The Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre in Port of Spain opened the first night of their annual Indian Food Festival with an explosion of spices on Thursday at the hotel's Pool Terrace Garden restaurant.
The festival, entitled "A Taste of India", gave their guests a feast for their senses. From beautifully hung ornaments from the ceiling to the interesting, decorative pots which served as centrepieces on each table, guests also had the opportunity to enjoy live entertainment from local Indian cultural groups.
But the main attraction of the night was the food. Now in its ninth year, the festival will offer its guests seven nights of authentic Indian cuisine, dance and culture from August 16-22, from 6.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
The menu will feature a wide array of exotic Indian dishes prepared by Chef Mukesh Kumar and his team from Hotel Samrat, New Delhi, India. Kumar has been a chef for the past nine years and says he looks forward to tasting and learning about the spices and cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago.
"A Taste of India" is a collaborative effort among the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, the High Commission of the Republic of India, the India Tourism Development Corporation and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
Sampling the extensive menu, guests had the opportunity to dine on steamed basmati rice, Indian breads, Malabari fish curry, dal makhni and mutton roganjosh, to name a few.
"It is all about showcasing the uniqueness of authentic Indian cuisine. The cuisine being prepared will highlight the vast flavours from north and south India," said High Commissioner of the Republic of India Malay Mishra.
"The chef will demonstrate how you mix some of the spices for authentic Indian cuisine. I know in Trinidad, people use some of the spices you will find in authentic Indian cuisine to prepare their meals, however, it does not come out the same way. I think part of the problem may be the dosage, cooking method and the mixing of spices may be different," he added.
One of the main attractions for the evening was the live cooking demonstrations. On the left side of the restaurant, the featured dish was naan bread prepared by Chef Rajendra Chand and Raymond Boris. On the right side, Kumar prepared an Indian version of pancakes, which consisted of a blended batter of rice and lentils. The batter was then poured on a hot tawah (flat, iron skillet) to form a circular shape. According to Kumar, the "pancakes" are usually accompanied with vegetables or aloo (potato).
As the evening progressed, guests had an opportunity to satisfy their sweet tooth from the vast dessert menu. Some of these included barfi, gulab jamun, suzi halwa and badam kheer.
To close the evening, guests were invited to get some mehindi (henna designs) done on their arms and hands. The festival continues tonight and will also feature exotic Indian dishes prepared using speciality ingredients such as Biryani masala, paneer-uncured cottage cheese, basmati rice, mint powder and kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves).