From the land of Maharajas

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 21 June 2018

At the ongoing Royal Rajasthan Food Festival at Hyatt Pune, we caught up with chef Premsukh who not only served authentic dishes but also gave us some interesting insight into the region’s food and culture

Think Rajasthani cuisine, and the delicious Dal Baati Churma instantly pops up in your head. But Rajasthani food is not only about royal and ancient recipes, it is also heavily influenced by the geographical, historical and climatic conditions of the region. To bring the authentic taste of the cuisine to the city, Eighty Eight at Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar, is hosting the Royal Rajasthan Food Festival till June 30. 

Chef Premsukh from Hyatt Regency Ahmedabad has been invited to offer an authentic menu from the land of Maharajas. Premsukh, who is serving traditional dishes like Lal Maas, Daal Batti Churma, Ker Sangri, Gatte ki Sabzi, along with some of his specialities like Papad Paneer Bhara, Panchkotta Tikki, Lal Mirch ka Murg Tikka, Macchi ke Sooley, among many other dishes, belongs to Rajasthan. But he got his cooking  lessons in Rajasthani cuisine from traditional maharajs (chefs) in Kolkata. 

Premsukh loves to promote the Rajasthani technique of cooking. Although none of his ancestors were chefs, he took it upon himself to keep the traditional cooking style and dishes of Rajasthan alive. 

Chatting with us over a delicious dinner comprising some traditional starters, a Rajasthani thali, and desserts prepared by him, he said, “My interest in cooking began when I had set up a hookah stall at Victoria Memorial in Kolkata at an event organised by Lakshmi Niwas Mittal. I was intrigued by the caterers and how they served food. It was then that I decided to learn cooking and specialise in Rajasthani cuisine. I learnt to cook from traditional maharajs of Burrabazar — Munna Halwai and Ganpati Caterers from Kolkata — who are famous all over the country. Hence my cooking style is very local and traditional.” 

Besides the royal influence, Premsukh said that extreme climatic conditions, water scarcity and scanty vegetation of Rajasthan have also shaped its cuisine. “We have unique cooking styles and food habits that are different from the rest of the country. The water is slightly dense and saline, hence makes digestion easier for us and this is the reason why we eat a lot of ghee. Every home has cows and we love to make our own dairy products and use ghee generously in our diet. Contrary to the popular belief that ghee is unhealthy and makes you fat, it, in fact, is easier to digest and makes the food tastier and healthier,” added Premsukh. 

The aridity of the land makes cultivation of vegetables and grains that grow in other parts of the country, quite difficult. Hence agricultural produce like beans, dried lentils and legumes like gram flour, bajra and jowar form the main ingredients of several Rajasthani dishes. 

When asked about the spices used in the preparations, the chef said, “Red chillies and ghee are essential in a traditional Rajasthani dish. Unlike other states we use very few elements in our cooking, say, bay leaves, turmeric, and coriander.  We don’t use garam masala or other spices to add flavour and aroma to our dishes,” said Premsukh adding that he has brought spices and a few ingredients from Rajasthan for the festival.  

When asked about Rajasthani food being predominantly vegetarian and yet famous for Lal Maas, he said, “The influence of the Rajputs, who loved hunting and savoured non-vegetarian dishes, made non-veg fare popular. Some of the most famous non-vegetarian dishes are Lal Maas, Banjara Gosht, Mohan Maas and so on.” 

Popular for Ghewar, Rajasthan has its own variety of desserts too. “We don’t have desserts that involve using milk. We use a lot of besan and lentils to make sweet dishes because of the weather and they also last longer. Moong Dal ka Halwa, Besan ke Laddoo, Motichur ke Laddoo etc are some of the most popular desserts of Rajasthan,” he concluded.  

The Royal Rajasthan Food Festival is underway at Eighty Eight, Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar, near Aga Khan Palace till June 30. The dinner buffet is available  between 7 and 11 pm

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