BLOGS-12
There has been a gradual growth in the need and awareness to promote local foods, traditional gastronomy and food production. Indirectly, this trend has been largely in opposition to the values and impact of fast food and mass consumption through industrial food production. The rapid growth of our population from around one billion in the early 1900s to eight billion and counting,in the current millennium has greatly impacted global economies’ decisions on how we ensure we feed this growing global population. Coupled with the decline in agrarian inclined traditional farming, to a reduction in arable land just adds to the pressure.

Since we at Ecole Hoteliere at Lavasa, aren’t content with doing what everyone does, we decided to look at food from yet another point of view. A concept of a food trail was given birth and this slowly fostered into a full- fledged college trip.
It was decided that the students should be given a window to look at food and what we eat today from a historical viewpoint. This helps us trace the roots of a particular places’ culture and understand the impact historical events had on the local man’s diet.

When it came to deciding the location of this expedition, Aurangabad was the most ideal for a couple of reasons. The first reason being that Aurangabad was the current stomping ground of former Ecole Facilitator and Le Cordon Bleu graduate, Chef Mohib Farooqui,who was heavily involved in both the planning and execution of the trip. Secondly, you will find a stark difference when you analyze the eating habits of the inhabitants of Aurangabad when compared to all the other Maharashtrian locals. Aurangabad thus became the chosen place due to its rich culture, Mughal influence, easy accessibility and most importantly, the mouth-watering food.

With Ecole, we party as hard as we work. Hence, prerequisites were a must for this trip. To help everyone understand the concept of what Slow Food is, all the participating students watched a documentary called Food Inc. together and then critically analyzed the movie, clip by clip and scene by scene.

A group of 20, including Dean of Ecole, Mr. Rajiv Cowasjee and Chef Mohib set out on this anthropological culinary journey. The expedition was rife with laughter, joy and you guessed it, lots and lots of delectable food.


Since none of us had experienced an educational trip like this before (most students would not have), excitement levels were soaring through the roof.

Any road trip is fun and with the 20 of us, there was no difference. Each were adding their own input on what music must be played (yes, there were heated arguments) and we were awaiting our first stop. Incidentally, we stopped first at around 2 AM at Apna Bakery which was en-route Aurangabad. We stopped for ‘chai’ and Butter Khari at the bakery which is over 80 years old. After gulping down a few butter biscuits, we went onward.

We finally reached Aurangabad at about 5 AM. After dropping off our bags at Hotel Manor and washing our faces, Rajiv Sir, being the explorer he is, did not waste any time in ushering us right out the hotel and back into the bus.Chef Mohib met up with us as well and from this point on in the story, never left us.

So, the bandwagon set out to start the first Food Trail of Ecole. And our first stop took us bang into the middle of the Muslim area of Aurangabad and it was the city’s oldest bakery. Sagar Bakery, since 1964*1, was our first stop where we set out to eat a biscuit which was almost like a Puff pastry. It goes by the name of ‘Khari Samosa’. It was massive in size and super flaky. The biscuits*2 had this crunch which sent a tingling feeling through the body when you bite into it, and then you are immediately hit by the softness of the exact same thing from the inside.

We had these biscuits by dipping them into a piping cup of Chai.

Next stop? Paya!

Here’s a quick activity: Google this –
”Islami Hotel Aurangabad*3”

In no possible way would you ever *Plan* to go to a place like this when in Aurangabad, if at all.

We were fairly warned by Chef that this would be a rather perilous place to be, despite being situated opposite the ‘DilliDarwaza’. Some might be queasy by the unkempt façade of the restaurant.The first thing that hit me as soon as I stepped out was the smell of fresh bread or ‘Naans’ that was gushing out from the firing metal tandoor which was set up. The naans had just the perfect crisp on them.

We were seated, hungry and raring to go!

The insides were shabby, no doubt about it! But the group remained as enthusiastic as ever just by the idea of the food that they are all about to it.We were served individual bowls of beef trotters with a bit of the spicy, red gravy which was laden with oil*4. Also, on each plate was a gigantic piece of bone marrow. Steaming hot naans arrived at the table and breakfast was served!

