We talked with Chef Rounak Kinger regarding a foodwalk he is doing at Bangalore. Little did we know, we’d be salivating as we saw him waving his hands and explaining the beauty and variety during Ramadan season in terms of delicious food that’s prepared in the homes.
1) How are food walks so interesting?
Food walks are basically exploring the local cuisines by visiting the food vendors, food stalls and old renowned restaurants serving nothing but the accentuated local food. You always have an opportunity to taste different flavors and textures with historical stories in one place. These are the places where vigorous experimentation is carried out based on feedback from common diners. These places are also important as they are so economical on common mans pocket, with great tastes.
2) How did you think about doing one during Ramadan season?
Ramadan is the holy month of Muslims where everybody fasts from dawn to dusk. It holds a place of importance in every Muslim community. They feast at the time of fast breaking at sunset all over the world with delicacies of dates and kebabs, from curries to phirnis. One peculiar dish that I loved personally was the Ramadan juices that were paired with scrumptious food. Refreshing flavors like kokum, mint, cucumber and yoghurt are used to make these Ramadan juices.
India is a democratic country and all the communities live and celebrate festivals together. Everybody loves to taste the delicacies of great culinary lands of Hyderabad, Lucknow. Spreads are extensive and it is an opportunity for all the food lovers and enthusiasts to explore the offerings. Ramadan street foods are upgraded to another level with all the markets bustling with festive sounds and fragrance of food cooked straight from heart.
For me, it is a source of inspiration to learn and experiment new dishes in my kitchen.
3) How is the Ramadan food different from regular food?
Food served during Ramadan is on a different level, the atmosphere is electric with chaos all around. All you can do is swift from one stall to another and wait from your fresh kebabs and rolls to be grilled and served to you. You don’t care about the service gear and seating, all that matters is your piping hot kebab with onion salad. Some of the Iftar foods consists of:
• Fresh seasonal fruits;
• Chicken shawarma;
• Lamb ouzi;
• Ramazan special kebabs;
• Taboulleh, baba ghanoush, mouttabel
• Mutton boti kebab;
• Phirnis, gulab jamus etc
4) Have you thought of a special periodic signature dish during Ramadan?
Lamb Ouzi, one of the most sought after dishes during Ramadan in Middle East as well as India. It is basically whole lamb marinated in cinnamon and turmeric and cooked on slow fire for 6 hours. It is served with traditional kabsa rice and dried nuts and fruits.
5) What are some interesting dishes prepared during the Ramadan?
Ramadan food is special in a sense that that there are selective dishes that are prepared only during the Ramadan month and all round you don’t get to see them on the menu. Few of the examples are below:
• Kebbeh, Cheese Sambousek, Spinach Fatayer
• Ouzzi with oriental rice
• Shrimpbil salsa
• Selection of Manakish
• Marined Lamb Liver Skewers, Lamb Chops, Shish Taouk
• Maklouba Rice
• Couscous with Vegetable Salona
• Okra with Chicken Leg
• Tagine of Lamb Olives and Potatoes
• Spiced Lentil and Pumpkin Tagine
• Chicken Harissa
• Fried Sultan Ibrahim Fish
• Fish Tagine with Tomato and Potato
6) One Ramadan cuisine you would love to experiment with?
Personally I love Lebanese cuisine when it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine for ramadan. The Lebanese diet focuses on herbs, spices, and fresh ingredients (the Lebanese rarely eat leftovers), relying less on heavy sauces. Mint, parsley, oregano, garlic, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon are the most common seasonings. Fruit, vegetables, rice, and bread out-weigh the amount of meat eaten in the average Lebanese meal. However, the most commonly eaten meats, poultry and lamb, make up some of the country’s most popular dishes. The national dish, kibbeh (or kibbe ), consists of a ground lamb and cracked wheat paste, similar to paté. Kibbeh was originally made by harshly pounding the lamb and kneading in the spices and wheat.
Also, influenced by the Nizams, the cuisine of Hyderabad creates a distinctive niche in India with the ingredients used in the cuisine and techniques like ‘Dum’ used for cooking.
7) What is your favorite place to enjoy Ramadan dishes? What’s your favorite Ramadan dish?
Being born and bought up in Mumbai, I always cherished the glamour and excitement of Mohammad Ali road, which is known for its Ramadan spread. What’s special on this street is that there is no discrimination between rich or poor, everyone feasts on these delicacies with same excitement and love for food. I still remember the mawa jelebi and mutton samosa served at the tavakkal sweets.
My personal favorite would be Baklava, It is a traditional sweet that hails from middle east. It is a rich sweet layered pastry with pistachios, almonds drenched in honey syrup.
8) How would you recreate the Ramadan dishes on the menu of all day dining at Shangri-la hotel, Bengaluru?
I love to cook food with inspiration. What’s better than to cook the food loved by masses in a hygienic environment without compromising on the flavors and taste. We will feature varieties of kebabs and curries from Hyderabad, a lavish mezze bar will be a part of the all day dining buffet. We also are doing a kathi kebab concept where guest get to choose their fillings and see the kathi kebab being made live in front of them. We will also feature a Nawabi food selection in our rotational menus on buffet.
What guest can always be assured of are the highest standards of hygiene and quality of ingredients used in preparation of these delicacies.
9) Finally, which place on the world would you love to conduct a food walk again?
I would love to explore street food near jama masjid in New Delhi, the Charminar in Hyderabad, the Manek Chowk in Ahemdabad. Internationally, places like Tunisia, Cairo and Istanbul are places one should not miss to try the street food.
Chef Rounak Kinger is initiating a foodwalk soon. Stay tuned for some drool-worthy foodporn. Follow @EvFInd and @ChefRounaKinger for updates.