Behind the scenes of Golden Temple langar kitchen (A photo essay): Amritsar unfolded Part two

Having heard stories about the massive kitchen at the Golden temple which feeds lakhs of devotees every single day, a visit was much pending just to witness the sheer scale of their operations and outstanding dedication of the sevadaars. Community service is epitomised by the Sikhs.
Skeets showcases the kitchen of the Gurudwara through her lens in this post. 
Golden temple
The Golden Temple at day break
gurudwara langar, golden temple
Have never seen so many utensils together at a place!

ginger, seva, golden temple
Where men sit down and chop ginger

onion, chopping, golden, temple
It was simply amazing to see how it all started from a few onions and then sacks of onions were undone to be peeled.
The automated Roti/Chapati making machine at the Golden Temple. Everything from the dough kneading to the rolling of chapattis and the final puffing/sekna is automated.
cauldrons, golden temple, food preparation at golden temples
Preparing food for the day
langar, golden temple
These giant cauldrons at the Golden temple have curries for the day being prepared. Two of them were just dedicated for making the yummiest morning tea ever. 

Read Part One of Amritsar unfolded.

Lay’s Football favourites: Apple Chilli Flavour product review

Family and friends call Skeeter a marketeer’s delight. A new product that hits the supermarket shelves has to be picked and tried by Skeeter atleast once. All these nudges from the family time and again led Skeeter to the idea that these products could be showcased on the blog too! Hence launching Delhi Foodies’ Zone product reviews today. Here, Skeeter will showcase what she likes and what she doesn’t. Hope you will like reading such posts off and on.


Skeets brings to you the delightful Lay’s Football favourites: Apple Chilli Flavour. It is one of the three limited edition flavours on offer. The other two being Cheesy Jalapeno and Tangy Herb. Skeeter is yet to try those. One bite of the Apple Chilli ridged potato crisps justifies the flavour(come to think of a thousand products whose tagline doesn’t match the taste). This one’s HOT with a strong hint of apple flavour (which the ingredients list reveals comes from the dried apple juice powder). It is tangy and yeah ‘No one can eat just one’ 🙂  Packed with a punch it gets a thumbs up from Skeeter.

Packaging and price tag

The mustard/deep yellow pack comes with football icon Leo Messi holding a chip and the doodles of apple and chilli make for attractive packaging. They are available in Rs 20 and Rs 10 packs of 52g and 26g respectively. Pick them up and munch on!

P.S.: One can vote for their favourite flavour and get a chance to watch Messi play Live!

Artusi Ristorante: An Italian sojourn

If there’s another country whose citizens are as passionate about their regional food as India Skeeter would vote for Italy. Though Italian visa has not been stamped on Skeeter’s passport yet, Italy remains in top five of the travel bucket list. Till then Skeeter keeps satiated by sampling Italian culinary offerings in Delhi. Let us be frank. Skeeter was a wee bit shy trying out Artusi Ristorante simply because Diva is practically next door. Ritu Dalmia introduced Skeeter to Italian food (as she did to most of you Skeety believes) few years ago and Skeeter has NEVER gone beyond Diva. Not a wink.

An invite to sample food by Artusi kept sitting in the inbox. There were heaps and heaps of praises in the social circles. Skeeter was growing restless and finally gave in to the temptation. Artusi is a quaint restaurant with limited covers and welcoming interiors. It features food from Emilia Romagna region in Italy and is named after Pellegrino Artusi, one of the founders of Italian cuisine, who penned the first Pan-Italian Cookbook. The owners are Gurpinder and Oscar Balcon, a well-travelled couple who globetrotted before settling in India. Oscar tells that a lot of the food featured on the Artusi menu is just like his mother would prepare.

One walks into the restaurant through a bar that has a deli corner too. The bar is designed such that one can overlook passers by on the street through a full sized glass wall while enjoying their drink. Very European. The lighting was a bit harsh but it could in no way dampen the experience.
The first thing that would strike one is the freshness of the ingredients used. The Rape e Noci salad came first. Roasted deep red beets, water cress, crunchy and juicy green apple slices and walnuts dressed in goat cheese, finished with croutons and balsamic made for a pretty plate and pleasing palate. Emilia Romagnia happens to be the place where the first Balsamic vinegar was aged. The region is also famous for its Parmesan cheese and Parma ham.

