Thursday, February 25 2016, 02:57:52

Komal Panwar


Finale Part 1: “Taks” ChEAT Their Way At Hotel Holiday Inn

  • JWB Post
  •  December 23, 2015


Remember how for the “World Diabetes Month”, we began our campaign called “ChEAT With Aditi?” We have finally steered into its finale! The “Taks” and the “Gitais” shook hands and stood face to face with one another, ready for the showdown.

Photographer Pallav, and I entered the battleground at Chinese Restaurant “Chao”. We were welcomed by friendly Chefs who had already assisted Aditi with the preparations for this round. We stretched the shower-cap doppelgangers onto our skulls before entering the working kitchen.

Ruhi and Sunanda’s husbands had already found themselves a corner to steal away from the kitchen area. They sat around a table, discussing *ahem* business! Sorry, folks, no gossip there. I was occupied getting fascinated by the colourful food ingredients.

It was Ruhi’s turn first, and her daughter, little Hemashree was very excited. She watched from a distance clicking the perfect picture of her mother.

Aditi had already decided how the judgement was going to happen. Both women had to prepare a salad and bring a dessert that they usually make at home. Keeping the health and taste quotients in mind, Ruhi made Lauki ka Halwa and Sunanda prepared Apple Kheer.

Apple Kheer and Lauki Halwa

Dietician Aditi: The flavor of our grand finale was an interesting mix of tart, sweet, sour but not bitter. Where there is this all fun element, a competition does not remain jittery. While the Holiday Inn staff looked amused and excited to host the contest with a surprise element, our contestants, on the other hand, had sweaty palms. They made all efforts to peep inside our food basket with surprise ingredients. Their husbands eagerly waited in the dining space overlooking the open kitchen where their better halves battled through the challenge.

Chef Biswajit, the talented SOUS CHEF in the oriental specialty at the restaurant, helped me in my mission to further make the contest truly challenging for the ladies by adding ingredients like white fungi, shitake mushrooms, etc.

Both Chef and I first plunged fork down with the dessert round! Both ladies were asked to make a dessert at home that the family is so fond of eating.

Chef Biswajit: Lauki ka Halwa is a very domestic Indian sweet dessert liked by many. I give no marks for presentation, as you first eat with your eyes. Lauki or bottle gourd in itself is very bland. She could have added some nuts to garnish and even for flavour. The taste is superb. The sugar content is right. The way it is made is also good, not too dry not too mushy. Overall, good. I can see the lauki has not been grated evenly. Keeping these few things aside the taste is excellent.

Dietician Aditi: “I am impressed because such painstakingly homemade desserts are far better than the commercially available mithai’s and desserts with taste fixers, artificial essences and flavor enhancers. I could have given a full score to this dessert had the sugar content been a bit less. It left a very concentrated sugary after taste that stayed on for quite a while in the mouth. The Angel in me is impressed with the idea of adding milk or cooking it with milk that has increased its nutrient content. The idea of using a vegetable in the dessert again justifies this family’s love for veggies. The Evil in me, however, expected a more nutritious vegetable in place of lauki. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene and are more nutritive once cooked. But nevertheless, the effort was good!

Ruhi, with the cap on, held her breath, and I could tell that she was nervous. Heck, I got nervous when I saw those ingredients. I’d never used most of them, especially in a salad.

Now since her job was to work on a Chinese salad in twenty minutes, we all made it a point only to watch her. But, I can imagine how difficult it must have been for her! All those eyes fixed on how she’s cutting the vegetables, preparing the salad dressing!

Some of the ingredients included – Tofu, Asparagus, Bell Pepper, Baby Corn, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Spring onion, and beans. To confuse our contestants, the Chef Biswajit had also sneaked in a few extra items! Sly, chef!

There were honey, sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, burnt garlic, etc. Here’s a hint, we all know that Chinese food is sweet and spicy. Isn’t it?

Ruhi began chopping her veggies, but first, she handed over some veggies and Tofu to the Chef for steaming.

Then she chopped lettuce finely, Aditi’s look told us that something wasn’t right. The chopping fiesta continued, adding finely cut mushrooms and beans to it.

Once the veggies and tofu were steamed, Ruhi added some soy sauce and vinegar to her salad. Little Hemashree was fluttering on the sides, wanting to come inside and be a part of the almost fiasco.

Once she was done mixing the minced vegetables, she topped it with the steamed vegetables, and garnished it with quite a few “carrot rosettes”!

The whole time, Ruhi continued to mumble, “I don’t know how to make a Chinese salad!”

Soon after, Ruhi presented her dish forward. Chef Biswajit had put on a poker face and nodded. The judgment was to be revealed no time soon.

It was now Sunanda’s turn to work her magic on Aditi and Chef Biswajit.

Sunanda’s salad was very different from Ruhi’s.

I walked past the neatly arranged tables in the restaurant. The black glazed knives, forks and spoons were catching my and Pallav’s attention a bit too much.

Both salads and desserts were placed on the polished slab; it was time for the Chef and Aditi to taste the items and give their verdict!

Dietician Aditi: Ruhi gladly had mistaken the silken tofu for paneer. She chose a few veggies from the basket and steamed them first. Bok choy did not appeal much to her. She finely chopped the leaves, mushroom, bell peppers. Added some bean sprouts. She carefully selected her combination of dressing. Garnishing was done with a few too many carrot rosettes.

Chef Biswajit: Ruhi has chopped all vegetables in different shapes and sizes. There is no consistency. The decoration as the garnish is too loud as it is covering the salad. The dressing is seen at the base of the plate. Taste wise it is too sour because of extra vinegar as the base for the dressing. She has used more ingredients, which is commendable.

Dietician Aditi: Salads in India is still considered a side dish. Green salad so commonly spotted on the menu cards is a combination of sliced cucumber, radish, tomato and onion. Indian families, in general, are not very innovative where salads are concerned. Ruhi was relaxed initially, seemed unnerved, confident. But the moment she spotted the surprise ingredients, she had a fleet of queries thrown at me. I played the ‘cool Meanster monster’ at first as I switched the timer on at 20 minutes. She did an excellent job in choosing many ingredients, trying to balance the food groups. Her way of chopping the veggies too fine made the dietician in me jump out in horror. The dressings she picked showed she does not do too many salads at home for her family. Taste was a confusing mix of Indian-Chinese-Oriental??? The salad was tangy, no longer crunchy or crisp. But her enthusiasm and her willingness to fight her way through an alien kitchen and ‘strange’ ingredients made me want to pat her back right there. I say APPLAUSE APPLAUSE APPLAUSE.

The fun isn’t over yet, though. The story continues in the next post where we’ll announce the winner, see how Sunanda struggles with her Chinese salad, and Chef Biswajit prepares his very own lip-smacking version of what it should be like!

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