One of the best culinary journeys I have undertaken in the recent past. Of course the presence of Shriji Arvind Singhji Mewar, the Maharana of Udaipur, made it even more special.
The ambience spelt royalty, as we all sat down to taste the flavours of Mewar at Nawab Saheb, Renaissance Mumbai Conventon Centre Hotel. Executive Chef Surjan Singh Jolly, crafted some of the choicest delicacies, after painstakingly researching and experiencing this cuisine and its cultural heritage during his stay at Shiv Niwas Palace.
I was somehow expecting rich, heavy food, of which I would eat only a few spoonfuls. But I was wrong. The thali laid on the table looked appetizing. Each dish was unique. Starters like Shikaar Maas Ka Soola (Charcoal grilled lamb, garlic, red chilies, cloves smoked) and Ker Sanger Wadi, Sekma (Pan-fried Wild desert beans and berries patty, fenugreek), tantalized my taste buds. I was now eagerly awaiting the maincourse.
Khad kokada was as authentic as it could get. It had been prepared using the typical battle mode of cooking, by digging a “khad” or pit in the earth and using mellow flames to roast. Wrapped in khakra leaves the slow cooked country fowl, with garlic, green onion, green chilies, black cardamom, mace, had a special flavour which was incomparable. Soweta Degchi Maas (Braised lamb and corn kernels kedgeree, cloves, cinnamon, mint, coriander, green chilies, buttermilk) was equally a culinary delight. Cuisine from Mewar is replete with makkai or corn instead of the usual bajra, traditonally popular in Rajasthan. But the real treat was the Panchkuta. A must-have in Rajasthan am told and an interesting amalgamation of local harvests beans, berries, seeds and fruits. The Charcoal baked, semolina-wheat flour bread, Sekma Baati was one of the best I have ever had. The highlight of the main course was the roasted kaleji or liver raita. A masterpiece truly by Chef Jolly.
Blessed with a sweet tooth, I was looking forward to the deserts even after a hearty meal. And those were pure sin on a plate. The Mawa Kachori (Wheat flour pastry, “khoya”, milk cake, pistachio, almond, saffron-cardamom honey) and Paniya Churio (Crushed maize bread, jaggery, hot clarified butter) were amazing. Each ingredient was fresh and well-flavoured. Simply melt in the mouth. The meetha chawal reminded me of the one my mother used to prepare lovingly when I was a child.
To add a traditional touch, the chefs had prepared all the dishes in clay pots, to replicate the original experience. The prompt and impeccable service by the warm staff dressed in turbans et al, added to the grandeur of dining in Royal company. This is not a feast I will forget in a long time. The flavours still linger in my mouth and heart. The Mewar food festival is on till July 31 and I strongly recommend that you do not miss this gastronomic experience.