Bengaluru: The menu was lavish yet light and the emphasis—as celebrity chief Kunal Kapur put it—was vegetarian food reflecting the 'uniqueness' of Indian cuisine, as Nasscom hosted a lunch for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday when they came visiting India's tech capital.
From sambharam to kukku rasayana, to palkatti pattani masala (cottage cheese and peas masala) to innippu suvaigal (sweets), the fare was quintessentially South Indian but did have one non-vegetarian dish in Alleppey fish curry.
"My emphasis was on vegetarian food which is the uniqueness of our Indian cuisine. It was a very important meeting and the menu needed to be light and energising. So, I carefully selected one that was light and simple. There are no heavy cream and cashew nut pastes but freshly bought ingredients with simple treatment. The menu was lavish but the portions smaller," Kapur, who has a German culinary connection, told IANS after the event.
Thus, for starters, there was a choice between sambharam (spiced buttermilk flavoured with lemon grass and asafoetida) and kukku rasayana (traditional mango, coconut milk cooler with green cardamom) followed by a south Indian sampler as an appetizer. This included rasam, Podi idli, vazhapoo vada (banana blossom fitters), baby corn bezule (crispy baby corn), kuzhi paniyaram (tempered rice and lentil cake) and murungaelai adai (drumstick leaf pancake).
"I cooked the entire menu from scratch just a few hours prior to the event. This is something that we as Indians do every day in our homes. Most of us cook fresh meal and that makes the food good and special. There are a few dishes that go best from the pan to the plate like murungaelai adai, which is high on fiber and has a very unique taste. Vazhapoo vada is high on potassium and tastes best when served steaming hot out of the pan with fresh coconut chutney," Kapur said.
That set the tone for the main course comprising palkatti pattani masala (cottage cheese and green peas simmered in coconut and nuts gravy) and Alleppey fish curry (slow cooked fish morsels in raw mango-infused coconut curry).
Not surprisingly, Kapur served up two preserves from Pickle Nation, the TV show he is currently hosting—Gujarati Chundo and the Mahali (a traditional pickle, part of Tamil brahmin cuisine, made of root that has a unique smell of vanilla and cinnamon).
Both main courses were served with Nilgiri korma (seasonal vegetable simmered in coriander and mint gravy), araichuvitta sambar (aromatic lentil stew), red rice (unpolished red rice from Kerala) and Malabar paratha (flaky south Indian bread).
The icing on the cake, as it were, was the innippu suvaigal (dessert) comprising ada pradaman (rice flakes and palm sugar porridge), kasi halwa (slow cooked white pumpkin and saffron halwa), coconut barfi, Mysorepak and palkhova (reduced milk cake).
"It was an honour to cook for PM Modi-ji and other dignitaries... With PM's efforts to bring India together through his Digital India campaign, the team tried to bring the same concept alive through the culinary fare. In accordance with Mr. Modi's preference, we presented him home-style food cooked with authentic and simple recipes to keep the meal light, healthy and delectable," Kapur said.
"It is a challenge for sure, but there is constant challenge in our field of work. For me every table is important. As a chef, we have to constantly create something unique keeping in mind the preferences of the guests," added Kapur, who has been training German chefs to serve food on-board for Lufthansa First and Business class passengers for the last four years.
(With inputs from agencies)