Food that tastes so nice, you say it twice: Burma Burma

Myanmar, or erstwhile Burma, is a country shaped by many influences and Burmese food as opposed to its common perception of it being an ineligible straggler in the hierarchy of Asian cuisines is actually a beautiful medley of cultural mix. Influenced by rich flavours from countries such as India, China and Thailand, Burmese cuisine has its own unique qualities – it is richer than authentic Chinese food but less spicy than Indian and Thai cuisines.

Considering a country that was isolated for almost 50 years owing to a repressive military dictatorship, the tide is slowly turning in the golden land in terms of food culture and has even crossed borders. Now, more and more people are experimenting with the hidden glory of its diverse and interesting culinary traditions. In India, two friends, Ankit Gupta and Chirag Chhajer, are responsible for starting the Burmese food revolution. The duo who started out with the restaurant Burma Burma in Mumbai three years ago, followed by a lucrative franchise in Gurugram – the only dedicated Burmese eatery in Delhi NCR other than Burmese Kitchen which takes orders for home delivery – has got an overwhelming response over the years, even though they serve only vegetarian fare. Now, Burmese cuisine has a lot of seafood influence, especially in the coastal towns of Mawlamyine, Thandwe, Ngwesaung and in the villages of Inle Lake but the decision to serve veg food is purely from a business perspective.

Burmese cuisineBurmese cuisine is richer than authentic Chinese food but less spicy than Indian and Thai cuisines.

How did he come across this idea? Gupta decided to tap into the Indian market as he knew that the food is easily adaptable since it has a lot of similarities to Indian food. Also, his life has had a major Burmese influence as his mom is Burmese. She had come to Mumbai in the early 1960s, when regional insurgencies escalated in the country. To cut the long story short, it was to escape the military junta’s tyranny and their unendurable attitude towards pro-democracy movements.

So, what exactly do they have to offer? There are dishes from the state of Kachin like the Kachin Style Dried Mustard Soup which instantly wakes you up owing to its umami flavour, Khowsuey from the Shan State and other delicacies which trace its roots back to Bagan, Chin, Rakhine, Yangon, and Inle Lake. There is also the hot favourite Mohinga, a dish made of rice noodles in a rich broth of onions, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass, topped with deep-fried fritters of banana stem. Considered by many as a national dish, it is eaten at breakfast in Myanmar, or any other time during the day, really. We tried it out at Burma Burma and loved it. If you ask us, it can easily pass off as a breakfast of the champions as it’s really wholesome.

Nothing is too Much

Of an informal lunch at Lillypool, the late Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur wrote in the book Gourmet’s Gateway, “I ordered a three-course meal for four people with creme brûlée as the sweet dish. Lokendra, the head chef was from Chittagong and an excellent cook, asked for 4 lbs of cream for the creme brûlée. When I said the amount was too much he said, “Yes, under normal circumstances it is too much but not for the Maharaja’.”

Exemplifying the opulent excess of erstwhile royal gharanas, is an extensive spread, ‘Royal High Table’, that makes the classic culinary heritage of the royal kitchens accessible to visitors at the Pavillion, ITC Maurya, Delhi, on a Friday evening. Royal khansamas or chefs have ventured into the kitchens of the luxury hotel to recreate authentic repasts.

The Sailana Succession: From Madhya Pradesh, close to the Rajasthan border, is the princely state of Sailana, a branch of the great Rathore House, cadets of the Royal House of Jodhpur. The Maharajas of Sailana, unlike other royal houses, did not leave the kitchen chores to their chefs. Instead, they cooked themselves. The cuisine is laced with spices, rose petals and sandalwood. Its popularity can be largely attributed to Digvijaya Singh who wrote the book, Cooking Delights of the Maharajas, published in 1983. Must Try: Gooler Kebab, Sailana Seekh, Makki Ka Halwa.

The Salar Jung Empire: Noted for preserving rare artefacts and collections at the Salarjung Museum, the lineage has also safeguarded its kitchen secrets. It is said that Begums would study the correlation between food and health with hakims for hours. The cuisine relies on fresh ingredients with an emphasis on tartness. Must try: Mahi Quliya, Shaak-e-urz.

