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April 15, 2024

Magical food from the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Bhutan is on top of most people’s travel bucketlist, as it is on mine, still (sadly). I am a voracious reader and consumer of all kinds of travel news from that state, however, with its misty green valleys to its fascinating culture.

So when Chef Michael Swamy set up his kitchen (for a few days) we had to go as soon as possible to Honk, at the Pullman hotel in Aerocity, Delhi. Honk’s ambience prepares you for an Asian meal as soon as you enter, especially at night with its big windows and cosy atmosphere a perfect setup for some comfort food. The four-city tour kicked off with a seven course chef special menu and a la carte menu featuring an Indo-Bhutanese Dining Experience at HONK, Pullman New Delhi Aerocity, from March 15 to March 24, 2024.

We got ourselves seated and went through the menu only to discover that we liked all options available, and choosing was going to be a hard task. Bhutanese food has many things in common with Tibetan options, an instant hit with anyone who has lived in Delhi for many years.

Settling on the fixed menu, and henceforth freed from the burden of choosing, we headed over to the neighbouring table, where an art brand called Kidsters had a pop-up. The brand is involved in making DIY art out of recycled bottles. Their bottle of choice was VEEN, the mineral water company that has won accolades for its design by Helsinki-based artist. While my companion managed to make a few friendly ghost cartoons, I settled for a smattering of colourful hearts with acrylic paint. Despite our amateur drawing skills, some fairy lights made our bottles look just fine!

Image Courtesy: Honk Pullman
Image Courtesy: Honk Pullman
Image Courtesy: Author’s Own

We headed to our tables where our drink had appeared. Orange is the national fruit of Bhutan, and this drink presented it in all its glory. Citrusy and fresh, its flavour was enhanced with a variety of Bhutanese chili, giving it an exceptional kick. We were served a portion of yak cheese momos, which got a thumbs-up from us, and then ema datshi, a dish made famous by Deepika Padukone, who’s one statement inspired so many versions of the soup/curry online. We helped ourselves to the soup, served in a bread bowl, and then to cleanse our palates went back to our orange drink. This soup has a thick consistency, and works very well with some chewy bread, especially if you let it be soaked in the bread. The yak cheese momo had a sharp umami flavour, enhanced by gucchi mushroom, which we recognised in the soup as well. This was followed by shaphaley in two versions, a mushroom and a lamb one. There were two kinds of dipping sauces provided to us – a chilli vinegar-y sauce, and a more savoury garlic and onion oil. We kept going alternating, dipping the crisp shaphaley, shaped somewhat like a savoury dumpling and then deep-fried, into the sauces for a variety of flavours. We were pretty satiated by then and what followed was a delicious and appropriately portioned main course- black sesame chicken with red rice, edamame beans on the side. Dessert again featured a star produce from the state –  it was a chili chocolate mousse with seabuckthorn – a berry that exclusively grows in the Himalayas.

The meal convinced us that a visit to Bhutan was imminent – we couldn’t possibly go on without tasting this food very soon!

The exclusive “Bhutan to Bharat – A Culinary Journey” dinner events by Accor will be presented across India in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore.The journey will then continue with a curated buffet experience at The Square, Novotel Kolkata Hotel & Residences from April 25 to May 5.

In Mumbai, Chef Michael Swamy will present his feast at Food Exchange, Novotel Mumbai International Airport, from May 24 to June 2, 2024, and La Utsav Restaurant & Alfresco by 1026AD at Grand Mercure Gopalan Mall in Bangalore from will play host to the unique culinary experience from June 21 to June 30, 2024.

Anushka Manik

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