A sheherwali evening in Kolkata

Vegetarian cuisine is generally not my cup of tea. But when someone proudly boasts that it IS the best vegetarian cuisine, and I know that person understands food, it becomes my moral duty to visit the same. One thing led to another and I ended up at the Sheherwali pop up dinner organised by the FB group, Good Vegetarian Food Of Calcutta.

The Sheherwali cuisine originated from a land of extreme climate- Rajastan, where food was cooked to last for a long time and reheating deals was not needed. The scarcity of water was compensated with the liberal use of milk and ghee. Lentils and beans replaced fresh vegetables, and gram flour, corn and bajra were also used extensively. Spicy and bold dominant flavors ruled the cuisine . Saffron, rose water, herbs were few used with opulence to increase the flavor, as Rajastan royal kitchens were influenced by the moghuls. But, at the same time, mustard oil is heavily used, owning its roots to Bengal. 

So, it was held at Hotel Swagath, Hazra Road over dinner and I reached quite early, actually hoping to get some gyan on the cuisine from the organizers. And actually, it was a good decision. Nametags were being prepared for the dishes, when we reached and as usual, the shutterbug inside me, started clicking. 

So, what I could understand about the basic principle is, Sheherwali cuisine starts with a dash of sweets. And even ends with sweet. “Is it sweet nature of bengal ?”-  My evil mind ….. Anyway, maybe I wasn’t the only ignorant person there and sensing that, Devashis da arranged for a introductory session for us over the food and you can check the video here. 

Now, for my personal experience ….. Bode ki bundiya was a super heavy starter- and if the primary ingredient is Rose water and Pista, it’s not something surprising. The water has been brought from Murshidabad and without which, the dish is said to be incomplete. Barbatti seeds were grinded with besan and that bundi is used here. Taste-wise, for me, it was different but enjoyable. 

Bode Ka bundiya

The Dal Ka Samosa was nothing exotic, but that spiy, garam masala flavored dal feeling instead of potato in bengali style, made it interesting. Khire ki kachori was rather interesting. Grated cucumber and spiced curd was put in and given a marwari gujiya shape. It was lovely, but again, super heavy. 

Dal Ka Samosa
Dal ka samosa
Khire ki kachori

The poori and aloo dum were good- damn good, but as I was longing for some unusual stuff here, Even the Parwal Ka Akra was a regular tangy vegetable curry- Frankly, nothing special. 

Aloo Dum
Parwal ka akra

But the next two dishes blew me off, or was it a mixed feel ? I am still confused. The first one is saloni mewa ki khichdi. One spoon inside my mouth and I could figure out I’ve rarely tasted such heavy sweet dish in my life. It was more like our homely mihidana, but heavily laden with rose water and mawa. Not just sweet-quotient-wise, the dish itself was pista laden and that gave it the distinct texture. Taste-wise ? Till two spoonfull, it’s heavenly, and then, your tastebuds tend to die with sweetness. Rather, the Dahi Panifal Ki Khichdi was an interesting one. It was tangy and had the taste of curd and water chestnut gave it some unusual mixed taste. And, I haven’t tasted something like that before. Taste-wise ? This one is damn good. 

Saloni mewa ka khichdi
Dahi paniphal ki khichdi

For other items, Khatte Ka Pakora (besan pakora in sweetened tamarind water) was lovely and fast moving, wherein Maariya was a killer dish. Its basically like a sheherwali version of Rasam. Rich starch water, paired with raw mango and garam masala gave its distinct strong taste. The Dahi gujiya (stuffed with dry fruits) was a regular one and there was a mixed vegetables Bhujiya. 

Khatta ka pakori
Dahi Gujiya
Dahi Gujiya

Chhena Boda from Murshidabad was the final dessert and frankly, me and my family love it. The hard crust and sweet, soft interior is pure heaven. 

Chhena Boda

The pop-up was priced at 500/- per head and considering the effort put behind it, its nothing. Understanding my lack of understanding about the cuisine, the caterer Mrs Neeta Jain and Mrs Shubha Bothra helped me a lot understanding the dishes, along with the admins of the GVF….. Overall, it was a nice dinner and being a hardcore carnivore, I really look forward to such events in future. 

Bon apetit !!!

Comments and critics welcome …

I can be reached at 9903528225 / indrajit.lahiri@ymail.com