The gravy’s immediate burst of flavor in the mouth wasaided by the texture of the bread and the succulence of the meat. The bone marrow came out with a solid thump and the meat just melted like butter in the mouth. The breads kept coming in a ceaseless flow and the waiters ensured that the plate was always full.
At the end of a satisfying meal, we just sat at the table and marveled at what we had just been through.

As a bolt move, I just picked up the bowl and took a long swig at the hot gravy.
That swig made me feel the heaviest I ever have in my life.

Next up?

We drove down to the quieter part of the city. Aurangabad caves was our next stop. At the foot of a long ascending walk to the cave is a monastery. The area sent a calm feel around due to the lush greenery and livestock. We made the climb to the Buddhist temple and explored the caves with engravings and statues. The caves were at a great height and the view was mesmerizing!

The cave dwelling ascetics would have been common place in a time when Buddhism was flourishing. The patronage of the religion of the masses would have abetted the local political entity which in turn would have endorsed the patron ruler, the elite, as well as the neighboring adherents of the popular faith. Notably the Buddhist features of the cave are evident to this day! With the prevalent way of life based on the principles of bhikshu philosophy, there could only have been little, if any, significant impact of the ascetic monks on the extrinsic influences on the food traditions in the region.

Bibi KaMaqbara was next on the Hit-List. The famous tourist spot in Aurangabad was built by Aurangzeb’s son in memory of his mother. On reaching, it is understandable if one gets confused and wonders how he landed up in Agra. The Maqbara is a replica of the Taj Mahal*5. The only give away is the height of this monument.

This location is important as it leaves a legacy of the royal dynasty residing in the yesteryears in this very city. The walk to the monument across the gardens felt grand. There were lush green lawns across the way, separate by classic Mughal waterways and fountains. Not so long ago, these gardens used to be given out to the Aristocrats of the society for gala Biryani parties.

The structure was part marble, part alabaster. The monument also housed a small museum which gives more insight on the historical importance of the place. The architecture is reminiscence of the impact of Mughal rule, however only on a modest scale in Aurangabad. The later construction of the Mosque by the Nizam is a reminder of the city changing hands, more often than one is aware off! Still, the Mughals used to rule in Aurangabad and this monument proves it!*6

After a little bit of rest, we were up and about again.

SaatvikBhojan Thali at SwyampaakGhar was one of the most anticipated places to visit. This small sort of ‘community café’ first started by four women is currently being run by a team of forty women, and only women, to make absolutely mouth-watering meals at a bare minimum price.*7

A variety of 7 different things were on our table but one stood out and is absolutely worth mentioning. The PuranPoli was just superb. The soft pillow sort of Roti just made you gobble down a few without realizing. The inside was stuffed with jaggery and top smeared with melted ghee. The end result was a scrumptious combination of pure indulgence that just made you crave for more and more. Other items included soft khandvis, thaali-peeth, a tart Sago chaat, Bajra roti with onions, some pickle and cool raita.

Gujarati influence in Aurangabad? If someone takes culture differentiation very seriously, this restaurant may seem a bit out of place for a Muslim influenced city like Aurangabad. However, one must remember that lines were drawn across regions much later, the traditions and food cultures overlapped in the entire Western belt.

Anyway, after the stuffing vegetarian meal that personally left me gob smacked, we headed over to a rather amusing side of the culinary story in the city.

Tara paan center was our next stop. More than an outlet, it felt like a mini industry with the famous Indian digestif being prepared at the back-of-the-house in a production line and processing chain. The names of the paan are enough reason for you to make a visit to this place and learn about what innovations they are adding*8. Special paans like a “HoneymoonPaan” were on offer. We all were content with eating our “MaghaiPaan” which is made using the baby beetle leaf which is far more tender.

Dawasaaz Unani Shop was next. This medicinal store was in the crowded market area of the city where Mr. Akbar, the owner, took us through the medicinal products he has on offer that are made with ingredients such as ginger, barks of trees, dried rose flowers, licorice and many, many more. What interested us was that Mr. Akbar also produced readymade marinades and masalas such as the Biryani readymade masala that they supply to restaurants.*9

Fun Fact: Dried lizards are a cure to anorexia!
Yes, I touched one.*10

The trail went on to a couple more food places such as the Bhalla Chaat at Mathurawaasi where we devoured some chaat made with crisped, deep fried potatoes. Golgappas too were gobbled down by all the group members. By now we were crying foul to over eating! By the time we came to tastethe Imarti*11,whicharesimilar to jalebi and are puffy and sticky at the same time, most were in protest mode and pleading guilty to gluttony.

