THIS MAIDEN TOUCHES THE HEART
I had no idea that “dimsum” translates to “touch the heart”. All I knew is that over the years Ive loved the little steamed, parcels of Chinese delight. And on my recent visit to China I completely tripped out on dimsum. Of all kinds. On returning from China I was hankering for authentic Chinese food. Here’s the delicious ironiy: It happened again and again. My heart was touched. And that too in Dubai. It wasn’t just the superb dimsum and authentic Chinese food that did it but even the stunning views and the evolutionary designs that represent Chinese culture over the generations. Making waves in Dubai, this sexily glamorous, three floored Maiden Shanghai is strategically located in the cutting edge, Five Palm Jumeirah Dubai. And here I am on a perpetual feast, from the moment I enter the sparkling glass-clad jewel soaring directly over the Arabian Gulf, and walk into the pioneering design and trailblazing, amphitheatre inspired architectural masterpiece .
Within the timeless interiors a
hexagonal pattern runs throughout, complemented by a carefully chosen mix of contemporary
furniture. And Im thrilling to it all as I find my way to Maiden Shanghai.
CHINA CHARMS FIVE TIMES OVER
And then wham! the sheer seductive energy of the three floored Maiden Shanghai takes over. It is an exploration of authentic Chinese cooking there is a fresh and imaginative vibe. it invigorates traditional recipes for a modern audience.
It is set in the heart of the Five Palm Jumeirah and it lets in dramatic views across the marina from everywhere, its outdoor terraces, indoor bar, private dining rooms and an opulent rooftop bar. I love the décor which playfully fuses the traditional with the boldly modern, creating spaces that feel open yet connected.
It is here that the brilliant Executive Chef Luo Bing revitalises Chinese culinary tradition. Drawing from Cantonese, Sichuan, Shanghai and Beijing influences, he marries age-old techniques and flavours with imagination and refinement. Flavourful masterpieces result. Luo Bing honed his skills in Barcelona and Hong Kong, and as Executive Chef at Time Out’s 100 Best Restaurants In London.
He offers plenty of Signature dishes including traditional, hand-prepared Peking Duck and his take on the Sichuan Kung Pao dish. But what delightful dimsum…his dim sum bar selection offers exciting flavour combinations beautifully prepared in delicate parcels. From tiger prawn dumplings with luxurious black truffle to pan fried Wagyu beef buns.
It is here that the dynamic and dapper Aloki Batra who helms this hot happening landmark tells me all about the uniqueness of this haute hot Five. From the cutting edge design, artistic work here by Joe Ngai to the amazing Chinese food.
In the cool of the November night, while nibbling on dimsum on one of the stunning terraces I learn all about Aloki Batra’s over 16 years’ experience in equity financial markets. Formidable business and financial skills as well a flair for masterminding the hospitality industry shine through.
DIM SUM AND THEN SOME
This delightful dimsun is not unique to Cantonese cuisine. Shanghai has xiao long bao (steamed pork dumplings), and there is chao shou (Sichuan wontons) in Sichuan. However What sets Cantonese dim sums apart, other than the extraordinary variety of dishes is that it takes years to learn the
finer points of making dim sum take years to learn, which is why it is important to have a demanding “sifu” [“master”). Chef Luo Bing has obviously mastered the art and on my request shares his chicken dimsum recipe
MAIDEN SHANGHAI DIMSUM
– Flour 200g
– 1 egg
– Water 30g
– Salt 1g
-Mix all the ingredients together until smooth.
– Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into 1mm thin pastry.
– Use diameter 3/5 cutter to cut into individual pastries.
– Minced chicken thigh or breast 150g
– 1 egg
– finely chopped fresh ginger 20g
– finely chopped onion 30g
– salt to season
– soya sauce 15g
– Sesame oil 3g
– cooking oil 2g
Method: Mix all ingredients together and put in chiller until filing.
– put a tablespoon of each filling into the pastry and pinch close
– boil for five minutes
I’m stumped. Call it “thaali” call it “thaal” but how do I define this fingerlicking (literally too) shortcut to : bliss? guiltfree non stop eating ? Taste of culture? Yes all this and more. Over the years I’ve been on a thaali- high be it at the South Indian (A RamaNayak Udipi or Mani Bhawan) or the Gujarati (Shri Thacker Bhojanalaya). Till now it is been only about vegetarian thaali’s (except for a fly by night wannabe non veg Bohri thaal restaurant in Grant road). And then along comes the gourmet of all gourmets, the high octane award winning charismatic actor who has four generations of film and gourmet genes. Rishi Kapoor s passion and gourmet gusto is infectious. Inspite of his hectic schedule he drove all the way to taste Gordon Ramsay’s cooking (when I was shooting with Gordon for channel 4). Over the years the charmer has guided me to his favourite foodie haunts. Once again this knight on a white charger (er SUV) fetches me and drives me to his tried tested and tasted Bohri thaal restaurant (!). He does not reveal the name or wherabouts. ” Its all part of the experience and mystique. And I have already booked” he insists.
