The grandeur of Benaras' exquisite food and the beautiful ambience of its ghats have been brought alive at an ongoing festival here that recreates a spread of the city's specialties and street snacks for the capital's food lovers.
The third segment of the "The Grand Trunk Culinary Journey", which began from Amristar and passed through old Delhi, at the Dilli 32 outlet at The Leela Ambience Convention Hotel here, will take you through the delightful dishes of Benaras till October 29.
To bring out the flavours of each mouth-watering delicacy, Executive Chef Rohit Tokhi and Chef de Cuisine Ashwani Kumar Singh travelled to Benaras to gather the secrets of the food geniuses hidden in the lanes of the Hindu holy city.
"The menu comprises of things from all the three meals that are served across the day in Benaras. There is chudda matar that people take for breakfast; there is batti chokha for lunch and dinner and other snacks available in the market throughout the day," Chef Tokhi told IANS.
The lip-smacking dishes that are specially prepared by incorporating authentic influences and divine flavours from the city include tamater ki chat, bhaji and jalebi, besan ki katli, fresh thandai and more.
It would be best to start with one of the three drinks -- thandai, pista pan and lassi malai maar ke -- that are served in clay pots called purvas. The fresh thandai tastes absolutely heavenly, far superior to any of the ready-made mixes available.
The spicy, sour and flavoursome tamatar ki chaat was tasty and different from the street food in Delhi.
"In Benaras, people get this chaat from street food shops and avoid preparing it at home," Tokhi said.
Quite unlike the dahi vada here, its Benarasi version was sugared and thus failed to impress.
The vegetarian thali comprises of hare channe ka bhabhra, tarua, baingan kalonji, dum aloo Banarasi, paneer butter masala and kadi bhari threw up some unfamiliar dishes with different flavours.
What really stood apart was the the dum aloo Banarasi. Not all that juicy with no gravy, it was yum to eat with the five kinds of rotis on offer: sheermal, khamiri, ulta tawa, roomali and missi roti
However, the kadi bhari and paneer butter masala with unusual flavours didn't impress at all.
The most surprising element about the menu was the few non-vegetarian dishes, because when you imagine Benaras, you usually only think of vegetarian food going hand-in-hand with the city's sacred Hindu interests.
In reality, the non-vegetarian counter has the most palatable dish on the entire menu. Very different from the Chinese version, there was a chilli chicken that was an absolute delight to feast upon. It was succulent with an amazing Indian touch to it and an apt amount of spices.
Then, there was the gutwa kabab for those who enjoy kababs with a twist.
And finally, the desserts. These include madgal, launglata, kheer mohan, parval ki mithai and gur ki kheer. Of these, the kheer mohan was an irresistible concoction made from cottage cheese. The parval mithai with a stuffing of khoya was good but the gur ki kheer did not intrigue much.
(The writer attended the The Grand Trunk Culinary Journey at the invitation of the Leela Ambience Convention Hotel. Mudita Girotra can be contacted at email@example.com)
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