Navratri, observed twice a year across India, is a time for a special kind of cuisine – sattvik food, devoid of chemicals, preservatives, garlic and onion. Not something you think of getting at a fine dining restaurant. But as people eat out more, while wishing to retain the purity of their diet over these nine nights, Navratri thalis have begun making their appearance at upscale restaurants.
Masala Art, the Indian restaurant at the Taj Palace, New Delhi, has introduced four different thalis based on temple cuisine from four corners of India. The eastern bhog thali has mainly Bengali fare; the western thali is based on Gujarati cuisine; the northern thali is predominantly langar food; and the southern thali has elements from all the southern states. The ideal way for a family to taste these is to order one of each and share.
Though without some of the condiments used in daily cooking, this food still has wonderful flavour – it’s a much lighter, nicer flavour than what we’re used to. If you haven’t tried sattvik food before, these thalis might make a convert out of you.
Each thali has its distinctive character, and it’s hard to pick any one item as special. Still, we must try – the Bengali bhoger khichuri and gurer payesh; the Gujarati bataka nu rasawalu shaak (sweet and sour potatoes) and sukhdi (a sweet made from wheat flour, jaggery and ghee); the south Indian puliodarai (rice in tamarind mix with roasted peanuts) and rawa urundai (semolina laddu); and the Punjabi bhandarey wali aloo ki subzi (spiced potato preparation served along with poori) and halwa could make one wish that Navratri would go on longer.
Vegetarian Bengali sounds like an oxymoron? Masala Art has nicely taken care of carnivorous tastes. Since Navratri coincides with Durga Puja, two thalis – seafood (with prawn) and non-veg (with kosha mangsho, which a certain preparation of mutton). These two thalis will be served at Kafe Fontana at the hotel alongside the veg Navratri thalis.
Address: Taj Palace hotel, Sardar Patel Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi
Cost: Rs 1,950 + tax for each Navratri thali