Twinning Mumbai with Reigate

Choosing dishes from a menu is so difficult

Monday, 04 August 2014

Twinning Mumbai with Reigate

Anyone who’s had the misfortune to going out for dinner with me will know how long it takes me to choose. It’s become sooo annoying for my husband that now he sends me the menu two days before we go to any restaurant just to give me enough time to choose, re-choose, cancel and then have whatever he’s having and make him choose something else.

This is why I love Tapas, Thai starter platters and Chinese buffets - it means I can eat and experience lots of different flavours and that’s what makes me happy. And food – from preparing it to making it, to sharing it and eating it - is all about making you happy. So being asked to do my thing at a local festival meant three things to me – lots of people, a great opportunity to chat and Indian street food baby! Party on!

Indian street food

Walking through the streets of Mumbai, Delhi or any big Indian city and you’re confronted with rows of street vendors and sea of Dabbah’s (street cafes) all selling their own plates of sheer joy.

You really have to be there to experience the sound of sizzling and hissing as the marinated meat is thrown onto huge hot plates, the rising smoky aromas and those heady spices infusing into sauces. It’s just impossible for you to walk by without stopping to stare (and try a few, of course).

There’s Tandoori, skewers of spiced lamb, endless vegetarian options of potato patties, parantha with spiced chickpeas, pani puri’s and on and on and on it goes… From the zingy tang of tamarind to the hot burst of chilli, the natural flavours of the ingredients are enhanced through marinating, spicing and the addition of sauces and chutneys to really bring this food to life. These langy liuare what gives Indian street food that hallmark taste - your dish is only as good as the sauce it is served with.

I know it’s not on everybody’s wish list but if you can, do go and enjoy the wonder of Indian street food and experience India in its truest, craziest, most colourful, delicious form.

Anyway, I digress. So bringing us back to sunny Reigate with a thud, my challenge was going to be a good one – to bring hot, spicy, aromatic, tangy, delicious Indian Street food to a festival here in leafy, lovely Surrey. The van booked the menu sorted - I had even got some beautiful bunting made from old sari's What could possibly go wrong?!? 


So here are my top street food dishes and it’s what we’ll be eating on the day. All are about getting big flavours into dishes that can be prepped or pre-cooked at home (so my workload on the day won’t be quite as monumental as I’m cooking for over 100!). 

1. Chicken tikka wraps

Soft, succulent wraps made with marinated chicken in either a traditional red or funky green masala sauce. These are thrown on to a charcoal griddle or hotplate and cooked quickly so the meat retains its juices and the tingle of the spices lingers after each mouthful. In India, they do it in style with roomali roti wraps that are paper-thin and soak up the juices beautifully. For my version, I’ll be cooking up a Hariyali (green) chicken tikka made up with spiced up coriander, mint and yoghurt base then barbecued and served with wholewheat roti and a fresh green salad.

2. Samosas

Samosas are like the Cornish pasty of India (vegetarian ones though as they are the best for some reason). This is the king of street food and I feel they have to be served with an imlee or tamarind based chutney.

3. Lamb kebabs

So to even things up, this one is for the carnivores. I think there’s something quite beautiful about kebabs and there are lots of different types from lovely skewered chunks of meat to spicy minced meat versions which can be cooked on a barbecue or in a pan. The aroma is amazing, they are packed with a spicy kick, yet in terms of texture they’re soft and delicious to eat. These are my skewered versions called Seekh kebabas that are really easy to make. Serve yours with some tangy red onion salad and deliciously fragrant green chutney. The paring of mint and lamb works well here.

4. Vegetable pakora

Quick and easy vegetable pakora are cooked in huge Indian woks filled with a few inches of hot oil. Such non-healthy eating may put you off but ignore your rational side and just enjoy them. On the plus side, they are made with vegetables from cauliflower, potatoes, peppers and onions (albeit coated in a delicately spiced gram flour batter). But this is real Indian summer food so get stuck in and top it off with a cooling mint chutney.

5. Gol Guppa

Ok, for me this is the daddy of Indian street food. These spice bombs are the one thing I wanted to go back to India for when I was a kid, and now I love the reaction on people’s faces when they eat these crisply fried flying saucers. A real hands-on dish that you sit and create yourself, and that’s part of the fun. Basically you poke a hole in the top of each little crispy dome with your finger, spoon in the spiced chickpea, potato and onion mixture, top this with a dollop of sweet and sour (usually date and tamarind) chutney and then fill with a cold, cooling coriander, mint and masala water. Then before it collapses you put the whole thing in your mouth and let your taste buds dance to an 80s remix of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Marvin Gaye! Try these and you’ll see what I mean. Probably…

So how did it go? Apart from the men getting all macho over my homemade chilli sauces it was fab. The food went down a storm and the chutneys were (in the words of my son) epic! The queues were pretty long and the feedback was pretty good.

Indian street food - Delicious!

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