Marwari Food Fest at The Dining Room, PHC

If you start cooking at the age of 10, what sort of cook would you be 40 years later? Is that the true definition of a masterchef?

Amrit Maharaj

Amrit Maharaj looks to be just that if the food he cooks is any indication. Modest in manner, he certainly has culinary magic at the tips of every one of his fingers. No wonder he is the one consulted for all Marwari feasts in the city.

Geography labels Rajasthan a desert state. Scarcity of water and fresh vegetables have made the Marwari cook develop a cuisine that uses whatever Mother Nature dishes out by way of ingredients - lots of milk that is converted into buttermilk and ghee, millets, pulses and lentils ground into flour and made into delicious ghatte and the berries of the ker plant.

Samosas; dhokla

Park Hyatt Chennai's The Dining Room is celebrating a Marwari Food Festival. Invited to review the festival that is on for 2 days more, we were treated to some remarkable Marwari specials. Our starters comprised paneer samosas wrapped in a crisp ajwain-flavoured pastry and soft moist dhoklas. 

Veg pulao; alu jeera; makai palak; ker sangri; kofta curry; dal-batti-churma

Five katories with a medley of sides and one with a pulao was served to each of us. Along with them were selection of Indian breads, some tinted green with spinach, some plain but brushed with ghee and a millet flatbread, bajra ki roti.

Components of dal-batti-churma

The star of the evening was dal-batti-churma. Battis are dough dumplings that are flattened a little and baked. Ghee is poured over it along with a dal (a stew of mixed lentils) and it is topped with a mix of powdered batti and sugar.

Phulka; alu jeera; kofta; makai palak

There was aloo jeera, a dry dish of potatoes and cumin cooked till crusty on the outside, a soft kofta curry, gatte ki subzi - dumplings made of chickpea flour that were steamed and then added into a tangy yoghurt-based gravy. My favourite was the ker sangri. I had no idea what it was and googling kher threw up the name Anupam Kher! By then we got the spelling corrected to ker sangri, a dish of berries and beans. The beans looked like burnt brown sticks. Cooked in mustard oil, it tasted fabulous, the berries adding a beautiful tang to the mix. Far from being burnt, the beans in fact  were very succulent. Another was the makai palak - a corn  and spinach gravy.

Ker sangri

Marwari food is pure vegetarian. For me, unused to some of India's regional cuisines, all the dishes were a good introduction to Rajasthani food. The use of oil and spices is restrained and the thali is a good way of tasting the different dishes on the menu.

Spinach phulka
Mung dal halwa

Dessert was moong dal halwa, a classic Rajasthani sweet made with split mung beans, sugar and ghee. Studded with crunchy almond flakes, it tasted just heavenly.

The Marwari Food Festival is on till July 24 at The Dining Room, Park Hyatt from 7 pm onwards. Cost per head is 1350/++.

Park Hyatt Chennai
39, Velachery Main Road (near Raj Bhavan)
Chennai 600032.
044 7177 1655.


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