Put heritage on the menu


NEW DELHI: The Shivalik despise us. The Ganges flows peacefully in front of the house. An ancient banyan tree stands in the courtyard of Pilibhit House, a 150-year-old haveli next to the river, and under its shade preparations are underway for a high tea party.
On the menu, traditional specialties such as Haridwar’s famous bade kanji and kachori, as well as the nifty, round and deftly folded flower-shaped chandrakala filled with dried melon candies and nuts. It is a mithai for which the Thanda Kuan area of ​​Haridwar was famous.
But now tourists, who increasingly come for leisure rather than religious reasons, can sample these delicacies without entering the crowded markets. Old family houses on the Ganges converted into boutique hotels like this one not only revive the leisure life of the past, but also the taste of local sweets and snacks.
At Pilibhit House, for example, Chief Bhanu Shekhawat says he learned how to make traditional chaat articles in local shops and that he subcontracts the making of the highly specialized chandrakala to a local halwai, but then be assured that high quality ingredients are used. He also put elusive drinks on the menu like a Buransh (rhododendron flower) sorbet and Baal mithai synonymous with the Garhwal and Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand; the ancient city-temple being a gateway city to the mountains.
In the post-pandemic world, domestic travelers want to explore authentic experiences such as heritage stays and food from different parts of India.
At Bari Kothi, a lovingly restored 250-year-old mansion from a Shehwali Jain family in Azimganj, Murshidabad, a big draw is the unique thali with lesser-known specialties such as the kacche aam ki kheer that the community was known for. Vegetarian cuisine is a mix of Marwari and Bengali influences and was almost gone until it was revived by a few enterprising members of the community.
Sometimes old houses have been restored not just for a living experience, but to capture the meals of the past. In Goa, Anisha Hassan’s elegant 150-year-old home is full of black and white photos of her family with her mixed Hyderabadi and Goa roots. It was the home of his mother and grandmother. Its beautiful garden, colorful walls and personal effects still tell stories of family warmth.
Hassan has transformed the house into a restaurant and prepares dishes for which his family was known. Saligao Stories is located in a quiet, non-touristy area and serves almost forgotten Hyderabadi and Goan dishes like chakoli (a delicacy from Hyderabadi, where wheat discs are cooked with mutton in a tomato sauce), the mamish (a frothy milk drink with rose), dedoz de dama (a marzipan dessert that looks like a lady’s finger!). “Customers are excited to try these old family recipes, as many now come to Goa looking for heritage experiences,” Hassan said.
A distinct travel preference seems to be for an older slice of life and small groups of friends and families are now choosing hotels and restaurants that offer them this. “For her fortieth birthday, a close friend recently took eight of us to the Ahilya Fort hotel owned by the royal family of Holkar, and the highlight was a white themed dinner,” said Chef Chiquita Gulati of the Delhi spice market, which recently participated in this Maheshwar vacation.
All-white moonlit dinners are a throwback to chandni dinners hosted by Mughals and later by other members of the royal family, before independence where all dishes served would be white, guests would wear white and the meal was laid out on white sheets. against white bolsters. A similar chandani or sufiana dinner with old Rajput specialties such as maas safed is also offered by Narendra Bhawan, Bikaner, located by a lake a few kilometers from the city. As the moonlight makes patterns on the water and the candles twinkle on the tables, it feels like being transported to the past.


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