Turkish food festival at Shangri-La, some refreshing flavours, some known comforts, healthy options galore...

It is a well known fact that mediterranian cuisine is healthy and well balanced. Good quality olive oil, fresh vegetable salads and stews, my favourite eggplant treated well in so many yummy ways and the fresh cheeses to choose from. Loads of olives, tomatoes, squashes and herbs as I like. I have always loved the Tzaziki and Antep Azme and fresh vegetables and crackers on a mezze platter can be so healthy and yet festive and yummy both.

I have to tell you all how healthy I found the food served here at the Turkish food festival at Cafe Uno, Shangri-La Hotel. The salads were so good one can make a meal of more than a dozen variety of salads and skip the mains. But that would be a mistake as the mains are great too.

The most loved salad was the Apple and couscous salad with herbs and pine nuts. Fresh ingredients, great medley of flavours.

The various cheeses dipped in olive oil and herbs were great with steamed broccoli and baby corns etc. I am so glad to find such options in a buffet.The Watermelon and Mozzarella salad was a nice twist on the usual feta thing we do. I loved the freshness and the simplicity to be honest.

The yogurt based salad like Tzaziki (yogurt, cucumber and herbs) and Ispanak Tarator (yogurt, spinach, herbsand olives) were really really good. Coban Salatani (the shepherd salad) was just like our tomato and onion kachumber but the Antep Azme (spicy tomato marmalade) is a salad with minced onion, tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, pom molasses and herbs and nuts and it is something I would love to have with my meals every single day.

Among the cooked salads, I found the Taze Fusulye (Beans in olive oil) good to my taste, but some people might find it a bit bland and too mushy may be. The Zeytini Agliprasa (Leeks in olive oil) was such a great tasting mash kinda salad. It reminded me of our chokhas and pitikas. The flavours were lovely, I had 2 servings.

A similar Potato salad with steamed carrots was not that good, you might ignore that one as there are so many better options to choose from.

Another Barley salad with mixed seafood was such a delight. These are the things I will be cooking really soon. Couldn't have enough of these salads actually. A Roasted chicken salad was more like a continental salad but good. Another Smoked duck salad with spicy Chinese cabbage was tried and loved though it was not a part of the Turkish spread. But that is the good thing about buffets, you can choose whatever you like.

And I must tell you about the vegetarian soup that I tried. It is called Ezo Gelin Corba (classic soup with burgul, lentil and rice) and tasted much like our thin khichdi. My comfort food you would know if you are a regular reader here. A bit thinner than most khichdis but yummy. The seafood soup was great too I must add, but Ezo Gelin Corba stole the show.

I found the Damatesli Hellimi (grilled halloumi cubes stewed on tomato halves with roasted bell peppers) good too. The flavours worked for me, Arvind loved it too. I found the stews with chicken and meats great in taste and health quotient but they lacked the looks of a good spread. Well, most Indian curries look utterly ugly and deliver well. The stews did the same, these were absolutely my kind of stews. The best was the Fish stewed with slivers of vegetables and a hint of white sauce to make a white saucy gravy.  Sea bass cooked to perfection, good flavors but few people might find it too mild to taste. I could appreciate the freshness of ingredients I would say.

I didn't find the use of Basmati rice agreeable with the cuisine though. The pulav was dry, the stuffing in the zucchini was dry and crumbly, a sticky rice would have been so good. But I wont complaint as I had so many options to choose from.

Chef Gazi Ciftci has been flown in from Sahngri-La Hotel Istanbul and he was delighted to share the recipes of the fish stew and the various salads. I will be more informed about the local ways with Turkish food thanks to him.

Skip the desserts in the Turkish section I would add. A badly executed Baklava would disappoint you and an equally sorry semolina halwa would scare you in the form of a huge bomb (Irmik Helva). I found the Cevizli Bal Kabak (stewed pumpkin with walnuts) interesting. It is a good dessrt for pumpkin lovers who happen to love walnuts too. Go to the fresh fruit display and choose the freshest of them, I helped myself with Cape gooseberries, pineapple slices and a few Longan fruits.

Please try the Turkish tea as well. Full bodied refreshing tea felt good. I was expecting mint tea but the tea served was interesting too, I would like to know more about Turkish teas now.

The decor of Cafe Uno has been jazzed up with Turkish flags and blue evil eyes hanging around and live music gives a lovely feel.

Most importantly, I found many Turkish tourists dining there and having happy conversations and that is a good sign of good authentic food I feel.

Oh and I was asking a group of people about what food they find good enough to be called as good food or to be fit for celebrations, for me it is the food that makes me feel good even after it has satiated the palate. I am glad I could make them understand that. Turkish food I found to be good in that regard as well.