This Book is an expert culinary guide to the exotic recipes from the ancient living city of Benares. The cuisine of Benares is a unique blend of Purity, simplicity and refinement. The book is a valuble storehouse storehouse of delectable fare from the Benares Ki Rasoi-from cool drinks like Mango Panna, Kanji nad various kinds of Sherbets including Faalse, Kaaseru and Bel to apperisers like corn fritters, Raj Kachori, Nagori Tikkias to main Channa Dal with Garud, Kevati etc. These can be combined with a wide selection of rice Preparations and Indian breads. To complete a perfect meal, the book has an exciting collection of preserves, chutneys and of course of the famous sweet dishes of Benares including Malpua, Srikhandm Phirini, Kulfi and Chandra Kala.
Shashi Prabha Jain hails from an illustrious Vaish family of Benares. She got married at a young age into a leading Jain family of Allahabad. Initiated into the fine art of cooking by her mother, she slowly imbibed the best of the two culinary trends-the sumptuousness of the Vaishnavite cuisine and the spartan simplicity of Jain food. It was a happy convergence of the cuisines of eastern UP and Bihar. Her cooking skills have been continuously enriched and refined by interaction with the new generation.
Benares, with its roots in antiquity, is perhaps, the most ancient living city in the world. However, it is said that Kashi of yore was already old when Jerusalem was a shepherd's village and Persepolis not yet on the map. Situated on the trunk trade route from the west to the heart of eastern India, Benares was a flourishing, many splendoured city. Its exquisite textiles, intricate ornaments and above all a cultured citizenry that was sophisticated, hospitable, well-versed in religious scriptures, music and dance, characterised a love for the good things of life.
Its all-pervasive religious ambience and the unflinching belief of its residents in the sacredness of the river Ganga. which girdles the city, seems to fix the Satvik Tatva in its culture. Here, in the abode of Annapurna, the Goddess of Food, the cuisine of Benares is a unique blend of purity, simplicity and refinement. It is an integral way of life.
Heavy-handed treatment of food with rich spices and a liberal use of oil is alien to the Benares way of cooking. A variety of vegetables are cooked in a simple spluttering of hot oil with asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Benares is home to a large number of Bengalis; thus a part of its cuisine has a typical BangIa touch - the strong aroma of mustard oil flavours some of its cooked vegetables. Traditionally served with puris, the meal is still light and easy on the palate.
The city, however, is best known for its large eclectic assortment of sweets. Till a few years back, it was common to serve a minimum of seventeen sweets in a single wedding meal! The Chhappan Bhog (a meal of fifty-six items) was prepared as an offering to Lord Krishna on the Annakut Day and consisted of a number of sweets. In Benares there is a happy convergence of the heavy khoya based sweetmeats of the Mathura variety and the delicately made chhenna preparations of Bengal. Some of the indigenous dishes like nimis-malai and thandai are unique to the city and add to the rich variety of meetha available in Benares.
A Benarsi's life is crowded with festivals, big and small, as nowhere else - there are about half a dozen of them every month. For each festivity there is a specially prescribed cuisine - life is an extended feast for him. And he is convinced that his food preparations are God's own choice. So be it.
I would like to express my gratitude to my husband, Dayal Chandra, for the unflinching encouragement and support that he gave me in taking up this project. My thanks are also due to my daughters-in-law, Kumud and Kiran, my granddaughters- in-law, Swat and Rhia, who contributed liberally to enriching the contents of this book. A special thanks to my daughter, Manju, who stood by me when I slowed down. My thanks are due to my translator, Chandra, for understanding my Hindi writing and doing a good job of translating the Hindi manuscript.
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