It is not every day you find a food festival happening in Kolkata that is completely vegetarian. It is not every day you find a vegetarian food festival that is happening in a pop-up format, is not Bengali and yet has enough buzz around the town. In all the food festivals that take place in Kolkata, the focus on the non-vegetarian food is understandably higher. However, there is a considerable percentage (perhaps a majority) of the spending section of the society who is vegetarian: The Marwaris.
No one knows who the first Marwari in Kolkata was, but, according to some, the initial links with the east can be sourced back to Akbar’s camp when the contract of supplying essentials for Mughal soldiers was awarded to the merchants of Marwar. Today, they are the biggest trading community in the city and Burrabazar, the marketplace, is their hub. Keeping this in mind, ITC Sonar has organised a Rajasthani cuisine pop-up under the banner of Kitchen of India called ‘Mharo Rajasthan’. Now, ITC Sonar has had Rajasthani food festivals every year in their coffee shop; however, this time is different. They have created a separate pop-up restaurant with the look and feel of Rajasthan, a separate kitchen that only cooks vegetarian and the best part is that it is being headed by Kailash Maharaj, a magician when it comes to Rajasthani cuisine. Kailash Maharaj has a range of experience in cooking in the royal kitchen of Jaipur and Udaipur. He was the personal chef of the house of Maharani Gayatri Devi at Rambagh Palace. And now he is part of ITC Sonar, cooking up magic with his trained team for all the large-scale weddings that take place in the hotel.
The food is being presented in the form of a set menu and the dishes are being rotated every day. There are specialty dishes such as dal bati churma, govind gatta currry, dal panchmela, paneer ke sooley, doodhiya kheech and many more. A typical set menu comprises of a welcome drink and two appetizers such as paneer ke sooley and bhuni shakarkandi aur paniphal ki chaat. Then comes a thali with seven small katoris filled with different dishes. A few unique dishes that have been doing the rounds are kamal kakdi ke kofte, moongphali ki curry, dana methi kismis and kair sangri ki subzi. On the thali are also some Rajasthani masala rice, bati and churma and some freshly baked makai ki roti and jo ki roti. The dishes have been curated from various regions of Rajasthan, such as Shekhawati, Jodhpur and Udaipur. There are four desserts to complement this colourful and lip-smacking medley of dishes, including some home-made ghevar, kalakand, dil khusar and doodhiya kheech. The festival is on till the 28th of August; it is for dinner only and comes for Rs 1,200 plus taxes.
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A true blue Kolkata foodie, Anindya loves cooking and eating his Kosha Mangsho. Anindya weaves stories around food as he believes exceptional food is an emotional experience. Previously a restauranter, now a passionate photographer and traveller, he runs a successful blog called Pikturenama and contributes to other publications.