I’m star-struck in Spain! From the sparkling with flavour and texture pintxos and other dishes to the superstar chefs I meet and dine with. From the legendary Juan Marie Arzak, the father of Modern Spanish cuisine to our very own Chef Vineet Bhatia who has just received a Michelin star. Even the luxurious iconic century old San Sebastian Hotel, named after Queen Maria Cristina is the superstar hotel of superstars. Not only was it a beloved of Liz Taylor, Bette Davis and others but even today Ned Capeleris ensures that it magnetizes the best. Chef Miguel Piniero distils delicious Spain on our plates. And somewhere through my gourmet meal here, I get to know that Shah Rukh Khan stayed and loved it here too. Starry, starry Spain!
Stop press. I report from gastronomy’s seventh heaven…what else can a city be called when it has the second largest number of Michelin stars in the world? And not only is this stunningly beautiful seaside city of San Sebastian the nurturing ground for these awesomely brilliant chefs but (aptly enough) hosts the world famous food conference Gastronomika.
High-octane discussions and talks by leading chefs, real time tastings while the cooking is taking place, cooking classes, pintxo tours and more. The chefs from the third and fourth best restaurants in the world (Joan Roca and Mauro Colagreco) share their secrets. At the glittering launch event, Juan Marie Arzak the father of modern Basque cuisine graced the occasion, Michel Bras was felicitated by the dynamic director Roser Torres (who sportingly wore an Indian salwar kameez).Also sharing their knowledge and experiences were many an awesome international chef. And to top it all, our very own Indian chefs were the guests of honour.
Together, they served up a delicious overview which was mind-blowingly comprehensive and at the same time personalized. India’s thousand-year-old tradition and the latest avant-garde innovations glittered with equal intensity.
FIRST TIME EVER…
First time ever. An Awesome star cast of award winning Indian chefs from around the world got together. Ive attended many an international conference, but never has there been such a constellation of superstar Indian chefs.
Each one a maestro in his own right gave the world a taste of incredible India. Literally too. Happily ive not only dined at each ones superb restaurants in London Bangkok Delhi Chennai Mumbai and Sanfrancisco but also given them our very own Times Food Awards and applauded them as chairperson of the Indian subcontinent of Asias50best and Worlds50best Restaurant academies. Each one dazzled through their presentations and cooking demonstrations held in the huge auditorium of the sprawling and well-equipped Kursaal .
Crowned Asias best chef three years in a row and the worlds7th best, Gaggan Anand enthralled the audience as he shared his secrets and cooked up his Indian progressive magic. Presenting the philosophy and diversity of our cuisine was Manjit Singh Gill.
,the treasure house of knowledge Ayurveda and cooking. From San Francisco, Michelin starred Quilon’s Srijith Gopinathan kept us fascinated with his presentation of “India de luxe” As did our other Michelin starred chef Sriram Aylur of London’s Quilon on “Extreme spices of the South”. Yet another Michelin starred chef Vineet Bhatia of Indego ‘s fascinating presentation on “harmony and complexity” was followed by the deliciously riveting one of the only Indian restaurant (from India) on Asias 50 best list, Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent’s talk and demo on “Indian emotional avant-garde”.
The secrets of the North: “Dum” cooking were wonderfully revealed by Dum Pukht’s Gulam Quereshi.
Exotic flavors of the South were brilliantly presented by Praveen Anand of Daksin as was “Tandoor explosion” by Bukhara’s J.P. Singh Bombay Canteen s gifted Thomas Zacharias presentation on “Wild India” was eye-opening. “European language, Indian feelings” was the fascinating subject of Masala Library s bright young chef Saurabh Udinia’s talk.Team incredible India received thunderous applause. Well deserved. Kudos.
Through it all, we were delighted at how each and every chef cooked and served up atleast one dazzling vegetarian dish. From Manish Mehrotra’s chat patta chaat with a twist to Royal Vega’s Varun Mohan’s “Timoori aloo” . The highlight is that not only Varun himself vegetarian but Royal Vega our only purely vegetarian pan Indian fine dine restaurant. He shares with us the recipe he demonstrated in the Gastronomika.
