“That dal you are having is Bapji’s favorite and it has been for years. Whenever any guest comes to the palace, He always asks me to make that dal” Thus spoke Chef Mod Singh Sisodia who has been serving Bapji a.k.a Maharaja Gaj Singh, the Maharaja of Jodhpur at the Umaid Bhawan Palace since 1984. If you want to taste food enjoyed by royalty in the state of Marwar, hop over to Sonargaon at the Taj Bengal, Kolkata where a special Marwar Food Festival is on till the 29th of June. I was invited by the Taj to sample the delectable cuisine and by God, was I floored!
The tasting started with Sangri Aur Makkai Ki Tikki, delicately spiced patties of the wild bean, sangri, with pounded gucchi mushrooms added for an extra dash of flavour. And then came the succulent Moorgh Soola kabab, chicken marinated with yoghurt, chilli, ginger and garlic, the Machhli Sardar Samand, pan fried betki marinated in in mint, yogurt and spices and the rich Mathania Paneer Tikka, marinated in yoghurt and chillis from the Mathania village. Along with Chef Sisodia who regaled us with stories from the kitchens of the royal household, we were also joined by the Taj Bengal Executive Chef, Sonu Koithara. He explained that in the region, the Marwari cuisine is strictly vegetarian but the Rajputs, being the warrior class enjoyed non-vegetarian fare and it included all kinds of poultry and game.
The starters had pretty much filled me up but I obviously could not say no to the mains. There were a lot of excellent dishes but the ones that stood out for me were the mild Aloo Dahiwala, mustard and curry leaf tempered potatoes cooked in yogurt, the tangy Kair Sangri Dakh, sangri cooked with dry mango, raisins and chilli and my favorite vegetarian dish in the menu, the interesting Kabuli Pulao cooked with nuts, vegetables and bread croutons and of course the very popular Lal Maas which was thankfully not as spicy and hot as I had assumed it would be. Lal Maas is ubiquitous to Rajasthani cuisine but a silent winner was the Jodhpuri Murgh, a mild white dish of chicken cooked in yogurt, cashew nut and onion. And of course, how could I not have the Marwari Dal Bati Churma, Bapji’s favorite dish.
And then came the desserts introduced to us by the Halwai Chef of Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mohan Ram Prajapat. There was the rich ghee laden Mawa Kachori, Chef Mohan’s special hot Jalebi served with chilled rabri and Malai Ghewar Laapsi, made from broken wheat and jaggery that was mildly sweet, light and delicious.
That meal deserved a two hour siesta afterwards but sadly, I had to go to office and start work which was so so painful. You guys never make that mistake!
The Marwar Food Festival is on at Sonargaon, Taj Bengal till 29th June, 2015 and a meal for two comes for Rs 3,000 (veg) and Rs 4,000 (non-veg), inclusive of taxes. Don’t miss it!
P.S – I was invited by Taj Bengal to the tasting.
Pics Courtesy Taj Bengal and Poorna Banerjee