By Sourish Bhattacharyya
|Kwality Group's Corporate Chef|
G. Sultan Mohideen, who served
a long list of VIPs during his stint
with ITC Hotels, created history
by cooking a 72-kilo paneer tikka
at a Delhi farmhouse on April 12
IT IS chicken tikka masala (CTM) that's been making history. Back in 2001, the then UK foreign secretary Robin Cook declared it to be "a true British national dish". More recently, in 2009, Pakistani-born British MP Mohammad Sarwar tabled a motion in the House of Commons seeking protected geographical status for Glasgow's CTM.
Now, it's time for the rise of the underwhelming paneer tikka. Kwality Group's Corporate Chef G. Sultan Mohideen, who has also written a Ph.D. thesis on the Indo-French cuisine of the court of Tipu Sultan, produced what he claimed was the world's largest paneer tikka on Saturday.
Mohideen started his quest for the paneer tikka Holy Grail in the afternoon, in the presence of a jury consisting of, among others, a magistrate, an inspector of weights and measures and the well-regarded chef Sudhir Sibal of the ITDC.
By the end of the day, after Mohideen had cooked the monstrous 72-kilo block to perfection in a custom-made tandoor with a diameter of 4 feet and cut it into 1,650 pieces (each a 1.5-inch square) at a Chhattarpur farmhouse, he was confident that his feat would qualify for the Guinness World Records.
The chef started working towards the paneer tikka world record some time back by first getting a fabricator to develop a mould to produce the humongous block, which he sexed up with spices. He also got giant skewers made to hold the block in the tandoor, which had 50 kilos of coal burning, and these were supported by heavy-duty chains operated by a pulley.
The mould came with a sliding door so that the block of paneer could be rolled out without much fuss. And to ensure the flavours were distributed equally down to the core of the block, Mohideen injected the marinade into it five to six hours before undertaking the challenging task of cooking it.
Commenting on the feat, Indian Accent's celebrated master chef, Manish Mehrotra, said no one had ever attempted to cook such a big block of paneer, so it was indeed deserving of a place in the Guinness World Records.
Monish Gujral, Moti Mahal's Brand Custodian, said the chef couldn't have chosen a more appropriate dish. "Paneer tikka remains the most ordered starter in any North Indian cuisine restaurant," Gujral said. Each of the 150-plus Moti Mahal's Tandoori Trail restaurants, he added, sells, on average, 25-30 portions of the dish every day. Mohideen said the 70-plus-year-old Kwality restaurant in Connaught Place, which is famous for its Pindi chhole-bhature, seekh kebabs and tomato fish, moves an average of three kilos, or 100 pieces, of paneer tikka a day.
The hara bhara kabab follows the paneer tikka in the popularity sweepstakes, according to Gujral. The record-chasing chef, though, believes tandoori mushroom tikkas and bharwan aloo follow in the pecking order.Mehrotra shares Gujral's bullish sentiments on the paneer tikka. "It gives vegetarians a sense of getting a bigger bang for a buck," he said. "They see it to be a product whose value is equivalent to that of a chicken preparation." In the case of the other vegetarian preparations, they get the feeling that they are paying a lot more than they should. The humble paneer tikka has finally found the pride of place its fans would like it to have.