Gujarati food festival brings vibrant flavours to Chennai

The Abhivadana Food Festival highlights the diverse regional flavours of Gujarat
Kesar Pista Basundi
Kesar Pista Basundi

It seemed like the vibrant state of Gujarat had descended on namma Chennai in all its splendid and colourful glory. As we made our way to the Madras Pavilion, ITC Grand Chola, we were quite enamoured by the eye-catching display of lanterns, pottery, printed fabrics and embroidery. Amid this riot of colours, we set our eyes on some delectable Gujarati fare that jostled for our attention.

The Abhivadana Gujarat Food Festival highlights the distinct flavours and culinary traditions of the state. “We have crafted the menu with dishes from across the four regions: north and south Gujarat, Kutch, and Kathiawad. The highlight of this menu is that we have not used garam masala. Hence, their textures are quite plain and simple,” reveals chef Tejas, who has curated the feast.

We began our meal with the farsan. “No Gujarati meal is complete without it,” says the chef. The options included Vagharelo rotlo, a pearl millet bread crumble tossed with dry red chilli, spring onion, curd, and spice; Bharela na marcha, Bhavnagri chilli stuffed with gram flour mixture; and Dumas na tameta vada, a homemade chutney topped on slice tomato, which is batter fried. Our pick among farsan was the Rasawala khaman, which was quite unlike the ones we have had so far. We quite liked the spongy gram flour cake, which was topped with sweet and savoury lentil broth. And what took us by surprise was the crunchiness in the khaman, courtesy of pomegranate and shreds of coconut, which also made for a visual treat.

As we took a quick tour of the buffet table, we spotted the Bajra millet salad, which was a refreshing blend of bajra, onion, tomatoes and greens, sans any spices. This summer-friendly salad is highly recommended to beat the scorching summer heat as the mercury spirals with every passing year.

We then veered toward the main course and tucked into Raswala bateka vatana tameta nu shal, a tomato, potato and green peas curry, along with Desi chana nu shak, black chickpea tempered with garlic, and dry red chilli spices. These were great accompaniments to bhakri (a round flatbread), and fluffy puris.

Being rice aficionados, we decided to culminate the meal with Taj laving bhat, basmati rice tossed with bay leaf and cloves. Though the Surti dal, which is toor dal tempered with mustard seed, peanut, dates and spices, was passable, we quite relished the sweet and tangy Gujarati kadi.

A Gujarati thali is incomplete without a delectable array of desserts that entice your taste buds. We began our sweet sojourn with the classic on the Gujarati culinary scene, Rajbhog shrikhand, hung curd mix with saffron, cardamom, and nuts. The aroma and flavour reached a feverish peak with Phada lapsi, broken wheat cooked with clarified butter, jaggery, and nuts, providing a fitting finale to the gastronomic odyssey. 

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