There are glowing silver thalis, ornate brick-fabric, a soft table material and a sophisticated carrier. But the superstar remains the meals. I am at Royal Vega on the newly launched ITC Royal Bengal in Kolkata, sampling one of the maximum captivating vegetarian cuisines of the us of a: the meals of the Sheherwali Jains from Murshidabad.
Chef Varun Mohan, who heads the Royal Vega kitchen, serves a few unusual dishes. Barbati (yardlong beans) cooked in a thin Marwari kadhi. Plantain simmered in a rich, cashew-nut gravy, paying homage to Mughlai meals. Kheer made of unripe mangoes. A semolina parantha flattened into shape with the aid of dexterous arms and body scented with Murshidabad’s famous rose water, just like Marwari boondi sprinkled with an highly-priced distillate of Pushkar roses.
As one is going thru the meal, it was evident that these no-onion-no-garlic vegetarian delicacies are a mixture of several traditions. The Bengali effect is apparent inside the use of local veggies and panch phoran spicing. The impact of the nawabs of Murshidabad comes thru in cashew-nut gravies and perfumery. The Marwari effect is definite in the kadhi-like concoctions and the finesse of loaves of bread. After all, Oswal Jain households migrated from Marwar inside the early 18th century to Murshidabad to trade in wealthy muslins and silks. They carried with them their dietary regulations and reminiscences of meals, and original a wonderful micro delicacies this is seeing a revival nowadays.
Mohan, one of the most fabulous cooks in the us of a, with in-depth know-how of nuances required to cook vegetarian food, learnt the dishes from the Sheherwali households, as they are known as. He has been imparting these at numerous dinners, and the recipes are now a part of a tasting menu at Royal Vega. “The food is awesome due to the exceptional effects and uncommon dishes together with the kheer made from green mangoes, which can be grated, boiled to squeeze out the tartness and then cooked in milk,” he says.
Atul Bhalla, ITC’s region supervisor for East, points out that this cuisine has been getting lots of attention at various excessive-profile dinners. “Each time we do it, whether within the thali format or as a Los Angeles carte, it’s miles a tremendous fulfillment,” says Bhalla. This test of giving a posh plating to a hyperlocal vegetarian delicacy might be a turning factor.
On most eating place menus, vegetarian alternatives are confined to four varieties of aloo dishes, three types of paneer and some mock kebabs. For a rustic with exceptionally developed vegetarian dining traditions, that is a terrible situation. Most eating places have traditionally been reluctant to serve “homely” vegetarian dishes, reasoning that customers opt for “restaurant meals” centred on meats, heavy gravies and overt spicing. However, with the focal point firmly on nearby cuisines nowadays and diners greater inclined to experiment, it’s time for a lot of India’s vegetarian cuisines to head gourmand.
Food and nutrition representative Sangeeta Khanna has been seeking to present Banaras’s distinct vegetarian legacy thru food festivals with dishes together with Simona (made with fresh green peas), Chura Mattar, chokha (mashes made with veggies which include brinjal, potatoes and parwal).
“The metropolis had many migrants from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar — Brahmins who came to live in palaces constructed using specific royals and to worship on their behalf. The food indicates their impact,” says Khanna. The depth of the delicacies also can be visible in the mithais — no longer just versions of famous confections like maliyyo (with cream) or the clove-scented lavang lata however also seasonal delicacies which include gujiyas and barfis made from green gram and even yam laddoos made on Diwali.
A massive problem in bringing lots of those foods to a much broader target market is the difficulty in keeping apart them from their cultural context. For example, “you can’t take the Gosains who cook dinner Vrindavan’s extraordinary Chappan bhog (56 vegetarian delicacies provided as prasad) out of the cultural and religious context,” says Samrat Banerjee, who manages the restaurant Rooh in Delhi and is a follower of the Bhakti movement of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (the 16th century mystic instrumental in the revival of Vrindavan).
Bengali Gosains and Goswamis had been strolling the temples of Vrindavan, and their cooking is a combination of Bengali and western UP influences. The Chappan bhog, Banerjee says, follows the Bengali style of first ingesting bitters (fried sour gourd or neem leaves), accompanied with the aid of fried kachoris, then sours eaten with dal and rice, and subsequently candies. “To understand this, you want to study the larger context of Vrindavan,” says Banerjee.