This Food Fest In Vizag Celebrates International Year Of Millet
Image Credit: Millet food festival, Image By: Ranita Ray

India, the world's largest producer of millets, has a rich cuisine around different millets. But somewhere in between, these healthy cereal grains had lost their prominence. On a positive note, there is a renewed interest in them. 2023 has been declared the International Year of Millets, which has prompted hospitality and F& B sectors across India to design and host food fests around this theme. Joining the bandwagon Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach has launched 'Savor Your Health & Flavour with the Millet Food Festival'. This dinner-only buffet food fest is hosted at the property's Square. 

When I got the invite, I was curious to know how creative the chefs have gone to create millet-based culinary fares and what kind of innovation there will be on the spread. With my expectations and anticipations, I reached the venue. What was welcoming was the meticulous efforts that have been taken to create awareness about millets. Pop-up boards with in-depth information about different types of millets, their health benefits, the largest consumer Indian state, the millet production map of India and so on are placed strategically. It was indeed impressive. 

An informative board mentioning about millets, Image By: Ranita Ray

The spread for this food fest is using organic millet from different geographical locations within India, such as amaranth, buckwheat, finger millet, foxtail millet, pearl millet, sorghum and many more. As the knowledge dawned upon me, my stomach started growling, indicating, 'it's time to feast'! The courteous staff guided me towards the buffet spread, which had nearly 50 items. It had a mix of Indian, local, oriental, Italian and Asian cuisine. I was told the menu isn't fixed but goes on a rotational cycle. 

"Instead of making an out-out millet-based spread, we have included a few dishes by tweaking the original base with millets. The idea is to introduce the diners to millet eating gradually and pleasantly, instead of making it overwhelming," informed Anish Rajan, F& B Manager, Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach and Bheemli Resort.

Ragi non vegetarian noodles

Skipping the non-millet grubs, I chose to settle for the ones containing different types of millet. Three live counters were serving millet-based pasta, noodles and pizza. I begin my dinner with ragi millet fettuccini pasta in white sauce. There wasn't a moment when I felt any compromise on the taste. In fact, it was light on my stomach. Thanks to no refined flour. 

Millet pasta live counter at Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach

"We have also made the pizza bases with various types of millets. They are easy to digest and taste as good as regular pizza. The patrons can tweak them according to their taste preferences. There are both veg and non-veg options," mentioned Chef Srikanth. 

Soba noodles live counter

The next item to try was the live counter of millet soba noodles. Although I am not a very noodles person, this interesting take was worth a try. I went for ragi soba noodles with oodles of vegetables and chicken and egg. I must admit it was almost zero greasy, and the flavours of each ingredient were evident without one overpowering the other. It can be a perfect alternative to regular noodles made with refined flour, which isn't good for health.

Ragi fettuccini pasta

I couldn't agree more with Rahul Bhale, Executive Chef, Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach, Novotel Vijayawada Varun, who said that from savoury to sweet, there are so many creative possibilities with millet.

Bajra sacher torte

It was time to sample something sweet, and the myriad choices left me perplexed. "We have tried to give the most favourite desserts a healthy tweak by replacing certain ingredients with millet. Cakes, brownies, cheesecakes, muffins, and pastries can be made with millet," shared Pastry Chef Amitabh Pal. And on his recommendation, I picked up bajra carrot cake, quinoa blueberry cheesecake, jowar chocolate brownie, foxtail Mahalabia (an Arabian dish), bajra sacher torte, ragi frozen yoghurt. I know it sounds insane and sinful, but I couldn't resist such a delicious spread. 

While the frozen ragi yoghurt was refreshing, the bajra carrot cake floored me with its subtle taste and granular texture. The sugar-free foxtail Mahalabia reminded me of sago or tapioca pearl kheer. Likewise, the cheesecake was heavenly, creamy and yummy. I couldn't decide which was the winner. Millet is magical; that's what my tummy, taste buds and satisfied soul uttered. All it needs is some dedicated creativity and passion.

Millet based brownie, carrot cake, cheesecake and mahalabia

To make a positive shift in lifestyle by switching to healthy eating habits with millet, Vizagites must visit this millet food festival. There is a lot to learn and get inspired to embrace these ancient grains and celebrate the International Year of Millet in the true sense. 

Date: 13th January – 22nd January 2023

Venue: The Square, Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach, Dr NTR Beach Rd, Krishna Nagar, Maharani Peta

Time: 7:30 pm onwards

Price: INR 1799 per person