|CHEF MANISH SHARMA & SANGEETA KHANNA|
Sunday, March 20, 2016
I tend to get a little kid like excited when it comes to Regional Indian cuisine. All that history and food culture…It’s the ideal setting to pretend I am in that city, with all accompanying affectations and theatrics. So I was delighted when I got an invite to try ‘Banaras ka Khaana’ curated by Sangeeta Khanna who hails from the divine city of Banaras and along with Chef Ravitej Nath , Chef Manish Sharma and the team of threesixtyone at The Oberoi Gurgaon showcases this vibrant cuisine in its purest form!
As I gallop up the slightly hilly entrance to the hotel, it looms above me in an appropriately intimidating fashion. On my table I was in Banaras, cut away from the world, and all its trappings….elusively thrilling; like realizing a clandestine garden in your backyard. The Tasting menu opens with the purest drink of the holy world: refreshing Panchamrit garnished with holy basil, followed by interesting chutneys and aloo papad, Thandai and khus sherbet…and yes this is not regular stuff…fancy a wadi chutney? The khus sherbet here too is not the synthetic ‘green’ one…this is different….delicious and free from dubious additives. The difference is in the quality of the produce being used, most of it from Banaras to give it that authentic taste. ‘To give back to the community whenever and wherever we can, and to think globally and act locally’, shares Sangeeta.
Though this cuisine is known across the globe, thanks to the Banaras Diaspora, very few people really know its specifics. There are astoundingly few books available, especially when equated to other prevalent Indian cuisines.
The festival brings together brilliant and delicious dishes from Banaras, demonstrating how incredible simple food can be, translated into so many interesting and relevant dishes….the ‘Chivda Matar’ or ‘Tamatar ki chaat’ for example. Crisp ‘Harey chane ka bhabra’ (Green chick pea fritters) and ‘Bajka’ (bottle gourd fritters) , in case you are wondering , intensely satisfying in the way only comfort food can be when you are craving for soul food!
The main course incorporates a range of vegetables, unusual varieties, ‘Besan katli ki subzi’ and ‘Matar ka nimona’ (crushed green peas cooked with coriander and ginger) for instance and innovative ideas, though the food is unfailingly simple. The urbane merger of flavours, consistency and colour is fascinating. Local, vegetarian and planet-friendly, this food spurts with equivalent quantities of colour, asset and nutrition. ‘Not many homes eat non-vegetarian food in Banaras, and if they have to they go out’, explains Sangeeta. That said, if you are a non-vegetarian you would love the ‘Mutton kaliya with sadi litti’ on the menu here.
This brings us to dessert…. Shri Ram bhandar ka Laal peda, Malaiyyo, sankatmochan waala ladoo, Biranji kheer, Gujia, Harey chane ki burfi!!!! This is really the most exhilarating thing about food cultures, when you come to think of it….it is history that you can actually taste.
The festival is on till the 26th March and the tasting menu at 2950 plus taxes is an absolute steal deal!