South-East Asian street food is the succubus of the culinary world, and at Syn’s Pan Asian Street Food festival, the demons are unleashed to frolic amidst the dinersThe Foodist Andrew Josef
Have you ever walked past a woman in the street, inhaled the scent of her perfume and been transported back decades to another time and memory where smiles and glances captured a photograph of life as it was? If you have then you’ll understand when I say that the food at Taj Deccan’s Syn did exactly that. There were no women involved, just omnipresent memories of Asian cuisine.
Walk on the streets of Saigon, Jakarta, Manila and the scent of street food wafts up and ensnares you. From alleyways and rain-soaked bylanes comes the call of vendors as they lure you to their carts, unveiling a sinful array of food that captures your senses, and makes sensuous love to them. South-East Asian street food is the succubus of the culinary world, and at Syn’s Pan Asian Street Food festival, the demons are unleashed to frolic amidst the diners.
Set in the ageing, yet teeming with the ghosts of history, Taj Deccan, Syn is an Asian restaurant that serves authentic Asian cuisine, not a bastardised version, spiced up to cater to, in my opinion, the mythical Indian palate.
Start off with the Indonesian Charcoal Prawns, a quintessential dish of skewered succulence, and then be surprised by the fire of the Spicy Korean Chicken stick. Also, don’t forget to sample the dumplings brought to a pedestal courtesy a black bean sauce that floats in its salty manna. All three starters whet the appetite for what is arguably one of the best Asian main courses in the City.
Think of Malay and Indonesian cuisine and two dishes spring to mind Rendang Curry and Nasi Goreng. The first is a masterpiece, the second a symphony. Too often we are subjected to Asian curries in City restaurants that are nothing more than a shop-bought curry paste with coconut milk thrown in for good measure. The result is a raw, brash gravy that would put you off Asian cuisine for good. But at Syn, the technique is masterful. The Rendang sings to the tune of the lemongrass and Kaffir Lime leaves; the coconut milk is an ingredient that is included in at the start of the culinary project and not parachuted in at the last minute to boost it. Accompanied by sticky rice (yes the best rice in the world) if it’s raining outside you could well be carried away to Jin Alor with vendors vying for your attention through a haze of steam emanating from sizzling woks.
Narsi Goreng can go wrong in so many ways: the egg could be overcooked, the rice too dry… But at Syn it verged on perfection. I personally would have liked it to have more fire, more passion, but it’s still one of the best renditions of the Indonesian dish in the City.
While you’re wading in delight through the first two courses you would do well to keep an eye on dessert, because this is where the menu delivers the knockout punch. If you have a tooth so sweet it should have its own pageant then try the Vietnamese Pancake stuffed with coconut. Served on a smear of pureed mango with strawberry sauce and accompanied by a honey and nut ice-cream, the flavours intertwine to orchestrate dessert heaven. I’d, however, have preferred the ice-cream to have been made in-house, but maybe I’m just being picky.
If, however, you don’t mind yam and sweet potato in your dessert, then try the Malaysian Bubur Cha-Cha.Take the above-mentioned ingredients, add some sago and some coconut milk and what you have is not so much an explosion in your mouth, but an adventure that slowly unfolds. Mildly sweet, bordering on savoury, this dessert is a highlight that one must experience.
Syn is one of those places that has been around for so long it tends to get filed under the ‘Great Food, But Been There’ category of restaurants, and that’s being very unfair to it. If the Street Food festival is anything to go by, the kitchen is on top of its game. Authentic South-East Asian cuisine is hard to come by in most Indian metropolises, and when a gem like this is delivered, it must be savoured, and memorised, because you never know when you might walk down a street and inhale deeply.