The Tomino came next. An Italian cheese roundel (a very generous portion that) melted over a bruschetta that was drizzled with fragrant truffle oil. There were sauteed mixed mushrooms (Skeeter’s favourite Enoki too!)for company. It was a dish that relied on the star ingredients than anything else and worked very well for Skeeter. By now Skeets was very full but she had to sample the pasta and so she called for a small portion of Paglia e Fieno Aurora. This handmade white and green angel hair pasta was a treat to the eyes and was set in a pink sauce with shallots, mushrooms, tomatoes and cream. Skeeter cannot even begin to write about the freshness of this one. The pasta was al dente and the sauce beautifully complemented its texture. A must try.

The meal ended with Artusi signature dessert which was what pulled Skeeter to this Ristorante in the first place. The Panna Cotta Fichi e Mandorle. Panna Cotta with caramelized figs and fig sauce in a lush pool of caramel and beautiful almond slivers. As Skeeter writes this post she cannot but help think of when she will get another bite of it. Soon, very soon.

Dimcha joins the Delhi dimsum brigade

When Skeeter heard fab reviews from friends about a new ‘Dimsum’ outlet in GK 1, N block market, she trotted the trail and reached Dimcha (Dimsum + Yumcha=Dimcha). The place lives up to its name and has a Thai brother upstairs that goes by the name Dao. While Yauatcha may be the dimsum hotspot of the town right now, Dimcha is steadily climbing the ranks. The dimsums here are great and the fact that it starts getting busy by 8pm is but a reminder of its popularity. Skeeter has been to Dimcha only once and doesn’t really like to write about a place before she visits a place more than once, but Skeeter promises to add more to this post sooner than you think!
Dimcha gives the feel of a tea house or a Yumcha cafe where you order dimsum and tea and savour them over some invoking conversations. Here’s what Skeeter had and what one can look forward to:

The steamed Vegetable Chive dumplings (Rs 235) came first: Water chestnut, celery and chives seated in a green pastry cover and steamed to perfection. Two pearls of pomegranate topped this dimsum and gave it a rather elegant look. The food does need to look inviting for sure and it did! A delicious deal.

Next came the Vegetable Char Siu buns (Rs 255) which were steamed bun dimsums with a lip smacking filling of barbecued veggies and minced ginger. You will fall in love with this one.
The asparagus Cheung Fun (Rs 325)was a relevation. Skeeter liked it better than the ones she’s had at Yauatcha and they really stole the show. A rice noodle roll steamed to perfection with an aptly seasoned filling of asparagus and shiitake mushrooms, topped with light soy sauce. Take a bow!

Skeeter also enjoyed the Lo mai gai or the Lotus leaf parcel with sticky rice and veggies(Rs 255). Glutinous sticky rice with mock duck (which was strangely missing or too scant to be noticed), veggies and shiitake mushrooms (that lent a mock meat flavour anyway) come wrapped in a Lotus leaf. These made for a meal in itself. A Cantonese Yumcha classic, these are worth pigging, Skeeter says!

Besides, they have a range of tisanes (flower petal/herbal teas) which one can enjoy with the dimsums. Try the Rose bud (Rs 175) and the Chrysanthemum tisanes (Rs 175) and come back and thank Skeeter for the reccos! The teas are reasonably priced and make for a perfect pair with the dimsums. 
Skeeter also tried the Yam Phak Ruam Mit Krob (Rs 325) or the exotic crispy vegetable salad in a hot, sweet and sour dressing (Rs 325). The vegetables coated in a light tempura batter were fried and tossed in a tangy sauce. Another green bean salad in the most scrumptious peanut sauce was a Skeeter favourite. 
Having said all that, some things need attention. The tisanes stored in plastic jars were not pleasant to the eyes, considering they’ve spent reasonably in doing up the place. They need to invest in some nice looking jars for the tisanes. Skeeter also hopes they maintain their food quality for her to keep going back and enjoying Yumcha.

