To our left sat a seasoned master chef. To our right sat an enthusiastic home chef. In the centre of the table, they laid a gastronomic smorgasbord from undivided Bengal in an eponymous festival. One couldn’t tell who had made what, for the thing that connects their stomachs and spirits, is food. While one understands ingredient chemistry well, the other understands people’s hearts well. With a shared zeal to make regional flavours pirouette their way back into the popular food ethos, social media influencer, and blogger Maneesh Srivastava, along with Chef Rick Kundu from Hyatt Place Gurgaon, have opened the book on regional quintessence to turn the pages of Bihari and Bengali cuisine, one day at a time.
Given the lack of recipe documentation through the passage of time, India at large has lost vast treasures of its indigenous food intellect. Taking cognisance of this, these custodians of authentic ancient cuisines have put before you a special menu seeking to rekindle a lost interest. “People are not proud of their food and that’s a pity. They will cook, eat and prise everything else but their own. This has been devastating for the regional food identity,” says Srivastava, who has worked on the Bihari segment.
Besides the obvious challenges of logistics, there was also the issue of reluctance. One door after another was slammed on him until he reached the footsteps of Hyatt Place. “Top chefs turned down my proposal of promoting regional food for years, saying nobody is interested in it. But my guests are my reward. They have loved the cooking and have come back repeatedly,” he says.
Besides food, Srivastava also treats you to slivers of trivia along the way. The Chatkal factory in Bengal province, for instance, saw many labours from Bihar move to Bengal to work in jute factories, says he. With this, there was a cross-migration of the food cultures of the two places. In time, a lot of recipes were lost to oblivion, one such being the Chicken Dak Bungalow. This brings it back. The dish dates back to the time of the Britisher’s when they had small circuit houses for short stays, especially holidays. They ate mostly game meat. Because they didn’t have fancy ingredients or equipment, they used freshly grounded spices. Chicken Dak Bunglo revives that nostalgia.
Whether it’s the fish fry, the vegetable croquettes, the aubergine pakodas, lentil puris or the fish curry that arrived on our table, each preparation stood out for its historic individuality and contemporary relevance.
It now remains to be seen how voracious will the appetites of guests be to try this out.
The promotion lasts till March 3, at Hyatt Place, Gurgaon/Udyog Vihar, 15/1, Old Delhi-Gurugram Road, Sector 18, Gurugram.
For dinner only. Price: `1,750 plus taxes per person