When it comes to Indian cooking, I think my mum is the best at it. She’s one lady that has always inspired me, through her passion for the food she makes. I didn’t think I would meet anyone quite like my mum. However, I did after following another inspirational lady, Asma Khan. She started a 12-seat Indian supper club called Darjeeling Express from various locations in London and her all team of female cooks came with Asma wherever she went. Many of these ladies are inspirational mum’s, just like mine with a true passion for the food they make.
Many people loved Asma’s cooking and it was only a matter of time before Darjeeling Express was printed on a board, in front of a restaurant. It was a matter of months ago that Asma revealed her exciting news that she was opening her first restaurant in Kingly Court of all places. Watching the progress from what was just an empty space into what is Darjeeling Express’ permanent site was rather empowering. Asma is a definite lady boss and a great role model to all women out there. Saying that, she has inspired me too – anything is possible if you’re hungry for it.
I had the pleasure of attending a friends and family dinner event prior to the opening of the restaurant and finally got the chance to taste Asma’s amazing food.
The interiors are gorgeous and simple, but there is a touch of Asma all round the restaurant. From musky golden frames with vintage photos of Asma’s home back in Calcutta to handmade traditional chai kullars.
We started our evening with a glass of bubbles before we were being served up a feast of Asma’s flavoursome and authentic food. I have heard that you could never leave Asma’s supper club without being fed until you were full to the brim. This was also the case that night, with 6 starters, 2 mains with sides and dessert. I just knew at that point I would be rolling out of Darjeeling Express in a food coma.
The first starter was Lamb Samosa which was filled with minced lamb, red onions and coriander leaves. The pastry differed to the kind that my mum makes, but it was perfectly crisp and the filling was extremely flavoursome. I absolutely love samosa and could have easily eaten a few more of Asma’s delights.
The second starter was Papri Chaat which is spiced potatoes and black chickpeas on a base of papri. It is then dressed with tamarind chutney and finished with sev and coriander leaves. I generally love the sweet and sour flavouring of pari chaat, normally provided by the tamarind chutney. Absolutely spot on dish and extremely authentic too.
Followed by Spinach Pakora which are chickpea flour fritters made with Woolwich Mustard Greens, a traditional Nepalese spinach. The pakora were delicious, the outer was crisp with bits of spinach evenly distributed giving flavour through every morsel.
The Tangra Chilli Garlic Prawns were next. Tangra means Chinatown and this dish is named after it because Calcutta is the only place in India that has a Chinatown. On that basis, Asma had decided to make this dish filled with indo-chinese flavours to commemorate that. I’m not a huge fan of prawns myself, so I didn’t have any but there was thumbs up from everyone around the table.
The penultimate starter was Puchkas, often know as Pani Puri. They are wheat and semolina shells filled with spiced black chickpeas, potatoes and tamarind water. The whole point of a pani puri is put the whole shell in your mouth or you risk getting tamarind water all over your clothes. These pani puri’s throughly reminded me of my family as they all over them a lot and it’s such a great for us to sit around the table together and eat pani puri and chickpea curry.
The final starter was Mutton Shikampuri Kebabs, which are minced mutton ‘cakes’ stuffed with a thin layer of hung yoghurt and mint. The kebabs themselves were delectable, so soft and the meat just melted in your mouth. A very well made dish, but that goes without saying.
For the two mains, we were served Methi Chicken and Prawn Malaikari. The chicken curry was made with boneless chicken thighs and was cooked in fenugreek leaves and tomato to give a spicy gravy. The prawn curry is a Bengali specialty which was made with spiced tiger prawns cooked in coconut milk. As I mentioned before, i’m not a fan of prawns, but everyone said I should try one. I respected them and tried one and was really surprised. I think Asma’s dish is the first prawn dish that I have been able to eat without running off to the bathroom.
The mains were served with an array of sides such as Pulao Rice, Beetroot Chops, Rogni Roti’s and Hyderabadi Tamarind Daal.
We finished off our meal with Asma’s speciality and something I had been waiting all day for, her chai. It was heavenly!
After we had chai, we were served a traditional Bengali dessert of Bhapa Doi, which is a sweet and creamy steamed yoghurt. A must try!
As I anticipated, we left Darjeeling Express feeling rather full from Asma’s fantastic food and warm hospitality. From restaurant decor, to food and service, it was everything I thought it would be and more. I would recommend anyone and everyone to go and try Asma’s food, because you certainly won’t be disappointed.
Until next time…