Food festivals are aplenty in Chennai. Each one intends to highlight various cuisines that form the crux of many civilisations.
Likewise, bringing the forgotten aspects of Rajasthani culinary delights, to be precise from Jodhpur, is the aim of Akheraj Deolia by chef Akshraj Jodha at ITC Grand Chola.
When we got to the festival, it would be suitable to call it a royal cuisine, in fact, the place was set-up in a beautiful manner with carts adorned in cloth that seemed to have come right from the glorious past.
Akshraj Jodha took us through the dishes and their significance. He said the menu varies over the course of the 10-day event. But the intriguing thing about the event is how the cuisine came into existence.
Akheraj Deolia was founded by Rao Akheraj, the grandson of Rao Chandrasen of Jodhpur. Akshraj Jodha happens to be the 14th descendant of Rao Akheraj.
When he explained the dishes, he clearly exhibited that he was a man with a mission to promote the rich cuisine of his land.
The meal consisted of the usual starters, main course and desserts. The dominating factors of all the dishes was dry cereals rather than vegetables. Also, the cuisine came with meat and panneer, as is the tradition.
For starters, there were meat balls, sauteed chicken, mutton kebabs. These melt in your mouth as the meat was cooked to perfection. The meat was tender and at the same time unmistakably Rajasthani in taste, with spices and right amount of oil. The meat balls in particular had soya in them to give a different texture and taste.
Although there were many dishes for us, the stand alone were maans baajra soyeta. Made with meat, the soyeta went well with the pulao. In the pyaaz aur gulab jamun saag, the jamun goes into the curry instead of sugar syrup.
Also, there was a dish called pithod. Pithod, as Akshraj explained, is an even softer alternative to paneer. It was presented as a curry dish that went well with jowar roti. There was panneer as well, for those who do not like pithod.
As with all Rajasthani food, there was the ubiquitous dal bati churma, which if missed is a crime, according to the chef. There was aloo, too, served as aloo udhaigiri.
For those with a sweet tooth, the desserts were a delight. Make sure to try the kesar pista rasamalai. That dish alone is worth going to the festival. If kesar is not your favourite, fret not as there are other delicacies available.
As we went on to finish our course, the thought that the dishes had taken influence from other cuisines kept lingering on our mind.
Akshraj explained that it really was the case. He said his ancestors had evolved the food with influences from Gujarat and Kashmir – from Gujarat due to the inclusion of a family member from the region and Kashmir, due the friendship that Akshraj’s ancestor had with the Kashmiri prince.
We thought that was a good thing. After all if a thing does not evolve, it ceases to exist after a while. That applies to food also.