Ironically, while a flood-ravaged Pakistan is refusing aid from India and India is trying alternative avenues to help out its neighbour, hotel Intercontinental Eros celebrates the flavours of pre-independence era through its restaurant Singh Sahib
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: September 10, 2010
The Intercontinental Eros website describes Singh Sahib as: The culinary style of undivided Punjab with a remarkable blending of delicacy and essence has forever been the preference of touring aficionados. The exquisite flavors of Pothohar, Sargodha, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshwar and Amritsar have brilliantly been added to take the royal guests on a beautiful journey of the glorious past…
“Well, doesn’t it simply describe Punjabi cuisine in fancy words?” I thought like a naïve person. Nevertheless, I went ahead to explore Singh Sahib. And as soon as I entered the restaurant, I immediately understood what they had meant with the pre-independence flavours. The restaurant has a royal look with gold and maroon being the predominant colours. Simple wood furnishings and paintings of maharajas decorate the restaurant. Ghazals were playing softly in the background. The overall ambience was calm and truly relaxing - the kinds where you nurse a glass of your favourite drink and chew over random thoughts. At dinner time, the ambience is slightly livelier with a live Ghazal singer and an open kitchen area where you can observe the chefs at work on the tandoori.
After I had settled comfortably with my companion, the smiling waiter quickly came over to take our order for drinks. I was going to order an orange juice when my companion saved me and told me to try their specialty instead, Ananas da Panna. Much like the mango variety, this one was made with the pulp of pineapple, albeit in a very different way. The raw pineapple was first roasted, followed by taking out the pulp, and flavouring it with various salts, cumin and mint. The result was a tingling-tasting panna with a smoky nose, which I drank as elegantly as I could, but fast enough to order another one.
Since everything looked tremendously tempting in the menu, Chef Surinder was called upon to make the choice for us. He zeroed down on a snack platter of Bhutteyan de Kebab (corn poached and blended with herbs, green chillies and deep fried); Tandoori Bharme Aloo (barrel shaped kebabs made from potatoes mashed with herbs, filled with dry fruits and made golden in tandoor); and Multani Paneer Tikka (cottage cheese slices stuffed and rolled with mushroom, cheddar and scallion mixture, cooked in tandoor). All the snacks were light and non-oily, unlike the typical Punjabi fare that you get in restaurants today. Well-cooked, they actually ‘appetised’ me rather than filling me up, which was a relief since by now I had made a good mind to try as much as possible here.
The non-vegetarian variety of snacks was also extensive. You can take a pick from Amritsari Machchi (river sole marinated with carom seed flavoured gram flour batter and roasted in tandoor); Bhatti da Murgh (signature preparation of chicken marinated in a chefs special masala and finished in tandoor); and Lahore di Gilafi Seekhan (the traditional seekh of lamb or chicken mince laced with crispy juicy tomatoes and capsicum complimented with crispy green chillies and onion).
I decided to go simple with the main course since I wanted to see how they prepare their simple dishes, like a normal daal. After much deliberation with Chef Surinder, he finally succumbed to my easy choices and we went ahead with Bhartha Rawalpindiwala (charcoal roasted brinjal concasse cooked with tomatoes, onion, garlic and green chillies); Punjabi Kadhi Pakori (gram flour dumplings simmered in yoghurt based gravy); and Daal Tadkeywaali (Arhar daal tempered with dry red chilli, burnt garlic and hint of kasoori methi) with plain Lachcha Parantha.
The Bhartha, my favourite, was carefully prepared, again without being very oily. The daal was also good with just a hint of spice. I was happy to note that it was almost home-like food! The super expensive Ghucchi (morel) was also a part of the menu. If you like ghucchi (a small dry fruit grown in Kashmir, cost starting from a whopping INR 15,000 per kg), then do try the Ghucchi aur Khumb da Kamaal.
Non-vegetarians should try Meat Beliram (lamb curry); Murgh Elaichi (chicken tikka cooked in light green cardamom scented yoghurt gravy); and Tariwali Macchi (sole fish prepared home style with a hint of paanch poran).
They have a stir fries section in the menu with some crispy delicacies. Some hard-core vegetarians will love the No Onion and No Garlic section too. There is an exhaustive selection of rice and breads to have with the curries and stir fries.
Some of the dessert options reminded me of the pre-independence north Indian food, mainly due to the stories I had heard from my maternal grandfather. Kulfi Falooda (pistachio-almond flavoured Indian ice dessert made with reduced milk, adorned with rose syrup) and Phaldari Phirnee (rice and milk garnished with pistachio) again reminded me of those stories. Having never lived in a pre-independence era, I can just imagine what a grand period it would have been when everyone was friends and sat around the table in camaraderie to enjoy such appetizing fare…
Coordinates: Singh Sahib, S-2, American Plaza, International Trade Tower, Nehru Place
New Delhi, India