THE SIX CLASSIC MALTS – V

The distillery of Cragganmore is located in a village called Ballindalloch in Banffshire in north-eastern Scotland. Founded in the 1860’s the distillery was built by Mr. John Smith a very experienced and renowned manager in his days on a leased land near Strathspey Railway Station. Along with their flagship 12 year old expression the Cragganmore distillery also offers a double matured Distiller’s Edition finished in port-wine casks without any age statement.

The six Classic Malts.

The Cragganore 12 is most often seen along with the Lagavulin 16 from the island of Islay, Glenkinchie 12 from the Lowlands, Talkiser 10 from the Isle of Skye, Oban 14 from the Western HIghlands and Dalwhinnie 15 from the Highland as a part of it’s owner, Diageo’s Classic Malts Selection. You can read more about my other whiskies reviews here: http://eatsiprepeat.com/category/httpeatsiprepeat-comexperiences-2/whisky-reviews/.

Cragganmore 12:
The distillery was built in the Strathspey region, close to the river salmon which remains its main source of water to this day. However, its unique, relatively short flat top stills is what sets the whisky apart by imparting distinct properties to its nose and taste. Here’s my take on in:

The Cragganmore 12.

Colour: Bright gold.
Nose: Floral and grassy followed by a bit of vanilla.
Body: Medium bodied but well rounded.
Palate: Generously malty, sweet honey and a bit woody.
Finish: The maltiness and sweetness linger on for quite a while finally ending with a hint of smokiness.

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RAMZAN IN KOLKATA – II

If you haven’t read my first post on Ramzan in and around central Kolkata’s Zakaria Street you can do so here http://eatsiprepeat.com/ramzaninkolkata1/. Once you have had your fill of kebabs, fried fish and fried chicken I would suggest that you get down to the very important business of devouring haleem at the soonest.

Haleem is basically a meat stew where the meat of cow or goat is slow cooked with spices, lentils and grains like wheat or barley or rice or a combination of grains. The texture of the haleem available in Kolkata is like that of thick lentil broth with chunks of meat found here and there. As far as haleem in Zakaria Street is concerned you have plenty of options to choose from. Once you head back towards Zakaria Street from Adam’s in Phears Lane you are likely to first come across Islamia Hotel. In my humble opinion the best haleem in this area is undoubtedly found here with the right balance fragrance and spice. Another place that serves excellent haleem is the Zakaria Street branch of Aminia. Here you can also find haleem cooked with offal like cow’s tongue and brain along with meat.

The delicious haleem from Islamia.

If that is not your ‘bowl of haleem’ head to Sufia, another crowd puller situated bang opposite the Nakhoda Masjid, where you can find another delectable bowl of haleem. There are also relatively smaller players situated opposite each other one called Bombay Hotel and the other Zeeshan. I have found their output to be quite inconsistent, really delicious on one day and over or under seasoned the next day. However, the phirni (rice pudding) at Bombay Hotel is a well kept secret. All of these places also have their own biryanis but since that is something which is available all round the year I prefer to skip that during Ramzan.

Sufia, Kolkata.

As I mentioned in my previous post all over Zakaria Street you can find vendors selling different kinds of breads, sewai (vermicelli), dates, fresh fruits and dried fruits. My favourite vendor is the one who sets up a stall each year opposite Taskeen. His breads are always soft to the touch and fresh. Pick up the layered bread known as bakarkhani or the sheermal with cherries, nuts and seeds sprinkles atop that has a texture akin to regular white bread. Neither of the eateries will stop you if you walk in with your own bread to dip into your bowl of haleem.

The bakarkhani (forefront) and sheerman (background).

Once you’re done with haleem and bakarkhani you will be spoiled for choice as far desserts are concerned. There are many Shahi Tukda sellers all over Zakaria Street and having tried many of them I wouldn’t recommend any of them. Head over to Haji Alauddin in Phears Lane for a wide variety of halwas, jalebis and gulab jamuns.

Jalebis, Haji Alauddin.

You can also opt to pop in to Taskeen again for a glassful of lassi falooda which is essentially a cool mixture of thickened milk flavoured with saffron, yogurt, nuts, vermicelli and sugar.

The silky smooth lassi falooda from Taskeen.

Before you head home don’t forget to take back some deep roasted or light roasted lacha also known as sewai which are nothing but thin strands of semolina noodles which are usually cooked with sugar and milk and enjoyed as a dessert.

Sewai or lahca.

Despite the heat and the maddening crowd you will go back home a satisfied soul with a bittersweet experience because the feasting for the day has come to and end but in probabilities you’ll be back to indulge another day, if not then definitely the next Ramzan.

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RAMZAN IN KOLKATA – I

The holy month of Ramzan (or Ramadan) as most of us are aware is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is widely observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting. This act is also recognised as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The fast begins at dawn and ends at dusk. The last meal before beginning the fast is known as Suhur and the one that breaks the fast is known as Iftar.

The Iftar meals are generally quite social affairs and are consumed in groups which usually comprise of family and friends. Although the Muslim community here in Kolkata is spread out all over the city certain pockets and neighbourhoods have a higher density of Muslim population than others. One such locality is Colootolla, located in central Kolkata. An offshoot of Central Avenue, a narrow alleyway called Zakaria Street is where all the action takes place during Iftar. Food lovers frequent this narrow street during the month of Ramzan to explore the innumerable joints located in and around the area. While some of them are permanent establishments, there are also many traders selling desserts, fruits, dried fruits and breads who set up permanent stalls only during this time of the year.

The ‘Special’ Dry Fruit Mix available all over Zakaria Street.

