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Limsterfest at Dasaprakash (long)

chibi | Jun 2, 200211:45 AM

Limsterfest evolved last night into festivities of unprecedented magnitude last night at a magnificent South Indian feast at Dasaprakash. Our gracious host Mr. Das created a lavish tasting menu for us, and gave us a warm welcome and marvelous introduction to this sophisticated and complex cuisine.

First to arrive were masala dosai, which they had miniaturized specially for our tasting menu. These were a revelation. The outside consisted of a thin crepe made from fermented lentil flour, one side fried to a mirror-smooth crisp blondness and the other spongy and moist. This encased a mellow potato filling, fragrant with onions and turmeric. To accompany this, each person also received a small cup of sambhar, a tangy, rich lentil puree. We were invited to break off bits of the dosa, dip it in the sambhar and to sample one of the three accompanying chutneys – coconut, cilantro or tamarind. The resulting experience was a marvelous balance of textures, tastes and temperatures, the wafer-like crispness of the crepe, the warm spicy lentils, and the cool freshness of the chutney.

Mr. Das’ lesson in balancing foods with different tastes, textures and temperatures continued with the arrival of the thalis. Each person was presented with a round tray, in the center of which lay 4 or 5 pooris (fried bread puffs). Arranged all around the poori were round dishes containing rice, vegetable curries, lentils, yoghurt and dessert. As if one thali were not bewildering enough an array of new taste sensations, they brought out two types of thali, one containing typically South Indian dishes, and one with Northern dishes. It is far beyond my abilities to describe the gustatory complexity of each item in the thalis, each one provided a completely new set of tastes and fragrances, with the spices melding into each other so expertly that no single flavor ever predominated.

The Northern thali consisted of three rich vegetable curries - okra, green pepper and cauliflower, a lentil dhal, a salad of tomatoes and onions, vegetable pullao, an amazingly sweet scented rice dish and raitha, a fresh yoghurt sauce. It also included a dessert, carrot halwah, a dish of tender shredded carrots, raisins and cashews, sweet and redolent of cardamom.

The South Indian thali had slightly lighter flavors, and consisted of two vegetable dishes including a spectacular smoky eggplant lentil combination, and a creamy coconut-based curry. There were three lentil dishes, each with a different spicing and texture, a rich tangy sambhar, an almost soupy rasam, and a thick creamy dhal. To accompany these, there was white rice, plain yoghurt, and some mango pickles, curiously but wonderfully salty and fragrant with black mustard seeds. For dessert, there was a light, creamy sweetened tapioca pudding.

And I haven’t even mentioned yet my favorite dish, the rava dosai, a crepe made of cream of wheat, dotted with chilis and cilantro. It was not as crisp as the masala dosa, but soft like fine lace.

The arrival of the thalis caused the already jovial atmosphere to grow truly festive. People passed their thalis back and forth to their neighbors so that everyone could sample everything. Everyone scooped and tasted bits out of every dish, trying different combinations, and then trying some more. Everything tasted wonderful to me, and it was a dizzying experience that I will not forget for a long time. Many kudos to Pia for organizing such a great evening and thank you to all 24 hounds who came for making it an evening of such good cheer.

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