How often do you find yourself with very few ingredients at home, wondering what best to do with it? How to offset the disadvantage and yet present a tasty and filling dish on the table. That’s somewhat the essence behind Rajasthani food too. The geographical conditions allow very few greens and other vegetables to grow, and the water is scarce. This means that households need to work around this limitation, but what it has produced is a whole array of interesting and ingenious dishes.
Rajasthani cuisine mostly consists of preseveratory food, ingredients that can be stored in kitchens for a long time. Which is why much of the food is lentil or flour based. For example, there is mangodi; sun dried split green lentil dumplings. The chunks are either thrown into the rice for a wholesome meal, or used in a spicy curry along with potato, methi or coriander.
Papad that one sees as a crunchy, must-need accompaniment is used in many different ways in Rajasthani food. From raita (curd) to sabzis to chats, papads are a much-relied upon ingredient.
All this background is most fascinating, as Chef Nirmal Maheshwari takes you through the grand food spread at Le Meridien, where a Rajasthani food festival is on till September 26. The array of food offered seems endless, and you are well advised not to stuff yourself too early. But it proved to be a tough ask with a chat counter dishing out spicy bhel puris, pani puris, papdi and samosa chats. That, and a refreshing jaljeera drink in an earthen pot makes for a filling start. Then comes the buffet, beginning with an outstretched papad and pickle counter with several mini-delights. Once again, given the preservatory nature of the food, pickles and chutneys abound. Locally available spices like onion, coriander, mint, and onion-garlic are used to create mouth-watering dips. There’s garlic-red chilly mix, and another one where green chillies are slit in the centre, smeared with coriander and amchur powder and let to simmer in mustard oil. The mind drifts to think that this 2-minute recipe would make an excellent combination with dosas and idlis too.
Along with naans and the delicious bajra and makkai rotis are served a range of sabzis. From rajasthani gatte ki sabzi (made from besan)to the quintessential dal bhati churma to the heavenly masala bhindi, the veg section offers plenty. In the non-veg are laal maas, degchi sula and desi murg. All this also goes excellently with the mangodi rice and chicken rice that are also a part of this lavish spread. The raitas came in six-seven varieties, but the sour curd didn’t help this time.
It is the desert section, however, where you are really spoilt for choice. Rajasthani specialities like gewar, besan ladu, crispy, hot, jalebis are to die for. The counter also overflows with other general stuff like caramel custard and an assortment of fruits, which make this a splendid course.
This is a marathon five-six course meal so unless you can boast of a hearty appetite, the spread might overwhelm you. At ` 800 per person, the food festival is a real treat and a feast to remember.