When Chef Surjan Singh Jolly at Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre and Hotel decided to host a Mewar Food Festival, he went straight to the Maharana of Udaipur, Shriji Arvind Singhji Mewar. The Maharana taught Chef Jolly the nuances of the cuisine and also gave him a few of the family’s secret recipes. Nawab Saheb, the restaurant where this festival is being held, organised a sit down dinner for the media, food bloggers and writers where Shriji introduced everyone to the rich culinary culture of Mewar.
To keep the authenticity intact, the food has been cooked in the clay pots, which are said to enhance the flavours. We sat down for the meal on long dining table arranged to suit the occasion. On one end of the table sat the Maharana himself. Large thalis with a number of bowls were placed in front of each person and food was served as per our vegetarian and non vegetarian preferences.
While we were overwhelmed by the sheer variety of food on the plate, we did enjoy making our way through it. The Bhapla bhindi - steamed okra stuffed with shallots, ginger and green mango chutney was fresh and retained all of its flavour and crunch. The Maas ka sula - lamb marinated with cloves, smoked garlic and red chillies and cooked over charcoal, deserves special mention though, for its subtle smoked flavour and meat that quite literally fell off the bone.
The main course had a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes one of them being the famous Laal Maas; pot roasted lamb cooked in bright red Jodhpuri chillies called Mathaniya. The dish wasn’t as spicy as it looked since the chillies add more of their fiery colour than heat. Saweta degchi Maas which looked like a dal was actually lamb slow cooked in sweet corn porridge, cloves, cinnamon, mint, coriander, green chillies and buttermilk. This dish is a definite winner with the soft batis.
The vegetarian dishes included Panchkuta also known as Ker Sangri; local beans, berries, seeds and fruits tempered and pickled with spices, Ghatti Urad Kalbelia, which is a traditional recipe of the banjaras made with crushed urad lentil cooked with spices in a clay pot. One dish that was unanimously loved by all (non-vegetarians) was Kaleji ka raita. It had chopped pieces of smoked goat liver mixed with thick curd, cumin powder and salt. As simple as it may sound, the raita tasted nothing like we’ve tasted before. The whole thali was like a celebration of flavours. As we ate, Chef Jolly walked around providing information and trivia about the dishes and cooking methods used.
If the main course took us on a spice ride the desserts definitely put us on a sugar high. We were served six sweet dishes. Our favourites out of thesewere Chena pakodi kheer; soft, sugary balls in condensed milk, Panna; chopped fruits flavoured with rose essence, green cardamom and finally Mawa kachori stuffed with khoya, pistachio, almond, saffron, cardamom and soaked in honey. Also on the dessert line up was Paniya Churio better known as Churma prepared with crushed bati, jaggery and ghee, Kesariya bhat – sweetened rice cooked with saffron, Khajoor halwa; dates crushed and cooked.
All the food was cooked in ghee, yet our already bursting waistlines couldn’t muster up a whisper of complaint. After all you don’t dine like royalty every day.