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Go Saraswat for a change

The Saraswat food being served at Curry N Rice, Taj Banjara has a traditional and homely touch about it. Just adequately spiced, the dishes are less-oily too.

HOMELY FARE: The food is worth tasting.

THAT THE antiquity of the Saraswat community is shrouded in myth is well known. One of the ancient communities, whose cuisine like most cuisines, evolved on the availability of local ingredients.

In fact the Saraswats took to eating seafood particularly fish when nothing much was available. They are like the Bengali brahmins who eat fish too.

So a lot of Saraswat cuisine revolves around seafood, coconut and cashewnuts which abound in that area. And one has to taste authentic Saraswat food in order to know more about it. Right now there is no better place than Curry N Rice, Taj Banjara as the Saraswat food festival is on. More so, since the culinary expertise of Jayshree Prabhu, a Gouda Saraswat Brahmin, has been utilised in the festival.

"Curries and rice are a pan-Indian concept although there are variations in the regions and community-wise fare is different. We want to bring such cuisines for the people of the twin cities and the Saraswat is an effort in that direction," says Avijit Chaturvedi, the F&B Manager of the Hotel.

The hotel took the services of Jayshree Prabhu who worked out the menu in conjunction with the then Executive Chef Rajesh Wadhwa (now the hotel has a new executive Chef Sanjay Vij) about two months ago.

So there is a homely, less-greasy, vegetarian and non-vegetarian spread that awaits the gourmet.

There are lot of curries (dry and with gravy) in this cuisine. "Coconut is a common, importantly used ingredient along with other spices like bedige chillies (which impart the rich red colour though they are not so pungent), fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and others. The food is cooked in very little oil," says Jayshree Prabhu.

A sample from the Saraswat kitchen is presented by Jayashree in the form of traditional recipes. The ratio of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is almost equal.

She personally makes the dishes assisted by the chefs of the restaurant. For them too, this has been a learning process. "Whenever they are free they ask me the recipe and write it down," says Jayshree, who is involved in this capacity as a `consultant-chef' for the first time.

She recommends one of the soups Avla saru (made with dried gooseberries), a kind of rasam without dal as it is good for health. It is helpful even for patients suffering from gastroenteritis. The starters are quite different from the ones everyone is used to. Some of them like Cabbage dongare, Palak pathrade and Onion spicy dosa use dal as a base. There are two starters using pomfret and shrimps.

When it comes to curries she says the ones with gravy are called gassi, while the dry ones are called upkari. Seafood predominates in the main course - with as many as five dishes (fish, prawns and crab). Vegetarians have quite a variety - from vegetables such as cauliflower, brinjal, tendli, and other dishes using mixed vegetables like valval (cooked in coconut milk) and gazbizi ambat to pulse-based dishes like gassi made of chana, potatoes with tender cashewnuts, dal to even the kullit saru (a dish of horsegram - somewhat akin to ulava charu of Andhra Pradesh).

For the rice lovers there is raw mango rice, vangi baath (brinjal rice), tarkari dal baath (bisibela huli anna) and steamed rice (red variety and ordinary).

Mangalorean specialities include dosas and idlis. Set dosa and sanna are available while the item to be tasted is bun (made of maida and curd fermented for eight hours. This batter is deep-fried but do not be horrified as there is not much oil. Slightly sweet in taste, the bun can be had by itself without any accompaniments).

Round off the meal with traditional sweets like khajoor godse (a kind of payasam with dates and cashewnuts), annas kheer (pineapple) and panchamrut khichdi. Ice cream is invariably ubiquitous on the menu.

The meal has a homely feel and flavour and if you are game to try out a different fare - not-so-spicy and oily go Saraswat for a change. The festival is on till June 8.


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