By Naushad Khan
Indian cuisine has found its place across the globe and I was surprised to find not one, but three Indian restaurants in the city of Tiblisi , the capital of Georgia. And this was in the height of their winter months, with the city covered in snow. How welcome it was to taste the real deal in such a place.
South Africa is home to one of the largest Indian communities outside of India and being Indian myself, I have been fortunate enough to grow up with the cuisine and even make some dishes myself. But that is all for another time and place, as here in Cape Town we are lucky to also have a fair offering of Indian foods. I have pretty much tasted them all; from some real amazing dishes to a sweetened curry (a serious no, no for me), the variety in tastes is astonishing.
Indian food does not necessarily mean hot food, but rather an elegant blend of the right spices to create a symphony in your mouth. Even a simple dish such as a Dhum Aloo (slow cooked potatoes) can be served as a main if prepared well.
So after a rather cold and wet winter in the Mother City, I am excited to see what Taj Cape Town’s Executive Sous Chef, Harpreet Longani has in store for their Chilli Festival in September, the month of Spring.
The chilli, with its internal seeds and as a part of a flowering plant, is clearly defined as a fruit, but a fruit that nature never intended to be eaten by humans. Birds, who cannot taste the capsicum which gives chillies their distinctive heat, are the airborne vehicles nature had in mind to disperse the seeds and in fact, we are the only mammals reported to enjoy eating them – and enjoy them we do. And now, for the whole month of September, Bombay Brasserie is paying tribute to this noble pepper with their first Chilli Festival.
Taj Cape Town’s Chef Longani is passionate about this little fruit and has devised a multi-course menu that showcases the spicy and flavoursome duality of a number of rare and hard to find chilli cultivars from India and around the world. “Chillies are an essential ingredient in any gourmet kitchen, but here in South Africa we are only exposed to a few of the varieties that are used for cooking and adding flavour to fine Indian cuisine,” says Longani.
Longani’s four course menu for the Chilli Festival includes a number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, such as: sweet corn kernels with sago, pineapple relish and Deghi chillies; lamb kebabs flavoured with Roghani chilies cooked n beetle leaves; Lotus stems and water chestnut spiced with Gunter chillies; and lady’s finger tossed in mango powder, fenugreek leaves and Byagdi chillies, to name but a few.
A variety of speciality breads will be on offer to accompany the meal, including Chilli Olive Naan, Masala Parantha or a Roghani Kulcha, while dessert options such as home-churned Indian ice cream infused with a hint of red chilli, or fennel and black pepper scented pancakes round off this exotic feast.
Accompanying each course, a selection of Twankey Bar’s finest craft beers has been carefully paired to compliment the chilli dishes. Jack Black Pre-Prohibition style lager will be paired with the Pink pepper corn soup, while CBC Craft Pilsner will accompany the vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters.
The main courses will be paired with Lumber Jack Amber Ale and desserts with the CBC Krystal Weiss. In addition, guests can try chilli infused cocktails and mocktails such as a chilli mojito, chilli caipirinha, or Twankey Bar’s speciality – a chilli bloody mary.
The Bombay Brasserie Chilli festival will run throughout the month of September and is priced at R495 per person for the four course tasting menu. Craft beer pairings are optional at an additional R85 per person, or at R250 per person for a comprehensive wine pairing. Individually priced a la carte items will be available alongside a variety of chilli infused cocktails.
* To secure your seat at what promises to be September’s hottest culinary festival, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.