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Food Festival I Dehlvi Cuisine. threesixtyone at The Oberoi Gurgaon

It's not everyday that you have a meal where every dish has a story to tell. Where each mouthful transports you back in time. Where you suddenly feel you are a part of history of the city that you live in.

Dehlvi cuisine does that to you. Because it is the cuisine of the capital. Of an era that's long forgotten. The glorious food of Delhi.

Truth is, there is no such thing as indigenous Dilli ka khana or the cuisine of Delhi, because Delhi has been made up of trans-migrants. Perhaps one of the oldest melting pots, it is where the food of the Punjabis meet that of the Kayasths to that of the Marwaris and Rajputs. It is where the Vaishyas and the Mughals left their legacy. All in a place called Dilli 6.

Celebrating the glorious food of the past, threesixtyone at The Oberoi Gurgaon has paid tribute to the era with its Dehlvi Food Festival. Under the tutelage of Chef Dirham Haque, this festival is not just a feast for the eyes, but for the senses too.

On a muggy Saturday afternoon, us bloggers sat across from the beautiful waterbody that threesixtyOne overlooks and began eating a fabulous meal curated from the menu of the food festival.

It all began with a spice trail. A range of spices including Sandalwood, Vetiver and Mica, we were given the spices to touch, feel and ask questions about. Some of the spices such as the Indian rose chestnut (a close cousin of the allspice) and the Betel roots are extremely difficult to source (mostly found with hakeems and ayurvedic houses), yet the good people at the Oberoi even gave us a goodie-bag filled with the spices (Yay!)

The meal began with the an exquisite drink called the Mufarra, a royal or shahi sherbet which is made with saffron, ittar (perfumed oils), rose petals and vetiver. And even though the drink was extremely sweet (perhaps to whet the appetite) it was the intoxicating aromas that rose from it that really made you want to keep sipping it.

Pic Courtesy: Deeba Rajpal

Dahi gujiya were the first of the many dishes brought out. A fried ball of lentil bathed in cool yogurt encased in a bits of sweet and tangy tamarind sauce. As delightful as it tasted, I had to stop after the first bite because this is one dish I truly cannot understand.

A platter of kebabs was up next. From the old favourite Gilawati Kebab to the mildly spiced Chicken Tangdi  to the Sillabatte ka Shammi and the gosht methi doka, it was a fabulous selection of meats that would have truly been enough to feed an army. The matar ka kebab or the green peas kebabs was a revelation with its bright green interior standing tall with its meaty plate-mates.

Pic Courtesy: Anamika Singh

 We were served the amuse bouche next - a Jamun or Java plum sorbet which was so creamy that it felt like silk in the mouth. The tang from the plum alongwith the roasted cumin and rock salt was extremely light and refreshing. This was to prep us for the assortment of main course that would arrive any minute.

It all started with the paneer laung latika, cottage cheese with clove flavoured curry and the bharwan tindora kheema, or minced meat stuffed in apple gourd. Both these two were extremely flavourful and easy to eat. The murgh mussalam, the chef's favourite - tender chicken in a rich nutty gravy had very definitive flavours which were all together very rich but delicious ofcourse.

Pic Courtesy: Anamika Singh

Next came two of my favourite dishes of the afternoon - the amrood ki subzi and the bharwan karela - a curry made with almost-ripe guavas and stuffed bitter gourd. Both the fruit/vegetables were a class apart. And as delicious as the meats had been so far, these two held their own fort. And all this was served with an assortment of paranthas, all inspired by the paranthe wali gali at Dariba Kalan.

The Dehlvi Nalli Nihari was up next. Served with plenty of fried onions, coriander and lemon on the side, each bite caused tiny explosions in the mouth. This was light, and the meat had flavoured the broth beautifully.

Pic Courtesy: Deeba Rajpal
And then came the desserts. (please notice the plural). These were no ordinary desserts. These were desserts with a lot of thought in them. These were desserts that recreated the past in itself. Up first - the royal fruit cup. Served at the Embassy restaurant till the late 80s, the royal fruit cup was lots of tinned fruit, a bit of cake and lots of rabdi on top. But Chef Dirham elevated this dessert. The Royal Fruit Cup at the Dehlvi food festival was a lovely novae take on it. A layer of spongy rasgulla, topped with tinned fruit and fresh fruit, and rabdi with cream that had been whipped into submission. The result? A decadent trifle-like dessert that you couldn't stop eating.

The kulfi khaas madhubala was up next. Chockful of nuts, with a splash of Rooh-Afza and bits of faluda, this was perhaps my least favourite.

As if that wasn't enough - out came the best surprise of the afternoon - dabba ice cream, alongwith all its paraphernalia. An old-fashioned ice cream maker, that needed to be hand churned so that you'd get the smoothest consistency ever was brought out to make us all gasp. And the ice cream that came out of it? Mind blowing. Perhaps the creamiest, smoothest ice cream ever that tasted like fresh mangoes.

Stuffed to the gills, with fingers still smelling of sandalwood and vetiver and armed with our own goodie-bags of spices, we called it a day. And boy, what a day it was.

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