Turkish food Kolkata

The Turkish Food Festival at Hyatt Regency, Kolkata, is kicking off soon,  and J called up over for a taste, and who am I to resist good food? I was keen to know more about Turkish food, and as I reached Waterside Cafe, there was a good deal of buzz, with neat rows of food served on platters for us to taste. The food served promised to be a combination of the simple and the elaborate, and we were anticipating some unique dishes from different parts of the country.

Chef Asaf Tasdan and Chef Kadir Okudan (L-R)

Chef Asaf Tasdan and Chef Kadir Okudan had carefully curated a meal which would contain different flavours and components, to ensure the food was a step away from what we generally think Turkish food to be. Asaf is fluent in English, and he explains to us the nuances of the different food served to us. According to him, the menu is going to change every day, during the festival. The food on offer would have a huge variety – from cold mezze platters to soothe the heated soul, to the hot plates of kebab – the event, starting from 11th, and ending on the 20th of September, 2015, will be humming with interesting and unique Turkish dishes, rarely found in the city.

Tarhana Corbasi

We start with the soup – the Tarhana Corbasi, with a strong tomato base, and with tiny chunks of chicken in it. Traditionally, this soup is made with the sourdough bread which is infused with yoghurt and yeast, and then added to the soup, where it is cooked till everything is amalgamated properly. I find the soup slightly less salty than I would have liked, but nothing a bit of salt can’t fix.

Mezze Platter

I am more interested in the lovely leavened white bread, which Chef Asaf says, is what they eat in their homes. Bread is a staple in Turkey – without it, the meal is not complete. An assortment of cold mezze dishes are placed in front of us – there is a lovely, creamy Hummus, redolent with fragrant olive oil, and the yoghurt-based Haydari, infused with dried mint and garlic. The Kisir is mildly spicy, where crushed wheat is mixed with pepper,tomato paste, basil and parsley, and my favorite of the lot, and the Havuç Tarator, with carrots and plenty of garlic, is enough to keep a few generations of vampires away.  I tear into the bread, and pile some of the beetroot tzatziki on top, and its cold, creamy, and perfect for starting our meal.

Turk Pilavi

The mezze leaves us pretty full, so after a brief respite, more food is brought out. There is a simple Turkish pilaf, the Turk Pilavi, redolent with butter and vermicelli cooked to perfection. We savour the zucchini fritters, which are tiny, crisp bites, over as soon as they are served (and therefore, I forgot to take a photo).

Kuru Fasulye

 There is also a white bean stew, which is cooked with plenty of tomatoes and garlic, and is quite comforting. I would have loved this more with some more of that bread, but, sadly, the bread basket was nowhere to be found.

Shish Tuvak

The Shish Tuvak, with chunks of chicken seasoned in paprika and garlic, appears at this point, and suddenly, the table becomes silent, as portions of hot, perfectly seasoned chicken, is portioned out. “Just a little piece”, says a friend who is about to leave, and finishes before running off. Kebabs from Istanbul and other parts of Turkey are often cut up and then topped with a variety of ingredients, including chopped vegetables, browned butter, et cetera, and served on bread for a meal.

Beef with Smoked Eggplant

For me, the star of the show is the Hunkar Bengendi, chunks of spicy, soft beef, on top of a smoky eggplant purée. “More beef, please”, I solemnly instruct my server, as I take a second helping. At this point, the İç Pilav is served, but the essential liver is missing, and I am not very fond of it, so I skip to the dessert.

Firinda Sutlac

The dessert is a simple rice pudding, with a broiled sugar top, almost like a creme brûlée, but without the satisfying crack from the caramel sugar top. It is nice, without being too cloyingly sweet, but I still am hung up on the beef, which is indeed worth going back for. You can go for lunch at Waterside Cafe for 1550/- plus tax (from 12 to 3 pm), and dinner at 1650/- plus tax (from 7 to 11 pm). .  If you are interested in attending a  Turkish cooking class, then call 033 2517 1425 to book one of Hyatt Regency Kolkata’s special cooking classes on the 15th and 16th, between 12 noon to 3 pm at 2500/- plus tax (including lunch).

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at Hyatt at the kind invitation of management.  

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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