24 February 2015

Dimsum Mubarak - Celebrate Dimsum Week at JW Marriott Mumbai

The night before I attended this dinner, I had a dream. I dreamt of a dimsum tree. Pearly white, translucent beauties hung from the branches, stuffed with the most delicious meat and seafood of every kind. I woke up satiated and with a smile on my face, looking forward to my meal that night. 

JW Marriott Mumbai hosted me and a bunch of other food bloggers to celebrate dimsums as a part of a week long festival held at their in-house Asian restaurant - Spices. Chef Tenzin from Arunachal Pradesh, a maestro at dimsum making is sharing his passion and creations with diners as a part of the restaurant team. Dimsums/ momos feature in my top 5 favourite foods of all times, and that's one difficult list to get onto! This post is going to be a long winding tribute to one of the many imports from China that we can't do without - the dimsum.

Celebrating the movie award season and the dimsum festival, I've put together 'Dimsum Awards' of my own. Hope it makes for a fun read. Here's celebrating the best of the dimsums I ate at the J.W. Mariott dimsum week.

Best Performance in a Leading Role - Popular Non Vegetarian: 
The most popular dimsum of the evening was the Prawn Crab and Chive dumpling. (Rs. 625/-) An open faced dumpling, filled with treasures from the sea that evoke a strong fishy flavour the minute you bite into it. And the caviar on top adds so much crunch and texture to this dish. A winner, hands down!

Prawn Crab and Chive Dumpling
Best Performance in a Leading Role - Popular Vegetarian: 
One cannot go wrong with a Truffle and Edamame dimsum. (Rs. 625/-) This one was smooth and buttery thanks to the edamame, along with being rich and flavourful. I also loved how delicately each one was packed and presented.

Truffle and Edamame Dimsum
Critics Choice for Best Performance Non-Vegetarian:
This is the one dish that I really liked. May not be a popular consensus of that evening but I enjoyed the Spinach Rolls with Water Chestnut (Rs. 625/-). I'd have rolled my eyes at the concept of a dimsum where the outer flour coating was replaced by spinach. This one changed my mind. Plump prawns were wrapped in spinach, and steamed in a black bean sauce such that the prawns imbibed the flavour of the sauce. Really enjoyable!

Spinach Rolls with Prawn and Water Chestnut
Photo Courtesy @Hungrybawarchi
Critics Choice for the Best Performance Vegetarian: 
There has to be a pan-fried dimsum in my list! I loved the Vegetarian Shanghai (Rs. 525/-) which is a vegetable laden, pan fried dimsum, which a lot of people may find resemblance to a spring roll. The Shanghai sauce served alongside added loads of flavour and spice.

Vegetarian Shanghai
Best Performance in a Comic Role:
The dimsum that amused me to no end was the Hot Chocolate Bun (Rs. 500/-). An outer steamed bun coating, albeit slightly thick, filled with gooey, steaming hot chocolate inside. This was a delicious, finger licking, dessert dumpling that made the chocolate lover in me very very happy.

Hot Chocolate Bun

Best Performance in Negative Role:
The dimsum that I really did not care about one bit was the Chicken wrapped in Pokchoy with Schezwan sauce (Rs. 600/-). I'm not a fan of pokchoy the least bit, and the dimsum overall was far too salty. Also the sauce tasted nothing like a schezwan sauce. Avoid this one!
Chicken wrapped in Pokchoy
Best Costume Design:
The prettiest looking dimsum out there was the Wild Mushroom and Pokchoy Crystal (Rs. 525/-). Crystal dumplings are visually stunning in any case, and get their name because of their translucent outer covering. The veggie bits inside also added so much colour to make a visually pretty picture.

Wild Mushroom and Pokchoy Crystal
Lifetime Achievement Award:
This award is meted out to the one dimsum that we cannot get enough of. It is present on every dimsum menu, and remains a unanimous favorite throughout - The Prawn Har Gow (Rs. 625/-). Steamed to perfection and a robust prawn flavour, I love the prawn har gow. Always did, always will!

Prawn Har Gow
Celebrate Dimsum Week is on till the 1st of March  at Spices, JW Marriott Mumbai. The unlimited dimsum menu for Rs. 1999/- per person with a pint of Kingfisher is definitely worth checking out.

(The author was invited to preview the Celebrate Dimsum week at JW Marriott Mumbai courtesy the Food Bloggers Association of India).

