Taftoon BKC’s New Menu Takes You On A Unique Journey Along GT Road And Beyond

From Turkish Pide to Tibetan Thentuk, indulge in a unique presentation of the influences that have shaped north Indian cuisine

Published On Mar 08, 2024 | Updated On Mar 13, 2024

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In its seventh year, Taftoon revamped its menu last month with an addition of 22 new dishes. The north Indian restaurant in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) has taken the road less travelled since inception to narrate the regional story of North Indian cuisine by tracing the food influences on Asia’s longest trade route, the Grand Trunk Road that runs 2,500 kilometres from Kabul to Chittagong. 

The thought process started with the idea to find a common point to represent food from Kashmir, my hometown UP, Haryana, Delhi, even Bengal, said Pankaj Gupta, founder of Taftoon Bar and Kitchen. “The Grand Trunk Road that cuts through most of these regions. A lot of food we eat in the northern part of India is influenced by Persian, Turkish and Mughal dynasties that invaded India during different eras. When food influences are exchanged on a trade route, it spreads across the entire region around it. There is an exchange of spices, techniques and an amalgamation of cultures,” he said, adding, “In a nutshell, I am serving regional food, nothing in the name of butter and cream.” 

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Pankaj Gupta, founder of Taftoon

Interestingly, today his kitchen has three ustaads from Kashmir, Lucknow and Bengal. The menu also makes a special stop in China Town in Kolkata for Tangra cuisine, and Tibet too. 

Stand-out dishes at Taftoon include the Awadhi golden curry Kundan Kaliya, Goalondo Steamer Curry made by boatmen of Bengal which paves way for Dak Bungalow Chicken, Daab Chingri and Pathar Ke Kebab, and the Nawabi Peer Dhua Gosht from Lucknow. Lamb in yogurt gravy is smoked with ghee and spices. In the olden days, food for the royals was smoked as a sign of warding off bad omen. 

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Zafrani Taftoon

Our taste journey on the Grand Trunk Road begins by breaking bread: A taftoon, a leavened bread inspired by the taftaan of Iran. Naan, kulcha, and even sheermal stems from the taftaan. In fact, our meal begins McLeodganj, with Thentuk, a hand-pulled noodle soup made in a fiery stock with vegetables and spices. We opt for an egg drop. The warm and filling broth transports us straight to the hills of Himachal Pradesh. We loiter in the Himalayas with a wholesome bite of Zaatar Mushroom Lavaash that leans towards dressed with a creamy mushroom mash with gucchi from Kashmir. 

In the same region, we dig into a Khubani Badaam Ka Seekh, making the meat-eaters drool over the vegetarian kebab made skilfully crafted with apricots, almonds, exotic veggies, all in ghee. The garlic mulberry Crème Fraîche cuts the heaviness of the kebab with a refreshingly sharp coolness. 

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Khubani Badam Ka Seekh

From Bihar, a cuisine that has been slowly getting its due in the city, thanks to home chefs and cloud kitchens, we eat the most succulent braised and barbecued mutton in a house blend. While we are on the subject of kebabs, it is the creamy and tender Chellow Saffron Rice which holds an Iranian-style Zafrani Qursi Chicken Kebab that wins our attention. 

Teen Tigada Prawns is a three-way Bengali style of prawn cracker, prawn masala with a grilled tawa prawn on top. We pop it into our mouths like a sev puri. The menu traverses the long and short of world map exploring regions that have influenced Indian cuisine in some way. Thus, there is room for a seafood pide, the boat-shaped bread brought in from Turkish travellers. A topping of assorted seafood mince of clams and prawns comes drizzled with an earthy herbed oil. 

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The Aushak

The entourage moves to Kandahar with the Aushak, a steamed dumpling from Afghanistan. The thick steamed pocket is stuffed with leek and onion and comes topped with soya lentil ragu with a side of a garlic yogurt. The big bite brings together a symphony of local flavours. 

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Bihar-style Baati Chokha

There’s no break on the Grand Trunk Route as more breads make an appearance for main course. The Kashmiri fermented Girda topped with white sesame, from the breadbasket is savoured as is. Jharkhand and Bihar-style Baati Chokha is a dish that will draw us for a second serving. Whole-wheat baati is stuffed with sattu, and served with a smoked aubergine and potato bharta. A side of desi gheewali daal and tamatar chutney makes it a hearty meal from the heartland. 

The Taftoon menu offers two kinds of niharis Dastar-e-Khaas, a nuanced, Nawabi version and a more rustic, robust Dastar-e-aam made with spare meat parts that used to be prepared as a breakfast staple for labourers and served with paya. We try the latter. The meat falls of the bone and we scoop it into a piece of the Lucknowi kulcha that has soaked the stew. 

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Zafrani Qursi Kebab

A slow-cooked homestyle Dak Bungalow Chicken is inspired by the British era of guest houses across Bengal. The curry also has egg and potato which we dig into with Indrayani Rice. The flavours are simple yet flamboyant. Historically, the dish was usually made on short notice using simple ingredients in a basic preparation. 

Dessert turns into a carnival with an entire Kuklfi tokri of Coconut, mango, anjeer to malai flavours to choose from. Each bite is a heavy-duty indulgence of malai. We ditch it for the Gooey walnut halwa that takes a leaf out of Srinagar’s walnut fudge. A chewy toffee texture, with a drizzle of caramel, the date and walnut halwa is a fitting end to the Grand Trunk Road food outing. 

Address: Taftoon, Naman centre, opp. SIDBI, G Block Rd, G Block BKC, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East
Timing: 12pm-12am
Meal for two: INR 2500 (without alcohol)


Photo: Featured Restaurant

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