RECIPE.. TIMOORI ALOO
½ kg Baby Potato
2 cup Greek yoghurt plain
Salt To taste
½ tea spoon Fresh lemon juice
1tea spoon Green chilies paste
1 tea spoon Ginger paste
½ tea spoon Timoor freshly pounded (Himalayan Pepper)
½ tea spoon Red Chili flakes
1 tea spoon Cardamom powder
¼ tea spoon Nutmeg powder
¼ tea spoon Mace powder
1 cup Cream
2 Table spoon Ghee
2 pieces TejPatta
¼ tea spoon Cumin seeds
½ cup Onions, finely chopped
¼ tea spoon Saffron, dissolve in a tea spoon of warm water
Wash, pat dry, prick cut potatoes into halves
Boil with salt until tender.
Drain and cool.
In a bowl add yogurt, lemon juice, ginger paste, green chili paste pounded timoor, red chili flakes, cardamom, nutmeg, mace powder, salt and cream, mix well.
Marinate potatoes in this mixture. for 35 – 40 minutes.
On medium heat, in a heavy bottom pan, put ghee tejpatta, cumin, stir 30 seconds, saute onion.
Add marinated potatoes. Bring to boil, stir. Cover. reduce heat. cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle saffron. Serve.
P.S. Aptly enough, I was taken to lunch to KM.0 (hold your breath) a pure vegetarian restaurant by Gemma Moliner and dream team. It served up delicious and amazing creations. And ofcourse I feasted on Michelin starred restaurants…what a line up…Arzak (Juan Marie Arzak and his daughter Elena Arzak thrill) Mugaritz, Akellare, Mirador de Ullia…Was dazzled by them. As by the Gastronomika and our very own team Incredible India.
India is shining. And how! I’ve never seen such a full-on star cast of Indian chefs together. I write from the stunning seaside city of San Sebastian (which has the largest number of Michelin starred restaurants in the world). Fittingly enough the gigantic gourmet Gastronomika is taking place here. Eye-opening sessions, cooking demos with tastings, tours and more. And amid all this high-end gastronomy, India is the guest of honor. The dynamic director Roser Torres dons a red salwar kameez especially to welcome dream-team India. Our very own, worlds 7thb est, Asia’s best Gaggan Anand has flown in from Bangkok. What a cluster of Michelin stars: Vineet Bhatia (London), Sriram Aylur (London), Srijith Gopinathan (SanFrancisco). Saurabh Udinia and Manish Mehrotra (New Delhi) and covering both North and South India are Manjit Singh Gill and his dreamteam, And from Mumbai our very own chef Thomas Zachariah are making India proud. Jai hind!
Here in the cacophonic and frenetic Big Apple, it’s our very own Indian mango which is being celebrated. And that too at the NYC premiere of Dame Judi Dench’s superb film where she brilliantly plays the role of Queen Victoria (also a great gourmet). Post screening, superstar chef Vikas Khanna created the most amazing mango dessert topped with edible gold. His tribute to the king of fruits for the queen of acting. I tasted, photographed and couldn’t stop smiling.
I’m rejoicing! My ongoing global research on gourmet vegetarian food just got more exciting. In the past few months I’ve tracked the best of the best vegetarian in Japan, China, Russia, Austria and now in the capital of glamor and films…Los Angeles. I’m feeling like a million dollars as I report from a charmed frontier (Hollywood, where else?) where fantasy is blending into reality, and that too in it’s beloved and iconic landmarks. Both close to each other in the glamorously beautiful Beverly Hills. Every square inch of both bristles with star power. Both are the haunt of Hollywood and the global who’s who. Both are legends…
In this legendary landmark, glamor and luxury drips in every practical detail and human warmth marks every hi-tech comfort. The iconic Beverly Wilshire “Pretty Woman hotel” (the movie was filmed here) turns ninety at the close of this year yet continues to rock with a youthful rhythm and beat.
Star spangled Hollywood dines, meets and stays here, it is also officially on the National Register of Historic Places of the United States. Superstars such as Elvis Presley, Warren Beatty and Steve McQueen have all lived in this luxurious landmark. As does our very own Bollywood. Over the years, I’ve had salad with Priyanka Chopra, muesli with Anil Kapoor and steak with Javed Akhtar here. A favourite of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Anil Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Karan Johar and others.
I love to soak in the cool sunshine in BLVD, their patio restaurant on the stunning sun-drenched, Rodeo drive designer boulevard to the world. I feast on the brilliant chefs freshest of seasonal California and watch the sun bronzed greek gods with their six pack abs and la-di-da babes with endless legs glide by. And today am doubly delighted: their brilliant new executive chef is not only our very own Samir Roonwal but he especially cooks up some delightful pure vegetarian dishes which sparkle with the Californian and Indian touch. Having worked in world famous kitchens and had the who’s who eating out of his hands Samir is now creating culinary magic here.
