Odia Food Festival at Sheraton Hyderabad

The regular readers of this blog are familiar with my love for regional cuisines of India. There are many states serving lots of delectable food, but these tend to be ignored in favour of Bengali, Punjabi, Goan and some other cuisines which are marketed well. The Odia cuisine has always surprised me with its variations.


Even within the state, the Cuttack, Bhubaneshwar and Puri belt tends to hog the limelight as far as the dishes are concerned. For me too, my knowledge base is fairly restricted to the food from this area only. So when Executive Chef Amit Dash of Sheraton Hotel Hyderabad was going around the state trying out the delicacies from Sambalpur to Baripada, I wanted to meet him on his return to Hyderabad and understand more about the food there. However, he surprised us by curating an Odia Food Festival at Feast, the all-day dining restaurant at Sheraton, almost immediately on his return.


The food festival is part of the buffet, which also has a few other dishes for the in-house guests.  Quite a few live counters which had been set up. My attention was immediately drawn to some bamboo stems being roasted in the kitchen. The famed Bansa Pora Kukkuda from the tribal belt was being prepared there.


The live counters were dishing out other delicacies too. Muri Mansha was a puffed rice snack with spicy boneless mutton in it. Muri mixtures are popular all over the country, examples being bhel puri in Mumbai, jhal muri in Kolkata and muntha masala in Vizag. However, I had not come across the mix with non-veg in it. The delicious snack is from Baripada, and eastern district bordering Bengal and Bihar.


The very popular Dahi Bara Alu Dam was making its presence felt in another counter. Kanji Vada had a vada in a light soup, which is again a popular Odia dish. Then there was a Black Chana Chaat, very similar to the Bengali version. Chaul Bara (rice flour dumplings) was served with some delicious spicy chutney.  And finally, there was Ghughuni, the popular Odia snack which can be eaten in a standalone mode as well as added in other snacks.

Dalma

One of the signature dishes of the Odia cuisine is the Pakhala Bhata platter, essentially a range of vegetable and fish preparations served with overnight fermented rice with sour card and light seasoning in it. The dish was made special by the range of chachhadis and other dishes which were served with it.  Badi Chura or powdered lentil dumplings with minimal add-ons was one of the highlights of the accompaniments, Chungri Checha was the other. Mashed potato (Alu Chakata) and Fried Rohu Fish also went well with the rice. Pakhala combo is a complete meal by itself, and I could have done my entire meal with it. However, I wanted to taste the other delicacies, so kept myself in the tasting mode only.

Acharas from Berhampore

A few more counters were pretty impressive too. There was a counter serving a range of Acharas from Berhampur area along with select local papads. The achars which I had with my meal were simply delicious, the Lanka Achara and Bara Koli Achara deserve a mention here. There were quite a few acharas based on mango or ambula.

Lingaraj Lassi

A lassi counter was serving lassis with the same recipe as Lingaraj Lassi Bhubaneshwar. I was told that the place is so famous that it sells about five thousand glasses a day. This recipe of lassi has Bournvita in it.

Chilika Crab

The Bansha Poda Kukuda was served at this point. The semi-dry chicken was prepared in a nice green chilli based masala and tasted quite different from the Aruku Valley version.


The vegetarian main courses included Bhindi Besara (the mustard based Odia preparation), Dalma (a delectable combo of dal and vegetables which Odisha is known for), Potolo Rassa (pointed gourd dish) and Baigana Poda (eggplant is one of my favourite veggies). Kanika, the rice dish which is known as a highlight of Lord Jagannath’s prasad also was available.

Buna Mangsha

The pick of the non-vegetarian dishes was Buna Mangsha. Buna means “junglee” in Odisha and this was a very tasty mutton curry cooked with minimum spices. The Kukkuda Kassa was a semi-dry sautéed dish which deserves a mention too. Then there were some delicious Chilika Kakada Curry, from the region which produces the best crabs in the country. The onion based gravy was sublime with steamed rice.



Finally, the desserts. I go light on sweets as I am not a huge fan, and also due to the fact that I have an issue with blood sugar. However, seeing the huge spread I could not control myself today. The Chhena Podo or the local Odia cheesecake was a tad too dry. However, I loved the Mishti Doi with Nolen gur. The Pahala Rasgolla, Chhena Jhilli, Chena Gaja and Muri Moya were the other dishes of note.


There was also a pitha counter. Odisha is known for its variety of pithas. This had a huge collection, ranging from Chakuli, Manda and Chitau pithas.



I would definitely recommend this festival as it gives quite a comprehensive idea about the diversity of the Odia cuisine. My Odia friends who were with me found the dishes authentic too. The festival is on till 24th June at a price of Rs 1450 plus taxes.

Location:

Feast
Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel
ISB Road, Financial District
Gachibowli, Hyderabad
Telephone: 49251111

Disclaimer: The review is based on an invite from the restaurant



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