The Bangalore Heat is really something this year. I see that we have crossed all the other cities by a good margin of temperature already. I am hoping for early rains, but let’s see about that. After my brief stint in Hanoi, Vietnam – which I am yet to write about by the way, the week was already off to a hectic start. But when Upasna reached out to me about Hilton Bangalore, hosting the Great Indian Coastal Food Festival – I decided to wage war on weather and traffic, and headed out on Wednesday to The Ministry of Food. The venue was already buzzing with people and I could see food EVERYwhere when we reached. And the spread – expansive as it was – covered food from Kerala, Mangalore, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu and more!
A quick tour of the buffet made me realize that there was a more to it than just sea food, much to my joy! It was quite different from usual perception of coastal food. I am from Bengal myself, and love Kerala and Mangalorean food. And no, contrary to popular belief it’s not all sea food. Yes, that makes up an integral part of the menu, but there are nuances to the cuisine of each of the region on the coastal belt – which is usually left unexplored. The truly impressive part of this buffet was not just it’s spread, or lavish fresh catches. It was the fact that these nuances were researched, explored and valiantly presented in this buffet.
Our meal started with Pokhal Bhaat and fried fish and prawns. Pokhal Bhaat is a dish native to Odisha, though we do eat variants of this in Bengal and Assam too. And it’s perfect for the hot weather – watery and slightly sour, as we had this with the karwari prawns and crunchy fried fish. Chef Amit meanwhile, joined us briefly to share his recommendations on the menu, and we then moved on to try some of the fish from the live counters. Now there’s a picture below, but you got to visualize this – a cart loaded with a variety of fish from Salmon, Pomfret, Red Snapper, King Fish and a LOT more – all ready to be picked and marinated and prepared by the team of chefs in the live kitchen behind. The fresh catch were mainly just garnished a bit after frying on the pan, and that’s the best way to have these.
From the buffet, the Cochin Prawn Salad was really nicely presented – Prawn, raw mango chutney in a banana stem. The mutton sukka and Malabar mutton biryani were both excellent. The meat deliciously cooked in the sukka, with spicy masala clinging on to the mutton. The biryani was flavorful, the meat soft and well cooked. The crab xacutti was a personal favorite – had that with steamed rice – just delicious! There were quite a few simple Bengali vegetarian sabjis – quite nice as well!
I know I’ve written a lot, and my personal note of limiting words is already violated twice over. In desserts we tried the Indian varieties, and the kasi halwa (white pumpkin) was quite simple yet tasty. But the aam ras was definitely the cake here! We downed a couple of those, served in the small clay pots. This was one of the best food festivals, well curated and the tastes kept as authentic as possible. For guests who prefer to not have coastal food, there was a variety of continental and oriental options. And a lot of vegetarian food as well. Priced at 1399++, this food festival is on until 30th April.