And it is here in BLVD, ( voted top “Power Tables” … Wall Street Journal) that I catch up with him as well as the dapper, high-energy Ben Trodd, who not only helms this landmark, but also spearheads nine other superb hotels. This discerning gourmet, well-travelled Vice President wears his success and his designer suit with equal panache. We trip out on the Crunchy okra smeared with the velvety dip, which makes for the perfect cocktail snack and I request chef Samir to share the recipe with us. After this the gorgeous Lauren Dutton Breen takes me up to show me Los Angeles very first “Glamping” site.
But that another exciting story…
P.S. Within this hotel itself is yet another superb restaurant CUT by America’s high-priest of cuisine Wolfgang Puck. It specialises in non-vegetarian food. A short stroll away is his landmark Spago, where I taste yet another veggie wow.
Chef Roonwal’s Crispy OKRA
2 cups: Okra Julienne
1 tsp: Toasted Cumin seeds
1 tsp: Chilli powder
1 tsp: Dry mango powder
1/2 cup: Chickpea Flour
1 tsp: Onion Seeds
1/2 tsp: Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Wash okra well, dry them out completely and Julienne them.
Add all the dry spice powders and seeds, along with salt, to the okra.
Toss them well till incorporated and set it down for 5 mins.
Then sprinkle chickpea flour on top (start with a few tbsps). Mix them well. Add a few tsps water so the okra gets coated with the flour.
Deep fry them in oil. Serve hot.
Ingredient: Julienne Okra, Spiced Chickpea Flour, Dry Mango Powder
Garnish: Pomegranate Seeds Fresh, Mustard Flower, Micro Cilantro
He has recently received his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame. So when this superstar celebrity chef, restaurateur, and occasional actor, Wolfgang Puck takes three hours off his busy schedule to lunch with me its celebration time. We do so in his three decades old landmark Spago which continues to play host to the who’s who of the world, to Oscar premieres restaurants and more. Wolfgangs catering services, cookbooks and licensed products are in great demand. We chat about his 27 (and counting) restaurants around the world and I trip out on the outstanding vegetarian tasting menu. Though Wolfgang Puck is single handedly responsible to introduce gourmet pizzas to the world and his signature dish at his original restaurant, Spago, is House Smoked Salmon Pizza, he continues to introduce flavours from around the world.
Today, his brilliant young chef Tetsuya cooks up an amazing pumpkin baked in salt, tangy sweet plaintain salad served in a half coconut, a parmesan marshmallow and beetroot cookie flag off our multi-course vegetarian lunch which ends with a light and bright melon dessert. And in Wolfgang Pucks Hollywood flagship restaurant in Los Angeles, their Japanese chef cooks up the most deliciously creamy (hold your breath) baingan bharta. And my joy comes full circle.
Whoa! A gourmet pure vegetarian and vegan menu in Hollywood Roosevelt, the very heart of Hollywood itself. Here, Hollywood history lives, breathes and dazzles. It was here that the first Oscars were held in 1927, it has the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” at it’s feet and is within air kissing distance of the iconic “Dolby Theatre” where the Oscars are held. Marilyn Monroe lived here, by this poolside. It is right here that along with Andrea Escobar, I get a taste of the brilliant chef Josh Eden’s vegan creations (including the bagel and lox made of carrots and tofu). Having opened over 30 restaurants around the world Chef Eden is all set to add this delicious vegetarian, vegan dimension here. Don Jacinto who helms this iconic landmark ensures that all normal people are treated like movie stars and movie stars like normal people. Therein lies the magic!
Please take a look at the photograph shot under the beautiful ceiling mural of the Rotunda. For over eighty years, it has been New York’s iconic meeting place. And aptly enough, I’m breakfasting with icons of the culinary world. And India is the focus. America’s most brilliant award winning Food TV producer Geoffrey Drummond (renowned for his shows with Julia Child and Eric Ripert) is working on the ultimate food show on nourishment and India is magnetising him. Putting India firmly on America’s gourmet map, Vikas Khanna, the award-winning Michelin-starred chef, cookbook writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and judge of MasterChef India sparkles the morning. Interestingly though Escoffier, the King of French chefs (and codifier of French cuisine), did all the initial menus at this magnificent stately Pierre. It was here that America’s first Indian fine dine restaurant was located. Today, the brilliant young Keralite chef Ashfer Biju is making history again. He is reimagining classics with a fresh modern seasonal perspective and has NYC eating out of his hands. The joint-degree holder from the finest in America and France, the dynamic Francois Olivier Luiggi who helms this exquisite icon not only ensures that it retains its historic grandeur (hand-painted murals et al) but also rocks ahead youthfully. Jai Ho!