In India, you find a different cuisine as you travel for over 100 kms in every direction. Every district in its states offers exquisite flavours for food lovers. Whether you are a vegetarian or non vegetarian, whether you eat spice or bland food, there is something for everyone in the regional cuisines of our country.
Delhi also has been recently waking up to regional cuisines from all over the country and we experienced many festivals catering to Kashmiri, Awadhi and Mughlai cuisines at different locations.
But what really was missed was food from the eastern states, particularly Bihar, Odisha and the northeast. Fortunately we have a festival featuring food from Bihar currently going on at Café on 3, Holiday Inn, Mayur Vihar. The festival “Purvaiya” is being put together by Chef Sanjay Mishra of the hotel and food blogger Maneesh Srivastava.
Purvaiya literally means easterly winds, and when the easterly winds blow, they bring happiness and fragrance from the East. And that’s what is happening at this ongoing festival of flavours from Bihar. Kool, fresh and fragrant breeze from the rustic kitchens of Bihar mesmerised me and in the end left me with a overstuffed tummy but with a unsatisfied soul wanting more.
I have been exposed to Bihari food since my childhood. My Nanihal was in Bihar and we used to get regular supplies of exotic Bihari sweets like Sattu gola, Thekua, and others from my Nani. When we used to visit Nanihal in summer holidays, we used to feast on littis, kachari-moori, lavanglatas and many other items.
And when Café on 3 organised this festival, it was a must to attend for me. Though the festival is a-la-carte, the range of signature dishes from the state is vast and they add new dishes every day.
The moment we entered I was overwhelmed by the mustard oil fragrance and the sight of Littis at the live counter. Litti Chokha is perhaps the best-known food from Bihar to all of us in Delhi and Noida. Littis are round dough balls stuffed with sattu which are either roasted or deep fried, eaten with mashed veggies or chokha (potato, brinjal or tomato), green chilli pods and diced onions. Non vegetarians can eat littis with mutton curry or stuffed with keema added to sattu. At Purvaiya, litti was served with onions, alu as well as tomato chokha.
Other dishes at the live counter included Dal Peetha, the Bihari version of the rice flour dumplings (shaped like Nepali momos) and Tarua and both were genuine delicacies.
As I moved inside the café, I was pulled in by the sight of a huge spread of authentic Bihari sweets which include my favourite Parval ki mithai, and Khajas. Other sweets that were on display and waiting to be picked up included Boondi, Kantua (special type Gulabjamun), Sabudana Kheer, Malpua, and so on…
This was the counter where I spent most of my time while at the café, and my plates saw a number of refills. I loved the Parval and Khajas – they were made to perfection. The chef and his team deserve a round of applause from me for this.
The pungent aroma of mustard oil from the nearby Khomcha (food stall) was now disturbing my attention. On the khomcha various types of chaat like Aloo Matar Ghughnai Chaat, Jhaal muri, Chuda Ghughni and Gup Chups( Puchkas or Golgappas) were being served.
Jhaal muri and Matar ghughni are favourites of everyone in my family. I also recalled how badly my mother used to love these.
Ghughni made by the team here completely matched the taste and consistency with the ones, you normally get in Bihar. Jhaal Muri was incomparable with anything else. Served in a waste paper rolled into a cone shape, the strong hint of mustard oil (which I very badly love) energised me and I finished up the serving quickly.
With so many street snacks and sweets, I was almost full. But then Mr Suprabhath Roychowdhury, director, F&B and Ms Shikha Singh, manager, Marketing and Communications insisted that I try a few of the main course dishes too.
The main course spread was huge and I settled for small portions of Lal Saag with Chana, Colocassia (arbi) leaves in masala gravy and Aloo in tomato gravy and boiled rice.
As already stated I am a big time lover of the rustic beauty of Bihair cuisine. And this culinary journey really was overwhelming. In the end congratulating Chef Sanjay Mishra but still being pulled by the hypnotic spell, I bid bye to the ever smiling staff at the café.
I know the time is very short for this festival; it is on till tomorrow, 8th September 2018 only. But I am sure all the food lovers will come and try out the rustic yet exotic cuisines.