If you are a fan of Indian cuisine like I am, Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra at Marina Bay Sands ran a Kashmiri Festival menu last month from 16-24 April. Just for this special menu, they flown in a renowned chef from the region who brought with him, Kashmiri ingredients to conjure up the taste of royal Kashmiri cuisine in Singapore.
Punjab Grill is an established name for top North Indian/Punjabi cuisines. Other than the restaurant in Singapore, they have restaurants in Delhi, Mumbai and other major cities around the globe. In Singapore, Punjab Grill is as good as it gets for top notch Indian fine dining:
I had the privilege to sample their special Kashmiri menu and meet the two chefs who conceived it – Punjab Grill’s Executive Chef Javed Ahamad (left) and guest chef M Rehman:
Here are the Kashmiri dishes I sampled:
Left to Right: Mattha (Salty Yoghurt), Jaljeera (Spicy Water) and Saffron Pistachio Lassi.
From salty to spicy to sweet, these three drinks were quick-fire assaults on the tastebuds and opened up the palate for the good food to follow. The spicy water do not taste as scary as it sounds. It does not burn the tongue. In fact, I found it flavourful and rather exotic. The sweet and smooth Lassi is a crowd-pleaser.
Left to Right:
Kashmiri Kukur Tikka: Tandoori-like boneless chicken thighs marinated with Kashmiri whole red chili paste, spices, finished in a clay oven.
Tabakh Maaz: Lamb ribs marinated with aniseed powder and saffron milk, cooked with traditional royal Kashmiri method of cooking lamb. The meat is first boiled for tenderness, then roasted and pan-fried for a crispy exterior.
Wazwani Handi Aluv: Tender tandoori-roasted potato reserved overnight in fennel powder, marinated with ginger garlic paste, sprinkled with saffron kewda milk.
Kashmiri Tsaman Sarson Tikka: Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) infused with Kashmiri yellow chili powder, enhanced with mustard oil and golden glazed in a tandoor.
This last appertiser was my favourite. It does not look like the ingredients it was cooked with and is packed with a whole gamut of aromatic flavours with each bite. Yes, you can taste the sandalwood and it adds an interesting taste note.
Next up, the main courses:
Clockwise from Left (starting from the round ball):
Gushtaba: Finely minced mutton meatball or dumpling spiced with green cardamom and fennel. It’s served with a creamy curd-based sauce. Apparently a lot of work goes into the preparation. The mutton is beaten with a wooden hammer until it reaches that velvety consistency. I love this dish. Mutton is usually tough and a little too gamey for my liking, but prepared this way, it is soft, tender and not gamey at all.
Gadh Palak: Fish served with dark green spinach puree tempered with mustard seeds.
Kukur Hindi Rogvanjosh: Chicken version of the famous Rogan Josh (aromatic lamb dish of Persian origin). Another dish which I was particularly fond of.
Dum Aluv: Potatoes simmered with fennel seeds, dry ginger and Kashmiri chili gravy.
Rogvan Josh: This is a much loved specialty of Kashmir. This version has shoulder of baby lamb cooked the old fashioned way over extremely low heat. It’s spiked with a melange of freshly pounded spices including fennel and red chili (hence its colour). Delicious and fit for a royal feast!
The pictures serve no justice to the delectable main courses as they are heavily gravy-based and do not plate well for presentation. When served at the restaurant, the aroma will arrest you and each bite will leave you wanting for more.
Next up, the desserts:
Left to Right:
Apple Caramel Kulfi: Home made Indian Frosty infused with Caramel.
Shufta: Roasted nuts and cottage cheese pudding.
Beetroot Halwa: My favourite of the three. Other than beetroot, I cannot quite discern what the other flavours are and they took my tastebuds on a culinary adventure. Mix of sweet and savoury.
To round up the meal,we were served with a cup of freshly brewed Kashmiri Kehwa Tea. The tea was poured from a “samawar” or samovar, a metal charcola teapot with an inner chamber filled with live coals. It is the predecessor of the modern thermal flask, but sometimes, things just taste better when done the traditional way.
The Kehwa tea is a sweet green tea with cardamom, almonds, saffron and other spices. It is a light tea with a flowery aroma and a clean after-taste to leave you feeling satisfied after a good meal.
Dining at Punjab Grill was an exotic culinary experience for me. My tastebuds went wild with excitement from all the different spices and unfamiliar new flavours.
Punjab Grill serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus, catering to different groups.
If you are interested to visit, here’s more details on the restaurant:
Address: #B1-01A, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue Operation Hours: Mon – Sun: 11:30 – 15:30 Mon – Sun: 18:30 – 22:30