Loaded with nutritional zing, yogurt, a simple summer joy, can be a fantastic ingredient in foods to cool down in the current heat wave sweeping northern India. An ongoing festival here endorses the health benefits of the traditionally fermented dairy product with recipes from across the country.Chef Ashwani Kumar at Leela Ambience in East Delhi, who has curated a special menu for the festival titled "All That Is Yogurt" at the hotel's Dilli 32 restaurant, feels that the ingredient is used in all kinds of recipes in different parts of the country. "Curd is everywhere in India," he said.The a la carte menu packed with scrumptious Indian delicacies at the festival includes kachori chat, burrata dahi ke shooly, chha gosht, mochhi, dahi ke jamun-o-gul and refreshing summer joy beverages like mango maniac, cooler dallas and fruit chuski among others.So what's cooking?The chef chose to first serve us a well-presented platter of appetisers containing kachori chat, shrikhand and avocado tarter.Even though kachori chat and the famous dish of Maharashtra and Gujarat, shrikhand, were decent, what stood apart was avocado tarter served with very delicious tadka dahi quenelles. After eating it, one can say that the creamish quenelle made with curd is certainly the best thing to eat avocado with.It didn't end here. There were two more tasty sour dishes -- burrata dahi ke shooly, served with mint and jalapeno chutney, and the famous Hyderabadi shikhampuri kebab which means belly-full. Shikhampuri kebab is basically a mutton patty stuffed with curd and mint, cooked on an iron griddle. Owing to its tenderness, it just melts in your mouth.I clubbed the starters with the Hawaiian cooler, a drink made with watermelon pulp, yogurt, coconut cream and Barcadi.
The combination of watermelon and yogurt was unimaginable; so it felt interesting to try it but having been loaded with coconut, the sweet and sour drink didn't impress much.For the main course, my plate was overloaded with rich dishes from Kashmir, Bihar, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.The Himachali dish chha gosht, marinated in curd and cooked in mustard oil and butter milk, was simple and nice.Baked khichri served with bhetki fish and aloo jhuri is a dish to look forward to. Looking like lasagna, it was a nice Indian version of the Italian dish.Murg ro khatto was a chicken Rajasthani dish, made extra sour with amchur (mango powder). "In Rajasthan, different meats are cooked in the similarly cooked gravy," the Chef said, adding vegetarians put pakoras in the same curry.Next up was a similarly cooked vegetarian recipe -- Bihar's bachka served with ghee bhat and aloo chokha. "In Bihar, they have started adding kadi patta to it, giving it the taste of Punjabi karhi," Kumar explained.I also tasted Kashmiri dum aloo. "Kashmir being a cold area, fennel seeds are added it. Without any onion-tomato gravy, potatoes are cooked for long hours with simple spices like garam masala."Desserts served at such festivals are satisfying only if you have a sweet tooth, which I certainly don't have; hence the sour menu turned out to be bonanza for me."We have used the old technique of making gulab jamuns with curd, but not everyone can make it. It is very difficult to make it this way," the chef said, describing the first on the dessert list -- dahi ke jamun o gul.These gulab jamuns boast of the obvious difference from the usual -- with their sour taste.The dessert platter also offers mishti doi, banoffee and nutela greek yogurt portrait, and lemony frozen yogurt terrine.
What: All That Is Yogurt!
Where: Dilli 32 at Leela Ambience, East Delhi
When: Till June 20
Price for two: Rs 2,500