The Backpacker's Feast at Ministry of Food @ the Hilton at EGL

This was my first invite to a bloggers meet at the Hilton in Bangalore. Naturally, I was quite excited and made doubly sure not crack any sex-tape jokes. I’m not sure what the hotel policy is on that sort of behaviour coming from guests. Put together by Executive Chef Anirban Dasgupta, the ‘Backpackers Feast’ at the Ministry of Food at the Hilton is themed around bringing the best street food from around the world together at one place. The major locations chosen are Central and South America, Turkey, Singapore and India (with a main focus on Mumbai and Bangalore).





We did a quick run through of all the dishes before we got down to tasting. Choosing to go from west to east, I kicked off the elaborate meal with dishes from Central and South America. This covered a variety of dishes including chimichurri chicken wings, squid and prawn ceviche, lamb empanada, tacos and more. Two particular dishes stood out for me that evening. The first dish was the Brazilian fish stew. I loved the explosion of flavour sin this dish with all the spices coming together and yet not dominating the taste of the fish. The fish itself was cooked to near perfection. The next dish was the chipotle spike slow cooked pork belly. Among one of the finer serving I’ve had, the meat was quite lean with the fat kept to a minimum just to infuse the taste as this went down. A little bit of star anise added to the chipotle gave the right amount of tanginess and spice to make this, and the stew, among dishes that I went back for seconds for.

Chimichurri Chicken Wings

Lamb Empanada

Prawn Ceviche


Brazilian Fish Stew

Chipotle Spiked Slow-Cooked Pork Belly

I have a weakness for hummus and pita bread. And shawarma. This was pretty much the Middle Eastern journey of the buffet for me. The pita came in both crispy and soft varieties, and was lightly toasted enough to perfectly balance the cold of the hummus. The shawarma was not a big hit for me. There were similar neutral responses from the rest of the folks at the table. We moved on to the Indian section which unfortunately did not impress me at all. Most of the dishes were pretty average in taste and did not play with my taste buds in a manner similar to the stew and the pork which had set up very high standards for the rest of the evening. The lowest point of the meal was the prawn vada pav. The prawn and the potato just did not go well together and I left my vada pav after a couple of bites. The one thing that I did thoroughly enjoy was the rava fried anchovies which were very close to some of the fish I’ve had on the beaches of Chennai and Mumbai.

The bread and hummus station

Shawarma

Prawn Vada Pav

The final section of Singaporean food was quite elaborate. Having seen the dessert spread, I served myself minimum amounts of momos (another weakness) and satay. What boldly stood out was the Singapore Chilly Crab. This dish hit all the right spots. We had a resident of Singapore at the table who acknowledged that the taste was very close to what one would get on the streets of the city. The spicy sauce of the crab went very well with the rice, forcing me to go back for seconds. I was glad I kept this section for the end as the Indian section had me quite disappointed.


Chicken Satay

Singapore Chilly Crab

The dessert section was elaborate and covered a whole variety of desserts right from kulfi to Turkish delight to lemongrass cheesecake. Staying ahead of the pack was the baklava and the muhallabia which were made to perfection. The baklava was probably the best I’ve had in this city. I also tried the Churros for the first time, so I really do not have a benchmark on whether it was good or bad. For a first time taste, it was quite neutral. Dinner closed with some excellent pan wrapped in rice paper that literally melted in your mouth and some good old South Indian filter coffee.

Baklava

Churros

Muhallabia


Overall, the spread of the buffet is quiet good and allows one to indulge their taste buds in a variety of flavours and spices. As far as the dishes go, there some super hits and some misses. Most of the latter was in the Indian section. While I see the appeal of the same to a foreign tourist, the local population might not be impressed. That being said, the fish stew, the pork and the Singapore chilly crab find a cosy spot on the winner’s podium. 

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