I am constantly in awe of different parts of India and the indigenous food there – and the food from Rajasthan have always made me happy. So, when Chef Mod Singh Sisodia, who has been associated with the Maharaja of Jodhpur and Umaid Nhawan Palace since 1984, along with Chef Mohan Ram Prajapat (Halwai Chef), decided to showcase some of the dishes fit for the Maharaja, who was I to decline an invitation?
Chef Mod Singh Sisodia

One of the things that I love in the food of Marwar is the use of whatever is available in hand to cook different kinds of food. Over the years, Chef Mod Singh Sisodia had taken the traditional food of the region, and added spices from different parts of the country to give the food a different, and rather modern twist. It was quite evident with the Sangri aur Makai Ka Tikka, which had the sweetness of the corn and the flavors of sangri, one of the primary plants available in Rajasthan, combined with a smattering of porcini mushroom dust which added to the umami factor.

There is a rather excellent fish dish served to us at first (which I ate and then realized I had forgotten to take a photo of). The Machhli Sardar Samand is pan fried with a touch of mint and yoghurt, and the firm white fish disintegrates in my mouth. It is followed by a Murgh Soola, spiced with Mathania chillies, which lend a rather smoky after taste along with a kick of heat.

As our main courses come in, Chef Sisodia talks about the difference between what the kings will eat versus the locals. The members of royalty would often hunt for their meat, common targets being quail, partridge, and rabbits. As a result, many of the dishes would be made with an assortment of meat – the hunters dropping in whatever animal they were successful in finding. So, dishes like Junglee Maas had evolved, with minimum spices, to let the meat shine.

On the other hand, the cuisine of the Marwari people was influenced partly by the locals, and somewhat by the Gujarati people as well. The Ker Sangri Dakh is slightly unusual because it is sweet, with the crunch of the sangri and the sour ker adding the much needed bit of balance – they serve an assortment of breads with this, and I pick a makki ki roti to go with it. The other favorite is the Daal Bati Churma, where the ghee-soaked batis are brought to the table, and spoonfuls of steaming hot dal is ladled in bowls, topped with a crumbled bati. I look around and locate the bowl of ghee, and ladle more on top. My philosophy about dal bati is simple – it must be soaked in ghee.

ker sangri ki sabzi

The Jodhpuri Murgh is specifically meant for those who like a delicate gravy – this one has copious amounts of cashew and yoghurt to make it mellow. Apparently, some members of the royal family were not too fond of heat, and therefore, some dishes had to be toned down, spice wise, and a delicate hint of mace and nutmeg is a fine touch indeed.

D on the opposite side of me, meanwhile, is intrigued by the Kabuli Pulao, which contains an assortment of vegetables, dry fruits, and pieces of toast. Oddly enough, although I love bread and rice together, it was not really to my liking, and I moved on to the two dishes I had been looking forward to.

kabuli pulao

There are bajre ka roti making rounds. I pick one up. This one comes as a revelation – soaked in ghee, these are piping hot, and perfect with some garlic pickle. Chef Sisodia explains that the harsh weather of Rajasthan makes it difficult for people to cook and food stuff in journeys, and different kinds of roti and parathas would be their only hope. With a little bit of pickles, that would be their staple for days or weeks in the end.

With the Bajre ka roti, there is a bowl filled with laal maas which is fiery red from the color of the Mathania chillies. Typically, at least 30-40 of the chillies go into a single pot of meat, but Chef Sisodia had reduced the heat considerably, and although I love the meat, I do miss the heat in a major manner. Oh well, the soft meat and the thick, red gravy, perfect with the rotis is bliss indeed!

For desserts, the Chef calls in Chef Mohan Ram Prajapat (Halwai Chef), who had been busy slaving about to make dessert. His desserts are simple, and reflects the beauty of good ingredients and slow cooking.

The Lapsi he serves, made with broken wheat, cooked in milk and topped with coconut, is not too soft or too hard. It also does not have a thin consistency, and is an intesting dessert. I am much more excited about the Rabdi and Jalebi or Jilipi which remains my favorite indian dessert till date, and the fact that they made the jalebi extra dessert was a major bonus like me. The Mawa Ki Kachori was really nice, coated in sugar, with a not-too-sweet mawa filling.

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Taj is hosting the Marwar Food Festival till the 29th of June, 2015, and the cost for two (a la carte) is starting around 3000/- INR. Lunch  is served from 12.30 to 2.45 pm, and dinner from 7.30 to 11.45 pm.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at Taj Hotels at the kind invite of the management. 

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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