Guppy by Ai: talk of the town

To eat a different cuisine, and that, to a heartful doesn’t happen very often. It happened at Guppy by Ai. Chef Vaibhav Bhargava and manager Gulzar, our hosts for the evening explained that at Guppy by Ai they serve their take on traditional and contemporary Japanese cuisine with slight modifications to suit the Indian palate. The new menu, he goes on to explain, was a result of old favourites from Ai and the innumerable food tastings that happened at the restaurant before they opened doors to public. No wonder their menu is full of wonderful gastronomical surprises for the vegetarian taste buds. Skeeter for sure will be seen eating there more often. Chef Vikram Khatri who heads the kitchen was unfortunately not present on the night Skeeter visited.

Guppy is already the talk of the town as Skeeter spotted the who’s who of town on the night of her visit. Chilli garlic flavoured edamame kicked off our evening. The edamame bean pods are usually boiled and salted but the Chilli garlic rendition of Guppy by Ai lent it a different note altogether. A must try. Next, came, a very fresh Guppy house salad with Zucchini ribbons, carrot ribbons, thin slivers of beet, bamboo shoot, bits of broccoli and palm heart tossed in karashi mustard, finished with a sprinkle a roast sesame seeds.
Rice paper vegetable rolls which had shredded vegetables and lettuce, wrapped in rice paper followed with yuzu kosho sesame sauce. The presentation was what fascinated Skeeter. Caramalised onion slivers plated in a way that they looked like a leaf! Ask for the Rice paper vegetable rolls and the house salad if you are particularly watching your weight. Anyone who indulges in the Sushi is not vegetarian debate, MUST try the tempura Sushi here and decide for themselves. There is a Sushi counter in the dining area where you can watch all the action live.

Chilli lime dressed Agedashi Tofu was the next to have Skeeter floored. Agedashi Tofu is traditionally served after it is cut into cubes, dusted with cornstarch and deep fried. It is then served placed on hot broth. This one had a tangy chilli lime dressing and a little salsa on the top and was served aka oroshi (a Japanese radish condiment) and dashi sauce. I’ve had better versions of the Miso soup elsewhere about but the Crisp vegetable Harumaki was a relevation: Baked filo pastry with a stuffing of shredded vegetables. Crisp on the outside with tender, flavourful vegetables inside; this top notch dish was presented strewn with pearl-like corn. It can be served fried also, if one requests (but I wonder who’d do that and why?). Impeccable plating clubbed with outstanding flavours. A winner, this. The presentation of all the food we had matched the equally delightful decor. Origami paper used as lampshades, metal lion fish lights, Japanese dolls and other Japanese artefacts placed all over the restaurant showcase the effort put in for doing up the place.

The rock corn tempura stole Skeeter’s heart. It was served with a Sriracha spiced mayo that teased the tongue gently. The Teriyaki glazed artichoke and Tofu set made a good pair with the garlic fried rice which Skeety really enjoyed. End your meal with a Yuzu lemon cheese cake which has a splendid Kaffir lime glaze on top of it, or opt for a warm carrot cake with a cream cheese drizzle. The warm carrot cake was ethereal. Served at an excellent temperature, this sublime cake was spiced with cinnamon and was a great finish to a phenomenal meal.

I’ve also had people sing praises about Guppy by Ai’s gorgeous Black Cod plated on a hot stone, the Ramen that is served in a broth that take 72 hours to prepare and excellent Pork Belly. But more about that later.
Address- 28, Main Market, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi
Timings: 12 to 3.30 and 7pm to 1am
Lunch for two w/o alcohol: 1500 ++
Dinner  for two w/o alcohol: 2000 ++
For Reservation – 01124690005/6, +919650185005

Of Ravioli rituals at Olive Culinary Academy

Fifteen student chefs, two buddy chefs and a master chef comprise the Olive Culinary Academy structure. For those of you who dine at Olive (Qutub), the sunshine room aka the Greenhouse has been taken over, length to length and breadth to breadth by the first batch of OCA. This, shall remain in force till the OCA finds a permanent home.