The Akheraj Ancestry: Founded by Rao Akheraj, the cuisine is influenced by two regions, Marwar and Mewar, betwixt which it lies, and marital alliances that changed the repertoire of styles and techniques of the food cooked in the royal house. Must try: Matki Maans, Rabori, Methi Pitla.

The Royal Kangra Dynasty: Along with its fort, shawls and miniature paintings, the region can also pride itself on its food. Considered to be one of the oldest serving royal families in the world, the Katoch dynasty’s cuisine is full-flavoured yet unostentatious. Must try: Palda, Mustard Raita, Mithdee.

The Kashmir Lineage: The Hindu Dogra Rajput dynasty, was one of the largest princely states in British India. Their aromatic cuisine, also known as Wazwan, is known for the generous use of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and saffron. Must try: Rista, Tabakh Maaz, Dhaliwal Korma.

The Rampur Reign: Another princely state of British India, offers a courtly cuisine that blends Mughlai, Awadhi, Afghani and Rajput culinary sensibilities.

Must try: Doodhiya Biryani, Adrak ka Halwa, Rampuri Korma The Bhainsrorgarh regime: After Rao Chunda renounced the Mewar throne for his yet to be born younger brother, he was granted the Bhainsrorgarh fort. The Rajputana kitchen uses meat that is either smoked or roasted, giving it a robust flavour from the myriad spices.

Café Macaw: This unique Pakistan restaurant lets you share a meal with exotic birds

Enjoying a delicious meal with exotic birds could possibly be on every bird-lover’s bucket list. But for this, you no longer need a trip to some forest or aviary, just a ticket (and visa) to Pakistan. Yes, Cafe Macaw in Bahria Enclave, Islamabad, has a set of unusual staff members to enthral guests as they wait for their food. After all, waiting for a meal at a restaurant can be boring, but not here.

PAkistan, cafe macaw, cafe macaw islamabad, Bahria Enclave islamabad, unusual restaurant Going by the promotional videos, Bahria Enclave seems to be the epitome of luxury and beauty combined, a world-class society that has a zoo, aviary, and even a water amusement park with dolphins within its premises, along with shopping complexes and schools. And the Cafe Macaw is just a fine addition to that extravaganza in the otherwise residential complex.

Hyderabad’s ‘haleem’ a foodies’ delight during Ramadan!

Biryani may be Hyderabad’s signature dish, but the world-famous delicacy takes a back seat during Ramadan! Yes, during the holy month, haleem, a porridge-like dish made of wheat, lentils and meat is all there is on foodies’ minds. Such is the preference for haleem during Ramadan that no other dish even comes close in terms of popularity, taste and sale. To just give you an idea, the sale of haleem during Ramadan last year fetched over Rs 500 crore. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Although the mouth-watering dish is a regular on the menu in many Muslim weddings and is also available around the year at a few city hotels, it’s only during the fasting month that it is in great demand. It’s not just the Muslims but people from other communities as well eagerly await Ramadan to relish their favourite dish.

Young techies can be seen savouring the delicacy at many outlets of major hotels. Thousands of customers throng outlets across the city from around 5 p.m. till well past midnight to taste haleem. Those travelling abroad or to different destinations within the country don’t forget to pick up a few packets of haleem for their relatives and friends.

‘Bhattis’ or brick-and-mud ovens in front of hotels across Hyderabad are a common sight during the holy month. And so are chefs engaged in the laborious process of making the sumptuous dish in large vessels cemented on the traditional ovens. They can be seen pounding the meat in vessels with large wooden poles. The entire cooking process, which takes 10 to 12 hours, is done on firewood.

Haleem is originally an Arabic dish, which is said to have come to India via Iran and Afghanistan. “The Legendary Cuisine of Persia”, a highly acclaimed cookbook, traces the origin of haleem to the 6th century Persian king Khusrow.

A chef from Yemen is said to have first prepared the dish, also called “harees” or “harissa” in Arab countries, for the then Nizam of Hyderabad in 1930. Subsequently, some Irani hotels started selling it here. Over the decades, the syrupy dish was Indianised with the addition of local spices, dry fruit, clarified butter or “desi ghee” and the unique style of cooking.

