"The Cuisine of the Navaithas" at the Cubbon Pavilion at ITC Gardenia

As a part of their ‘Kitchens of India’ theme, ITC Gardenia introduced the "The Cuisine of the Navaithas" - a culinary treat whose origins date back to the time of Tipu Sultan. A quick history lesson before we get into what was offered on fare; the Navaitha Muslims are an Urdu speaking community from Gingee who were brought to fill the barracks of the British army in the war against Tipu Sultan.  They chose to stay back and resided in what we now know as Shivajinagar in Bengaluru. The flavours that this community introduced are an integral part of the city’s food culture.

We began the evening with a plate of Fried Chicken Kabab. Those familiar with Bengaluru would recognize this particular taste, especially from a lot of smaller outlets in the city. The kabab was spot –on in terms of spiciness and was just lightly over-fried to give it a familiar crunch. We also tried the Brain Tawa Masala. I’m not the biggest fan of brain ( I know some of you just went,” That’s evident since you hardly use what you already have!”), this dish didn’t do much to win me over. The texture was rather mushy unlike some of the other variants I’ve had elsewhere which tend to have the consistency of scrambled eggs. I guess we’ll have to check with Dr.Hannibal Lector on what’s the ideal consistency. The Tala Macchi was not too bad either. Among the vegetarian appetizers, I tried the Jimikand ke Kabab. While the taste was good, the initial attack of ghee was a tad unpleasant.

Chicken Kabab

Brain Tawa Masala

Tala Macchi

Jimikand Ke kabab

Next up was one of the stars of the meal – the Paya Khamiri. The broth in this paya soup had oodles of flavour that hit all the right notes with the pepper taste being just a tad more prominent than the other flavours. The meat on the bone was cooked to perfection; it came off the bone with just a spoon and easily melted in my mouth. Two thumbs up for this beautiful dish.

Paya Khamiri

The main-course was spread over twelve vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. First the not-so-good stuff before I get into what really caught my attention. Being a big fan of prawn, I started off with the Palak Prawn. I wasn’t pleased with the overall flavour and felt uncomfortable with the texture of the prawns which I thought was inconsistent. The Seen Ghosht was a familiar mildly spicy taste that I’ve had before but did not pack the punch I was expecting. One dish that I did enjoy, but had mixed responses across the table was the Mahi Sukha. This fried fish was cooked very well and the outer layer held the right amount of crunch. With a dash of lemon, the citrus flavour with the spiciness of the outer layer was tasty. Others however said that there was no spice on their fish. I guess I got lucky. The Dum ki Tangdi was one of the highlights among the non-vegetarian dishes for me. The chicken leg was cooked perfectly, as was the gravy which tasted almost like a cashew-based gravy but was not.

Mahi Sukha

Palak Prawn and Seen Ghosht

Dum ki Tangdi

The vegetarian section consisted of Tamatar ka dalcha, Besan wale paneer, Soppu saagu, Denta Soppu and other dishes, many of which are quite common to Bengaluru today. Good tastes, but nothing that caught my attention and made me go ‘Oh Wow’. But standing tall above all, was one particular dish that joined the paya on the winner’s podium. This dish was the Soya Lauki. On a regular day, I wouldn’t touch lauki with a ten foot pole. But the flavours that went into this dish muted the taste of the dreaded vegetable and infused some crunch into the same. The main-course ended with some Gosht Timatar biryani. The rice had excellent flavours and had the right amount of spice which was consistent through the meat and the rice. Tender meat and great flavour put this dish on the winner’s podium to complete my top three dishes from the evening.

Soya Lauki

Ghosht Timatar Biryani

I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of Indian desserts (yes yes…food snob and all that), so I had a few bites of what was on the spread. One dessert that did have a very interesting flavour was the Ginger Cream Rossagulla. While I was expecting the cream on top to have a ginger flavour,  it turned out that the juice of the rossagulla held a strong ginger flavour that almost killed the sugary taste of the actual dish. I’m still at odds as to whether this was ethically the right thing to do to an Indian classic like the rossagulla. 

Ginger Cream Rossagulla

Final verdict, I really enjoyed the concept of the entire festival. Food is probably one of the greatest history books one can ever indulge themselves in as it says a lot about the culture of a place. A lot of the dishes offered familiar tastes to someone like me who has been in the city for two decades. My top three picks from the fare would be  the Gosht Timatar biryani,the Soya Lauki and the Paya Khamiri, in ascending order.