The culinary wizard
The trail blazer of this venture, Chef Saby (Sabyasachi Gorai), is a bundle of nerves these days. As Reeta Skeeter chats with him, Saby mumbles something impromptu, “they pulled off that choco mousse cake well. It did not fall apart. It was not perfect but it was not anywhere near what I was fearing it to be.” Clearly, his mind lies in getting every act being performed at OCA right. Skeeter has an opinion here… The OCA students did a fab job at the chocolate mousse cake. Spearheading a culinary academy with an international accreditation and holding the sessions at the premises of a very successful restaurant is not an easy task. But Chef Saby is not the one who is bogged down easily by anything that revolves around his passion: great food and better service. He shows Skeeter his cellphone and reveals it has not internet connectivity. He has even given up his laptop. He took an added responsibility (of the OCA) and tore away from his life what he deemed not-so-important at that point in time. The ever smiling Chef Noor-Al-Sabah and the gracious Subirendra Nath are among the faculty. 
The students
Skeets was on a self-invited visit to the OCA. She arrived when the lunch preparations were in progress. Every evening the 15 student chefs receive on their email addresses, the menu for the next day. They are given some warning as to what they are expected to do the following day. They can read the recipes, do their research and clear doubts with the buddy chefs or the master chef (Saby). The first batch at OCA come across as a confident lot. After all, they are handpicked by a star, after thorough interview rounds. Only two students who are over age(as per the prospectus limit) have been allowed on board. 
The students are a curious mix. There is Divija who comes across as extremely passionate about her new professional path (she is a lawyer and quit her job to study food); there is Sofya who left her job as a tax accountant in NY, came all the way to India and is exploring food. As Divija and Sofya share their experiences, they are rejoiced to discover Stephen’s stint with a middle-eastern restaurant. Divija is cooking up mid-eastern food for a friend’s’ party and promptly asks Stephen for help with some of the food she wants to make. For Pradeep, it is about refining his skills as he has previously studied at a culinary school. Sahil, who has done his BBA in Marketing to make the parents happy, finally coaxed them to let him persuade his passion. Sagar and Akash are from a culinary background. Infact, Akash dropped his Australian study plans when he heard that he could get an opportunity to learn from and work with Saby (cult following?). Yasir, Mansi and Ananya have just finished school and have found the culinary practicals and academics at OCA as their calling. Girish and Ritu are the exceptions among the young lot and are thrilled at what they have learnt at OCA so far.

Everything at the Greenhouse at Olive seems to be moving in a rhythmic fashion. There’s no causal banter, there are only jokes around food and more, around errors, if any. There are occasional shout-outs from Saby. No student escapes his hawk eyes. As Saby is talking to some visitors at the academy, he shouts at a student that what he has just thrown was pumpkin pulp that could have otherwise been used to make at least one and a half portions of pumpkin soup. The student gets the point and takes it well. The students are given top notch ingredients to work with and they ought to respect the same. They shout orders at each other. The one receiving the order promptly executes the task. This was an absolute delight to watch as it indicates they have been taught to work as a team and they do a mean job of it as is seen in what came. Skeeter has always regarded ravioli making as a ritual which requires utmost devotion, concentration and skill. She was particularly stupefied at the dexterity the OCA students showed at this skill. 
The Pasta ritual
The course
The students are taught at par with industry standards. Since it is a certificate course, it can be completed faster than an associate or bachelor’s program. The one year course has two modules. Module one consists of theory sessions, pictorial and live demonstrations as well as practical sessions. Module two is a 6 month Paid Internship at branches of Olive countrywide. Whilst, the rest of the desired info is up for grabs at the OCA website, what is of particular interest is the TAKE HOME CHEF concept introduced at the OCA. The students at Olive Culinary Academy will come to your home and rustle up a gourmet dinner for you and your guests, assisted by master chefs and senior chefs.

Olive Culinary Academy,
One Style Mile, Mehrauli, New Delhi.
Mobile:+91 880 011 1279
Landline:+91 (011) 2957 4407

Of jams and post-its

Dear readers,

It has been a marvelous journey on Delhi Foodies’ Zone so far. Skeeter loves the appreciation mails, the queries and feedback that you guys keep sending every now and then. Keep them coming. It is fun to interact with you and this communication gives Skeeter a perspective on what you want to read and what you don’t. Today, Skeeter wants to share with you a really cute and heart-warming post-it that a dear friend sent across. Thank you!

