Restaurant Review: Country Inn & Suites, Gurgaon

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During one of my recent stay in a hotel in Gurgaon where my husband was staying for over 2 weeks already (for work) I had the opportunity to enter the professional kitchen and see the food being made in a restaurant for the first time. It was very exciting to see multiple gas burners that were on all the time with something or the other being prepared simultaneously. Since my husband was practically living at the hotel he had already done some groundwork for me and made friends with the chef there. When I joined him at the hotel – over dinner the chef came out and greeted me and announced that he would be (as per my husband’s request) preparing an authentic Bengali dinner for my husband and I soon. You see, the chef works at the hotel that mostly make North Indian food but the Chef was Bengali – so he offered to makes some of his home style Bengali recipes for us. I was very excited and felt special. The Bengali food was served the following evening just for the two of us – with 5 delicious recipes. I was literally licking my fingers – it was delicious!

The chef very generously agreed to share two of the recipes with me and allowed me to document him while he was preparing them. I picked these two recipes out of the five that he served us because they are achievable, flavorful and very Bengali. Baingan bhaja has to be my favorite out of the entire Bengali cuisine as it completely does justice to the delicate flavor of eggplants. Mildly spiced, eggplant rounds are shallow fried in mustard oil. The result is this sweet tasting eggplant balanced by a slight kick from the spices and the unique flavor from the mustard oil.

The second recipe was a vegetable stew called shukto. Shukto is basically a variety of vegetables very delicately cooked in a poppy seed and mustard gravy in layers. It has bitter gourd, eggplant, beans, drumstick, green banana and potatoes cooked in layers (as per the time needed to cook the vegetable) and is then simmered in a light colored gravy made with mild flavors of poppy seed with a hint of mustard. Both dishes are best enjoyed fresh and with steamed rice. If you make a trip to the Asian or Indian grocery store you will find all the ingredients. You should try these recipes to see what curries from other than Northern parts of India tastes like. I like them!

Chef Manas Mandal works at the Country Inn & Suites at Sector 29, Gurgaon, India. The chef can prepare Bengali food for you (not included in the regular menu) upon request. 

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Shukto

Serving for about 2 people

Cooking time 30 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 cup eggplant, diced into smallish pieces

1/2  bitter gourd, cut into half lengthwise, seeds and pith removed, cut into medium size half moons

1/2 cup raw bananas, cut into small wedges

1 small potato, peeled and cut into small wedges

handful of green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 drumstick, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 green chili, slit in half

2 tbsp mustard oil

vegetable oil for deep frying

1/4 cup water

Spices

1/4 tsp turmeric

salt

3 tbsp poppy seeds

1 tbsp mustard seeds

1/4 cup water

  1. Add poppy seeds, mustard seeds and water in a blender and puree till you get a smooth liquid. Strain it once to make it super smooth. Keep aside.
  2. Fry bitter gourd. Keep aside.
  3. Fry eggplant. Keep aside.
  4. In a sauce pan add mustard oil and heat through on medium low.
  5. Add vegetables in an order of the amount of time it takes for them to cook. For example you would put the potatoes and banana first.
  6. Stir fry the veggies till they develop a slight color. Add salt and turmeric and cook for a few more seconds.
  7. Add water, cover the saucepan and cook on low till the vegetables turn soft.
  8. Add 3 tablespoons of the poppy seed mixture and cook for a minutes.
  9. Add the fried eggplant, bitter gourd and slit green chili and cook for just a couple of minutes.
  10. Transfer into a serving bowl and serve right away.

Note: You can not cook this dish too much in advance or consume the left overs as bitter gourd when left in the stew for a long time can turn everything bitter and unpleasant in taste.

Baingan Bhaja

Serving for about 2 people

Cooking time 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch thick half rounds

1 green chili, slit into half (lengthwise)

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp ground red chili

1/2 tsp sugar

salt

3 tbsp mustard oil for shallow frying

  1. In a large bowl add eggplant rounds. Sprinkle turmeric, chili, salt and sugar and mix to coat the eggplant evenly in the spices. Let this sit for 5 minutes
  2. In a frying pan heat mustard oil.
  3. Add the spiced eggplant rounds and cook uncovered on medium low for 2 to 3 minutes each side.
  4. Add the slit green chili and cover the frying pan. Cook covered on low heat for about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer the eggplant in a  plate and serve right away.