For Gaurang's Kitchen Hyderabad-based designer Gaurang Shah approached Chef Prakash Lobo to create menu to include the scrumptious forgotten cuisines of India
It is said that every 100 km you go in India you have a different cuisine – not a grave exaggeration by any measure. The spices are common, ingredients are similar, most Indian cuisines have their roots in millets before the rice and the wheat took over. But there is a distinct difference in the way the spices are roasted, the vegetables are cooked and even the kind of vegetables used. Most of all there are a variety of chillies that grow in different parts of the country imparting distinct taste to the dishes of the region. And, that explains the diversity and uniqueness of the various Indian cuisines from the North to South, and West to East.
When Hyderabad-based designer Gaurang Shah approached Chef Prakash Lobo to create menu for a restaurant that he envisioned as a home for scrumptious forgotten cuisines of India, it wasn’t a mean task. Chef Lobo has worked in Mumbai where he extensively served vegetarian dishes to Jain and Marwari communities while working with five- star properties followed by Copper Chimney, a standalone restaurant that served Indian cuisine. He was amongst the founding chefs of what is now an all-India brand – Rajdhani group of restaurants, which is popular for its vegetarian Rajasthani thali. A foray into an all-vegetarian space where he would get to explore new dishes every day is indeed exciting says Chef Lobo. “Our menu is quite extensive. There are numerous dishes that are yet to be discovered; some of them locally known, which we are trying to introduce here, and many that are almost forgotten. To discover these dishes and learn the authentic recipes, I do not go to commercial places. I prefer homes, and interior India for my research.”
Gaurang Shah’s journey as a fashion designer is dotted with many such discoveries of the textile kind. His love for indigenous Indian handlooms grew from being involved in the family’s garment business dealing with textiles to walking the fashion week ramp with his models donning some of the most exquisitely designed weaves. This visionary designer is also a revivalist, a passion that he invested in food with his all-vegetarian place named after him – Gaurang’s Kitchen.
Trust the tasteful designer to spot this spacious house with an endearing old-world feel bang in the middle of the city, in the buzzing Jubilee Hills area to be more precise, for his dream. The restaurant spread over the various levels and rooms of this building is marked by long columns, high ceilings, arches accentuated by strategically placing few unusual décor pieces like the traditional ceramic pickle jars, framed silk handloom garment adding the splash of luxury and colour. The outdoors is equally stunning flanked by a bar serving traditional drinks from across India in addition to mocktails made from fresh fruits like a Jamun Mojito. It is here that during the evenings, counters serving various types of chaats, idlis and dosas open up.
Gaurang explains, “Neel is the courtyard, while Katha is the home. The spaces infuse cooling indigo and warm madder with nature to create a serene ambience. When you come to Gaurang’s Kitchen, you feel a breath of fresh air without a sense of urgency. We want to awaken the senses through relaxing sight, melodious music, soothing textures, and delicious food.”
Helmed by a top-notch culinary team, the menu is exceptional, showcasing the finest cuisines of India with indigenous Indian ingredients. The dishes prepared from a state-of-the-art kitchen are a congregation, traversing all corners of the country, with fresh flavours and textures that evoke nostalgia, shares Gaurang. The emphasis is on tradition, seasonality and local ingredients. That said the chef does bring in a few variations to the known recipes for novelty; for example, the deep-fried sambar rice balls that are a delish.
Chef Lobo mentions, “The menu is never the same on two given days. Putting together menus is an ongoing process. We do not want to become monotonous. Until now, we may have prepared over 400 dishes that do not include the many varieties of dosas, the variants in dhokla, and the chaats we have.”
At Gaurang’s Kitchen – there is the Kampuri Biryani from North East, Kair Sangri from Rajasthan, Barabanki Kofta from UP, Bihari Korma, Qubooli biryani from Hyderabad, Rail Palaram from Andhra cooked at one time or the other. Each day a new variety from a different state finds its way into the kitchen where there are specialised chefs from various regions and even a khandaani kulfiwala. The popular kulfi made in more than one traditional variety including the stuffed kufis in a variety of seasonal fruits and fresh cut fruits used in a kulfi, are already the favourite of the guests. The young kulfi maker’s family has been into preparing kulfis from many generations. It is not just the craft but the craftsmen that need to be conserved evidently.
“It’s a never-ending story, and it’s always surprising at what we discover,” states Chef Lobo.
He adds, “We introduced dishes from Baltistan region, which are aromatic and mildly spicy, just like the Kashmiri food. Gujaratis are very versatile, and like experimenting as they want more variety in their food. It is all about minimum masala and maximum taste – mild and even sweetish, where as in Rajasthan as it is a desert state, they eat spicier food. This difference you even see in the khichidis and kadhis. At Gaurang’s Kitchen we have a variety of Khichdis – Kathewadi Khichdi, Moong Dal Khichdi, Chanadal, and we even have the one made with whole green gram. From the North Eastern region, the favourites are the meethi kadhi, Biscuit Bhakri and even the Doodhiya Kheech that’s popular in Rajasthan.”
Over the years traditional dishes have been tinkered so much that we have lost the original recipes, he shares, “Hyderabadi traditional salan is actually golden in colour and has a lot of ingredients that go in, which you don’t see often.”
Gaurang, the mastermind behind this grand vegetarian restaurant says, “Food is not a part of the celebration; it is the celebration here.” Rightly so, Indian vegetarian cuisines are celebrated with gusto at Gaurang’s Kitchen.