After a long and tedious day, we were given some time off by Mr. Non Stop Rajiv and a much awaited nap break was in order.

After a brief respite, and I mean brief, the group restarted the day or by now night, by meeting at ‘Kareems’ for dinner. This fine-dining establishment is famous for its kebabs and Biryani. We started off with huge platters of chicken kebabs and massive pieces of ‘raan’.*12 and 13 The plates were being replenished as though nobody has eaten food since the past week! From the common man’s working breakfast to now the upper class kebabs and breads, we had come a full circle in the experiencing the spectrum and cross section of soci-economic stratification through food! Another round of digestif Paan, this time at Jubilee Paan Center and some serious Paan tasting allowed for the heavy meal to be digested. The day ended on a high with everyone as equally tired as they are satisfied with the food consumed today.

Day 2

A wake up call at 8 AM ensured everyone ate a light breakfast and were ready for Day 2.

The world famous Ellora caves was our next stop.

The drive to the caves was beautiful and roads were smooth. The highlight of the cave visit was the Kailasha temple,carved out of rock and the hill side in over a span of 200 years. It is devoted to Lord Shiva,and was the ideal platform for an impromptu intellectual discussion on Hinduism as a religion with comparison to alternate ascetic culture. The caves themselves were a marvel to go through*14.After spending nearly 3 hours at the caves, we got out to have a very light lunch and a whole lot of beers for the dehydrated and sunburnt at Hotel Kailash. The venue of our debauchery provided a postcard-like view of the caves.

Since we were in the vicinity, our next stop was back to a reminder of the legendary Mughal past.

Aurangzeb’s tomb , another famous tourist spot was next. The tomb was inside a small mosque and was very simplistic. There seemed to be no grandeur about the place in general, but one important site, nonetheless. The simplicity and humility of the burial site one of the legendary Mughal emperors directs one to be contemplative. The fried and sweet puffed Khaaja bread sold outside the Maqbara was post lunch desert.

The journey back to the hotel had a few stops. We decided to stop at a roadside fruit vendor for the in-season custard apple and guava, locally known as peru. Other than these, we also picked up on some figs to enjoy along the way.

Dinner time! And it is Naan Qalia time! The most awaited part of the trip for sure. This dish is the pride of the city as it has originated from here and one who visits Aurangabad must not leave before trying this out. It is epic in the

Naan Qalia is a concoction of beef, served in a rich, spicy gravy. The naans were unique, made by yeast and flavored with kalonji .*15 and 16 They were big in size and had a massive crunch to them.
As tradition, we were made to be seated on thefloor*17 and then Chef Mohib showed us the best way to enjoy a dish like this.The naan is broken into bite size bits and put as a base into the bowl. The hot gravy is poured over the top and must be enjoyed with the succulent pieces of beef. I was personally impressed at myself after eating 4 naans, while most had to strike out in one or two, maximum, as the meal was very heavy.

Finally, to end the long and tedious day, we decided upon having ice cream. A place named Dairy Don served a Guava sorbet with a chili masala sprinkled over the top. Nostalgia hit immediately as one was reminded of stopping at a fruit vendor and eating a fresh piece of guava with chili powder.

The group went back to the hotel in high spirits and awaited the last day of the tour.

 

Day 3

 

The day started early again, at around 9 AM we all gathered at the entrance of the hotel. We were to visit the ‘ Daulatbad fort’ * 18 which is yet to be breached. The fort has had a military significance on the city. It was strategically designed to keep the enemies at bay. The most striking feature of the fort was the climb itself; a steep climb with irregular steps and the scorching heat added to the treacherous climb.

Other strategic features included a moat that was built inside the fort itself.
Also, there was an intimidating cave that we had to pass. The cave was designed like a maze, to confuse the invaders. The cave was pitch dark, with twists and turns and the worst part about it, was that it was a Bat Cave!

