Ruman Qamar shares her experience of tasting a special meal curated by Chef Anwar Ali Ansari at Terracotta restaurant, Vivanta by Taj.
|No matter how much you experiment with food and varied cuisines, it is the meal closest to your heart that satiates your hunger. And one such restaurant that fits the experience aptly is Terracotta at Vivanta by Taj. Set amidst the IT colony of Bangalore, Whitefield, the restaurant boosts of serving delectable north-west frontier cuisine.|
Don’t be mislead by the urban seating of the restaurant, every dish served in this restaurant has the essence of the culinary rich land of the Afghans to the erstwhile Indian provinces of Punjab, Sind, Lahore, Peshawar and present-day Kashmir. The luxury hotel takes prides in serving the cuisine without diluting the true flavours, even though it caters to large number of foreign customers.
When I was invited to attend a cooking session with Chef Anwar Ali Ansari, I accepted the invitation without sparing a second thought. The table was set for tasting the delicious food cooked by the man of the hour. The menu looked very interesting which included Paya Ka Shorba, Palak Rasagulla, Galouti Kebab, Peshawari Raan, Gosht Tandrook, Smoked Eggplant, Mutton Biryani, and special dessert treats.
Every dish was infused with handpicked spices paired to perfection with meat and fresh vegetables. The preparations are cooked in semi-porous clay pots or a tandoor, and few are even baked in a huge Moroccan oven. The name Terracotta instantly connects with earthiness, similarly the food at the restaurant is full of robust flavours, rustic ingredients and authentic recipes cooked by the stalwart chefs, who are masters of the cuisine.
The restaurant has set up a special counter filled with spice jars, which are used in the kitchen to prepare special mixtures. When I was smelling the aroma of each spice jar, I was joined by Chef Ansari, he said, “Everyone knows the use of spices, what makes the difference is how you use them.” I took a tour of the kitchen with him and he demonstrated recipes of Chicken Tikka and Tandoori Broccoli. I even tried my hand at making or should I say spinning romali roti with the assistance of the kitchen staff. Chef Ansari spoke in detail about his experiences with cooking and this is what he has to say.
Tell us about your culinary journey?
In childhood, I was nurtured by the king of spices, My Dad. He is one of the descendants of Nawabs. I had seen him experimenting with meats, herbs, fire and spices. He used to carve out a new dish with the same ingredients every day. The aroma of spices & herbs make people dream about the delicacies that is getting ready.
On experiencing such visuals, there was a strong urge that developed for me to become a chef who can create meal experience with every ingredient.
I started playing with my knife which was gifted to me by my dad. Under the leadership of my Dad at Chola Sheraton in Madras I started my professional career. There I understood the concept and various techniques of cooking & how to play with the Indian spices to make mouth watery.
From there I had undergone experiences at various hotels in different parts of the country and the world understanding and developing on my inherited skills and passion.
What inspires you to cook everyday in the kitchen?
My passion towards creating something new every day with numerous ingredients that lies in front of me and serve to my guests a delicious moment with something new that they had never tasted before.
You have learnt to cook from your father; share the experience of being his apprentice?
As mentioned earlier, he has magical hands to play with spices, create some unique flavour in food. He was known as a magician who used to create varieties of dishes from the same ingredients. On working under him the first thing that he taught me to have a firm belief, he had created dishes out of pungent ingredients.
His magic tricks were to change the flavours of ingredients that it is known for. Like the pungency of garlic was removed to convert it into a sweet delicacy and creating a main dish only out of ginger etc.
He was very strict on the procedures that need to be followed in creating any dishes. This one thing stays in my heart that if I need to cook something then every small bite should have the same flavours and aromas and texture that I wanted it to have for all time.
What innovation do you bring to your recipes and cooking techniques?
I play with three things to control the flavour, aromas and texture.
There are only four major tangible and intangible parameter needs to control:
Water, Fire, Salt, and Time. Mixing all these four parameter, I innovate and create new dishes every moment.
You have many secret ingredients and masalas, tell us more about them.
As I mentioned previously regarding all the major factor, spices & ingredients related with cooking. Apart from that every moment based on experiment, it is a core responsibility to create new spices, dishes every day to being a CHEF. This process is little longer to do research, survey & make others to understand.
How is Indian food evolved from the time you started to cook?
When I had my knife, pans and my equipment, then it was more of mustard oil, heavy cream, butter, clarified butter and more of meat were part of Indian cuisine.
But now it had evolved completely in a span of 25 years now we use more of olive oil and unsaturated fats and ingredients which are high in good cholesterol rather than bad cholesterol and less carbohydrates.
It is a great challenge for us to maintain the same flavours and aromas with health friendly ingredients but that’s where the thrill lies to make our guest devour the taste without compromising with their health.
What are your signature dishes?
Starters: Galouti kebab, Potli Tangdi Kebab, Tandoori Apricots, Kakori Kebab
Main Course: Terracotta special Dal Makhani, Smoked eggplant, Lamb Biryani, Broccoli jalfrezi, Palak Rasgulla
Desserts: Garlic kheer, Mutton ka halwa.
Visit the restaurant at: Terracotta, Vivanta by Taj, ITPB, Whitefield, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560066
Contact: 080 66933333, 080 67343058