While the eastern states of the country flood the streets invoking Durga as she emerges victorious, some southern states call on Saraswati, and the northern and western regions celebrate the victory of Ram over Ravan. But the overarching theme to celebrate the nine days of post-monsoon Navratri is the victory of good over evil, culminating in Vijay Dashami or Dussehra. As the gods change faces from region to region, the manner of celebrations do too. As Bengalis devour delicacies at pandals that mushroom during the puja days, in other parts of the country, wheat, garlic, onions, lentils and legumes, rice, and meat, of any kind, are off the plates.
Restaurants across the Capital have devised menus that cater to the fasting populace’s needs. With major players like Domino’s offering Navratra Pizzas with a base of water-chestnut (singhara) flour served with dessert and crispies made using tapioca pearls (sabudana), stand-alone restaurants too are stepping up to ensure a reasonable footfall.
Latitude, Vivanta by Taj, AnnaMaya, Veda, and Chor Bizzare among others, have re-interpreted the traditional Navratri thali normally consisting of sabudana khichdi, kuttu ke aate ki roti, potato and paneer preparations along with kheer, and have injected, in what is seemingly a banal plate of food, some gourmet spunk. “Normally people make rotis or puris with singhare ka aata but we’ve made the popular street food, raj kachori, with it. With that, we also have arbi ke kebab, which in texture is much like galouti ke kebab but are obviously vegetarian,” says Rajiv Malhotra, Corporate Chef, Chor Bizzare, Bikaner House. The three-course meal at Chor Bizzare (at Rs 1,700 + for two) also includes a shakarkandi-cucumber chaat, raw banana sabzi, a sweet and tangy pumpkin sabzi, and pomegranate and mint raita along with fruit rabdi and a rich pumpkin halwa to end the meal. “Many people eat only a meal a day during the Navratras. We prepared the thali keeping that in mind. It’s wholesome and will keep you full for a long time,” he says.
Even those whose forte is not Indian cuisine have jumped in, proposing a “veggie cleanse”. Olive Bistro, for instance, has worked out a table d’hôte menu (four course meal priced at Rs 1295+) that includes sago pilaf, arancini balls, buckwheat crepes, along with a trio of melons, roasted almonds in a palm sugar dressing, and sweet potato, samak rice and orange brulee for dessert. “We have used local and seasonal vegetables, grains and fruits and played them up with the use of ingredients like timur, which is a mountain berry, or whipped white butter with chives,” says Dhruv Oberoi, Chef, Olive Bar and Kitchen, Olive Qutub.
Asian restaurants, like Guppy, too have curated a menu (at Rs 1600 + for two) for their patrons, who eschew certain foods during the nine-day period. “Taking inspiration from the Sho Jin temples in Japan that only serve vegetarian food, we have created a special vegetarian menu for nine days in which you will find dishes made with marinated vegetables like spinach, sweet potato, seaweed and baby greens. These dishes are served with various sauces, dressings and pickles,” says Vikram Khatri, Chef, Guppy, referring to the sweet potato yakitori, spinach goma dare and Inari sushi on their menu. However, they are careful to not refer to it as a Navratri menu. “More than a Navratri menu, this is just to mark the beginning of the festive season,” he says.