Zambar in Gurgaon which has been around for a while, now has a completely new look and menu. A part of this new menu is the 400 year old Hyderabadi cuisine which is a legacy of the Nizams of Hyderabad. The key flavours of this cuisine include peppercorns, coriander, coconut, tamarind, peanuts and sesame seeds.
Chef Arun Kumar’s menu is just as interesting as his career. Originally a journalist with Times of Indian and Filmfare, Chef Arun has a knack for flavours and recipes. He spent months in Tamil Nadu’s local households trying to perfect the Chettinad masala for his menu. The authenticity of Hyderabadi spices is evident in the curries at Zambar that come alive with these beautiful flavours.
After writing over 400 reviews and dining at least one new restaurant a day, I can look at a menu and tell if everything’s gonna go fine. The Hyderabadi menu is one page long. It has all the interesting dishes from Hyderabad that a North Indian Punjabi food lover like me would look forward to trying. It does not try to overcompensate by adding things that are not needed. In short, I’m intrigued.
We started with Aloo Ke Garlay, fried gram flour balls. The taste was quite similar to our Aloo Bonda. Bondas are traditionally prepared without any ginger, garlic and lime juice. Aloo Ke Garley were more flavourful.
The Mughal love for meat could be tasted in the delicious Shikampuri Kebabs. The khara masalas and crushed green chillies gave the kebabs a bite. This sure is one of the finest dishes to come out of the royal kitchens of Hyderabad.
The main course was the richest part of the meal with several rich curries and biryani.
The first to arrive with the flaky Parota was the Mircha Ka Salan. The Salan is prepared by slitting green chillies lengthwise without cutting them into two. The preparation has sesame seeds, peanuts, coconut, large chillies, etc.
The chillies are flash fried and the prepared paste of spices is stuffed into them. The Salan is usually served with biryani or parontas. I really enjoyed the Salan, the peanuts added a grainy texture to this dish which made it absolutely terrific.
The Achari Murgh was a treat to the eyes. It was deliciously spicy and tangy. This chicken curry is made with the spices used to prepare pickles in India, hence the name. It was very beautifully marinated with perfectly tender pieces of chicken. The chicken gravy was not excessively spicy and everything within the curry was so well flavoured that it could all be had, even the chillies.
The Nawabi Kofta Curry was the next to arrive. The minced meat used for the Koftas was quite similar to the Shikampuri Kebabs. I could taste the fine blend of coriander and green chillies in the curry. I am stealing this idea for a house party.
The Machli Ka Salan was my personal favourite – a Hyderabadi traditional fish curry which has been forgotten and rediscovered numerous times over the years. Fish takes only about 6-8 minutes to cook in the gravy which lends it its softness and melt in the mouth taste.
I am writing a book on “Desserts in Delhi” and I am always pushing my family and friends to try new desserts with me. The Qubani Ka Meetha was all new. This is prepared by boiling apricots in sugar syrup (much like preparing a preserve or jam). It is garnished with blanched almonds. This is a very popular dessert at Hyderabadi weddings.
The Double Ka Meetha was a lot like Shahi Tukra, except it was not soaked in rabri. The bread had been soaked in sugar syrup briefly to sweeten it. It was still quite crisp. Like a toast. This toast has been buttered with some rabri and garnished with blanched almonds. If I had to pick I’d say I would go for the Qubani Ka Meetha because it was a more interesting dessert and tasted quite unlike any dessert I’ve ever tried in Delhi.
I’d say go for the Hyderabadi Menu at Zambar, try something new today!
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