From star hotels and popular food joints to small eateries, almost everyone prepares haleem, which is preferred for breaking the fast due to its energising nature, high nutritional value and soothing porridge-like texture. Cooks say the extensive preparation that goes into making of the delicacy starts early in the morning. After meat mixed with chillis, garlic, and ginger is tenderised by cooking, wheat is added, followed by lentils, spices like cardamom and cumin, cashew nuts, almonds, cooking oil, desi ghee and other ingredients.

biryani, bhattis, hyderabad, hyderabadi biryani, haleem, harees, Indian express, Indian express newsAs the “Iftar” time approaches, dozens of workers start packing or serving piping hot haleem garnished with special spicy “shorba” or meat broth, caramalised onions, coriander, and slices of lemon. While haleem was originally made with mutton or beef, it’s now available in other variants — chicken, fish, and even vegetarian.

From old hotels like Madina in the old city to Sarvi, Paradise, Shah Ghouse, all claim to have their own unique taste.

Hyderabad residents say the credit for reviving the popularity of haleem goes to Pista House, a bakery which made a modest beginning in the mid-90s. With aggressive and innovative marketing, it became the biggest maker of haleem in the city. The brand has since gone global with outlets in the United States, Oman and Dubai.

In 2010, it succeeded in getting Geographical Indication Status (GIS) for Hyderabadi haleem, making it the only non-vegetarian Indian dish to get this recognition.

Priced at Rs 160 per plate (300 gram), Pista House’s haleem this Ramadan is available at over 225 outlets across Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Vijayawada, and Kadapa, besides all major towns in Telangana.

Pista House, which also offers an innovative “diet haleem” and “organic haleem”, was this month invited by the European Union Intellectual Property Office to showcase Hyderabadi haleem at the Thailand Food Exhibition ‘THAIFEX 2017’ in Bangkok.

“It is a rare honour and great recognition for us,” Pista House owner MA Majeed said.

Now, gluten-free beer made from teff grains

Scientists have developed gluten-free beer made from teff, a small cereal native to Ethiopia,providing an alternate beverage option to people who are allergic to the protein complex. Researchers from University of Perugia in Italy examined, for the first time, the potential of a variety of teff called Witkop as a raw material for malting and brewing.

They examined the Witkop teff malting process, in which grains are steeped, germinated and dried, to determine the optimum conditions. The team found that Witkop teff took longer to malt than barley, and that the teff had different enzymes to break down sugars than barley. Witkop teff grains have potential as a raw material for beer production but would likely require custom malting equipment on an industrial scale, researchers said.

Gluten based sensitivities impact millions of people each year, leading to a dramatic rise in gluten-free food products on grocery store shelves. According to the US Celiac Disease Foundation, one percent of the global population has celiac disease, which results in the immune system attacking the small intestine when gluten is consumed and currently, no medicinal treatments are available. The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

MasterChef brings families together: George Calombaris

“MasterChef Australia” judge George Calombaris says the long-running reality competitive cooking game show has changed the way people look at food, and that it unites families.

The show is back with its ninth season where contestants have to win the judges’ heart and appetite by whipping up lip-smacking dishes. Doesn’t he ever get tired of co-judging multiple contestants, who go through different types of pressure tests?

“I love filming ‘MasterChef’. I love (co-judges) Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston. We are the three amigos. I’m so lucky to be part of this little show called ‘MasterChef’. It resonates with people all over the world and has changed the way people look at food. It brings families together,” Calombaris told IANS in an email interaction from Melbourne.

He promises to be back for another season.

“There will definitely be another season, and I can’t wait! This season there are so many terrific cooks, they just get better and better each year,” he said.

They took the competition to Japan’s Tokyo this year. Why did they leave out India?

“We’ve filmed in many places all over the world. India is somewhere we haven’t got to yet. This all depends on the producers and the sponsors at the end of the day.”

“But I know we’ve got a great audience in India, and I absolutely love visiting the fans there. I usually get there every year,” said Calombaris.

George Calombaris Since he is a frequent flyer to India, did it ever strike to him to get his cuisine — inspired by his Greek and Cypriot heritage — to India?

“I get many offers to open restaurants all over the world, India especially is one I’m asked about all the time. We’ve got some big growth plans here in Australia for the next three years.”

