Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bangalore Food Festivals


Buttermilk served in the traditonal way
Popular Gujarati gramflour snacks
Pickles!

A delicious preparation with colacasia leaves
Jalebis
Every Friday, there are lots of restaurant advertisements in the newspapers.  Bangalore is hosting some interesting food festivals these days, many are too expensive for us but occasionally something worth while comes up.  I personally prefer cooking and eating at home but it's interesting to see a different place and to sit back and tuck into some food one would normally not make at home.

We generally prefer buffets because it's easy to try a range of food and we wait  each year for the St. Marks Hotel festivals.  They used to have two or three a year, but now it's reduced to the most popular one - a vegetarian Gujarati and Rajasthani food festival.  These are very different cuisines from distinct (though neighbouring) geographical regions.  Rajasthani food is geared towards a hot, harsh climate, with lots of ghee, chillies, local berries and herbs, solid breads and rich sweets.  Gujarati food is milder, with a hint of sweetness in many preparations, a large variety of pickles, curd based dishes, lots of peanuts, fenugreek leaves and sprouts and, in the summer, aam ras (a thick juice made of fresh mango pulp that is drunk on its own or eaten with poories).  I personally am not very fond of Rajasthani fare and quite like Gujarati food; my friends have different tastes.  So a mix of styles suited everyone.

It was a good spread, with tangy buttermilk to begin and lots of little fried snacks and pickles (in Gujarati style) - arbi (colacasia) leaves, stuffed, rolled up and fried in little spiral wheels, khandvi (steamed gram flour rolls), bowls of different kinds of sprouts.  There were khichris with ghee, spicy chaats and dals (from Rajasthan), Gujarati and Rajasthani kadis (curd thickened with gram flour), undhiya (one of my favourites - a mix of freshly harvested vegetables mixed in a clay pot which is buried in embers and cooked for a long time), all kinds of vegetable dishes with interesting flavours and the typical Rajasthani dal bati churma (very popular but not something I can eat much of!) - solid, unleavened wheat bread rolls served with lentils and a mix of crushed wheat that has been cooked with ghee and sugar and topped with more ghee!  There were also very nice little rotis (breads) made with different flours and the puffed, deep fried poories with aam ras, shreekhand (thick, sweet curd flavoured with cardamom) and plenty of sweets - the honeycomb like ghevar, thin, crisp jalebis, burfis, kheers of thickened milk and more.  A satisfying meal.  The only thing we could have done without was the Gujarat government's promotion tape playing constantly in the background, with Amitabh Bachchan (the Gujarat brand ambassador) humming and telling us of all the tourist destinations we could visit!  This was particularly irritating because both Gujarat and Rajasthan (and especially Rajasthan) have very nice folk music.

Beginning the meal
Sweet pickles, curd in clay bowls
Peanut and sprouted gram salads
Rajasthani Ghevar
Shreekhand (sweet, thickened curd) with saffron, nuts and cardamom
Last week, Citibank announced the second year of its annual 'Restaurant Week', an initiative to promote restaurants in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.  One could sign up for a particular restaurant meal (at some popular and some fancy restaurants) and get a fixed price three-course meal, with a pre-decided menu.  I promptly signed up for it - everything was waitlisted and I thought this was yet another scam!  But, things worked out very smoothly- the waitlist cleared, the hotel called us and last Sunday we found ourselves at a frontier-food restaurant, Baluchi, at the Lalit Ashok hotel.

The menu was divided into three sections, and had sixteen dishes listed.  I assumed that we had to select from each section, but as it turned out, we were served everything!  It was a good menu, though, as generally happens, the vegetarian food was hotter and spicier than the non vegetarian.  This is an inexplicable phenomenon seen in most Indian restaurants.  We were served lots of delicious kebabs, leavened breads, some interesting curries, their special slow-simmered creamy black dal (lentils), a very nice salad and two strange looking but tasty desserts!

An unusual menu
A cold cheese starter
More starters!
Tender kebabs
The main course
Our dinner was made particularly enjoyable by a musical trio, who played and sang old Hindi film songs.  They did this with a certain dash and sense of complete enjoyment that soon spread to the audience.  The singer sang the peppy hits with gusto and the slow songs in a suitably sentimental fashion.  We were hearing these songs after a long time and the evening was not just about food, but one filled with applause, laughter and reminiscences.

Musicians singing our requested songs

16 comments:

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SdX Sen said...

Hi,
Superb and delicious post. I love all your pics and words. Keep going. Be classy like this.

Have a look at this blog post also..

http://bengal-uru.blogspot.in/2014/12/the-king-of-street-food.html

Regards,
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Shabrish Nair said...

Food loving is a different passion, hahah, but really would like to meet some chef who can cook all these cuisines .

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