Banarasi Bingeing!

Written by weddingfables 19 Oct 2016
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The food is the most important part of any wedding. Many weddings today love to entertain the guests with delicacies found on the streets of India along with other cuisines. One of them is the Banarasi food. Dilli 32, Leela Ambience Convention Hotel, Delhi transports one to the streets of Banaras with its Grand Trunk Culinary Journey as  part of its food festival says Purabi Shridhar.

The distance between New Delhi and Banaras or Varanasi is 815.6 kilometre via the NH19. That’s a long route to travel to indulge one’s desire to gorge on the famous Banarasi delicacies. The Leela Ambience Convention Hotel, Delhi, as if reading one’s mind, has done something miraculous – organized the Grand Trunk Culinary Journey (Banaras) spearheaded by executive chef Rohit Tokhi, at its Dilli 32 restaurant and spread out an array of authentic dishes from the ancient city. In fact, chef Tokhi and chef de cuisine Ashwani Kumar Singh travelled all the way to Banaras to ferret out the best of the street delights and recreate them in their kitchen.

Food festivals and hotels are by synonymous but it takes that out-of-the-box thinking to come up with a festival that celebrates cuisines along the NH1, the famous Grand Trunk Road. After Amritsar and Delhi, the Leela Ambience Convention Hotel as how parked itself at Banaras, before it concludes its journey at Kolkata. At every stop the plan is to seek out, experiment and pick up the best of what the city has to offer to food lovers and with Banaras it has outshone itself.

The Banarasi flavor is infectious right from the entrance where two eye catching containers of turmeric and red chili powder is an indication of the spicy trail ahead. In the evenings the restaurant literally shifts to the terrace outside lock, stock and barrel or rather pots, pans and ladles where diners are transported almost literally to the holy city, recreated outdoors complete with a large boat to resonating bells. One almost expects to breathe in incense aroma and hear prayer chants!

The menu for the festival is an invitation to walk the streets of Banaras and savour its street food. The opener is Banarasi Trawat with thandai; pist/paan and lassi malai maar ke, all served in clay pots called purvas. The earthy flavor of the parvas enhance the refreshing taste of the coolers. And when the menu says 'lassi malai maar ke' be warned it actually is so, thick and generous. And when that is accompanied by sinful and all the more tempting for it fritters from onion to auburgine, the pleasure is doubled. There must be hardly any who can resist the pull of chaats and mouth watering savouries and in Banaras ki galiyan, it is difficult to resist tamatar ki chaat with perky spiciness, the sweet chenna dahi vada and the redolent with desi ghee chudda matar. We don’t bother; we dig into all and leave the leaf bowls sparkling clean.

Then comes Kaleva/Nashta with the two quaintly named chhoti kachori and badi kachori served with bhaji and jalebi. All scrumptious, especially the delicate little jalebis. The batti chokha that comes next makes one salute the ingenuity of Indian cuisine. The 'batti', a ball of dough, is stuffed with seasoned sattu and served with brinjal chokha and tomato/onion chutney for vegetarians and mutton curry for non-vegetarians. The mutton curry is a meat-falling-off-the-bone affair and the gravy perfect to balance out the batti. The brinjal chokha is done the authentic way where the most overriding feature is the roasted brinjal itself and thank god for that.

Remember there are over 800 kilometres to cover so the next pit stop is the thali, a vegetarian platter with hare channe ka bhabhra; tarua; baigan kalonji; dum aloo Banarasi; Nimona; paneeer butter masala and kadi bari. Every item speaks up loudly for its taste and flavor, especially the baigan kalonji. For the non-vegetarians there’s boti kebab; gutwa kebab and hard to believe but true chilli chicken! When it came to the mutton dishes, one tried but couldn’t find better description than melt-in-the-mouth dishes that grandmothers used to make. And the chilli chicken deserves mention too for having shed its so called original roots and acquiring a piquant but very Indian dimension! The accompaniments of sheermal, khamiri, ulta tawa, roomali and missi roti did more than justice.

Can an authentic Indian meal with roots in the lanes and by lanes of Banaras be complete without desserts? Only the very ignorant would ask that. We didn’t, we simply binged on gud  ka kheer rich with jiggery; madgal with its beautiful texture, launglata a little dry version of gulab jamun and parval ki mithai, the bright green casing of parval contrasting brilliantly with the milky white stuffing and a balanced taste of a little crispy with ultra softness.

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