Karen’s taste discovery began with a contemporary Indian dining experience at Masala Kraft, a luxurious restaurant within the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where she indulged in the finest Indian cuisine cooked by her own personal chef.
Speaking about her experience, Karen told us: “We were seated in the cool, dark restaurant, next to the large steel hotplate (or ‘live cooking station’ as they called it) where our personal chef, Chef Simian Jeed Singh, was ready to prepare our meal for us.
“‘Would you like your food medium or spicy?’ he asked. We told him that we quite liked spicy food. He looked at us and with a glint in his eye he smiled and said, ‘I’ll make it medium for you!’”
Karen chose a set menu known as a ‘Sketch’, and found the first course looked very familiar.
“An intentionally wonky dish of popadoms arrived,” Karen explained, “Four types - I favoured the potato and black pepper! The dipping sauce was made of large peeled tomatoes, mustard, ginger and garlic paste.”
Next up, Karen opted for Tamatar Aur Narial Ka Saar, a tomato and coconut soup with a southern twist, and Adam tasted Babam aur murg Shorba, a chicken broth with almonds. Both soups were accompanied by a spiced lamb kebab called Haleem ke Kebab, a slice of grilled pineapple and mint sauce.
“My soup was delicious, tangy creamy tomato with rich coconut. The refreshing cool pineapple complimented the spice of the almost pate-like lamb. The trio worked beautifully well - a spicy, sweet and tangy hat trick.”
This was followed by a sumptuous Dohri kebab which Karen described as “warm and sweetly spiced, very smooth, and almost an Indian frankfurter!”
Adam tasted a speciality known as Bhatti Ka Jheenga - a huge prawn marinated in fresh ground spices, and Dakshini Fish Tikka - chargrilled fish in curry leaves and coconut cream.
After a palate cleanser of lychee and ginger sorbet it was time for the main event. Karen was served a feast of succulent meats laced with rich spices. This included Aloo Katliyan - finely sliced, soft potatoes cooked in olive oil and spices; Dhal Makhmai - a mouthwatering slow-cooked dhaal; Lucknavi Gosht Biryani - tender lamb on the bone known ‘a delicacy of choicest lamb’, Dum Ki Nalli - flavourful lamb shanks simmered in a curry; and Murg Khata Pyaz - a chicken curry with pickled onions “like jewels”.
“Goodness me! It was all amazing and so flavourful, but I was also, so flavour-full!” Karen joked.
Bowled over by the main course, a Chocolate Kulfi Bomb for dessert formed the grand finale.
“Hot sweet condensed milk was poured over the big dome of chocolate, and although the bomb didn’t quite go off as planned, it was still a pleasure to scoop the cold creamy cardamom-laced Kulfi from the hot chocolate-y bowl!”
The food blogger’s taste adventure was washed down with a Yard of South Indian Coffee which, despite not being a lover of coffee, she couldn’t refuse.
“It’s called a Yard as they pour it from height (the distance, a yard) so as to deoxidise the coffee,” enthused Karen, “I can’t say I was converted and that I like coffee now, but I can say, it was definitely the best coffee I have ever tasted!”
Karen was chosen as the winner of our Food Blogger competition for her passionate blog inspired by rich, global flavours. We sent her to Mumbai to experience at first hand the authentic spices, tastes and textures of the country’s most well known dishes.