“Once we achieve the goals we have here, our team will certainly look to expand, but it has to be right, the right people, the right relationship, the right partnership. Maybe one day,” said the owner of 10 restaurants in Australia.

The celebrity chef surely knows how to connect with people from different countries through food. But when he jets off to an unknown land, what does he expect from there?

“To taste local, 100 per cent. I love exploring local delicious cuisine, to meet the people and enjoy the culture. I want the locals to tell me about their favourite places and often through social media, they do. So, on my way over I do a bit of research before I land about the places I’m going to visit,” he said.

His latest stop was at Sri Lanka, where he was hosted by Cinnamon Life, an upcoming premier lifestyle property in Colombo.

Eating walnuts may help control appetite: Study

Individuals who regularly consume walnuts, salmon and canola oil — rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) — are likely to experience hormonal changes that can control appetite and make them feel less hungry, a study has shown.

The study found that consuming a diet high in PUFAs caused a significant decrease in fasting ghrelin — a hormone that increases hunger.

Further, a PUFA rich diet also caused significant increase in peptide YY (PYY) — a hormone that increases fullness or satiety.

“Appetite hormones play an important role in regulating how much we eat,” said lead researcher Jamie A. Cooper, from the University of Georgia.

“These findings tell us that eating foods rich in PUFAs, like those found in walnuts, may favourably change appetite hormones so that we can feel fuller for longer,” Cooper added.

For the study, detailed in the journal Nutrition, the team enrolled 26 healthy men and women (ages 18-35) who were placed on a seven-day diet high in PUFAs or a control diet consisting of a typical American eating pattern.

The PUFA-rich diet included whole foods such as walnuts, Alaska salmon, tuna, flaxseed oil, grape-seed oil, canola oil, and fish oil supplements. All meals were provided by the researchers.

The control diet was comprised of 7 per cent polyunsaturated fat, 15 per cent monounsaturated fat and 13 per cent saturated fat, compared to the PUFA-rich diet which was 21 per cent polyunsaturated fat, 9 per cent monounsaturated fat, and 5 per cent saturated fat.

The participants experienced increases in PYY while fasting and after consuming a meal. These types of hormone changes imply better appetite control, the researchers said.

Indian chefs to meet in Kerala to discuss healing recipes

A group of Indian chefs will come together at a three-day event in Kerala next month to talk about foods and recipes that can contribute towards good health, wellness and healing.

The retreat, Healing Recipes – Back to Roots, is to be held on July 3-6 at Kairali – The Ayurvedic Healing Village, at Palakkad in Kerala. Here, one will get to interact with Ayurvedic doctors and chefs, attend specially-curated masterclasses, explore local cuisine, learn the trick of growing vegetables and spices organically, and master the art of making gourmet meals that are nourishing and indulging.

A preview for the event was held in the capital on Thursday, with Chef Manjit Singh Gill, Chef Vikas Seth and Gita Ramesh, an Ayurveda expert and Joint Managing Director of Kairali Ayurvedic Group, giving a taste of what to expect from the event. They said people will realise how food can be their biggest investment for happiness and wellness.

Gill said: “Every climate has its own taste… just like there are six seasons, so are the tastes which are very important for every human being to experience. Food is like medicine, it heals the body from within. Hence, it is imperative that we revisit our approach to food, ingredients and cooking techniques.

“Healing Recipes – Back to Roots, for me, is a platform that will help you rethink food.”

While discussing about the daily cooking habits, Gill said salt should never be added to curd as it decreases its nutritional value. And with so much of craze of being healthy using olive oil, he said that people do not know the correct way in which olive oil should be used in cooking. It must be cooked at proper temperature and, if possible, one should consume only half a tablespoon of olive oil daily.

Ramesh, who also has a book titled “Healing Recipes – Back to Roots”, said the event is a conscious effort at promoting food sustainability.

“It talks about how age-old philosophy and culinary practices still hold relevance in modern times and how Ayurveda is directly linked with the healing of various diseases — be it through various Ayurvedic practices, medicines or simply food.”

Madhulika Dash, who is curating the experience, commented: “We have all grown up eating homemade food, but never realised that if cooked in a healthy way with farm fresh ingredients, it will lead to more good effect on health. And as far as Ayurveda is concerned, it enhances the quality of ingredients when combined with food.”

