Asif Walli’s super snack mixes have me in a right royal rapture, capturing my heart from the first time he sent some my way. I might be a Cocoa Nut, but as The Spice Scribe, I’m all about Indian flavours; so this dude’s food holds serious appeal.
A tin of the Duke’s signature Delhi Mix is ideal grazing for gourmets; the splendid savoury best described as ‘Bombay Mix graduated from finishing school with first class honours’. Dining on this refined melange is a revelation – an edible epiphany with innovative inclusions like candied peel and honeycomb pieces.
And, joy of joys, chocolate. Chunky little hunks of rich dark stuff, to be precise, in curious collaboration with coriander leaves, potato wafers, roasted nuts and pulses, salt, spice and all things nice. So nice, in fact, that consuming the full contents of the diminutive tin is never enough.
I wasn’t the only one to be won over by the Duke; The Queen’s grocer Fortnum & Mason gave Delhi Mix the royal seal of approval, and slipped it straight onto its shelves. As if supplying his snacks to such an esteemed emporium weren’t enough, Asif decided to start up as sweet little sideline.
Starting with his cracking chocolate Delhi Mix, Asif flipped the script, inverted the proportions, added a few flavours, and bingo – The Duke had carved himself an extra identity and a second profession: Anglo-Indian Willy Wonka , creative chocolatier.
Duke of Delhi’s range is now chocablock with six sweet-savoury specimens, all infused with a little India and, in Asif’s own words, a big old ‘zing of British spirit’. A bite into any bar delivers the crunchy munch of the Duke’s signature snack mix, twisting your tastebuds and mystifying your mind.
The mix marries marvellously with milk and dark chocolate alike – and Asif offers three of each type. Milk couples up with orange, Indian cinnamon, or cardamom and vanilla, whilst dark dances alone or two-steps with toasted coconut or lime. Which one will woo you is entirely down to personal preference, but ’tis the role of an unbiased Cocoa Nut to give them all a fair go.
Let’s start with the solid facts – the milk chocolate contains 34% cocoa solids; the dark 60%. Respectable if unremarkable, and enjoyable enough, but not really the reason for trying these treats. Nope – it’s all about those Indian inclusions. There’s a decent dose of Delhi mix scattered throughout, although to my mind there’s room for more of the moreish mixture to be blended into the bar.
But then, I can always turn to the tins for a full-on fix. In the bars, you’ll encounter just enough of the snack mix’s savoury flavours to keep you curious; not so much that a single nibble will knock you out. The true clout comes in the form of the added flavours that waft up your nostrils as soon as you peel open the paper wrappers – painstakingly, please, so as to preserve the Duke’s delightful designs.
The Plain bar does what it promises on the packaging, offering ‘a melting pot of two cultures and tastes’, with bits of mix ‘bejewelled’ in the choc – a dramatic description, perhaps, but a pretty bittersweet symphony nonetheless. Less subtle and even more tasty is the Toasted Coconut; a dark horse of a chocolate bar that’s immediately in-your-face with that totally tropical taste.
Talking tropics, you’ll like the Lime just fine if you fiendishly filched chocolate limes from Woolworths’ pick’n’mix in your youth. Since I am guilty of that heinous crime, I believe this bar is a real bargain – both pleasing the palate and providing me with a Proustian moment to savour along with my sweet treat.
Sweeter still are the Duke’s milk chocolate concoctions. The Orange Delhi Mix bar tastes like the product of a very happy accident in your lunchbox; a beautiful car crash between crisp packet, chocolate bar, and citrus easy-peeler. Fanciers of American baked goods will no doubt crave the Cinnamon bar like a spanking fresh breakfast pastry, but to me, it’s a sinful spice and the work of the devil.
The Duke’s Cardamom & Vanilla bar, though, could have fallen straight from heaven into my hand. It smells like I imagine angel’s breath. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But it does evoke the most awesome emporium I can imagine – Indian sweetmart meets chocolate boutique. And it tastes terrific, as you’d imagine something containing two of the world’s most sought-after spices should.
After all that sweet discourse, I imagine you’d like me to merely cut to the chase: You should seek out these spiced bars, stat.