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Royal fanfare

The Mewari food festival is class and cuisine combined

Satish. H

IT HAD once seemed to Rudyard Kipling that Providence had created the maharajas of India just to offer mankind a spectacle, a dazzling vision of marble palaces, tigers and jewels. Now that the maharajas have gone, the world seems a duller place but yet Epicureans can rejoice.

For Vijay Singh, scion of the Bedla clan is here to share the priceless culinary tradition of his family - the Karan cuisine. In an attempt to introduce the treasures of Rajasthan, Taj Krishna is hosting the Mewar Food Festival at Firdaus from March 5-14 for both lunch and dinner.

Originally jagirdars and dewans to the Sisodias of Mewar, the Bedlas were renowned official hosts for generations of dignitaries. Because of their refinement in taste, Vijay Singh Bedla and his wife, Sugan Kumari were persuaded to share Mewar's culinary heritage and this was followed by food festivals around the world. Named after Bedla's grandfather, Rao Bahadur Karan Singh, a great connoisseur of food, Karan cuisine uses corn, curd and milk as the base.

For the aperitif wonderfully styled sub se pehele, the makki ki raab (grated corn cooked in buttermilk served hot or cold) is suggested. Also try the dhoongari chaach (smoked buttermilk) and keri ki chaach (piquant drink made from raw mango, sugar and mustard).

Satish. H

For starters (shuruaat) there is a choice of machli kurkori (golden crispy fried fish fillets with mint sauce) and poacha aloo (golden fried potato stuffed with paneer keema) among others. For the main course, there is a spread of dahi samose ka maas (an exquisite 3-in-1 combination of a spicy mutton samosa topped with thickened sweet yoghurt), padampuri murg (chicken in white gravy with condiments and herbs), dahi doodh ki tarkari (a truly unique tongue tingling preparation of cottage cheese, milk and yoghurt with whole spices), khatta meeta khumb (a sweet-sour mushroom delicacy), goti ka pulao (rice with gram flour dumplings and herbs), makkai ki roti (corn flour bread) and the just-melts-in-the-mouth thotadi roti (crisp wheat flour bread).

For the desserts try your hand at the narangia bhaat (rice cooked with dry fruits and topped with orange slices) and doodhiya kheech (grounded whole wheat churned with milk and dried fruits) among a multitude of others.

"The cuisine is a blend of Mughalai and the local flavour. We are supervising the preparation of nearly 100 dishes," says Bedla. "Our aim here is to reintroduce forgotten tastes. Although we are not professional cooks, Sugan Kumari and I enjoy presenting the richness of our culinary heritage. And I think that love for sharing shines through," says Bedla who also dabbles in antique jewellery.

Peacock feathers, coloured drapes, waiters in traditional attire and folk musicians singing More paapiya to the accompaniment of the dholak, harmonium and the khartaal - come now and join the ranks of the Mountbattens, Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth who have all had the distinction of being served by royalty.

DEEPA ALEXANDER

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