From Kabul’s Table: Afghanis recreate home in Delhi

As the last bit of orange disappears from the sky, sherbet along with dates, both in plastic ware, are perched on tabletops at Afghan Darbar, a restaurant tucked deep in the bustling bylanes of Lajpat Nagar II. Almost instantly, the languorous restaurant morphs into a teeming joint as immigrants from Afghanistan gather for iftar.

As the patrons of the three-year-old restaurant bite into the ancient icon of the Middle Eastern world to break their day-long fast, the belief that binds them together is almost palpable. “It is recorded in the hadith, that the prophet always broke the fast with dates. We follow because it is tradition, but dates also provide a boost of energy and work the appetite after a long day of fasting,” says Fayaz Amini, who has come to Delhi from Panjshir, Afghanistan, for medical services that are not available in the war-torn land.

Delectable platters of aromatic kebabs, koftas and the Afghan naan, a fat, flat bread, straight out of the tandoor, rally out of the kitchen. Kebabs form the nucleus of the multifaceted Afghan cuisine. The restaurant replaces the popular shami, shish and lola kebabs of Afghanistan with generic names of mutton kebab, chicken tikka and fish fry. But in taste, the skewered kebabs, spiced with black pepper, roasted cumin and cardamom, are milder than their Indian cousins. Minced meat koftas float in rich, yet muted tomato gravy, traditionally made using a dazzling array of spices — coriander powder, cumin, fennel seeds, sumac and saffron.

Abdul Wali Khan from Paktia in Afghanistan, came to Delhi in 2014 for his MD training at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Rajendra Nagar. “It’s hard to cook for oneself with a demanding job. So, I come here for iftar. They’re particular about the iftar timings and I am certain that their meat is halal,” says Khan, asserting that the food at Darbar mirrors the iftar feast back home. “The only dish amiss are the chaplee kebabs, flat, round cutlets of ground meat,” he says.

A few metres away from Afghan Darbar is Kabul Delhi, established seven years ago by Irshad Ahmed, a Delhiite and Hashmat, Kabul. The name of the restaurant bears the stamp of their commercial union. A favoured dish here, is Mantu — steamed dumplings of spiced minced lamb and onions, served with garlic yoghurt and rajma or kidney beans, garnished with sprigs of coriander or mint leaves. Its vegetarian counterpart is known as Ashak. The dish iterates that the cuisine is not just a delicate interplay of flavours but also temperatures. At Afghan Darbar, rajma is replaced with chana dal or split chickpeas. That’s the beauty of eating at restaurants that don’t take themselves too seriously. You may go back for one dish but be served a variation depending on what is available. Yet, never compromising on delectability.

On Sabir Shahrukh’s plate, at Kabul Delhi, the fragile dumplings split easily into halves that he shares with his friend Ismail Kharimov from Tajikistan. The latter is in the city for his sister’s medical treatment. The two exchange words in Persian and move swiftly on to the main course. The fragrant Qabuli Uzbeki, is a variety of pilaf mixed with raisins, chopped nuts and carrots, heaped over chunks of meat, undeniably the most popular dish of Afghanistan.

Lesser-known delights are accommodated in the vegetarian section. Sumptuous preparations like Sabzi Palak or spinach stew, and Borani Banjan, a rough puree of roasted eggplant with a dash of garlic and chilli pepper open the window to a simpler interpretation of the cuisine. But at these restaurants, barely anyone ordered a vegetarian dish. “We eat a lot more meat during Ramzan to stave off hunger the following day but our vegetarian dishes are tasty too,” says Shahrukh, who moved to Delhi in 2013.

“The Taliban killed my brother four years ago. And then, they came after me. I escaped with my wife and children,” says Shahrukh, digging into the Dopiaza, chicken pieces in a rich curry made with a generous amount of onions, as the name suggests. But the culinary skills of the restaurants’ chefs, he insists, don’t compare to the magic his mother can stir up in the kitchen back home. “Can anyone cook better than your mother?” he asks.

Happy Father’s Day 2017: Treat your daddy to delicious spreads across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai

With Father’s Day fast approaching, are you wondering how to make your dad’s day memorable? Well, we have you covered. This June 18, treat your father to some of the most delectable delicacies for a lazy Sunday brunch, to let him know you care. While nothing really can make up for what your dad does for you, a brunch treat this Father’s Day could be a heartwarming idea.

