The beginning of the season of harvests, heralded by Sun’s journey into the Capricorn constellation, is pompously celebrated across India through centuries-old rituals and culinary traditions. This auspicious day is known as Makar Sankranti in the Southern and Northern states, Poush Sankranti in Bengal, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Maghi in Punjab, and Bhogali Bihu in Assam. Chef Shashidhar Vijapure, the new Head Chef at the Park Hyatt’s The Dining Room, has created a special three-day festival to showcase the traditional festive meals from some of these states.
Last week, I was invited by the hotel to a media preview session. The festive menu is being offered as a sumptuous pre-plated vegetarian Thali. The Thali features a dozen dishes spanning three courses. Among the starters, the soft and delicately spiced Thayir Vadai (Dahi Vada) and the vibrant Paneer Til Podi made a mark. The gravies on offer displayed an impressive diversity in flavours and techniques. I began with Surti Undhiyu and Puri from Gujarat and finished off with Potato Kara Kari, Beerakaya Pappu, and rice. However, the dish that got everyone talking was robust Sarson ka Saag and Makki di Roti. The sweet finishing notes were lent by the trio of Kobbari Barfi (Coconut Barfi), Khus Khus Payasam, and Holige with Badam Milk.
The Sankranti Thali by Chef Vijapure showcases dishes from various states including Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, and Gujarat. Based on the feedback provided during the season, more dishes will be included in the Thali during the actual festival. Expect to see traditional preparations like Pongal, Pulihora, and Bajre ki Khichadi. The only region not represented in the thali is the Eastern part of the country; I would have loved to see some Pithe-Puli from Bengal. The Sankranti Thali has been priced at Rs. 1300 (plus taxes) for lunch and Rs. 1500 (plus taxes) for dinner, and will be available between 12th and 14th of January. If you can get past the sticker shock, you’ll be in for a rustic yet riveting meal.