Spice Route at The Imperial New Delhi gives a rebirth to the highly desired mango as it presents a luxurious, refreshing summer collection of innovative recipes.
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: May 25, 2012
Summer means mango, and mango means summer. They both are intricately linked to each other. One is nothing without the other. No other sensation tops the mind when you are sucking on a luscious, ripe mango.
So while everyone, from soft drinks to fashion brands, try to make a connection with this ubiquitous fruit this season, hotels and restaurants have definitely not been left behind. The Imperial New Delhi, which is always on the top of the game, also utilized the mango to lure some gourmets in the city.
Thus, I soon found myself at their stunning restaurant Spice Route, keeping my eyes and nose alert for any sign of mangoes. I was graciously greeted by Chef Veena Arora, Chef de Cuisine at the Spice Route, who explained how she has taken mango as the core ingredient and built a special summer menu around it. “So, which core ingredients did you use in the previous years’ summer menus?” I asked nonchalantly. “Oh, it’s always mangoes,” she said equally innocently. And my jaw dropped. You have to be a sheer genius to be able to create infinite dishes over the years centered only on one ingredient.
Clearly awed by her creative spirit, we asked Chef Veena to choose the delicacies for us. For appetizers, our plates were furnished with Yum Mamuang, a spicy and freshly grated raw mango salad. It bought a smack to my lips! If the tanginess gets too much for you, have it with lettuce leaves to offset it. But for my part, I relished every bit of it.
Another salad we tasted was the Yum Saam Kler – a toss up off shredded raw mango, raw papaya and carrot, flavoured with palm sugar and light soy sauce. Spicy and delicious, it is perfect for those who can’t tolerate too much of raw mango on their palate. My companion found the Mangai Cheemen Thoren amazing enough to have multiple helpings. These Kerala style prawns were stir fried with coconut, curry leaves and raw mango, and flavoured with mustard seeds. The prawns, she commented, were extremely soft.
Avoiding the soup in the brutally hot Delhi weather, we strode towards the main course. My expectations were very high after the great show of starters. And Chef Veena gave an even more flourishing performance in the main course. Ga Xao Hot Dieu, a Vietnamese style stir fry of chicken, fresh mangoes and cashewnuts, was called for, but without the chicken for me. The dish was cooked with vegetables like baby corn, broccoli, coral mushroom, and ripe mangoes of course, instead of the chicken - a delightful modification for hard core vegetarian like me! It was a bit bland for my tastes, but a great choice nevertheless.
Katrikai Masala – baby eggplants, water chestnuts and raw and ripe mango, simmered in Kerala spices – was a big surprise! Who could think of teaming mangoes with eggplants? And to the Chef’s credit, the mangoes didn’t overtake the flavour of eggplants. And if you wish to experiment further, have it with Maambalam Appams – which are the quintessential Kerala style rice flour bread, but cooked with mango pieces. The Appams, however, were perfect even without any accompaniment, as the bland and sweet mixed on our taste palate.
But the place of honour goes to Chef’s Special Rice. Jasmine rice (a Thai variety) is cooked with ripe mango pieces and coconut milk. Not too many Indians enjoy having rice without any gravy, but they will surely have to bow down in front of this one. Smooth on the throat, soft and not too sweet, the rice with mango pieces is the bestseller at Spice Route we are told! And if you like a little more colour, then opt for Khao Phad Ma-Muang – stir fried rice with dices of ripe mango and seasonal fruits and garnished with watermelon.
Non-vegetarians can liven up their taste buds with Pla-E-Saan, which is crispy fried fillet of sole served with spicy palm sugar sauce, garnished with slivers of raw mango. The palm sugar sauce, in fact, can also be called for separately and had as an accompaniment with your meal. It will certainly make everything piquant!
“The desserts should be easy and usual with mangoes,” I thought. And I was still caught off-guard. We started with Khaneow Mamuang – sticky rice garnished with reaosted sesame and served with rice mango. It was somewhat like the Chef’s Special Rice, but sweeter. Next what came changed the definition of ice cream for me. Water chestnut, diced into small pieces, and flavoured with khus-khus, was served with coconut cream, with a big block of ice sitting in the middle to keep this innovative concoction chilled. I hadn’t ever savoured a dessert more than this time. The crunch of the water chestnut mixed with the smoothness of coconut cream was absolutely enchanting. The mango version, which we did not have actually, would have a mango sorbet sitting in between.
The food was incredible and it didn’t sit too heavy, as Chef Veena had prophesised, even after all that rice. The versatility of mango was shown excellently. And I truly wish Chef Veena luck for next summer because I don’t know how she will better this mango performance.
Coordinates: Spice Route, The Imperial New Delhi, Janpath, New Delhi, India
For reservations, contact: +91-11-41116605