celebrated a Baluchi food fastival at its speciality restaurant, Baluchi. Christened Angaar, the fare had a unique story behind it. Nimish Bhatia, executive chef of the hotel tells Vyas Sivanand about the unique history behind this food
NIMISH BHATIA: Amina, the princess of Baluchistan, would have never thought that cautiously prepared dishes for her beloved would be relished in times to come. We thought of bringing a festival commemorating Amina's legendary love for Imtiaz. She was a Baluchi princess who eloped with her lover, Imtiaz, into the desert to lead a nomadic life where she spent hours trying to create the perfect dishes. Sometimes, she used to put her share of meat out in the sun to preserve it for Imtiaz, as he loved the sun-baked taste. She then tried to better it and soaked some meat in camel's milk, then cooked it in just the plain sand. That was how the royal kebab came to be.
How have you sourced the ingredients?
The Baluchistan cuisine had several influences including Persian, Arabic apart from many others. The cuisine is not spicy but aromatic. We have tied up with a trader in Pakistan who provides us with authentic ingredients and spices like yellow chillies, tuk malanga seeds, etc.
What is on the menu for the duration of this festival?
The menu includes kebabs prepared using charcoal fire signifying Angaar. Some of the dishes include gosht ke seekh, pathani gosht ke bihari, mukkamal rann-e-zatar, murg dum tikka baluchi, and murg khaas angaar. Some of the special sea food kebabs are angaar-e-samundar and machali tikka tilnaz.
Though there are very few vegetarians in Baluchistan, we have experimented and prepared dishes like dhuan aur sarson ke paneer, lukmat-e-subz and lacheele dum paneer ke tinke. A range of breads, raitas, salads and biryanis accompany the kebabs along with deserts from the region.
Have you tried anything unique with the service aspect?
The entire fare is uniquely packaged so as to give the guest a new taste with every kebab. The menu is not a-la-carte or table d'hôte. We have ten types of kebabs with ten varieties of breads. The kebabs are served two at a time, are not pre-cooked and with a different marination. Kebabs must be eaten straight from the fire, so 95 per cent of the kebabs are freshly prepared using a charcoal fire. We have different types of serving equipment as well, which includes sizzlers, platters and tandoors etc.
The rugged frontiers of Baluchistan bring a mind-blowing variety of dishes.
THE PROVINCE of Baluchistan made headlines recently because of clashes between tribesmen and the Pakistani army. But what does it have to do with Bangalore? Well, Baluchistan is famous for not just gun-toting tribesmen but also for its ethnic cuisine. Due to its location in the remote rugged western region of Pakistan, Baluchi cuisine is a connoisseur's delight as it is dominated by meat flavoured with aromatic herbs and spices. And it is now available in the city at the new Baluchi specialty restaurant at the Grand Ashok.
Baluchistan is an arid drought-prone region with a climate characterised by extremely hot days and bitterly cold nights. Thus, the food ingredients consist mostly of dry fruits and vegetables, potatoes, goat cheese, milk and yoghurt, mutton, and preserved fish. Green leafy vegetables are almost totally absent. But that doesn't stop the tribes from dishing out some really lip-smacking cuisine.
A traditional Baluchi feast can be 21 courses long, but chefs Nimish Bhatia and Imran at Baluchi have packaged it into a short but sumptuous six-course affair that is nothing but exotic from the word go.
The starters are divided into two — the Ibteda-e-Nansh (refreshing drinks before a meal) and Mushq-e-Murakkat (soups made from undiluted extracts). The drinks include the zeera aab, a spicy drink made from smoked pineapple and zeera water garnished with rock salt, and the sherbet mahek khaus, which consists of almonds and mountain cinnamon in cool milk. The zeera aab is feast for both the eyes as well as the palate because it is served in a scooped out green pineapple that lends its own flavour to the drink.
Since the inhabitants of Baluchistan are Muslim, the cuisine doesn't include alcohol, but patrons can choose from a wide variety of liquors and wines at the restaurant.
The soups are a delicacy by themselves. They are prepared in a true Baluchi fashion without corn flour but with lots of spices. The sabz masale ka murakkat is vegetable extract with spices, while the yakhani gosht shurva zor masala is a taste-bud tingling aromatic mutton soup made of extracts from marrow and a spice mix which the chefs will not reveal, of course.
Before the arrival of the main course, a series of cold kebabs are served. Cold kebabs are probably Baluchi cuisine's most awesome contribution. It is said that tribal people in the remote areas of Baluchistan ate their kebabs in the morning after preparing them in the night. This lends the kebabs a unique taste, which is perhaps unmatched. The thandi machli aur khatte kheere (tandoori machalli served with gherkins and cucumber shavings) and the taaze pudine aur hari mirch ke aloo are the two must-try kebabs.
The sheer variety of the main course that follows the kebabs is just mind-boggling. Each dish is special, but methods used to prepare the meat dishes are just remarkable. The chefs use lava stone grills and charcoal grills for cooking meat the Baluchi way. The meat is marinated in ultra-sour yoghurt over either a lava stone grill or a charcoal grill to lend it that special soft texture and taste.
To add a little Indian flavour to the restaurant, the chefs also offer some tandoor rotis like naans, kulchas and parathas. In some cases, yoghurt and cheese made from goat's milk are wrapped with paneer made from cow's milk to mask the pungent odour. A good combination for the main course would be the traditional roti, khubs, with either dal Baluchi or tawa murgh boti dhaniya masala.
Now after the main course, for dessert one need not look further than Oom Ali! (which translates to Oh God!). It is a flaky pastry baked with milk cream and dry fruits that cannot be adequately described in words.
Food apart, the restaurant has tried to recreate the Baluchistan ambience as authentically as possible. The dominant interior colour is brown with the pillars and cutlery clad in copper to give the place that exotic feel. The kitchen is separated from the dining area by a glass wall, which allows people to watch the chefs turn out all those exotic dishes.
Baluchi can be contacted on 22269462/22250202.
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Ambience: Frontier, Khyber Pass and all that
Wallet factor: Expensive, something like Rs. 2,000 for a meal for two
Chicken thigh – 4 pieces Ginger- garlic paste – 100 g Vinegar – 50 ml Salt – to taste White pepper – 20 g 1 st step Mix all ingredients with the chicken and keep aside for an hour. Ingredients for 2 nd marination
Cheese – 20 g Cashew nut paste – 20 g Green chilli paste – 1 teaspoon Oil – 2 teaspoon Salt – to taste
2 nd step
Mix all the ingredients well and add this mixture to the marinated chicken. Keep aside chicken pieces for half an hour. Final preparation
Bake in a tandoor ( grill ) for 15 – 20 minutes. Serve hot with mint sauce.