When we planned our visit to Jaipur, the first thing that came to my mind was Daal Bati Churma, and my taste buds started pleading. Exec Chef Vikash Prasad at Crowne Plaza, Tonk Road, Jaipur made us all happy when he informed us about his plan to serve us a specially prepared Rajasthani meal for next day’s lunch. Added to the joy was the fact that they have specially commissioned a Rajasthani Maharaj from Chokhi Dhani Jaipur for the occasion.
We were all happy and eager to know the exact menu, but Exec Chef Vikash wanted to keep that a secret. But I was sure that the menu will definitely have Daal Bati Churma and Gatte ka Saag. These two delicacies are a must for any Rajasthani meal.
Rajasthan, the desert land of India, has a colourful history associated with its food. Travelling to Rajasthan especially Jaipur is always a rich experience. I go to my native state not only to visit just the palaces, but also to relish local authentic Rajasthani food, which when cooked in traditional way taste awesome.
Let’s talk a little about the traditional Rajasthani food before I take you through the culinary experience we had at Sirocco at Crowne Plaza, Tonk Road, Jaipur.
Rajasthan cuisine is a delightful mix of textures and tastes and needs a lot of practice and patience to make. Being a dry land more stress is given in Rajasthan on dried vegetables and ingredients with a lot of emphasis on pulses, milk, butter milk and other milk products. Pure ghee or butter is used as a medium of cooking. Chutneys from the locally available spices help to make the food even more interesting. Kachri, a vegetable belonging to the cucumber family, is used to marinate the vegetables and meat and imparts it with a distinctive tangy flavor. The curries prepared using these dried preparations, yoghurt or buttermilk, a lot of chilies and other herbs are simply delicious.
We started with a mint drink but as anticipated our great culinary journey began with Daal Bati and Churma. But there was a twist here – we were served with two different flavours of Churma – one traditional one and one rose flavoured. The rose churma had a very sweet aroma, and it looked fabulous and inviting. It tasted as awesome as it looked. We were served a plain bati here, but the bati can be stuffed with vegetables also.
In Rajsathan Daal Bati Churma in fact is a delicious, rich, flavorful and a whole meal in itself consisting of three items- Baati – a hard, round whole-wheat ball, roasted over hot coals, served after dipping in enormous amount of ghee, Dal – a thin curry of two or more lentils tempered with very less spices and more Ghee, and Churma – a delicacy made by crumbling nuts, sugar and ground wheat, and cooking them in ghee and sugar.
The three together themselves made a very filling and rich meal. But it was just a start for us, and more dishes were following up to tingle our taste buds. Gatte ka saag followed next, accompanied with Aloo Pyaj ki sabji, Ker Sangri ki sabji, Sew Tomato ki sabji, and Rice Pulao with lots of dry fruits.
Gatte ka saag was as traditional and authentic as it should have been. It was made using freshly made dumplings of besan (chickpea flour), a little spice and some ghee in combination with karhi. Ker sangri ka saag was possibly the tastiest dish that Maharaj-ji has prepared. Made with two ingredients – desert berries and beans, this spicy dish tasted amazing with just about everything – from rice to roti. The aromatic Sew tomato ki sabji though not purely local to Rajasthan was also amazing and spicy.
Aloo Pyaj ki sabji was a little sweet on taste and was made with uncut pieces of baby potatoes and baby onions. Cooked in pure ghee, seasoned with a typical blend of kachri, tomatoes and red chilli, it was a mouthwatering dish that forced me to say “wah wha kya baat hai maharaj-ji”
Being a marawari I am also a Ghass-phoos eater or a vegetarian. But I guess it will not be appropriate on my part if I don’t talk about the non-vegetarian dishes of Rajasthan which were served on our table too for my friends. Yes Rajasthan is a paradise for vegetarians but its royal history which talks about hunting practices of kings tell us a lot about their non-vegetarian fooding habits also.
Laal Maans is one of the most famous Rajasthani Non Vegetarian speciality. Spicy pieces of mutton are prepared with lots of onions, garlic and Red chillies. The thick, semi dry tangy curry is prepared using buttermilk or curd instead of tomatoes and the deep red colour comes from a special Rajasthani Lal Chilli. It is very delicately smoked with charcoal. After being well-done, hot ghee is poured over it, the resulting smoke is the source of the flavour.
Another very tasty non-veg dish served was the Banjara Chicken. A slow cooked exotic chicken dish, it made faces of my friends lit up in complete satisfaction.
Not a single Indian meal is complete without a dessert. But a Rajasthani meal has no dessert in its listings. You see, it’s the land of desserts (sand dunes) and its not traditional in Rajasthan to serve sand to guests. Don’t worry folks they call it sweet dish or Mithai in the menu and there is a huge variety available in the state. Rajasthan is famous for its mouth-watering sweets like Ghevar and Mawa Kachori, Mawa ki burfi, Imarti and Jalebies, Mishri mawa and kalakands.
At Sirocco we savoured Mishri Mawa – a sweet dish made with milk, mawa, mishri and a pinch of cardamom. A Rajasthnai meal is not considered complete without a Papad and a glass of chaas (buttermilk). So to complete our meals, we too savoured a few Papads and gulped down glasses of salty chaas.
I have heard tales and also read tales of how cooks try to impress their guests by presenting at least one unforgettable item on the menu and I guess I will put the Ker Sangari Sabji on that the list of unforgettables from our lunch menu.