Delhi with a view

Skeeter’s dream Delhi house would have a lot of natural light, a lot of greens (with maybe a patch of thicket) and a patch of an organic kitchen garden. The kitchen garden would overlook a pebbled path with some bright garden umbrellas planted here and there for a nature-packed cuppa in the morning, a glorius lunch in the afternoon and a humble bar-be-que at night. While all that may be a little far-fetched to call hers forever, Skeeter does sometimes hop, skip and jump to Lodi -The Garden Restaurant for a meal. Last Saturday, was one such occasion.

A welcome shot of the seasonal mango panna perked Skeeter up as she flipped the pages of the menu. In no mood for a particularly heavy meal, Skeeter began with the Lodi greek salad with a lemon dressing (Rs 395). A salad can only be right (crisp and fresh) or wrong (overdressed and wilted) and this one was right. The salad portion was big with lettuce, bell peppers, assorted olives and some feta thrown in and tossed with a lemon dressing. Skeets went on to have the Mezze platter (Rs 595) instead of a full fledged main course and was happy with her order. The Mezze came in an oval dish with fresh pita, hummus (a perfect blend of flavours), tzatziki (fresh and creamy) and baba ghanouj (just the right texture). Different preparations of the falafel always intrigue Skeeter. Some are too dry but taste good, some are soft and fluffy. The one at Lodi was shaped a tad different and took Skeeter back to the kuchas of Chandni Chowk where she has some of the best kalmi vadas (more on that later). The falafel tasted somewhat like the kalmi vadas and the texture was nice (neither too soft nor too hard). The accompanying spanakopita was nice and crisp on the outside, tender and bursting with flavour inside. 
Next came the dessert platter (yes a full dessert platter with a slice each of the sinful array of desserts). Skeeter picked the mango cheesecake. The cheesecake was nice in texture albeit a tad less flavourful, or so thought Skeeter. 
Dessert usually ends a meal, but Skeeter couldn’t leave without sampling some of the products Lodi stocks at their Deli. The onion jam was deelish. A must buy, especially when you lead a hectic life and would want to save yourself all the trouble and labour that goes into making it. Skeeter, of course, makes it at home and it is a big hit. Also, try their organic mustard oil (Rs 200). Skeeter had been looking for the same for a while and found it here. Apart from these there are some pates, dips, pickles, preserves, flavoured oils and salad dressings to choose from. Skeeter has heard that much of the food you eat at Lodi, is grown at the farms owned by them and is organic. The mangoes used in the cheesecake were organic as well. That the tribe of restaurants in Delhi is slowly but steadily moving towards Organic, is a sign of good food returning to our tables. 

And the last word: do try out the carefully crafted breakfast menu (popular among with expats in Delhi and backpackers on a stopover). They have some interesting tea blends, coffees, buttermilk, juices, jams, porridge, waffles, pancakes, muesli et al. 
(P.S. Though I am a patron of Lodi, I was invited by the team on this particular visit.)

When Skeeter met David Rocco

It is mid summer in Delhi and Skeeter’s pasta love is beginning to warm up. 20 minute pasta dinners that can double up as breakfasts are the best way to ensure least time spent in the kitchen. Pasta thoughts led Skeeter back to a lunch with chef David Rocco, who is widely acclaimed for his Italian style of cooking. Though this luncheon happened much earlier, if you can recall an experience with profound thoughts, you can bet it was a great one.
A bunch of bloggers gathered at West View, ITC Maurya for a meetup with the chef who claims he’s not a chef, he’s Italian! There are a few things that would draw one to David Rocco’s food shows. There is some country music thrown in the shows for sure, David loves interacting with locals and trying out their recipes and all the shows are shot so well that you almost want to be at the place which Rocco is showcasing.
Cut to the event. Predictably, the conversations revolved around food. While David Rocco told us about his tryst with Indian food and Indian oils, we quizzed him about which olive oil should one really pick up. David told us that he loved the unique flavour and the pungency of Mustard oil, though his loyalties still lie with Olive oil. He went through the whole cycle of attaining mustard oil- from farm to bottle. Skeeter personally prefers mustard oil and all things mustard. Once a person realises the depth and flavour mutsard oil can give to a dish, there is no looking back. David also shared how Italians take some days off work and go olive-picking and they are paid handsomely in hold your breadth: Olive oil! Ain’t that cool now? It is these nuggets from various travel tales of a person that make great stories and great experiences.

