New Delhi: China chaat to pomfret roast and chicken Afghani to the Lebanese shawarma - fusion food is pushing new cross-cultural frontiers on the festival platter of Chittaranjan Park, the micro-Kolkata of the cosmopolitan capital.
Cuisines of the world are clamouring for attention in their Indian "masala" avatar in this south Delhi locality. They have been liberally spiced to arouse the `desi` taste buds. The sidewalks and the MCD market sheds in the area that hawk vegetables, groceries and fish on usual days have converted to rainbow food promenades with sun shades, cafe facilities and open air interactive kitchens.
The spirit of the goddess Durga - with nearly 12 community `pujas` in this south Delhi neighbourhood - is at her best in a burst of colours, food, fiesta and bonhomie.
A creative dish, China Chaat, tops the list of innovations this festival season.
"It is a variation of the traditional Delhi chaat - a mix of potato tikki, curd, vegetables, crushed papri (munchies) and fruits flavoured with tamarind and mint sauce. The Chinese Chaat uses the chaat recipe and replaces the ingredients with a combination of chilli chicken, garlic chicken and chicken Manchurian tossed with bell peppers, spring onions, carrots, herbs and sauces," chef Basudev Halder, owner of food vend Roll n Roast, told reporters.
For the green foodies, China Chaat is mish-mash of chilli potato, honey potato, vegetable Manchurian and cooked cottage cheese flavoured with salt, pepper, vinaigrette dressing and soya sauce, Halder said.
"We are experimenting with the dish," Halder, who learnt it from his Chinese fusion food "guru" in the capital, said.
The pomfret fish roast is meant for those residents of the capital who miss the sounds and smells of the sea.
"Promfret and Surmai, fish usually found in the sea, are easily available in the capital unlike many other sea creatures. We wanted to see how pomfret works on a wood-charcoal oven as a whole fish roast," cook Aslam Mohammed said.
The fish is marinated in a spice base of "chicken, mutton and fish `masala` mixed with curd".
The platter has an old world aura... Colourful red buntings flutter in the breeze screaming Chicken Shawarma Roll, Chicken Afghani roast, Chicken Malai Tikka, Chicken rice, chicken biriyani, chicken Mughlai parantha, fish tikka, tangri kebab, rolls and the usual lot of Indian Chinese dishes.
The prices move from Rs.50 up - the costliest dish is Rs 120.
"We do not cook at home for the four days of Durga-utsav. We eat out. The fun aspect of the whole experience of eating street food during the festival is that we eat all that we wouldn`t normally eat at home. We love the spicy chicken roasts, Indian Chinese food - and the sweetmeats. The atmosphere backs our choice," Shikha Deb, a resident of Chittaranjan Park, told IANS.
The crowd picks up from around 4 p.m. when the giant grills sputter and smoke with the first heap of meat and fish. And the tangy aroma of spices float down the sidewalk luring the motorists on the high streets to stop and take a detour.
"The footfalls touch the 3,000-4,000 mark every evening," Halder said.
The boom draws small-time chefs from as far away from Kolkata - the mecca of all festival street fares.
"We have been pitching our vends at Chittaranjan Park for the last 16 years," Sukumar Patra, a catering chef from Lake Gardens in Kolkata, told reporters.
Patra and his crew offers a spread of chicken-egg Awadhi Biryani and an assortment of rolls - flour chapati (Indian flat bread) rolled with fillings of minced meat, egg, cheese and vegetables.
"The biryani served on the streets of Delhi short-change the customers. The Delhi biryani is served with only two hunks of meat while we add an egg along with two chunks of meat. We top it with fried onions and accompany it with a dip. The spice mix is very
complex and different from that of Delhi," Patra said.
The meat dishes are best paired with "kheerpuli (a milk cream cake), nolen gurer sandesh (jaggery sweetmeats), rasmalai and misti doi", confectioner Uday Patra said.
If the spice sits hot on the tummy - there is always the humble bottle of coke to wash it down and the beats of the "dhak" to dance the flab away.