Indian festivals are akin to a big-budget Bollywood production there is music and dance,there are elaborate outfits and the mood is overwhelmingly festive and joyous. However,where the star of a Bollywood film may be a Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan,the real star in any Indian festival is food. Dussehra is no different. In fact,all across the city,pandals are setting up stalls featuring restaurants and caterers from Pune and Mumbai.
Every year,around this time,the smell of incense and oil lamps at the pandals mingle with the smoky scent of fritters,samosas and other snacks being fried at the numerous food stalls lining the venue. As rolls,egg-mughlais,chops and other popular items sizzle on the ‘tawa’ at these stalls,who can resist the temptation?
The popularity of these food stalls is evident from the long queues that can be spotted outside each of them,as the caterers hurry to finish orders. Pandal committees and associations at larger puja pandals in the city have responded by increasing the number of stalls to meet the rising demand.
At the pandal near Nadanik Art Gallery in Koregaon Park,restaurateurs have come all the way from Mumbai to add zest to the festivities. There will be all kinds of Bengali food stalls,of which six are from Mumbai this year. They will have typically Bengali food like kosha mangsho,fish fry,mustard hilsa,mocha chap and chop, says J.P. Banerjee,president of the pandal committee. The pandal will also feature other stalls by well known chains such as Yo China,Faasos and Rajdhani. There will be typical vegetarian fare for Jains and Brahmins and there will also be rice-curry,biryani and tandoor food, he adds. While last year the pandal had 10 stalls,this year the organisers have added five additonal stalls.
At the immensely popular pandal at Congress Bhavan in Deccan,organised by Bangiya Sanskriti Samsad,popular stalls that appear regularly are Radhika Restaurant,Deep,Supriya Caterers and chains like Faasos. Adip Roy,president of the committee says,Every year the number of devotees coming to pandal is increasing. Accordingly,the committee also plans to increase the number of stalls and the different types of food being offered.
Supriya Dasgupta,owner of Supriya Caterers says,”Customers get chance to taste specialty Bengali dishes during this season.”
At Kali Badi,stalls offer vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes galore. “This time there are food stalls with fish curry,chicken roll,egg roll,non-veg chops and for vegetarians there is dosa,aloo puri,dum aloo and other such dishes, says Sudhir Sen Gupta,secretary of the committee.
Devotees also have the option of adding a sweet note to their meals with plenty of dessert options at the pandals. Bengali sweets such as rasgulla,sandesh,cham-cham and other traditional Indian sweets like gulab jamun and jalebis are offered at several stalls. There will also be various stalls with soft drinks and ice-cream,” he adds.