For us, at IFN just like everyone else, food is more than ever a means of comfort, wellbeing and community. As we bid adieu to yet another year, we walked down memory lane to revisit the best dishes the team had in 2021. Let's recap, shall we?
Pani puri tales
It's not every day that the Ranveer Singh of the food world—chef Ranveer Brar—makes pani puri for you. And not just make it, but also take into account requests like "theekha thoda kam karna". On the sets of Chaats of India Season 2, chef Brar was in the house for the season finale, where together, we cooked India's favourite street food.What makes his pani puri stand out is the usage of a special churan, a combination of bor (Indian berry) that is as tart as a lemon rind, but also as sweet as a date, and some spices. The SSM goes into the aloo filling and that's what made his version such a winnert. That coupled with him frying hot puris live, alongside connecting the usage of churan to its roots in Ayurveda, made it a class in history, gastronomy and everything in between.
By Sonal Ved, Editor
A nihari to remember
Aah, the best thing I ate this year. The best thing anyone could eat in a year like 2021 could range from being a really small piece of treat they cherished slowly, to a big meal somebody cooked for them at home. Because the fact of the matter is that, anything you ate in 2021 (after the year we've had in 2020) is already pretty special. But if I really, only had to choose one, for me it would be the nihari I had on set. We were shooting for our super special show, I Believe In Korma, in March and chef Ansab Khan, who helms the kitchen at popular Asian eatery Burma Burma, was tasked with making a nihari so pure, it left the crew tongue-tied. Despite our aching knees, we accommodated the chef's wishes of stirring and slow-cooking the winter favourite leisurely—as it should be—without resorting to cheats. The end result was a truly gorgeous pot of simmering nihari that for once, left our kitchen studio smelling of garam masala, instead of sweat and impatience. It was a good one, folks. And you've got to see it to believe it.
By Suman Quazi, Food Editor
Mind over matar
Wellness is incomplete without wholesome nutrition. I realised this during my short stay at Viveda Nashik, a wellness retreat I happened to visit earlier this year. The menu, curated by renowned chefs who are guided by experts in naturopathy and Ayurveda, was far from boring and rich in taste and texture. While you will be served everything from dips to sprout salads and home-style Indian vegetarian meals, alongside elaborate desserts during the stay, what took me by surprise was a never-heard-of before matar makhana ki sabzi. At first, I was apprehensive, but a little convincing by my sister and I am glad I changed courses. The creamy texture of the makhana blended with seasonal vegetables and matar tasted like love and care in a bowl. And it hands down is the best dish I ate this year. So much that I even managed to convince the back kitchen team at our sister brand, Tastemade India to recreate it. Let's just say that's my new year gift to the whole world of food lovers out there.
By Tarvene Kaur, Digital Marketing Specialist
We visited a homely lunch home, Sri Mangalambika Vilas Coffee Hotel at Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu on a hot summer February afternoon. A warm welcome was followed by piping hot food served on a banana leaf featuring one brilliant course after another. Accompanying a mountain of rice that was waiting to be devoured, were pachadi, curry, sambhar, rasam, vathal kuzhambu, curd, pickle and appalam. Vathal kuzhambu is a tangy and delicious gravy made with small onions cooked in tamarind water and can be prepared in many ways using a variety of vegetables like brinjal, onions, ladies finger and drumsticks. Being an avid sambhar-rice lover and having gorged on my mom's amazing Bangalorean sambhar and vathal kuzambu every Sunday, this four-course rice menu was nostalgic and like a warm hug to the soul. We finished off the meal with a cold, tall glass of buttermilk and it totally was the best thing I had this year.
By Nirupama Chaudhary, Copy Chief
An OG thali tale
I don't have favourite foods. It's difficult to pay attention to flavours and textures and figure out a favourite when you are already preoccupied (and don't even get me started on how occupied our mind has been since 2020). Or so I thought. Turns out once in a while you will stumble across a dish that demands your attention and all you can think about is just how amazing and delectable it is. For me, that would be the Gujarati thali at Gordhan Thal, an authentic Indian restaurant located in Vadodara, Gujarat. By far, it has the best Gujarati thali one could ask for. In a huge platter, sit at least eight bowls and all of them are filled within minutes of you settling down. Starting with farsan and building up to the dal dhokli, papad, bhakri, four different kinds of vegetables (paneer, aaloo, lasaniya, chana–and they change everyday!), two sweet dishes (aam ras, shrikhand, halwa; you name it) and ending with rice and kadhi. All of this accompanied with a glass of chilled buttermilk. The aroma itself is enough to make your mouth water (like mine is now). You can take an unlimited number of helpings till you truly feel you are satisfied, but believe me you, you can eat to the point where you feel your stomach will burst, but you will never get enough of Gordhan Thal's Gujju thali.
By Natasha Kittur, Digital Writer
Lobster in love!
2021—the year that people finally started to find their feet once again . After a crappy 2020, any good experience in 2021 seemed like something to hold onto and boy we did! We packed our beachwear and headed to Goa. It was a warm summer afternoon, sitting at Britto's, surrounded by close friends, who hadn't seen each other for more than a year. What would have been a good fun lobster meal, turned into a simmering culinary delight; with buttery, peppery gravy coated seafood that makes you wish the meal would never end. That lighthearted moment, that sea salt aroma, the breezy atmosphere and digging into that delicious lobster seemed to be the only thing in the world that mattered at that moment. And it was the most precious moment for me this year!