Masala Art, the contemporary Indian restaurant at Taj Palace, New Delhi is running a festival of temple cuisine throughout the Navaratri festival every year. When I got an invite to taste it, I was excited despite being a hardcore carnivore. Why would I not want to taste the amazing food from temple kitchens featuring innovative recipes from North, South, East and West India – Prasadam, South India; Langar” and “Bhandara” cuisines of North India; Chappan Bhog or Mahaprasad, East India; Naivedyam West India. The thalis are priced at Rs. 1950 +taxes.
Chef Rajesh Wadhwa, the man behind the innovation is there to introduce the thalis. He shares that temple foods are an extended form of traditional indigenous food. It is a gastronomic style of its own kind, where the food is completely devoid of preservatives and chemicals. The food that is served is in its most basic and freshest form. The dishes are always enriched with antiseptic herbs, spices and natural fragrances. This cuisine is all about the food meant to satisfy heart and soul.
I ask Chef Rajesh and he confirms that the saatvik tradition is carefully followed in each of the recipes, making the food completely suitable to those observing Navaratri. I taste the thalis and while by and large they are not really what one gets while sitting four legged after the puja in a temple, they are a good eating experience, and tastier than the usual navaratri options. My own favourite is the Eastern Mahaprasad, with Khichdi being the major attraction.
I am listing down the menu for the thalis here to give the readers a taste of what is being served.
Prasadam, or the food served after the holy offering to the gods in the temples all across the southern part of India. Probably, the lightest of all, the cuisine is prepared without onion and garlic and minimum amount of spices. At some places, it is solely the responsibility of the priests to prepare the food for the temple and the people who come to worship.
Rawa urundai (semolina laddu)
Puliodarai (rice in tamarind mix with roasted peanuts)
Kalandha saadam (Mashed rice with lentil & vegetables)
Milagu thalicha rasam (Essence of tomatoes & brown lentils with a tinge of black pepper)
Kosambari (Grated carrot with soaked mung bean & raisins)
Pavakkai pitlai (tangy bitter gourd curry)
Cheppam karumadhu (crispy fried colocasia spiced with button chillies)
Javarisi paal payasam (Sago & reduced milk pudding flavored with cardamom)
Thayir vadai (Minced black lentil doughnuts topped with fresh yoghurt and tempering of mustard & curry leaves)
Konda kadalai sundal (Chickpea tossed dry with grated coconut)
Highlight here is the sundal
This features “Langar” and “Bhandara” cuisines of North India. The Langar tradition started in Guru Nanak’s era, encompasses on the cooking facility available at “Gurudwaras” and a concept of “Bibek”(concious cooking) alongwith “Seva bhaav”(meditation on the divine while serving). Bhandara, on the other hand is a distribution of food, on a holy occasion focusing on a particular god or a deity. It is one of the commonest expressions of “sacredness” in India.
Chholey (Tempered spiced chickpea curry)
Saadey Chawal (Plain boiled rice with a slight tempering of Cumin seeds and ghee)
Bhandarey wali Aloo ki Subzi (Spiced potato preparation served along with Poori)
Poori (Fried whole wheat breads)
Langar di Dal (Black Dal recipe from Gurdwara Goindwal Sahib)
Langar di Roti (Flat bread from the holy kitchens of India)
Kadha Prasad (A sacred pudding prepared with Whole wheat flour, ghee and sugar)
Mathura ka Peda (Sweetened whole milk fudge dumplings)
Malai Lassi (Sweetened beverage prepared with youghurt and topped with malai)
The people of Bengal and Orissa are great respecters of their tradition. The bengali community is said to prepare various gastronomic wonders during festive seasons. Chappan Bhog or Mahaprasad, as it is known in Jagannath temple, Orissa is another example when it comes to Temple cuisine. It is one of the widest arrays of foods available among all the temples across India.
Bhaja Bengali Muger Dal (Tempered split green grams, a bengali delicacy)
Labra (Assortment of vegetables, a staple during Saraswati Pujo in most Bengali homes)
Aloo Potol Dalna (Spiced potatoes and parwal, Bengali style)
Begun Bhaja (Fried eggplants bengali style, a traditional accompaniment to Khichuri)
Bengali Bhoger Khichuri (A Durga puja specialty prepared with Moong Dal and an assortment of vegetables)
Dahi Pakhla (Curd Rice and water, a part of the CHAPPANBHOG or MAHAPRASAD in Jagannath temple, Orissa)
Natun Gurer Payesh (Sweetened rice and milk concoction, flavoured with palm jaggery)
Kancha Aamer Chaatni (A chutney made out of prolonged sauteeing of tempered raw mangoes)
Luchi (Fried bread of Bengal)
Pana (A refreshing beverage made out of curd, water and sugar. Atraditional recipe from Orissa)
Highlights here: Khichudi and Dal
West India has a lot of destinations to offer tourists from states like Gujarat that boasts of the longest coastline (1290 km), along with some of the most popular temples in the country like the Akshardham Temple, The Ambaji Temple and the Dwarka Temple .
Bataka nu rasawalu shaak (Sweet and sour potatoes preparation)
Ringan nu shak (Tempered sweet & sour preparation of Brinjals)
Kadhi (A preparation of a sweet and spicy curd mixture tempered &thickened with gram flour)
Khichdi (Rice and Split Moong dal preparation finished with ghee)
Kobij nu Kachumber (Cabbage tempered with mustard seeds)
Vaghareli chaas (Tempered Butter milk)
Poori (Fried whole wheat breads)
Bajra ni Rotli (Flat bread made from the Bajra flour)
Sukhdi (A sweet made from wheat flour and jagerry in ghee served at famous temple of Mahudi in Gujarat)
Disclaimer This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgment and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review, but readers need to consider this review keeping this fact in mind.