A Sweet Arrival

Posted on July 3, 2014

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Halidram, one of India’s most iconic names in food, opened its first overseas restaurant in Bangkok recently. BY REENA KARIM

Just the thought of Halidram brings back great memories for me. As a child in Calcutta—I still refuse to call it Kolkata—I would always find an excuse to run into the small Haldiram shop at the corner of the street. Sweets of all kinds lined the display case, while savouries sat neatly on the top shelf. I always ended up getting a piece of moti chur ladoo and kaju barfi.

For many Indians, Haldiram needs no introduction. But for those who don’t know, what started as a small family shop in Bikaner in 1937 soon turned into one of India’s largest, most successful and trusted food manufacturers. Its name is synonymous with mithai and namkeen. In 1982, they set up their first shop in Delhi and eventually expanded to other cities in India as well. After widespread success of their ready-to-eat products, they ventured into restaurants.

The restaurant in Bangrak is the dream project of Shanghai resident and President of Dell Asia Pacific Amit Midha, and his wife Vishali. They are scouting for standalone locations in central Sukhumvit and hope to open a branch in Pattaya as well. Projects in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Shanghai are also in the pipeline.

Giving us a tour of the spacious, brightly lit two-storey restaurant is their general manager of operations Nirmal Kumar, who has been with the company for over 12 years. He tells us how an able team of chefs, each with his own specialisation, was brought in from India to head different areas of the kitchen, from South Indian, tandoor, and Chinese to Continental, savouries, and desserts. The menu here is similar to the one in India with only a few new additions, for instance, a Jain thali option. With time, Kumar tells us, they plan to introduce vegetarian Indian-Thai fusion dishes. The restaurant also has outdoor seating that will eventually feature a live-cooking station for jalebis, aloo tikki, gol gappe, chuski, dals, chilla, and tandoor items.

THE FOOD

The extensive menu features everything from breakfast to snacks to a la carte options and meal combos. Our Thai editor Amitha, who is familiar with certain Indian dishes, decides to get us started with gol gappe (B50). Gol gappe, or puchkas, as we call it in Calcutta, is nothing like the unhygienic way it is usually served on the streets. Here, the ingredients arrive separately, and you are to assemble it yourself. Poke the crispy shell with your thumb, fill it with spiced potatoes, add a dollop of tamarind chutney, dip it in the green pudina and coriander water, and stuff the whole thing in your mouth to experience a burst of sweet, sour, and tangy flavours. We also sampled an alternative version, gol gappe ki chaat (B70), which comes pre-stuffed with all the fillings and doused in sweet yoghurt and spices. It tastes exactly like the ones I had in Calcutta.

We also tried a few dishes from their Chinese menu. I especially enjoyed the chilli paneer (B190), comprising cubed paneer tossed with shallots, spring onions, and bell pepper in a sweet and sour sauce. At Kumar’s insistence, we ordered the tandoori platter (B250), featuring paneer tikka, seekh kabab, tandoori aloo, a bowl of creamy dal makhani, and a baby naan. Another one of my favourites is their kadi with deep-fried pakodi (B160). Its flavours remind me of home.

When it’s time for dessert, I remember feeling the same level of excitement I felt when I entered the small Haldiram store on my street. I dig into their delicious kulfi falooda (B120), and Amitha thoroughly enjoys her favourite Indian dessert—rasmalai (B40). At Haldiram, the desserts are far from the waxy, sugar-laden sweetmeats we have tried all across Bangkok. You can taste a massive difference in quality, especially in the kaju barfi, which is made purely from sugar and cashew nut, minus khoya, an ingredient many confectionaries use in order to reduce the cost and the amount of cashew nuts.

THE DRINKS

The restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol but has plenty of other beverages that are healthy and delicious, like buttermilk (B70). This drink is a spicy palate cleanser popular in South India for its cooling properties. Amitha opted for a chilled glass of badam milk (B80), which is light and filled with almond slices. Also on the list are milkshakes (B90), fresh lime soda (B60), and masala tea and coffee (B45–70).

Published in Masala magazine, June 2014

Dining – A Sweet Arrival

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Posted in: Dining