22 February 2015

Chocolate and Cappuccino on a Stick - Magnum's Choco Cappuccino Launch

I remember the very first time I tasted a Magnum ice cream. A treat for all senses. My eyes widened at the thick chocolate coated ice cream bar. The distinctive 'crack' of the outer covering I heard when I bit into it. And the smooth vanilla inside that created such an offset of textures to the crunchy chocolate coating. You may have eaten a lot of 'Chocobars' in your life, but the first time you eat a Magnum is truly an experience. 

This international brand came to the country roughly a year ago with three flavour variants - Classic, Almond, and my favourite the Chocolate Truffle. For a year they've established themselves as a fairly premium adult ice-cream brand, partially due to their price bracket, and partially due to the use of pure Belgian chocolate that makes it so elite. Cut to - a year later- they bring a fourth variant into the market which got me all excited. The Choco Cappuccino arrives!


I was invited to attend a special MasterClass conducted by two individuals who were best suited to bring out the magic of chocolate and coffee. Janice Wong - two time winner of Asia's Best Pastry Chef and creator of edible art paired up with Fritz Storm - Barista champion and Coffee king to leave us spell bound. Wong's 2am Dessert Bar in Singapore is on my bucket list of restaurants I want to visit and she's truly a genius when it comes to innovating dessert, may it be her edible portraits or marshmallow ceiling made to resemble stalactites. Biscotti cappuccino, chilli chocolate mousse, edible soil are just some of the components of that evening. Everything we sampled left us spellbound and was a perfect amalgamation of chocolate and coffee.



Coming to the highlight of the evening, finally receiving the Choco Cappuccino Magnum in my hand, unwrapping the cover, and then being asked to wait. Haha....such a tease! We all bit into our Magnums on the count of three, and the entire room resonated with the distinct 'crack' sound. 


The outer layer of the Magnum was the trademark thick Belgian chocolate but this one comes with crystallized sugar pieces that gives it a slightly caramel taste. The inner ice cream is smooth vanilla with cappuccino swirls in the center. I couldn't taste the coffee in the first bite and had to dig deeper for the caffeine taste to emerge. Chocolate is definitely overpowering in this fusion, but it's delicious nevertheless. The Magnum is made with top-notch ingredients which is reflected in the thick outer coating which remains firm and doesn't melt as fast as with other ice creams.


The new Magnum is a must-try, especially if you're a fan of this brand of ice cream. The addition of the caramelized sugar crystals on top of the Belgian chocolate and vanilla may make it too sweet for a non-dessert lover, but if you're a sugar aficionado like me you're gonna love this! Don't go expecting a lot of coffee flavours from this one though. I love Magnum, and I'm glad I have another variant to choose from. And I cannot wait for them to introduce more!

Magnum Choco Cappuccino launches in stores from the 1st of March and is priced at Rs 90/-

19 February 2015

Drink Up: Antioxidant Cooler Recipe

It's getting increasingly difficult for me to juggle work, blogging and trying to eat healthy. In between all of this the wonderful people at Diet Unlimited came as saviors. In addition to the wonderful three day diet plan and counselling they chalked out for me (read all about it here) they gave me an easy, peasy recipe for an 'Antioxidant cooler' which I have added to my daily regime and thought I would share with you guys.

The debate if antioxidants are real or simply a myth to sell health products will continue, and I really don't have a stand on this. Antioxidants are necessary to reduce the levels of oxidative stress that happens in our body, which can have detrimental effects. A lot of natural foods have antioxidants which are helpful for reducing harmful free radicals in the body and this recipe employs a lot of those foods. 

I found this recipe extremely easy, it's just a twist to regular drinking water. We drink water all day throughout, so why not add something to it that'll make it even more healthier and beneficial. 

ANTIOXIDANT COOLER: (Recipe courtesy Diet Unlimited)
Ingredients:
  • large pitcher of cold filtered water
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber thinly sliced
  • small bunch mint (stems cut off)
  • three slices of apple
Method:
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate. Depending on how strong you want the flavor to be, refrigerate overnight or for a couple of hours. Continue to refill with water throughout the day.




Tips:
I actually have a jug with pieces of the above fruits and veggies at work, and I continue to add water throughout the day and drink out of it.
Another version of this drink involves replacing the apple with some ginger. That version turned out to be less sweet, and more spicy thanks to the ginger.
Let me know if you try this out and how it works for you. Drink up! Cheers!

Die(t) Another Day - Diet Unlimited

Like most women in their late twenties, I too had a tough time fighting the battle of the bugle at some point in my life. I've had so many people come up to me and say, 'Ohh, you are so lucky. You constantly eat out and write about food, and yet you're so fit.' Only I know the amount of hard work that goes into maintaining a lifestyle such as mine, and staying healthy. Having tried every form of exercise - zumba, weight training, cross training, aerobics, crossfit - and tons of crash diets, I think I've finally found nirvana. I discovered power yoga and it's power to make me feel good about myself. And thanks to Diet Unlimited I discovered a daily diet plan that is totally do-able and not extreme in the least bit.

What: Diet Unlimited offers a wide array of nutrition services like diet counselling, customized diet plans, seminars, workshops and consultation for companies that are looking to launch nutrition products. This is the link to their website. They got in touch with me recently and offered to chalk out a customized diet plan for me and help me with my nutrition related queries.
Why: I wasn't looking at opting for a crash diet or a weight loss plan. I wanted a diet that was do-able, and something that I could follow on an everyday basis. I wanted a diet that teaches me to make right decisions when I eat out, and allows me to binge occasionally. 
How: My entire process right from filling out the interview questionnaire, to the counselling, to answering my doubts happened via email by Anandini - cofounder and dietitian at Diet Unlimited- and was extremely convenient.

Here are the pros and cons of my entire experience with Diet Unlimited:

The Wow Factors:
1. I loved how detailed the pre-diet interview questionnaire was. Right from basics such as my height and weight to detailed questions such as my food habits were included. They asked about my daily meal timings and my likes/dislikes and a lot of those factors did get considered in the final diet plan.

2. The diet plan was everything I wanted. It had simple basic recipes, and dishes that are commonly cooked in an Indian home. Nothing OTT or extravagant that would be difficult to implement.

Chicken, Raita and Phulka sans ghee
Cauliflower curry, roti and sprouts
Morning Oats and Strawberries
Omelette with Brown bread
3. The plan took into account my meal timings at work, and was scheduled accordingly. The same key rule was followed - small portions every two hours.

4. Since weight loss was not the goal in my case, the dietitian decided to give me an Antioxidant boost diet plan which suited my requirements just fine. The diet did not leave me starving or uneasy the whole day.

5. A week long diet plan such as mine is priced at Rs. 2000/- with consultation. Absolutely worth it, if you ask me. Especially if you don't have the time and inclination to visit a dietitian on a regular basis.

The Ow Factors: The only tiny grouse/ suggestion I have with my entire experience is that there should have been some feedback or monitoring system. There can be some daily/weekly reporting that can be emailed to the dietitian to that they're able to record our status and progress if any. 

What I loved about my diet was that it taught me how to plan my day's meal. I learnt that healthy diets should't really have an on-off switch and that it's a part of one's lifestyle. That's the biggest take home message I learnt with this experiment. I haven't weighed myself before or after the diet regime, and don't intend to. I felt good- physically and mentally- doing it, and that's all that mattered. 

Contact: Diet Unlimited www.dietunlimited.wix.com/dietunlimited
On Facebook/Twitter/Instagram: Diet Unlimited

P.S.: Check out my next post for a super easy Antioxidant cooler recipe the dietitian shared with me.

13 February 2015

Branded Bawi's Blogiversary: Giveaway

Yaay! I've turned one! Okay, not really. I'm a lot older than that. But the blog, my baby, my labor of love turned one. What started off as a random experiment on a bored Valentine's Day alone at home, has grown and nurtured into what it is today. The blog was supposed to be my personal diary, my documentation of the things I eat and the people I meet. It's come a long way since then. Looking back I did not expect so much love and support from all my readers, and I thank you all from the core of my heart. Juggling a tiring, full time day job, yet making time to eat out, come back home and blog about it is not easy. It is only you, dear readers who have pushed me forward, encouraging me to do so. *wipes a silent tear*
Here I am, running a simple contest on the blog on this occasion, trying to give back to you'll. I'll announce three winners and send them a foodie bag each, which I'll hand pick and send over some of my favorite goodies. But remember each one of you'll is a winner for me. #OscarSpeech #Cheesy #MustStopNow


