Saturday, December 18, 2010

Meaty Musings

Ribeye at Chez Papa RestoMan probably began grilling meat from the time he discovered fire. This most basic cooking technique has survived the test of time everywhere. However, the choice of meats and how they are seasoned and served differs widely as you travel around the world. Succulent kababs in India, juicy steaks in America and elegantly prepared steak au poivre in France - a variety of delectable culinary magic created by grilling choice meats over open fires.

A week back, I dined at Kababs & Kurries in Bangalore. Kababs originated in Persia and were brought into India during the Mughal invasion. There are stories of soldiers who grilled meats on their swords over open fires. The primary meat in these regions have always been goat, but has expanded to include other meats, seafood, even vegetables to appease the varied palates of the peoples of the Indian subcontinent. As the Mughals settled down in India, their royal kitchens continuously refined the basic grilled meats into more elaborate forms.

Kababs & Kurries offers a choice of kababs and an elaborate variety of curries with exotic Indian breads. I chose the Burra Kabab and Murgh Angaar Kabab tonight with a portion of Dal Bukhar, accompanied by whole wheat Naan-e-Backumaach and Pudina Paratha breads.

Kababs & Kurries BangaloreThe Burra Kababs were street food during earlier times. You can relive some of those times by visiting our inner cities - the chowks and bazaars of North India. I distinctly remember the narrow lanes in the old city of Lucknow, where the mouth-watering aroma of grilling meat hung heavily in the cold, wintry evenings as men wrapped in shawls and woolen caps crowded around charcoal stoves grilling expertly marinated chunks of lamb and beef. The Burra Kabab at Kababs & Kurries are a distant cousin of that rustic fare. Made from the most tender portions of lamb, the meat is rubbed with ground spices and yogurt, marinated for a few hours and then grilled on skewers over a charcoal fire. The outcome quite excellent, I must add!

Kababs & Kurries BangaloreThe Murgh Angaar, was chicken drumsticks marinated with ginger and garlic paste, onion juice and spiced with fenugreek, mace and turmeric before being grilled on the tandoor to seal in the juices. Another great kabab that went really well with the black daal and mint flavored pudina paratha.

Kababs & Kurries BangaloreA couple of days earlier, I had discovered another restaurant to feast on Mughlai cuisine: Nawab Sahib in the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center, Mumbai. They serve a multi-course dinner that can be quite imposing and leave you feeling very full indeed. On the day I dined, they served us Gilawati Kabab and Murgh Achari. The former made of the finest mince of lamb with a zillion spices, shaped into round patties and fried in an iron griddle. The later made of chicken marinated in pungent spices and mustard oil before being grilled on a traditional tandoor.

Kababs at Nawab Sahib MumbaiA week later, I was halfway around the world in San Francisco. The nip in the air, the Christmas decorations and music everywhere gave the city a very festive atmosphere. I quickly made my way to Lark Creek Steak, one of my favorite places here. Unlike the East, grilled meats in the USA is all about meat, less about spices. There are other basic differences too. In India, meat - predominantly lamb and poultry - is freshly butchered and marinated in spices for hours before being slowly grilled. Here, beef goes through an elaborate process of ageing to make the meat more flavorful before it is brought into the kitchen, seasoned and grilled.

New York Strip at Lark Creek Steak
New York Strip at Lark Creek SteakIn the best American tradition, Lark Creek Steak takes pride on the quality of its meat and presents it in its most basic form. The 10 oz New York Strip was served with whipped potatoes topped with crispy onions and chives. Cooked medium-rare, the meat was flavorful and tasty, just what I needed after that walk in the biting cold windy weather outside. The salad, Little Gem Wedge, was a brilliant combination with bacon, chopped egg and a buttermilk-blue cheese dressing. The dessert of Profiteroles with vanilla ice-cream, chocolate sauce and candied almonds rounded off a fine a traditional steakhouse meal!

Little Gem Wedge at Lark Creek Steak
Profiteroles at Lark Creek SteakThe next day I was at Chez Papa Resto, another place I love. I ordered a Ribeye Steak here which quickly demonstrated the difference between an American Steakhouse and a French restaurant. Traditional American steak is usually always a great-tasting slab of meat plonked on a plate with whipped potato, spinach, or mac n' cheese and nothing else.

Baby Beet Salad at Chez Papa RestoThe French version of Ribeye was artistically presented in slices - the pink middle contrasting with the dark exterior - along with turnips, spinach, comte cheese, potato and house cured bacon terrine. The bacon terrine was a fancy creation on its own, fashioned out of delicately sandwiched strips of bacon.

Warm Praline Cake at Chez Papa RestoThe Baby Beet Salad with citron, watercress, goat milk creme fraiche, pickled beet vinaigrette and the dessert of Moist Praline Cake, coffee ganache and nut brittle chantilli rounded off a perfect dinner. Le dîner était fantastique!

The Japanese have their Yakitori carts, the Malays their satays, and the Americans their bar-be-ques. A variety of meats, carefully chosen spices, wood- and charcoal-fired stoves, tandoors and iron grills. For the meat-loving, travelling foodie, a world of choice!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yea, loved it.