Surrounded by hues of red and yellow, the walls donned with traditional handmade dolls and the service staff with gabris on their head. Right from arriving at the big entrance and being greeted with joined hands and a lovely smile to walking into the wonderfully decorated Chulha restaurant. It certainly looks like The Grand Hyatt Goa has pulled out all stops for this one. The Rajasthani Food Festival began on Monday, 7th August and will go on till the 16th. A 10 day festival, highlighting the tantalizing cuisine of Rajasthan.
They were a wide range of cocktails on show, all of which were custom creations by the restaurant’s mixologist. Each having their own back story and Rajasthani influence. I decided to go for the Lake Pichola, named after the famous fresh water lake in Udaipur, Rajasthan. The drink was a spiced rum based cocktail with a lot of zest thanks to the ginger, lime juice and orange zest. The cocktail derived inspiration from the natural white color of the real lake by using egg whites to give the cocktail a white color. The cocktail was very refreshing and didn’t have any hint of the egg whites as the taste was masked and neutralized by the heavy citrus notes. In addition to the cocktails they also had a few traditional style non alcoholic beverages like flavored lassis, chaas and milkshakes.
Let’s dive right into the food. Since it was a sampling of their menu, I got the opportunity to try out almost everything on the menu. First up was the Achari gosht ki tikki which were simple marinated and moist minced lamb meat cutlets grilled to perfection and served with a side of salad and mint chutney. A very simple ginger, garlic and mixed spice marination but still a tasty starter.
I was then served two paneer dishes, a regular grilled paneer and a Hing aur mirch ka paneer tikka, which was personally one of my favorite veg dishes of the day. The cottage cheese was stuffed with a green chili filling and flavored thoroughly with asafoetida, so many flavors in a single bite
I was then served a plate of what appeared to look like meat kebabs, but what was actually Bikaneri wadi aur subz ka Seekh, which were kebabs made from a mix of gram flour, vegetables and masala. I really enjoyed eating this dish and loved the element of crunch that was added. This was so good it could have easily passed as chicken to someone who turned a blind eye.
Finally came the turn of a chicken dish called the Banjara murgh tikka. Which was pieces of chicken in a brown cashew paste put into a tandoor and seasoned with spices and bell pepper. The nuttiness of the marinade and the crunch of the fresh bell peppers, complemented each other really well! Another great thing was the chicken was succulent and moist and dried out, like most tandoori dishes.
The main course featured a lot of items, but I was lucky enough to get small samples of each of the items in the form of a thali, thanks to the chef. Just to clarify once again, this is not a Rajasthani thali; neither will there be a thali on the menu. The menu will feature individual dishes that can be ordered on a-la-carte basis.
As you can see they have a wide range of vibrant and delicious non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian dishes. The thali also included two breads, a laal mirchi ka parantha and a Methi missi roti to eat the gravy dishes with. I’ll start with the Jodhpuri Kabuli which is a very basic, staple dish in Rajasthan. Due to the harsh weather conditions, the people of Rajasthan were not fortunate enough to have all the vegetables at their disposal and hence had to make do with what they had. This dish features basmati rice cooked together with various spices, mixed vegetables and with pieces of gatte. Gatte or Gram Flour dumplings are a very popular ingredient in many Rajasthani dishes.
Next up I tried the Lal Maas, which is a very popular, fiery red color, meat curry from Rajasthan. The Lal Maas is a very old dish that was initially eaten only by the royal families as the common man couldn’t afford meat and the ingredients used in the preparation of the curry. Typically deer or wild boar meats which were obtained from the hunting trips of the royal members were used in the curry but eventually over the years, mutton has become the main meat used in the curry. The curry packed a lot of taste. Tangy and spicy with that hint of dry chilies was perfect. It wasn’t too spicy for me either and certainly one of my favorite dishes. The dish also had a slight smoky flavor to it which I believe is an essential characteristic of a genuine Lal Maas. The dish listed on the menu was actually a twist on the traditional dish featuring chicken instead of mutton; however I was super keen on tasting it the traditional way. If you do head down to the Grand Hyatt Goa and have tried the traditional Lal Maas before, do give the chicken version a try.
I moved on to the next dish which was also a mutton dish called Maans ka Soweta which once again featured mutton but this time in a yellowish, more brighter and less fiery avatar than its companion the Lal Maas. This dish was mutton marinated in garlic, chilies, onion, added to chopped corn kernel and left to simmer until the meat is tender and the gravy is thick. I enjoyed this very much as the mutton was super tender and just one bite into the mutton and I was left with a tiny of splash of juices and taste in my mouth. I managed to finish this dish the fastest and was left salivating for more.
Next in line was the Ker Sangri, which is again a very popular native dish of Rajasthan. The climate is such that it is impossible to grow vegetables like potato, cauliflower and others. So the locals have to replace the usual with alternatives. Ker refers to a local shrub berry while Sangri refers to the the long beans that grow on the Prosopis Cineraria tree (Known locally as Khejari) which belongs to a family similar to that of pea trees. This berry and bean combo along with the spices and mustard oil has a preparation similar to that of a pickle and a very sharp and lingering taste. It’s not a dish that would appeal to everyone but certainly a favorite for many.
Next up was the classic Dal Baati Churma. This dish featured a dal that was cooked with different types of lentils and garlic. The Baati which were deep fried ball shaped dumplings of wheat flour served with churma which was sweetened powder made by frying wheat flour and ghee. A classic savory-sweet combination, something that the Rajasthani people are well known for. I’m not always sold on savory-sweet combinations but Dal Baati Churma is one of the few that always works for me.
Yet again another vegetarian dish, papad methi aloo mangodi. Typically an aloo mangodi is a very popular North Indian dish, which consists of mangodi which are soaked lentils that are mashed together with spices and sundried along with potato. However the chef decided to add to this classic dish by adding methi and bits of urad dal papad to give it a new dimension.
Finally we come to the last item, the Dal Dhokli. This is again a very popular, wholesome Rajasthani dish that is consumed very frequently in many households and many a times eaten as a replacement for an entire meal because of its higher fiber and nutritional value. The dish was made of a dal with a mixture of lentils and spices with circular shaped chickpea dumplings that were soaked with the taste of the dal. Mildly spicy and fragrant, this was a pleasure to eat.
Of course how can any Rajasthani meal be complete without a dessert or two? For dessert I was served badam ka sheera which was a lovely mixture of pureed almonds with ghee, sugar and cardamom. Fragrant, rich and delicious. The Rajasthanis sure know how spoil you
Finally we come to the end of this wonderful culinary journey with one of my favorite Indian desserts ever. A Malpua with Rabdi. Malpua are essentially steaming hot pancakes made from flour, milk and dry fruit with a thick sugar syrup coating. This slightly crispy, soft and chewy pancake is then topped with rabdi which is a thick and creamy, sweet, reduced/condensed form of milk which is heavily infused with nuts and spices like almonds and kesar to make it aromatic and rich. The combination of the thick and creamy rabdi with the soft, moist and sticky malpua continues to leave me salivating till today. Just the sheer thought of it is enough to make me quiver.
What a meal! I certainly felt like a member of the royal family eating all that, without doubt a meal fit for a King and Queen. Remember the Rajasthani Food Festival will go on till the 16th of August, which means there’s just a week left for you to get down to the Grand Hyatt Goa and indulge yourselves in delicious Rajasthani meal. The dishes cost between Rs.300-600 on average and are quite filling and heavy so don’t over-order in the beginning, order as you eat. For more updates follow The Hungry Wolf on Facebook and Instagram