A 5-star take on Maa ka khana

The Blooms restaurant at Delhi’s Eros Hotel lays out a sumptuous ‘Purvaiya Khaan Paan’
Blooms restaurant, Eros Hotel
Blooms restaurant, Eros Hotel

Growing up in a Bihari family, my early memories of food are laced with the thick smell of manually grinded spices and sizzling mustard oil. I also remember my mother’s labour in the kitchen preparing jackfruit curry every Holi, besides the meat she made in earthen pots during my short visits to her hometown. The art of preparing a Bihari cuisine is best borrowed from a mother’s kitchen any way. In Eros, the chef of Blooms restaurant does this with a carefully curated menu, ‘Purvaiya Khaan Paan’. Purvaiya culture, which covers parts of Uttar Pradesh and the whole of Bihar, is known for its rustic flavours.

Authentic flavours

As the table begins to pile up with the region’s most well-known exports, Litti Chokha and Sattu Sharbat, executive chef Diwas Wadhera explains that the aim is to present unexplored cuisine of the region in an authentic manner. Unlike the popularised version of the Litti Chokha found on Delhi’s streets, the litti (stuffed with sattu) is served with the right combinations—tomato chutney, roasted eggplant bharta and chokha (mashed potatoes). This is followed by Bhel Puri, which has shallow-fried flattened rice mixed with caramelised onions and chillies. Executive sous chef Sanjay Mishra, says: “Similar to the ‘bhunja’, a common snack, in Bihar, flattened rice is also often paired with shallow fried peas, peanuts and chana”.

A traditional thekua mould
A traditional thekua mould

The main meal consists of Jackfruit Curry, Badi Aloo Baingan, Mustard Gobhi Fish, Ahuna Meat (made in earthen pots), Dry Ivy Gourd, rice, paratha with fried chanuris made of rice, and tilauris (made of til). Mishra, a Bihari, says: “In northern India, people eat rice only with gravy. In this region, however, they eat it with dry vegetables and dry meat preparation too. The food on the platter is made in every house in Bihar. It’s simple and homely. I can say that the style of cooking has been borrowed from my mother’s kitchen and the most basic styles of cooking from the region.”

Tastes like home

The ahuna meat, for instance, comes from Champaran, a place made famous by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1917 Satyagraha. “It is slow cooked over an open flame in an earthen pot. We don’t use water and tomatoes for this dish. It is marinated overnight and slowly cooks itself in its own juices,” he adds. The mutton is soft and succulent, reminiscent of the Champaran meat from back home. Another standout is the jackfruit vegetable.

“During Holi, when we don’t make meat at home, katahal (jackfruit) is the perfect substitute. We use the ones without seeds, to get the meaty texture,” says Mishra, adding that as he is from Bhagalpur, his staple food also includes these influences. For example, he likes fish curry with cauliflower. “The marrying of vegetarian items with fish may seem strange, but it tastes great,” he says. The feast concludes with khaja and gujiya, much-loved sweets of the region.

“India is a diverse country, with different flavours at every 25 km. We tried the Purvaiya cuisine this time, up next, we are exploring recipes from undivided Punjab. It is our attempt to promote regional food,”says chef Wadhera.

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The New Indian Express