It’d been a beautiful journey so far with the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ and it wasn’t yet over for us yet. We headed out from Bhopal to Dhar which is about 70 Kms from Indore. With a quick pit-stop on the Indore Highway for lunch, it wasn’t until evening that we were welcomed in the Bada Bangla in Dhar. Dhar as a city was beautiful with the it’s picturesque lakes and barren lands surrounded with trees. As I wandered to the top of the Dhar Fort to watch the sun setting over the city, I could only marvel at the architectural might the Pawars had.
We were welcomed at the Bada Bangla which is still being restored. The vast cultural history that adorned the Bada Bangla was astounding. From books in the library from as early as the 18th century to the numerous stuffed tigers spread across the bungalow. There was also a detailed mini structure of the Mandu Kingdom in the lawns.
The evening was eventful as we were received by Maharaja of Dhar, Hemendra Singh Rao Pawar and Maharani Shailaraje Pawar at their home. Now for a bit of insight into the culinary history of Dhar which takes it’s influence from the Konkan Maratha style of cooking. The cuisine gives a whole lot of priority to homemade masalas bringing along a fusion of north and south style of Marathas. All of the dishes prepared that night dates back to the Maharaja’s grandmothers. She realized that these royal and historical recipes would soon be forgotten hence she hand wrote all the recipes and handed over these copies to all her three daughters and two daughter-in-laws.
The starters for the night Bheja Kachori and Sawal Machli ke Kebab. The Bheja Kahori especially were outstanding. A crisp brown outer covering with soft and deliciously spiced brains, this was a snack worth reaching out for another. I really liked the fresh green chutney which was served alongside which goes on to play a major role later.
The dining room had been set as per Indian traditions. The seating was on the floor with the silver plates placed on a higher stool to enable proper eating. The Maharaja was personally there to supervise as we washed our hands over a bowl covered in Ashoka leaves. The food served at Dhar is one that I’ve had innumerable times in Maharashtra but better. Arranged along the thali were Aloo ki Bhaji, Pathawadi ki Rassa, Hari Mirch ki Amtii and Kakdi Raita.
These are all traditional Konkan food which are part of most Maharashtrian homes. But it’s to the hara chutney (Green Chutney) that I had mentioned earlier that I shall now elaborate on. The same chutney was used in marination of the Pomfret fish which was absolutely divine. As Shrimant Jaishree Raje Deokar, the Maharaja’s sister informed us that the fish goes through a double marination and then is grilled in between to soak in all of the flavors. The other fish that night on our plate was the Laal Masale ki Surmai, a simple preparation of the seer fish.
A Konkan thali is incomplete without the Sol Kadi made from kokum and coconut milk, a perfect respite from the heat. We ended the meal with some classic desserts featuring the Puran Poli, Rave ke Sheera and Chawal ki Kheer.
That night after the lovely meal we headed onwards to Mandavgad, a now ruined city which has been classified a UNESCO world heritage city. But more on that in another blogpost. The culinary history we got to discover through the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ was spell-binding. From endless discussions on Indian Family History, rides among the ruins of erstwhile kingdoms and road trips filled with knowledge worth a lifetime. These are memories worth treasuring.
Other Posts of ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ are as below: