Indian Food Festival

Of Hindu cuisine and Halal cooking
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte

As part of its on-going Chef Exchange Program, the Oakwood Premier Joy~Nostalg Center in Ortigas presents visiting Indian chef Rajeev Arora in its Indian Food Festival for the Month of Hearts.
The Indian diet is known for its well-balanced composition. Ayurveda, being the foundation of Hindu culture, espouses harmony of the physical, mental and spiritual needs. Halal cuisine makes extensive use of grains, spices, herbs and protein-rich vegetables mixed with chicken, goat, lamb or fish. Through the sophisticated use of spices, they are able to create unique flavors and aromas, enhance presentation, and even incorporate properties that are beneficial to one's health.
“We are excited to hold the Indian foodfest as our first major event for 2011. Indian cuisine is one of the most distinct in the world and we are fortunate to have an Indian master chef who could further enhance our appreciation of its peculiar qualities. India has a unique and fascinating heritage. It is a privilege to get a glimpse into their culinary traditions, which have remarkably evolved from their assimilation of foreign influences dating as far back as the Great Hindu Empire and the eventual refinement of food preparation under the patronage of the rajahs,” declared general manager Brian Connelly.
Chef Rajeev is currently Executive Chef at the Oakwood Premier Pune in India. He is ably assisted by demi-chef de partie Kripal Singh, and together, the duo presents an exotic diversity of the eclectic Indian cuisine made richer by myriad influences that include the Persians proclivity towards dry fruit and nuts, the Chinese stir-fry methods, the Mongolian hot-pot, the Portuguese tomato/chili/potato mishmash, as well as Greek and Arabic persuasions and the British high tea ceremony over its five centuries of history.
“Hindu cuisine changes when you move through the Indian continent. There's lots of seafood and coconut-flavored dishes near the coastal areas while meat dishes abound on the inland areas. In Madras, and areas towards the South, rice is heavily used. The Northern areas, on the other hand, has bread and roti in their diet. In this region, their Buttered Chicken uses richer and creamier cheeses. The food prepared there are made to keep the body warm as they're geographically near the Himalayas,” apprised Chef Rajeev.
At the Oakroom buffet spread, Chef Rajeev highlights popular dishes from the various Indian regions. The sumptuous menu includes Papad bread with mint chutney; Kasari zinga and paneer ajwani tikka, that's the duet of saffron prawns and caraway seed-rubbed firm cottage cheese; Murgh makhani or chicken cooked in fenugreek tomato sauce and served with paratha, a soft-dough bread pan-fried in olive oil; Barbali Dal, the curried creamy black lentil and red kidney beans that's served with basmati rice; and the not-to-be-missed Coconut rice kheer, a dessert of soft grain rice cooked with coconut and topped with bits of pistachio nuts.
Chef Rajeev is a certified chef de cuisine (Master Chef) from the Canadian Chefs Federation. In addition to his culinary expertise, he holds a dual degree in Commerce and Hotel Management from two prestigious Indian universities. His 17-year career has included stints at the Sheraton Guilford Vancouver, the Coast Hotels and the Pan Pacific hotels. He has led restaurants to win awards and is now busy overseeing the opening of two new food outlets at the Oakwood Premiere in Pune.
The Indian Food Festival is currently on-going at the Oakroom Restaurant at the 6th level of the Oakwood Premiere Joy~Nostalg Center Manila along ADB Avenue inside the sprawling Ortigas Center commercial complex. For more information, simply call 719-1160 and/or 910-8888 extension 8604.

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