Yesterday I went out for lunch with two colleagues to nearby MGF Mall and we homed in on Rajdhani, the Gujju restaurant. The restaurant is on the top floor of the Mall in Gurgaon. It's got a slightly mixed decor, with vibrantly coloured walls and displays of red and blue vases from The Next Shop hanging cheek by jowl with mirrored wall hangings from the emporium. The menu is a set thali. We were among the early diners and got a 4-seater table as soon as we entered. The restaurant starts operations at 12 noon, so if you go earlier, they won't have any food.
The service is really quick. Within five minutes of being seated, we had been served a bottle of mineral water and our thalis had been placed on the table. the steel plates they use are a really large size, with an assortment of 7-8 small steel katoris, which I thought were really useful for portion control at home too and have resolved to buy.
The serving staff is friendly and goes out of their way to ensure that you are eating adequately and that your plate is never empty - not good for those on a diet. The servers come around to each diner and serve them the various foods out of steel katoris - like at a typical south Indian restaurant in south India. Starters were warm dhoklas and mashed aloo bhajias, as well as a finely cut cabbage sabzi, served with a sweet chutney and a coriander chutney, both of which were delicious. The aloo bhajias were made with mashed aloo spiced with red chilli powder and a hint of garlic, which tasted wonderful.
The main course menu was extensive - we had bhindi sabzi, dahi-baingan sabzi, alu sabzi, chole, gujarati dal, teekhi dal and rajasthani kadhi. This was accompanies by both rotis and theplas, with ghee on top if you so wished. Rice followed, along with top-ups of anything you desired, and they provided salty chaach to wash all this down. The food was excellent, and delicately spiced, not at all oily. I particularly enjoyed the bhindi as well as the baingan sabzi, and the gujarati dal - sweet and spicy and very thin - and my colleagues freaked on the kadhi and the cabbage. The aloo sabzi was the only thing not particularly noteworthy.
The dessert menu had 4 desserts, including rasgulla (which I thought incongruous), sooji ka halwa, aamras and one more to which I didn't pay attention, having frozen on the aamras. The desserts were delicious too, though a little over sweet. They brought an Indian variant of finger bowls - the waiter holds a brass jug with a pointed spout in one hand and a brass platter with holes in the bottom (like a sieve) held over a brass pot to catch the water, and pours out the water for you. A truly satisfying meal which left us content and yet not overstuffed. Recipe for the cabbage follows, as well as my deduction of the dahi-baingan recipe.
Cabbage Sabzi (South indian style)
1 cabbage - finely chopped (really finely chopped!)
Handful of grated coconut
1 tsp Black Mustard seeds
Salt to taste
1-2 tsp oil
1. Put the chopped cabbage into water and let it steep for 10 minutes.
2. Pour the oil into a wok and let it heat up
3. Put in the mustard seeds and wait till they pop - you'll hear and see the popping
4. When they are done popping, put in the cabbage and mix
5. Put a lid on the wok for about 5 minutes or so, depending on how tender and finely chopped the cabbage is.
6. Take the lid off and check the cabbage - it should be al dente, not mushy.
7. Add the salt to taste and mix well
8. Top with freshly grated coconut and serve with rotis or rice and a lentil dish
Additions: In South India, we typically add curry leaves along with the mustard seeds. I also like to add a pinch of asafoetida to cabbage sabzi - the flavours go well together and it cuts down on gas! We also usually add a couple of finely chopped green chillies to the oil after the mustard has stopped popping.
Variations - You can add green capsicum or peas to this vegetable. Add the capsicum before the cabbage, and if using peas, boil them in advance and then add after the cabbage is almost cooked.
Baingan sabzi with Dahi ( eggplant cooked with yoghurt) - my take
500 gm Small purple eggplants, quartered but with the stems still attached
2 red onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
yoghurt - one cup, whisked well
1 tsp - methi (fenugreek) seeds
1 tsp - mustard seeds
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste
red chilli powder to taste
handful curry leaves
1. Salt the eggplant and leave aside to sweat for fifteen minutes
2. Pour the oil into a wok and let heat at medium heat
3. Wipe off the eggplants and cook in the oil till well done. I sometimes cover the wok with a lid so the eggplant cooks softer, which helps it absorb the spices better.
4. Take the eggplants out and put on a tissue paper to absorb the oil.
5. To the oil left in the wok, add the turmeric and mustard seeds and wait for the seeds to pop. Then add the fenugreek seeds and the curry leaves.
6. When the fenugreek seeds darken, add the onion and stir well. Let the onions cook until almost translucent and add in the tomatoes. Stir well and let cook until the tomatoes are cooked but not mushy.
7. Add the eggplant and mix all the ingredients together. Add salt and chilli powder at this stage.
8. Once all the vegetables are well-mixed, pour in the whisked yoghurt and keep stirring gently for a minute or two so all the flavours meld together. You can adjust the quantity of yoghurt and spices to your liking.
This vegetable is great as an accompaniment to rotis and a simple dal. I'm planning to try this over the weekend, and I'll update the post to tell you how it turns out.