Since, it's the occasion of Valentine's Day, which is the (over-hyped IMHO) festival of love, I'd like to celebrate the one thing we all love the most...Food! Here is my question....*Drum roll*

Q. If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Leave your answers as a comment in the comments section below.

Rules:
Contest open only to residents of Mumbai. (Unless you're feeling generous and want to send someone in Mumbai city a gift).
Don't forget to like my Facebook page here and follow me on twitter here. (If you aren't following me already, that is).
The contest is not open to my family members. (Mom, masi, fui you'll can take part, but you'll ain't gonna win).
The decision of the management will be final. (I have always wanted to write this line).

Go ahead, start commenting. And have fun. Ultimately it's all for the love of food.

5 February 2015

Unveiling the Mystery Box

No, this isn't the MasterChef version of the Mystery Box I'm unveiling today. No, I didn't have to cook a dish using a mish-mash of ingredients that don't fit together. This Mystery Box is different. This Mystery Box comes laden with goodies of the sweet and savory kind. This Mystery Box is a lovely patisserie in Mumbai's sugar capital, Bandra. Read on to know more.

This six month old patisserie and cafe, is helmed by co-partners Chef Shahzad Variava and marketing man Ajay Agarwal. If the former name rings a bell because you've seen him on the small screen during his stint as a MasterChef India season two contestant. That explains the name of the patisserie, doesn't it? I spent a lovely evening at The Mystery Box among croissants, chocolates, and conversation with the chef.

Chef Shahzad with his signature BlackForest Cake

On His MasterChef India Stint: With some background in the hotel industry, but no professional cooking training, Chef Shahzad auditioned for the second season of the show. His signature brownies got him through the elimination round, and his skills with pastry cooking shot him into the top six! This is clearly reflected in the variety and taste of confections on offer at his store.
On The Mystery Box: He talks passionately about his six month old venture, and the trials that went into starting it - right from scouting a location to designing the boxes. But finally, hard work and perseverance paid off and that's visible at his store. The Mystery Box retails cakes (made to order and delivered in four hours notice), pastries, cookies, brownies, chocolates, dessert jars and any other dessert you can dream of. On public demand, they've recently introduced a savory menu that I got to try. Everything is made fresh at their kitchen the same day, with premium ingredients. 

The place albeit small is well utilized, simple and classy. The Mystery Box logo clearly stands out on the walls and boxes places strategically. There's also some seating in case you can't wait to reach home to dig into your dessert.



Dessert Counter
We continued ogling at the dessert counter while sipping on our refreshing Iced Tea and Cranberry Mojito (Rs. 80/- each). The latter was my pick which you must try if you're a fan of the sweet-sour fruit. 

(From left to right): Cranberry Mojito, Iced Tea
The Chicken Dynamite (Rs. 190/-) is a massive looking sub sandwich that came with a spicy chicken spread and cheese molten on top, They were nice enough to ask if I am a veggie eater or want the sandwich 'all meat'. No prizes for guessing what I picked. Decent filling, soft bread that did not turn crumbly, and some greens on the side make it worth the price.

Chicken Dynamite
I'd recommend the Chicken Stuffed Croissant (Rs. 80/-) because of how generous they were with the filling. Most stuffed croissants can have too much bread in every bite, which was not the case here. Soft, not too flaky, and with a perfect masala chicken stuffing, I'd recommend this hands down. Ekdum sasta, sundar, tikao!

Chicken Stuffed Croissant

Now moving onto what The Mystery Box is known for - dessert! In lieu of Nutella Day, I decided to get the Layered Nutella and Roasted Hazelnut Slice. Smother nutella on anything, and I'm a fan. This was no exception - with the crunchy hazelnuts providing texture to the smooth nutella. Must have if you're a nutella fan!

Layered Nutella and Roasted Hazelnuts
The Sea Salt Caramel with Hazelnut Crunch (Rs. 140/-) is a technically brilliant dessert. A river of sea salt caramel comes enveloped in the finest chocolate ganache with hazelnut interspersed. Insert a spoon, and a river of caramel comes flowing through. 

Sea Salt Caramel with Hazelnut Crunch
I tried Chef Shahzad's version of the traditional BlackForest Cake (Rs. 170/-). Break through the cylindrical chocolate casing to reveal the good ol' classic we've grown up eating and loving. Each dessert was visually stunning, technically brilliant and good enough to be shared by two.

Black Forest Cake
I also got a sneak peak at their adorable Valentine's Day chocolate box that comes with the prettiest assorted chocolates. 


Go open this Mystery Box, you won't be surprised. It'll come filled with chocolate, candy, and loads of love!

Contact: The Mystery Box, Shop 3, Sai Pooja Building, 16th Road, Near Mini Punjab Rest., Bandra West, Mumbai.
Call: 9920099381 for delivery
Follow: @themysterybox on Twitter and Instagram
Like: themysteryboxindia on Facebook

1 February 2015

Hola Mexicana at Sofitel, Mumbai

Lets play one of those word association games. I say the words - Mexican cuisine. You react with one of the following - nachos, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, spicy, beans, salsa, and/or guacamole. Debunking all myths associated with our version of Mexican cuisine was Chef Tania Tovar, an Excecutive Mexican chef flown down all the way from Mexico city. She's spending over a month in the country, travelling to major metros and giving Indians a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine.

I had the opportunity to meet Chef Tania at Sofitel Hotel, Mumbai where she's cooking up her creations as a part of the Hola Mexicana food festival on till the 5th of February with a rotating menu everyday. Here are excerpts from the chat I had with her:

On True Mexican Cuisine: She spoke deeply about how the Mexican food that the world over has known to love are Tex-Mex and adapted recipes. Authentic Mexican food is a lot more than tacos and nachos, is fairly simple, and includes a lot of fresh ingredients used as a whole- Tomatoes, jalapenos, olives, avocados, seafood, meat and loads of chillies. Hold back on the refried beans she says! Though Mexican food has the potential to be very versatile, case in point - a mexican sushi she has created. I'd love to see an Indian-Mexican fusion on the similar lines. (Masala Library does an interesting Baingan Bharta Quesadilla FYI).

On Cooking in India: She draws parallels between Indian and Mexican food over the use of a lot of similar ingredients and the spice palette. We Indians are very experimental and open to trying newer cuisines is what has surprised her. Her greatest challenge so far has been trying to create a Jain Mexican dish without onion and garlic on request of a diner.  

On Being Mistaken for an Indian: Having a common Indian name and some desi features has led to a lot of people asking her if she has Indian roots.

I pose with Chef Tania
Pondicherry Cafe wore a festive, Mexican look that evening complete with sombreros and cut-outs of Flamenco dancers. Our servers pranced around in ponchos and sombreros too, while a live band crooned Latin and English numbers. A Margarita bar added to the festive spirit. Ola!




 Margarita Bar
The 'Wow' Factors: I enjoyed most of the mains they had on offer. An interesting Beef mince with tomato that closely resembled Indian kheema was a favorite. I also enjoyed the Chicken in Pipian sauce which is a typical Mexican sauce made with pumpkin seeds. The Shrimps in Cucumber and Celery Juice sounded weird but the gentle gravy paired well with spicy Mexican rice. The quesadillas were far more simple and less cheesy than the Indianised versions, but tasty nevertheless. My favorite dish of the night was a basic Tomato and meatball soup, where the simple tomato broth bore so much meaty flavor. Interesting Coconut Dumplings were my pick among the desserts - a dense and rich coconut cake.

Northern Style Beef Mince with Tomato
Chicken with Pipian
Shrimps with Cucumber and Celery Juice
Mexican Rice
Tomato Soup with Meatballs
Tomato Quesadillas
Coconut Dumplings
The 'Ow' Factors: The Jerk Beef with Scrambled Egg was extremely bland and under seasoned. The Chicken Nachos were a let down with store bought nacho chips, and no salsa or guacamole or pico de gallo accompanying the nachos. The Rice Pudding was a coagulated mess and they ran out of the Mexican Flan by the time I finished my meal.

Chicken Nachos 
Jerk Beef with Scrambled Egg
Budget Bites: Priced at Rs. 2261 plus taxes the buffet at Pondicherry Cafe is definitely on the expensive side. Most of us would not be ready to shell out that much for a meal unless it's a special occasion. Or one really, really likes Mexican food.

Contact: Pondicherry cafe, Sofitel Hotel, C 57, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East, Mumbai.

(The author was invited to review the Hola Mexicana food festival and dined there on invitation).