It’s not quite often vegetarian food manages to surprise or even interest hard core non vegetarian eaters and it is not every day you will find a food festival happening in Kolkata which is completely vegetarian. With all the food festivals that take place in Kolkata, the focus on the non vegetarian food is understandably higher. However, there is a considerable and perhaps a majority of the spending section of the society which is vegetarian, the Marwaris.
No one knows who is the first Marwari who had stepped in Kolkata but according to some the initial links with the East can be sourced back to Akbar’s camp when the contract of supplying essentials for the mughal soldiers were awarded to the merchants of Marwar. Today they are the biggest trading community in the city and Burrabazar, the marketplace is their hub.
Keeping this in mind, ITC Sonar has organised a Rajasthani cuisine pop up under the banner of Kitchen of India called ‘Mharo Rajasthan’. When we were invited for this event, knowing is is ITC SOnar, we knew we wouldn’t be disappointment, so what if it is vegetarian, it is ITC SOnar and they are known to produce dishes with utmost authenticity possible. Now, they have been having Rajasthani food festivals every year in their coffee shop; however this time it is different. They have created a separate pop up restaurant with the look and feel of Rajasthan, a separate kitchen which only cooks veg and the best part is that it is being headed by Kailash Maharaj, a magician when it comes to Rajasthani cuisine. Kailash Maharaj has a plethora of experience in cooking in the royal kitchen of Jaipur and Udaipur. He was the personal chef of the house of Maharani Gayatri Devi at Rambagh Palace. He had started his journey from his mother’s kitchen from a village in the Newai district and later on went on with Hotel Management. However, his training in his mother’s kitchen is what has helped him keep a distinguishing style of cooking. And now he is part of ITC Sonar, cooking up magic with his trained team for all the large scale weddings that take place in the hotel.
A detailed chat with Kailash Maharaj divulged that core ingredients for the spice mix for this cuisine like piplamul and pippali (both from the same plant, the former being the root and the latter the fruit) and mathania chili are sourced from Rajasthan. Same goes for other ingredients like the mangori, desi ghee, papad (made with desi khar), churme ka aata and not to forget, kair and sangri. Even though some of these ingredients are easily available here in Kolkata, Kailash Maharaj believes that the integral ingredients should be brought from the place of origin, since the water and air from the place makes all the difference in keeping the taste of the final dish intact.
The food in Mharo Rajasthan festival is being presented in the form of a set menu and the dishes are being rotated every day. The dishes have been curated from various regions of Rajasthan like Rajasthani Gatte ki Curry from Jodhpur, Paneer Harapayaz from Sekhawat and Kamal Kakri ke Kofte from Udipur. There are speciality dishes like dal bati churma, govind gattacurrry, dal panchmela, paneer ke sule, doodhiya kheech and many more. A typical set menu comprises of a welcome drink, 2 appetizers like paneer ke sule and bhuni shakarkandi aur paniphal ki chaat. Then comes a thali with seven small katoris filled with different dishes. A few unique dishes which have been doing the rounds are kamal karki ke kofte, moongfali ki curry, dana methi kismis and kair sangri ki subzi. On the thali is also some Rajasthani masala rice, bati and churma and some freshly baked makai ki roti and jo ki roti. There are four desserts to compliment this colourful and lip smacking medley of dishes including some homemade ghewar, kalakand, dil khusar and doodhiya kheech.
We being hardcore non vegetarian, did not miss it even for a second. Every dish had a different taste and texture. I am a huge fan of Dal Bati and Churma, hence devoured it without blinking. And contrary to the usual belief that food at five star hotels are a bit toned down to local taste, this pop up had dishes with a lot of heat, especially the gatta curry. The kair sangri, in dried form may be quite uninteresting to look at, however when concocted in a dish creates amazing tang and spice to the dish which sort of compliments the various curries on the plate. After a plateful of amazing savoury dishes, the desserts blew our mind off, especially the doodhiya kheech which is a kheer made with sweet corn and the hoe made ghewar. The dinner ended with a variety of mouth fresheners and churans.
The festival is on till the 28th of August and is for dinner only and comes for Rs. 1200 plus taxes.
Here are some of the pictures from the Mharo Rajasthan festival –