Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Mistress of Moplah - Abida Rasheed at the Taj Land's End

One of my best food experiences ever was the Moplah feast served up by the Mistress of Moplah herself, Abida Rasheed. I was fortunate enough to be at the preview dinner for the Moplah food festival that is on at the Taj Land's End, Mumbai. Not only did I get to taste this fabulous cuisine, I also got to meet and interact with one of the most charming celebrity chefs ever.

A relaxed 20 odd minutes with a smiling Abida had us all up to date with what Moplah food is all about - The Yemeni and Arab influences, the matriarchal society, the incredibly rich variety using quite a sparse repertoire of ingredients, the lightness of the cuisine in spite of it being mainly non vegetarian - Abida filled us in, eagerly answering our questions as we sat around in an informal circle.

We moved on to the Masala Bay for dinner as Abida disappeared into the kitchens. I wish she had been with us while the meal was served, explaining the intricacies of each dish that we sampled.

Here are some pictures of the delectable food served up by Abida herself.

Mixed poppadums...

Kanji - a rice soup served with a fabulous coconut and chilli chutney.

Mushroom Ada - a flat rice dumpling stuffed with mushroom

Meen Porichathu - A fiery fried fish that set my palate on fire, along with Chemeen Porichatu - fried prawn that was perfection on a plate.

Kozhi Kakathil - A dry chicken fry in a spicy tomato base.

Atti Erachi Ishtew - an ambrosial lamb stew, lightly spiced with perfectly cooked lamb shanks.

Meen Biryani - Fish biryani. The rice and the fish is served separately so you can have both in whatever proportion you want. Clever!

The fabled Mutta Mala accompanied by Chakkara Chor - Fine sev like noodles in sugar syrup made purely from egg yolks on a sweet egg white base served with a wheat porridge sweetened with pine jaggery and finished with coconut milk.

Abida Rasheed, the lady who made the evening more special than we imagined possible.

The experience at this dinner at the Masala Bay left me with mixed feelings. The food was faultless, the guest of honour an absolute pleasure to be with. Abida Rasheed is a name that always pops up when Moplah cuisine is mentioned. She is the reigning queen of this rich, yet delicate cuisine that comes from north Kerala. She served us a variety of classic Moplah favourites and the food was an absolute treat.

The evening would have been superlative but the Masala Bay let Abida down. The service was slow. The waiters were like turtles on valium. We waited endlessly in between courses and service was indifferent at best. If one guest was served one item, the others saw it after 15 minutes. If a guest was waiting for a paratha they waited interminably while food congealed on their plate. If they weren't alert, a waiter dumped biryani onto a plate that was already crowded with food. One felt like one was at a fast paced thali joint where turnover at top speed was the order of the day or as if one was forgotten in a remote corner of a vast hotel.

I felt completely offended on Abida Raheed's behalf. All the hard work she put in was wasted just because of indifferent shoddy service. How tragic.


Kurush F Dalal said...

what a brilliant experience and what a tragic let down ... surprised that the Taj was so lax that too with someone of her standard who was obviously a much invited guest.

loved the 'turtles on valium' quote ... hahhahaaaaa :D

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