Yup, the cave was swarmed with bats hovering on the above ceiling.
We finally reached the top and enjoyed the view the fort had to offer. It overlooks the entire city below.*19

For lunch, we decide to have the ‘ Cantucky Chicken’ . Deep fried pieces of country chicken, freshly butchered, in a red, hot marinade.*20 To compliment the fried chicken, there was a black pepper chicken gravy and bread made with sorghum and pearl millets.While spared from the abattoir visit, the wait for lunch was a bit uneasy once all gathered understood the chicken was literally farm to table!

After a wholesome meal we decided to visit a local farm. The farmer practiced crop rotation and at that point of time he was growing corn, millets, marigold flowers, cotton, and tomatoes. The plot is also host to custard apple, mango and tamarind trees.*21

The farmer was inundated with our questions and volunteered up a bleak picture on the plight of the small time local farmers and their challenges. The land was a rented plot and the farmer only used bought seeds. The traditional seeding of the crops is hardly a practice followed with the allure of the high yield GMO seeds available! So while the farmer did not practice seed saving, he also was using equipment’s borrowed on rent and was tilling a rented piece of land. It is no wonder the Indian small time farmer is susceptible to the devilish tricks of nature leaving him the most vulnerable player in the food chain!

We could clearly see the disadvantages of such a system and understood the plight of the farmers. Toiling in the scorching sun is not fun and over and above that, the farmers of our country earn a bare minimum and are barely able to make a reasonable living. The farm plot also had a dedicated plot for subsistence farming for the family tilling the soil. There was much speculation on the profit splitting arrangements between the farmers and the land owners but conclusive agreement on the disadvantaged position of the farmers. After visiting the farm we went back to rest.

We got back into our walking shoes in a couple of hours and for dinner, we wereoff again to eat the famous ‘ sheekh kebab ’ which is essentially minced and marinated beef that is slowly roasted on a tandoor.*22 The succulence of the meat is felt as soon as the kebab touches the tip of the tongue. The kebab was stuffed between a bun and served with a spicy chutney made of ginger, coriander and green chili.

The spices of the marinade and the softness of the meat cause a mélange of flavors that tingled the senses of the body. After eating countless plates we decided to move on as we had other places to hop around to. There was a chaotic stop to be made in the middle of the cramped roadways of the market for the Khoya jalebi.

By now, no one was following any rules of modern day gastronomy but simply eating on cue. Finally, we made our way after gorging on jalebis and went across the city to Silver Spoon restaurant to gorge on the lamb and chicken Biryani. The biryani here is fairly light and made in a Hyderabadi style, reticent of the influence of the Nizam’s rule over the city.
After Biryani, as it was the last night, our last stop for the day was Ka Lounge where the group was literally left in high spirits. We were there for a solid amount of time, recounting the memories of the trip, everyone in a very jovial mood.

The next day, we checked out of the hotel and headed towards Central Aurangabad to try ‘ SitaphalMastani’ *23. This is a thick milkshake made with custard apple, Ice cream and a load of dry fruits. One glass was enough to fill a person’s stomach till lunch. Most of us had little trouble with two.

Finally, we stopped at a local butcher for a raw beef encounter as most of us had fallen in love with the meat.

The trip was eye opening to say the least. We were encouraged to embrace the various cross sections of its cultural past, right to the rich culture of the present day city, for three whole days. We delved into the strategic and symbolic importance of the city once held in the ancient as well as,pre and post-colonial times and tried to look through the lens of time and understand who is an Aurangabadi.

The influences of the various rulers over the city allowed for a confluence of food traditions and methods of cooking, right up to the present. We were able to visualize the cross cultural impact through the intricate cross sections of threads of history, the story of which was being articulated through what we ate, the stop at the Paithan and Himroo silk emporium offered a glimpse of the cross cultural and geographical influence on art and craft in the city of Aurangabad. Still, for us, food remained the best indicator of the evolution of a people and their culture.

A special thank you to Chef Mohib for taking time out and showing us around, making us taste some delectable dishes that one would normally remain indifferent to if seen on the streets. A huge thank you to Rajiv Sir for being the best tour guide one could have ever asked for and planning the entire trail.

A round of thanks to the group for being lively, fun and open minded to the type of food we were eating.And finally, a HUGE shout out to the beautiful city of Aurangabad for hosting us and influencing all of us in the way we see the culinary world.GROUP PICTURE*24