Having arrived at the hotel a little early, Skeeter and Anita got time to soak in one of the best views of Delhi from the rooftop balcony of West View. Delhi never appeared prettier and so green. We were joined by other bloggers soon. David joined us at the table a little later. Though David didn’t cook for us that day, the recipes of the food that we had at West View that day, were all his. Chef Manisha Bhasin of ITC also joined the table, adding another star to the conversation. We began with a Neapolitan style pasta with chunks of eggplant and mozarella sauce (Rigatoni con Pomodori e Melanzane) which was simple and delicious. I could have had endless helpings of the same. It was paired with Fratelli Sauvignon blanc. Skeeter like Fratelli from the selection of Indian wines on offer at wine stores. Next came the Beetroot Risotto, so well plated that Skeets could just laminate it and frame it on her wall. Skeets managed to do better. She took pictures of it. Grin. Perfect pink in colour, the Risotto came with such gorgeous sides of broccoli doused in olive oil and the cutest baby carrots for company. It was paired with Fratelli Sangiovese. Skeeter loved the bite of the Risotto to bits. Perfectly cooked. Next came the Dolce, which should’ve been the star of the meal, but were sorely disappointing. Will skip writing about it. 

All said, it was an afternoon well spent. David Rocco is a charming and talented chef. Oops Italian! From plucking and eating lemons, skin on in Amalfi episodes to tossing pizzas with two chefs in another episode and then the drunken spaghetti episode, he’s fun on TV and in real life.

He was in India to shoot for the Indian chapter of his show, so we will get to see more of him on TV, and that too in familiar locales. Skeeter is looking forward to it! It was fun meeting Ruchira, Deeba and Sangeeta again.

Zomato Restaurant Summit 2013

Last week has been full of good food and sweetness. Amid the hustle bustle, Skeeter sneaked out to attend a fun and enlightening half-day event by Zomato– Zomato Restaurant Summit 2013 at The Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon. 
Zomato’s been anyone’s first stop at putting to rest the ‘where and what to  eat’ question in many states of India. So it is always good to know that they are expanding to London, Sri Lanka and UAE. Would not be fair to comment on UAE, but London and Sri Lanka definitely are great food destinations for Skeeter as all others. If someone can tell Skeety where to find the best bakeries in London or where to get good hoppers, sambol, devilled vegetarian food (okay SL food is that and much more!) in Lanka land, she would be a happy person!

(L to R Mayur, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Rashmi Uday Singh, Deepinder Goyal, Pankaj Chaddah, unknown, Sameer Kuckreja, Manish Mehrotra, Rocky Singh)
While, the Lanka portal makes searches available only for Colombo, the UK one is better in terms of the number of restaurants covered. Two restaurants covered on Delhi Foodies’ Zone turned up at a click – Spaghetti House and Govinda’s. Skeeter’s other favourites in London – Prezzo, Chennai Dosa,  Tamarind, Pizza Express, Veeraswamy (on the hit list) and many more are on the rolls. Thumbs up to that! Next time Skeety is in London, Skeety definitely knows where to direct the search button.
Moving on to the most interesting part of the event, Rocky & Mayur (Zomato’s brand ambassadors and hosts of Skeeter’s favourite show Highway On My Plate) were there to unveil The Connoisseur’s Guide To Eating Out 2013 (Delhi,NCR). The guide, unlike others, has reviews by commoners who love to eat out and give unbiased opinions. 
Post the launch, Skeeter spoke to Mayur (as he is a vegetarian too), to know his favourite places to eat out in Delhi and the whole of India. Here is the list for Delhi:
Naivedyam, Andhra Bhavan, Indian Accent, Amici (in no particular order of preference).
And Mayur’s favourites in the rest of India are Ummiya Kathiawadi on NH 8 in Gujarat, Kesar ka Dhaba in Amritsar, Mother’s Kitchen in Kerala and Paradise in Guwahati.