New Delhi, April 26 : The serene city of Amritsar never fails to impress you with the richness of its splendid delicacies with an abundance of diary products like milk, cheese and butter in them.
Chef Ashwani Kumar at Leela Ambience in East Delhi, who has curated a special menu for an ongoing festival at the hotel's Dilli 32 restaurant, says that the Amritsari cuisine is known for its speciality and is cannot be called hybrid.
"You won't see mixed cuisines in Amritsar, you will see something special in it.
The sauces used in the food are different," Kumar told IANS.
"The tandoor which came from Sindh after the partition got famous in Amritsar, and later in Delhi.
Kumar explained that the famous Amritsari Kulcha, full of ghee, is cooked in a typical manner, which originated in the Sikh holy city.
"It is not the normal dough but 10-12 layers of it are kept for a while and are filled with potatoes, roasted onion, ginger and green chillies.
Crumbs are added to bind it."
"It is half cooked, taken out and then put back to the tandoor to cook it well."
The food festival at Leela offers culinary delights like bharmey aloo potohari, bhatti da murga pindiwala, langer di daal fry, gur ka halwa and select eclectic concoctions such as lassi, and kanjee.
I started my meal with the delicious and a healthy Punjabi snack -- tikki rajmah di -- perfect for tea time.
Kumar said that when he visited Amritsar, this dish was nowhere to be seen in the market but "quite a famous thing" at homes.
Next on were tandoori chicken, clay cooked mutton chunks, machli amritsari, and seekh kebab of sweet corn.
Usually made with yoghurt, lemon juice with authentic Amritsari tandoori chicken masalas in its marinade, had a bit of cheese as well to make it tender.
Mutton chunks are the best thing to look forward to among the starters. The soft, buttery, and perfectly spiced dish with a layer of white makhan that simply melts in your mouth.
The Punjabi highway dhaba style white butter or makhan was one of the main ingredients of every dish.
The Amritsari fish is also called makhan.
The festival offers it in its authentic style -- with little marination, very few masalas, ginger, garlic and lemon -- served with grated white radish and the spicy mint chutney with all the flavours to add to the dish.
What didn't impress much was the seekh kebab of sweet corn.
For mains, there was rara champaan, mutton curry, langar ki dal, and sarson da saag.
For breads, there were options of parantha, naan among others.
Mutton rara is what you should be eating.
You can afford to ignore attractions like sarson ka saag as rara with its keema gravy can drive a food lover crazy.
Tomatoes, mutton, masalas and condiments come together to create a heavenly mutton recipe which was perfectly spiced like most other dishes.
It is not the season of mustard greens so the saag was prepared with sarson that the chef had preserved in the winters by roasting it.
Hence, perhaps, the taste didn't match up to the taste level of the most talked about Punjabi recipe.
Dal was not as simple as the one served in langar. "It was made rich to live to the five-star expectations," the Chef said.
This rich meal concluded with gur ka halwa and phirni -- best for those not so fond of sweets as the two dishes boast of the minimal amount of sweetness.
What: Amritsari Food Festival
Where: Dilli 32 at Leela Ambience, East Delhi
When: Till April 29
Price for two: Rs 2,000
(Mudita Girotra was at Dilli 32 at its invitation.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)