Pakistani kebabs, Bangladeshi Hilsa big hits at Kolkata fair

Kolkata, Dec 30 (IANS) Grilled marinated chicken tikkas and smoking seekh kebabs from Pakistan and rice dishes from Bangladesh with Ilish (hilsa fish) are not only tasty but healthy too, according to chefs from the two countries who are here for a fair.

Two stalls from the neighbouring countries are not only rustling up delicacies at the ongoing 27th Industrial India Trade Fair here, but also dispelling myths about traditional foods.
Be it the warm platters of aromatic Sindhi Dum Biriyani, or the slow cooked chicken or mutton Nahari stew, the 15 dishes served at the kiosk of Pakistan’s Warsi chain of restaurants are much in demand.
Despite the rich creamy texture, the items are surprisingly high on nutrition, said chef Md. Arif of the Warsi restaurant that has outlets in Karachi, Lahore and Faizabad.
“The cooking techniques that we use across the border, such as grilling and slow cooking, ensure that the nutritive properties of poultry and vegetables are retained,” Arif, a resident of Karachi, told the media here.
Arif also swears by the combination of spices used.
“The garam masala that we use is very different from the Indian version. When mixed in proper proportions with powdered dry fruit, it doesn’t heat up the body too much.”
“In fact, in the chilly winter, spices and dry fruits are necessary. Our families have been surviving on this for generations without any side-effects,” the 49-year-old Arif said about his family’s secret spice mix.
At the other end, the smell of oil squeezed out from the prized Hilsa fish has been a big draw.
From Ilish biriyani to Ilish pulao and Ilish khichdi, the fish reigns supreme at the Bangladeshi food outlet.
“We use all parts of the fish in our cooking. While the khichdi and pulao have boneless fish pieces, the biriyani has pieces with bones but no eggs. The oil that is used is also derived from the fish,” said Atanu Pandit of the Bangladeshi food stall.
This ensures no extra oil is needed during the cooking, and the fish in itself is nutritious due to the presence of Omega-3 fatty acids.
“Ilish is very good for the brain and nervous system. The fusion of rice and fish is healthy. For the set-up here, we have used the Ilish caught in Bangladesh rivers,” said Pandit.