Whenever I’m at Zakaria Street I make it a point to start my evening at Taskeen. One of the permanent outlets Taskeen is renowned for their marinaded double fried chicken dish called Chicken Changezi. They claim that the recipe of the marinade originated way back in Gengis Khan’s time. I am admittedly no one to question or refute their claim but like many others I am definitely a fan of their signature dish. If you happen to be there this is a must try. You buy your chicken by the weight specifying the cut, pay for it, show them the receipt and the chicken goes in to a huge wok of hot oil. After a while the large piece of chicken is brought out, hacked up into smaller pieces and then fried for the second time in another wok. Once done its served with a sprinkling of their own mix of chat masala

Crispy & spicy on the outside moist & juicy inside – the Chicken Changezi.

Also available in Taskeen and other temporary stalls are immense pieces of marinaded freshwater carp. These too go through the double frying cooking technique. Although I quite enjoy eating fish I find the prospect of having to work too hard to pick out fish bones while eating in a crowded place quite off putting. As a result of this I haven’t tried the fish yet but if you’re up for it who am I to dissuade you.

The marinated carp.

If you’re thirsty after you’ve had your fill of Chicken Changezi you can grab a lassi from Taskeen or if you’re feeling adventurous enough head over to a sherbet wala, a trader who sells a rose flavoured drink which is essentially nothing but ice, water and some rose flavoured syrup. Be warned however, that the sources of the water maybe highly questionable. Having said that though, I have had it several time and have had no trouble at all.

To drink or not to drink?

Now would be a good time to move on to some delectable kebabs. If you’re a chicken lover then you may give Delhi 6 (a permanent outlet) a go for their chicken kebabs. If you’re a beef lover like me then two hole in the wall joints should be on your list. The first of them is Dilshad’s Kebabs. This can be difficult to find but if you ask around for the CESC building and look around a bit you can find Dilshad’s shop. Obscure as the place may appear the kebabs Dilshad Bhai grills are unbelievably delectable. He serves dahi kebab (beef marinaded with yogurt and spices), malai kebab (beef marinaded with spices and the yellowish fatty outcome that results from heating whole milk), kheeri kebab (cow’s udder), the gurda kebab (kidneys) and the suta kebab (kebab held together by a string). My favourites are the malai kebab and the kheeri kebab followed by the gurda kebab. The latter two may not be available always but the other kebabs are quite easily available. My suggestion would be to skip the suta kebabs here and try the remaining kebabs with Dilshad’s generous sprinkling of desi ghee atop.

Dahi, khiri and malai kebabs (clockwise).Pardon the poor quality of the image.

For suta kebabs you simply must visit Adam’s. Located in Phear’s Lane, it may also be difficult to find but any local would be able to point out the place fairly easily such is the popularity of the place. Minced beef is marinaded with a secret blend of spices, ginger, onion, garlic and raw papaya paste and then grilled on a sheekh or skewer. The most interesting part of the kebabs is that no binding agent is used to hold it together. It is all held loosely together by a string. The perfectly grilled kebab is served on a paper plate with chopped onion and chillis and simply melts in the mouth. The propreitor Salahuddin cites raw papaya as the reason for this. Fortunately, this is also a permanent shop and Adam’s suta kebabs can be devoured all year round. you will have to pull the string out before eating the kebabs but it is completely worth the effort. Delicious is probably too less an adjective to describe the suta kebab. Another must have.

The melt int the mouth suta kebabs.

Now for the Ramzan special delicacies. But to know more about them you’ll have wait for my next post. Till then Eat Sip Repeat.

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THE SIX CLASSIC MALTS – IV

The distillery of Oban is situated in a town of the same name but interestingly the small coastal town began flourishing and came up after the distillery was built in the late 18th century. With its two pot stills, it is one of the smallest functional distilleries in Scotland. Oban is renowned for its 14 year old expression but also offers a Distiller’s Edition bottling, which they finish in Montilla Fino sherry casks before bottling. An 18 year old limited edition expression and a rare 32 year old edition are also available. In December 2014 Oban had introduced a non-age-statement expression, called the Little Bay.

The Oban 14 can most often be seen along with the Lagavulin 16 from the island of Islay, Glenkinchie 12 from the Lowlands, Talkiser 10 from the Isle of Skye, Cragganmore 12 from Speyside and Dalwhinnie 15 from the Highland as a part of it’s owner, Diageo’s six Classic Malts Selection. You can read more about the other whiskies here: http://eatsiprepeat.com/the-six-classic-malts-i/, http://eatsiprepeat.com/the-six-classic-malts-ii/ and http://eatsiprepeat.com/the-six-classic-malts-iii/ .

Oban 14

Oban 14 is one of the two whiskies from the Scottish Highlands to feature in Diageo’s. However, since the distillery is situated on the western part of the region it is widely identified as a whisky to hail from the Western Highlands. The distillery’s close proximity to the sea has a big role to play in the flavours imparted by the conditions helping it to identify its own distinct identity. The face that it is distilled in pot stills also influences the final outcome of Oban 14. Here is my take on it.

The Oban 14 Y.O.

Colour: Deep gold.
Nose: Citrus-y and fruity sweetness followed by hints of smoke.
Body: Full bodied and rich.
Palate: Rich honey, sweet dry fruits like figs and apricots which gradually make way for some spiciness and notes of smoke.
Finish: The sweetness and smoke are linger on for a while finally getting replaced by a dry, oak woodiness.
Pairing: I enjoyed my Oban 14 with a 80% dark chocolate. Sip the whisky, savour it for a while and then take a tiny bite of the chocolate. I found that the rich cocoa brought out the sweetness of the whisky even more.

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