ITC Maurya, a Luxury Collection Hotel, New Delhi
Sardar Patel Marg, Akhaura Block, Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, Delhi 110021, India
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Banarasi Food FestivalWhenever food meets history, it creates beauty. A recent food festival at the ITC Maurya did the same. Fresh from winning Conde Nast‘s Favorite Restaurant in an Indian hotel for Bukhara, their coffee shop The Pavilion organised a Simply Banaras dinner. The dinner brought together two doyens of Banarasi culture, historian Rana Safvi and food curator Sangeeta Khanna and dispelled quite a few myths.
The most important of those myths being Banaras being a Hindu dominated area and lacking good non-vegetarian food. As Rana sits me down for a good old history lesson, it emerges how Banaras starts it’s history by being a Buddhist cultural center in 5th century BC. The Muslim influence was formed by breaking away from the Delhi Sultanate in the 14th century. Banaras later became a Hindu cultural center under King Akbar who established who large temples dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva.
With a plethora of religious sentiments attached to the place for Hindus, it is very easy to forget how the very famous silk trade of Banaras is mostly kept alive by the Muslim weavers. The neighboring areas of Jaunpur and Ghazipur still remain Muslim strongholds. But most of the food of Banaras has since faded into oblivion. This is where the Kitchens of India program under the Responsible Luxury ethos of ITC Hotels brings it to life.
The Banaras food festival runs till 18 December as part of the dinner buffet at The Pavilion. Sangeeta takes me down the culinary lane now as she explains how most of dishes on display can only be found in homes of Banaras. We start off our meal with Kanji, a digestive drink fashioned from carrots and spices. The Gobhi ki Subzi draws parallels to the Kopi Posto of Bengal. The neighboring areas of Benaras had poppy cultivation imposed of them by the British and this shows through in the dishes of today. The ebullient Dal ki Dulhan acts as a one pot meal of Arhar Ki Dal with a flour and spinach dumpling.
It wasn’t going to take much time before I jumped onto the non-vegetarian part of the meal. The Murgh Musallam and the Raan Musallam are a mouthful while the Dum ki Machchi presents the fish to me in a never before eaten style. We polished it all of with some Sookhe Chane ki Khichdi and Dosti ki Roti which perfectly accentuated the flavours of these heritage dishes.
Desserts followed next as pots of the delicate Mallaiyo beckoned to me. This seasonal dessert, known as Daulat Ki Chaat at Chandni Chowk and Nimish in Lucknow will disappear the moment it touches your palate. The royal Sewaiyya(semolina) and Green Moong Daal Halwa add to sweatness.
Do try out the Banarasi Food Festival at ITC Maurya for a piece of culinary history you haven’t experienced before. The dinner buffet is available for INR 2400++.