Chef Praveen Anand doesn’t need any introduction. His culinary skills are illustrious, his research on South Indian Cuisine is now legendary. In the Indian FnB context, his work, his relentless effort to unearth various community-based cuisine from Southern states of the country, makes for a delightful book. The last time I met him, it was all about Tamil Virundhu. This time, in the new year, it was a new cuisine- Circar Ruchulu at ITC Royal Bengal.
How Circar Ruchulu at ITC Royal Bengal was discovered –
It was January last year, when he was travelling to Vizag and met some of his friends and as the discussion channelled towards food, the journey of exploring began. In his own words – I never close a chapter, rather keep exploring it and adding on to it. Circar Ruchulu means Circar taste. The narrow slip of territory along the western side of Bay of Bengal comprising a coastal region of Andhra Pradesh, districts of East and West Godavari, Krishna and other parts. As Chef Praveen explained the local produce form the mainstay of this cuisine coupled with distinct chillies. For the Circular Ruchulu, he carried Mangalagiri chillies and Pottu Mirapakai.
Keynotes to the food
As Chef Praveen explained to us, some of the key aspects of this cuisine from the Northern Circar region is as follows –
- The phenomenal produce along the banks of Godavari river from freshwater fish to vegetables form the mainstay of this cuisine
- Red ripe chillies (not the dried ones) are also extensively used. Each region has a distinct flavour in chillies and the heat level varies. Word of caution – Guntoor chillies are not for weak hearted ones for sure.
- All over Andhra, the taste and flavour of chillies vary from season to season. Each chilli has got a different character. Some of them will be sour and some of them will have tang in them. One of the very common recipes is pounding the red ripe chillies with tamarind and sea salt. One can eat that with Idli, rice or even add to hot gingerly oil and have it.
- Peanut is a change crop and is grown abundantly. Hence peanut oil is widely popular. Other than peanut oil, there is gingerly oil, which comes from sesame.
- Neem flowers during the Sankranti or harvest are used to make a chutney which is bitterly sweet and some of them even use it in rasam.
- Bellam Garelu or Vadas dipped in Molasses is a very popular dessert.
- Drumsticks are extensively used in fish and meat and very popular once again.
- Radish is cooked only with mutton but not with fish or chicken
- Bengalis can feel at home with the variety of brinjals which are available, which can be used with other vegetables or even to make a chutney
- In Andhra, the Rajugiri food is a must try.
What we ate at Circar Ruchulu at ITC Royal Bengal
Chef Praveen won’t keep a fixed menu as he confirmed to us. His menu will depend on the availability of the ingredients on that particular day. So if you are planning your meal basis this experience, then it may not match. However, distinct taste of each dish with a slightly higher level of heat, courtesy the Andhra Chilies will leave you blown. Since the produce is seasonal, hence Circar ruchulu will also have other dishes in other seasons. We started off with Pesara Punugulu – the spiced moong dal fritters and Khaima Billalu, the Spiced mutton mince cutlets. Each came with two different hot chutneys. The flavourful tawa fried mutton cutlets with texture drawn in from chana daal paste like any other shaami kebab was a perfect start.
The surprise of the evening was Konaseema biryani with poppyseed and coconut paste. The succulent meat paired with flavourful rice could have been the star of the evening if we were not spoilt with choices like – Methi Koora Royyalu ( prawns cooked with fenugreek leaves and ethnic spice mix), Bangala Dumpa Masala Koora ( potato cooked with Cumin and curry leaves), Thokkima Patchi Mirapakai Kodi Egru (slow-cooked chicken curry with freshly pounded green chillies from Andhra). Each dish stood out on its distinct taste, flavours and pairing with greens and chillies from Andhra. It will be tough to recommend any particular dish since each day there will be a separate menu. However, I can assure you that you will get the best of the flavour profiles in Circar Ruchulu in ITC Royal Bengal.
Details about Circar Ruchulu at ITC Royal Bengal, Grand Market Pavilion
On till – 17th January
Cost – Dinner Buffet @INR 1600 plus taxes for Mon till Thursday per person and INR 1700 per person for Fri – Sat
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