How many Bohra’s do you know? If you are a Mumbaikar, that number might run into the late single digits, but in Bangalore it would be a rarity. I have one Bohra friend and I’m still waiting for him to get married so that I can sample a Bohri Dawat. I know that’s very shallow, but I need to stay honest! Luckily for me and you – Cubbon Pavilion brings this cuisine that is relished in elite circles to us, this Ramzaan season. The fabulous Bohri Thaal makes its appearance thanks to Chef Zohair, who is from the Bohra community and has personally designed the menu to mirror feasts served at his house.
Bohra Muslims originated from Yemen and the affluent trading community has made Gujarat it’s home. The cuisine is therefore an amalgamation of the cultures and flavours of Yemen, Gujarat and to a certain extent Mughal influences as well. The Bohra’s believe that “The family that eats together, stays together” and there arises a distinct feature of the Bohra meal – a Community Platter called the Thaal.
The Thaal is large enough to accommodate atleast 8 people seated around it and the items in the Thaal are arranged in concentric circles alternating with Mithaas (sweets) and Kharaas (savoury items). It is customary for everyone to wash their hands before and after a meal and a beautiful jug called the Chelamchi Lota is used for that purpose. The meal always begins with a pinch of salt in a little container that is offered to everyone, generally by the youngest member of the dining party. Then the actual feasting begins! Always with Mithaas first, followed by a course of Khaaras and ending with Mithaas and Paan. The Bohri meal is an indulgence and it is a matter of pride for the community to be able to hold strong this tradition after many centuries. It helps of course, that the community is one of the wealthiest in India and that each home has a personal Khansama whose sole duty is to lay out this generous spread.
For us lesser mortals – we can experience this fabulous Thaal at ITC Cubbon Pavillion from the 23rd of June to the 2nd of July for dinner. While most of us food aficionados will jump at the opportunity of eating from the platter, logistics (and sharing concerns) make it impossible to offer the Community Thaal to smaller groups. So while the beautiful Community Thaal will be on display every evening at the restaurant, diners will need to be content with a Mini Thaal served course by course at your table.
Now don’t let the word ‘Mini Thaal’ fool you. The courses are still as extensive and unless you have a massive appetite (and sweet tooth) you are not leaving the premises without being stuffed like a nice spring chicken! The menu will change daily for the course of the festival, to offer patrons a chance to experience different dishes from this cuisine. Some noteworthy preparations to keep an eye out for are the Kharek (rose syrup soaked dry dates stuffed with khoya, pistachio and almonds), the famous Chicken Cream Tikka (crumb fried patty of creamy chicken mince), Nariyal Kebab (tender potato parcels with a coconut filling) and the fabulous Mango Malai (a summer sweet with mango, malai and khoya). The main Khaaras section could regale you with Patrel Gohst (mutton with colacasia leaves rolled in Gram flour), a lasagna like Lagan-y-Seekh (baked casserole of minced mutton topped with eggs) and the delectable Kichada (a haleem like preparation with broken wheat and minced meat cooked to a paste).
The signature Bohra Gosht Biryani is made with aged basmati rice and select spices that coat the lamb and potatoes and garnished with deep fried onion slices called Birista. This one needs to be eaten with the famed Bhuna Baingan Raita, that takes it to a whole new level of deliciousness.
After this you might be ready to call it a night, but the Bohra meal still needs to end with a round of Mithaas! The very rich Khaja (layered flaky pastry stuffed with Mava and dry fruits) could be offered or the silky Sheer Khurma (vermicelli with dates and nuts in sweetened milk) might be called to end the show. Oh wait – there’s still the signature Bohri Paan Goli with dessicated coconut and Rose Syrup! Yes, we’re finally done.
This is probably one those rare occasions where there’s a gap in the matrix and we’re offered a peek into how the other side lives and eats! So call +91 80 4345 5000 to experience some Bohri hospitality and leave with a very full stomach.
All pictures courtesy: ITC Gardenia
1 Residency Road, Bangalore 560025.
Parking: Valet Available
Cost: Rs. 1950/++ per person for the Bohri Daawat.