Lavish pandals, gorgeous clay idols, and endless food stalls. Durga Puja is just around the corner, Chef and F&B director Pradipt Sinha tells us why the festival is so special to him.
The festive fever seems to have rubbed off on us too, and all that we can think about right now is food, food and, well, more food. From October 11 onwards, Bengalis around the country will be celebrating Durga Puja. The festival is renowned for its large-scale celebrations. Think Lavish pandals, gorgeous clay idols, and endless food stalls. Director of Food and Beverage and Chef Pradipt Sinha from Crowne Plaza, New Delhi Okhla took us down his memory lane and spoke to us about his fond memories of the festival and how he has tried to imbibe the same in the new festive menu of Crowne Plaza Okhla New Delhi. Additionally, he also told us about the significance of Bhoge’r Khichuri and everything that he likes to relish in pandals. Excerpts from the interview.
1. Tell us about the new festive menu.
Durga Pujo festivities are incomplete without authentic delicacies, quintessential Pandal hopping and the vibrant cultural traditions of Bengal. With Pandal celebrations going low key for yet another year, we decided to curate an experiential culinary event for our patrons so that they experience the true joy of the festival.
We have specially invited award-winning Chef Rangonath Mukerjee from Kolkata who has helped bring out the soul and aunthenticity of this dishes with generous use of mustard paste, panch phoran, gondhoraj lebu, poppy seeds and mustard oil and other staple Bengali ingredients . We have worked together to curate the menu of the ‘Bong Connection’ food festival at Edesia. We will be serving 75+ classic Bengali dishes rotational from 9th October to 15th October 2021 at Edesia. My favourite items on the menu are Bhapa Ilish, Chingri Malai Curry, Kosha Mangsho, Dhokar Dalna, Aloo Posto and Chanar Dalna. You can also see me loitering around the live Puchka, Bhaja, Kathi Roll, Chop, Cutlet & Mishti stations.
2. What are your memories of Durga Puja, the foods you have cherished the most.
For any Bengali household, Durga Pujo is the biggest celebration of the year. I remember wearing new clothes every day and accompanying my parents to various Pandals. My eyes used to gleam looking at the beautiful pandals followed by meet & greet with the loved ones. We didn’t even cook at home during those four days as we looked forward to feast at the food stalls.
3. Bengalis love to feast during Durga Puja. What foods you would encourage people who haven't been to a Pandal to try in a typical Pandal?
First of all, give your diet some break and allow some cheat days so that you can truly enjoy all delectable food in the festive spirit. Right from Bhog’er Khichuri to bhajas, from rasgullas to luchi aloo dum, there are many dishes to binge on.
The sweet, tangy, sour taste of Puchkas is simply irresistible and remains one of the most integral parts of my feasting. Another thing that I love is Mutton Chops- minced mutton rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried is my favourite dish. Trust me, and you will forget any other snack once you try Mutton Chops. Another dish that is my Pujo essential is Kolkata style Biryani. Finally, after all the lovely food, I make sure to conclude my meal with the classic Sondesh. These are a few Pujo-special dishes I would most certainly recommend.
4. Why do you think Khichdi take centre stage in the Bhog preparation?
In the eastern part of India, autumn is the time of golden harvest translating into happy hearts and prosperity. Going by the agrarian calendar, we celebrate ‘Nabanna Utsab’, thanksgiving for new rice. The one-pot dish of humble Khichdi served as Bhog symbolizes veneration for the newly harvested rice and grain.
5. The easiest pandal-special dish to recreate at home would be?
That would be Kathi Rolls and Vegetable Chops, as they hardly take any time.
6. A recent dish you cooked that really stayed with you
You know that has to be the Dhokar Dalna. I have made it several times before, but I have become an even bigger fan now. It is said that the dish was concieved by the widows of Bengal who were forbidden to eat non-vegetarian food. So ‘Dhokar’ loosely translates to a kind of illusion or misdirection. The dish comprises cakes made of chana dal that is cooked in a spicy, tomato-based gravy. The texture of the cakes are such that it will fill the void of any ‘meat’.
7. Can you share the recipe with us