Friday, 13 March 2015

Khyen Chyen - My homeland Kashmir on my plate - 4.5/5

I feel high every time I think of Kashmir. Having spent my entire childhood in the valley, Kashmir makes a noise in every beat of my heart and lives in every cell of my body. Hence my love affair with Kashmiri food is as old as I am. For me it was love at first bite, yes the first bite that I can remember, that I took thirty something years ago (no I ain't telling you how old I am). Having lived and eaten my entire life in a Kashmiri household I know my food. I mean, I know my soul food. I have eaten endless wazvaan's endless pieces of roganjosh and yakhni curries that my mom, my nani and my grandmother have fed me my entire life. 

In the hustle and bustle of this maddening city of Delhi, I do miss my childhood favourites - The Rishta and Gushtaba not easily available here. I do cook Kashmiri food and some real good Kashmiri food, but the challenge in Delhi is that one cannot find the kind of mince used for Rishta or Gushtaba. Having enjoyed the awesome food of Ahad Sons - The very well know place for Kashmiri food in Delhi, I had huge expectations from Khyen Chyen clubbed with the fact that I am over confident that noone can fool me when it comes to Kashmiri food. I'd say I know Kashmiri food like the back of my hand. I can close my eyes and recognize good, well cooked Kashmiri Food. Even though loads of Kashmiri restaurants are mushrooming in our city as we speak, most of them aren't making what I would refer to as "Authentic" waza cooked Kashmiri food. As it is, my belief is that Kashmiri cuisine isn't something that gels with everyone's palate due to the absence of onion, garlic and tomatoes and the use of different masala's not used in most north Indian cuisines - like dry ginger powder or fenugreek powder. So if you feed someone alien to this cuisine any averagely cooked Kashmiri gravy he would consider it heavenly. This is where a good, honest to god, truly authentic Kashmiri restaurant like Khyen Chyen comes to your rescue.  

So here we were one Sunday afternoon when I was missing my mom and wanted some nice hot batta and Gushtaba and I had heard of this new place in Cross point mall in Gurgaon. But my visit to Khyen Chyen was serendipity. I had earlier decided on picking a take away from another famous Kashmiri place but decided instead to sit down and eat and enjoy freshly prepared waza cooked food. I must say one thing about Khyen Chyen, that this was the yummiest Kashmiri food I've had in a very very long time! For me it was like coming home. I am almost sobbing as I am writing this, Kashmiri food was great when we were in Kashmir and we enjoyed some waza cooked Kashmiri food in Weddings and functions, but today the absence of the availability of great Kashmiri food breaks my heart. The food here at Khyen Chyen filled that vacuum of my heart, which was created by this unavailability of great Kashmiri food in the city. I can close my eyes and head out to this place every time I miss mom cooked food. Khyen Chyen offers lovers of Kashmiri cuisine  friendly service alongwith a cosy ambience. 

Right from the time you enter this place, you're greeted by the typical Kashmiri ambience - the copper vessles / samavar's on the shelves, the aroma of izbandh in the air (Izband is a traditional Kashmiri incense which basically are Harmal/Wild Rue Seeds), the way they make you wash hands just like they used to in Kashmiri weddings and of course, the way food is served. One thing I must complement the owner for - he pampers his guests like one pampers the son-in-law in a kashmiri household (and the son-in-law being invited for a meal is a real big deal). He was with us all through the meal ensuring we have whatever we want. Also another great thing about the food here is that unlike the usual Kashmiri food being oily, the food here has just the right proportion of oil, not making your meal heavy or making you feel guilty of having a high calorie / heavy meal. But that certainly doesn't mean that by putting less oil the taste of the dish is compromised. Certainly not, but I felt this made the dishes even tastier. 

We started with a hot cuppa saffron Kashmiri Kahwa garinshed with Kashmiri saffron and almonds. I cannot begin to describe the blissful feeling of sipping the perfect kahwa flavoured with saffron in the authentic way through a Samavar. Post that arrived the starters with the authentic kashmiri dips and kebab's marinated in Kashmiri spices. 

Then came the meaty mains. Meat forms an important part of Kashmiri cuisine. A meal seems incomplete without a morsel of some fiery red roganjosh or some yummy yakhni. But that day I wasn't in the mood to try the usual dishes I try on and off, so I tried items I had never tried before like the Marchawangan Korma and the lahabdar kebabI also had my hot kashmiri favourites the rishta and gushtaba with rice and relished every single inch of them. The dessert was exquisite too - the Phirni was fabulous. Now coming down to the taste test. 

  • KahwaThe blissful feeling of sipping the perfect kahwa flavoured with saffron in the authentic way through a Samavar. Flavoured with cinnamon and mild subtle flavour of saffron made it perfect. My rating 5/5
  • Kashmiri Mutton Seekh Kebab - served with the authentic kashmiri dips and kebab's marinated in Kashmiri spices. The kebabs were juicy, tender and melt in your mouth pieces of pure skill. Myrating 5/5
  • Marchawangan Qorma - Maarchawangan in Kashmiri means whole red chilli and its interesting to know that the whole red chilli is ground and the juice is used in th gravy for that red colour. This dish has a mild spice level and is very different from the way Roganjosh tastes. My first time having this and I loved it. My rating 4/5
  • Lahabdar KebabI must tell you the lahabdar kebab was exquisite. My first time having this dish and I was speechless. This dish is something in between a rishta and a Mastch (kashmiri meat balls). It was so blissful and oh so heavenly that I might fall short of words to describe it. You have to taste it to understand what I am saying. My rating 5/5
  • Rishta - Nice and juicy finely pounded meat balls in red gravy just the way I like them. Truly authentic. My rating 4.5/5
  • Gushtaba - These pieces of beauty in white yoghurt gravy were spectacular. They could do with a little more curd. But the flavour and spice was spot on. My rating 4.5/5
  • Firni - Even though there is a dearth of desserts in our cuisine, yet the ones that exist do full justice to ones sweet tooth. The firni here has to be one of the best I have ever eaten, and trust me I have eaten quite a few. Its better even than Karim's at Jama Masjid. Its thick, its mildly sweet and the almonds make it divine. My rating 5/5

Guys, I want to say that this is an unbiased review of this awesome place. Because I am a Kashmiri and I understand the cuisine, hence I say that Khyen Chyen by far is one of the best Kashmiri restaurant's of our times. This place has to be in your list of must visit places for 2015.

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Kashmiri Kahwa

Kashmiri Kahwa

Mutton Seekh - Kashmiri Style - garnished in Kashmiri spices

Mutton Seekh - Kashmiri Style - garnished in Kashmiri spices

Mutton Seekh - Kashmiri Style - garnished in Kashmiri spices

Marchawangan Korma



Lahabdar Kebab

Batta (Rice)

Firni - Kashmiri Style - garnished with almonds

Firni - Kashmiri Style - garnished with almonds

Firni - Kashmiri Style - garnished with almonds

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