The simple, vegetarian cuisine of Gujarat has many admirers. The Dhoklas and Theplas of Gujarat have spread to all corners of the country and even the world. However, if you wish to dive deeper and explore more, you might be out of luck. Even in Hyderabad, authentic Gujarati thalis are surprisingly rare. My own experiences with Gujarati cuisine have been rather limited. So I was thrilled to learn that Courtyard by Marriott was hosting a Gujarati Food Festival.
The Gujarati Food Festival, which started from the 22nd of July, is being hosted at Momo Cafe. The festival will be a part of the dinner buffet, with most of the regular vegetarian dishes making way for the Gujarati fare. The festival is being curated by Mrs. Nirupama Gandhi, a home chef who traces her roots back to Jamnagar. I was invited to a preview session hosted by the Hotel earlier this week.
For the preview lunch, the dishes were plated and presented to us in the form of a farsaan platter, thali, and mithai platter. Farsaans or snacks are the most popular aspect of Gujarati cuisine. In fact, Dhoklas and Fafdas are what most people think of when they hear of Gujarati food. The farsaans Mrs. Gandhi had selected for us were Khandvi, Patra, and Methi ka Phool Wada. Khandvi is a delicately rolled sheet of besan and yoghurt tempered with mustard seeds and grated coconut. It’s a delicious savoury that requires skill and patience in ample amounts. The yoghurt adds a dash of acidity that works quite well with the tempering. For Patra, leaves of Aarbi (Colocassia) are dipped in Besan, layered, and rolled tightly before being deep fried. Like most things Gujarati, Patra is mildly spiced, but it brings a little bit of everything to the palate. It’s a namkeen (salty snack) that also has the heat of chillies, the sweetness of jaggery, and the tanginess of tamarind.
The thali for the main course had Roti, Poori, and Ghee Rice with a side of Dal Dkholi, Undhiyu, Bharwan Bhindi, and Aalo Rasa. Undhiyu is one of the most iconic dishes of Gujarat. It’s a seasonal dish that uses winter vegetables available in Gujarat. However, Marriott managed to procure most of the vegetables required for the dish from Mumbai. Undhiyu is a dry preparation assorted slow cooked veggies mixed like potatoes, banana, yam, and plaintain with muthiya (besan dumplings spiced with methi) mixture of assorted vegetables. It’s a dish that I had heard about and read about, but never experienced before. It turned out to be every bit as good as I’d hoped. Dal Dhokli is a lentil side prepared by simmering dhoklis (spiced whole wheat pastry) in Toor Daal. This dish will be available in the live counter during the festival.
The dessert thali featured Puran Poli, Sheera, and Shrikhand that was rather creatively plated. The Sheera was layered between the Puran Poli like a sandwich, while the Shrikhand was spread like a sauce. The combination of the Puran Poli (besan breads stuffed with jaggery) and the Shrikhand (sweetened hung curd) worked, but the Sheera (saffron flavoured sweetened semolina) is best enjoyed on its own.
The Gujarati Festival is on until the end of July and will be a part of the regular dinner buffet at Momo Cafe. The buffet is usually priced at Rs. 1000 (plus taxes), but is available for Rs. 799 (all-inclusive) via Nearbuy. The Gujarati dishes will be replacing the vegetarian section of the buffet, while the non-vegetarian section will continue to feature the regular buffet offerings.