Temple cuisine or temple food has always been pretty enchanting due to its taste, unique aroma and of course the faith that one holds. Prasad the word in Hindi literally translates to favour, grace or offering. Also referred as called Naivedyam or Naivedya the term has always been associated with temples and worship. The food that it prepared in the temples is considered to be sacred and supposed to be made with strict rules, but over the period of time there has been a slow transformation and it’s seen that this sacred food has reached the five star table and people are happily embracing it. 

Chef Anuj Kapoor at Varr- ‘HOLYWATER by Ganga Kinare’ has developed and executed a whole menu that’s based in prasadham concept says “At VARR, we take you on a culinary pilgrimage of the best known prasadams from temples across the country. You relish the thalis that has been inspired by Gurudwaras across North India, the Himalayan Char Dhams, Brijbhoomi, Sri Padmanabha Swami, Thiruvananthapuram; Akshhardham Temple of Vadtal, Gujarat, to Jagannath Temple Puri, to name a few. All our preparations use pure Desi Ghee infused with immunity boosting Ayurvedic herbs and spices such as triphala, holy basil (tulsi), curry leaves (kadi patta), gooseberry (amla), turmeric, cinnamon, black peppercorns, honey, bay leaves etc.”

We need to remember that these meals are not way ordinary and what sets them apart is the taste, which is mostly hard to replicate. Living in an era when global traveller are staying in hotels and exploring the country it absolutely makes sense to give them a taste and glimpse of these curated temple foods.

Sujat Dehury, Odia food curator who stays in Ahmedabad and did her Cuisine of the God’s festival at Double Tree adds “It is extremely challenging to replicate a Mahaprasad thali in a five start kitchen as the cooking techniques practiced in Puri Jagannath temple cant be replicated. So, I decided to take up the challenge and curated a menu where the diner gets to experience every aspect of a fine Indian meal while keeping the essence of temple food intact. I prepared spices separately for each dish as the Puri Jagannath temple food has a lot of detailing. Thankfully I managed an Odia vendor went out of his way to supply me vegetables and greens I was looking for. Practically one can never do justice to Temple food as it needs much care and attention where you are meditative and let the food slow cook. I made 21 dishes in the thali and included the main dishes from the Puri Jagannath temple's Anna Mahaprasad one gets to eat during lunch time, apart from the pithas, meethaa, fritters, drinks and relishes. I looked a little beyond just Puri Jagannath temple. So, I included Ramrochak Tarkari which is from the Baripada Jagannath temple. 

I also included fruit relishes using pineapple, dates, coconut, mango etc to highlight sattvik Odia food cooked in temples on special occassions. In desserts, I kept kheeri, Rasabali. In the bread section, there was chitou pitha ( coconut flavoured rice pancake), Podapitha ( considered Lord Jagannath's favourite), Enduri pitha ( Steamed rice-lentil cakes with coconut jaggery). There was Kaanika (sweet aromatic rice, meetha daali, mahura, saga, variety of relishes, fritters like coconut patties, aka Nadia bara, Goti Potala ( stuffed pointed gourd)”

One of the common factor about all Prasad is that it’s all about nourishing not only body but also the mind. Naturally this satvik food then is all devoid of onion and garlic, with a bare minimum of spices is the preferred choice.

Chef Rekha Raghwan who recently did her Onam Sadhya pop-up in the capital on sharing her views says “Sadhya is a collection of 26-28 dishes including chutneys, papad and ghee originating from Kerala for more than 1000 years. It’s the food that is offered to Gods. Sadhya has a very specific preparation process which demands high quality ingredients and a methodical way of cooking. The Sadhya menu and process of serving food cannot be changed. I ensured to maintain the originality of the recipes to give people the authentic taste. I feel Sadhya is a simple food but at the same time requires practice and percussion to cook. If the recipes are followed correctly without any deviation it would be a great experience for people to have it in a five star hotel. Also based on the feedback received from customers I can say we were successful in bringing temple food to five star tables.”

Shaping the culinary landscape Temple food has always been a window to heritage and civilization th existed telling about food habits and cooking techniques. Also the scale at which they are cooked si massive. Adding to the same, Prakruti Jain, Marketing Manager, Le Meridien Gurgaon on why the hotel was open to the idea confirms “With the pandemic hitting the world, we were wanting to empower individuals, so we reached out to home chefs and gave them a platform to showcase their skills to the rest of the world. This provided a larger platform for these home chefs, allowing them to showcase authentic cuisines. Our Sadhya event featured a South Indian home chef and our goal was to provide our guests with classic southern foods, as in today’s world of fusion people have forgotten authentic flavours. Post the reponse for Sadya we also did a Kashmiriyat event in September that showcased authentic Kashmiri Pandit food curated by a lady chef all the way from Kashmir, providing her with a platform to demonstrate her native cuisine with correct ingredients procured from Kashmir”

Not to miss that chef’s to take much care and concern when it comes to replicating the temple dishes in a gourmet table. From well done research to following cooking methods they leave no stone unturned.