Here are some of the restaurants in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai offering delicious spreads this Father’s Day.


Treat your favourite man in the world to the sumptuous flavours of Vegetable noodles with pok-choi and asparagus, Pumpkin and walnut dauphinoise, Tarmezi Murg Korma, Hyderabadi Gosht Biryani, accompanied with freshly made pastas and tantalizing soups at Machan.

Where: Machan, The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
When: June 18
Price: Rs 2,600, plus taxes
Phone: 011-66513114 / 3244

Celebrate this Father’s Day with a delicious brunch at Creo, accompanied with choice mocktails specially crafted by the chef at Vivanta By Taj.

Where: Creo, Vivanta By Taj, New Delhi
When: June 18
Price: Rs 2,200 (without alcohol), Rs 2,800 (with alcohol)
Phone: 011-6600 3000, 9711097967

From Dal bati in the west to Madua chokha and Liti chokha in the east, Idiyapam in the south to Dal pakwan and Chole Kulcha in the north — treat your dad to local delicacies at the Masala Trail by Osama Jalali.

Where: At both Masala Trail by Osama Jalali outlets
When: June 18, 9am – 11am
Price: Rs 800, plus taxes, for two
Phone: 08882300300


La Piazza celebrates Father’s Day with a delicious buffet, which includes a selection of pasta, pizzas and main course served on the table and antipasti options showcasing the best of Italian cuisine by Chef Alessandro Sandrolini.

Where: La Piazza, Hyatt Regency, Bhikaiji Cama Place, Ring Road, New Delhi
When: June 18, 12pm – 3pm
Price: Rs 2,450 (Non-Alcoholic Package), Rs 3,250 (Martini and sparkling wine Package), Rs 4,550 (Moet Brut Champagne Package), Rs 5,950 (Moet Rose Champagne Package)
Phone: 011-26791234

father's day, father's day offers, father's day restaurants, father's day brunch, father's day delhi restaurants, father's day mumbai restaurants, father's day bangalore, father's day kolkata, indian express, indian express newsLet your superhero know he means the world to you by treating him to a delicious brunch buffet at JW Marriott which includes seafood, grilled meat, traditional charcuterie, artisanal cheese, breads and desserts like classic pies and tarts, traditional gateaux and tortes and much more.

Where: Lotus Café, JW Marriott, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai
When: June 18, 12pm – 4pm
Price: Rs 6,536 (Champagne brunch), Rs 4,456 (Alcohol brunch), Rs 2,945 (Non-alcoholic brunch), Rs 1,493 (Kids’ brunch)
Phone: 022-66933277/ 3344


Enjoy your day out with your dad with a special brunch at Anise, Taj Coromandel. The special dishes on offer include Mutton galauti kebab on parmesan crisp; murgh anda champ; Chingri malai curry; patrani machli; slow roasted pork shoulder; Hassle back Potatoes, Roasted Tomato Coulis; polenta crusted pizza; squash and goat cheese creps; Steamed broccoli and prune salad; Mezze bar; Kool Dad’s Bourbon chocolate torte; Meringue shells filled with red wine pot de crème; and Fresh mango phirnee.

Where: Anise, Taj Coromandel, 37, Mahatma Gandhi Rd, Tirumurthy Nagar, Nungambakkam, Chennai
When: June 18, 12pm
Price: Rs 2,380 (without alcohol), Rs 3,250 (with alcohol)
Phone: 044-66002827


The Market at Ritz-Carlton is ringing in the Father’s Day and how! With lip-smacking dishes like Crispy Fried Prawns with Mustard Sauce, Braised Beef with Bamboo Shoots and Sczhewan Peppercorns, Thyme Roasted Chicken with Baked Tomatoes and Beans on offer, along with delicious desserts, nothing could be a better tribute to your dad!

Where: The Market , The Ritz-Carlton, Bangalore
When: June 18, 12:30pm – 3pm
Price: Rs 2,750 (Non-alcoholic brunch), Rs 3,950 (Sparkling wine Brunch), Rs 4,500 (Champagne Brunch)