Good weather in Delhi is rare, and when it comes, the city comes alive with much color and joy. February saw two outdoor food festivals in the city –The GiG Carnival held at the JLN stadium from 5th-7th, and the Palate Mini festival, held at the Nehru Park from the 12th to the 14th.
The GiG Carnival was a celebration of the best of regional Indian food and major Delhi restaurants, while the Palate Mini – so called because it was smaller than the regular Palate festival, was a showcase of some of the best Delhi restaurants as well as home bakers, and caterers.
Unlike the Palate Mini, there was an entry charge for The GiG - Rs 200 per day. I checked out The Carnival on two days- Friday the 5th and Sunday the 7th of Feb. Day 1 for the GiG didn’t go smoothly. Although The Carnival was open to the public at noon, production was clearly behind schedule. Most restaurants hadn’t set up their stalls yet, and apart from Keventers and a fresh fruit juice stall, there were no cold drinks. The Carnival mascot/symbol hadn’t been painted yet and wasn’t ready for display. Apart from food there were supposed to be over 20 artisans displaying their crafts from all over the country. Only 2 had shown up by 3pm on day one. "Ek Bar", the only bar at the venue was far from ready without so much as their sign board in place when I left at 3pm.
The restaurants who were ready to roll early on the 5th included the ITC Maurya, and some of the regional Indian food stalls. A little late but still ready for lunch was, Aten Food Company, who prepared delicious Chicken Kathi rolls (the chicken was so soft and tender!).
When I went on the afternoon of the 7th the place was much busier, everything was running smoothly, and the place looked like it had been doing this for ages. Among my new discoveries was “Ammi's Kitchen”, serving delectable Rampuri style home food including Mutton Chapli Kebabs and Yakhni Pulao. Both of these were a repeat in my book. Cooked to perfection, flavorful with spice (but not overly so) with sabut dhaniya marking a bold but welcome appearance among the spices used. The rice from the Yakhni Pulao was light, extremely flavor full and the meat was tender. Again, subtle flavours with a big impact and lighter on the oil than many of the others offerings at the festival. Popular opinion among my fellow diners was that the Chapli and the naan it was served with went well separately but were not great together.
Next, from the regional stalls I tried the Chicken Tikkas with Romali Roti from “Aslam Chicken Catering” (Jama Masjid, New Delhi). Aslam has an unusual style of preparing his Tikkas. They are grilled on a charcoal fire (not in a tandoor), and then tossed in a sauce which I suspect is extremely heavy on Amul butter and spices. Spicy, generous with ingredients but very heavy. I had also got some prawns wrapped in banana leaf from the Nagaland stall. All I can say is it must have been very, very good because it vanished within seconds, before I could so much as say “can I have some?”
Another interesting find was the stall from the Indonesian embassy serving authentic Satey with Peanut Sauce, and some interesting salads. Personally, I liked the Satey with just the peanut sauce which had a smooth texture, was a little sweet and very.. mellow.
Unfortunately by the last day only 6 of the 20 odd craftsmen showed up to display their crafts from all over the country- which is disappointing because the wood carvings of devotional figures from Andhra Pradesh were exquisite. They were mainly made of Neem and included panels of Vishnu’s “Dash Avtar” or else large stand alone pieces of Shri Ganesh made from a single block of wood. The workmanship on the larger panels and the stand alone pieces was visible to the educated eye. Deep carvings with details on single panels/ blocks of wood- no joints. The price reflected the skill of the craftsman, the wood seasoned and perfect for display.
In all, it looked like the regional food stalls did far better business than the elite restaurants of Delhi. Despite the teething troubles of day 1, The Carnival came back with a bang and the food and music was much appreciated by all who visited it. I look forward to this and other food festivals returning to Delhi to liven up the atmosphere and add to the character of the city.
Next up- February 2016- Food Festivals in the Delhi Part -2 The Palate Mini