Chef Gunjan kick starts Rajasthani food festival

Celebrity chef Gunjan Goela brought the royal cuisine of Maharajas to Sheraton Dubai Creek’s Rajasthani Food Festival.

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By  Lynne Nolan Published  May 3, 2006

The Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers celebrated its Rajasthani food festival last month by welcoming celebrity chef, Gunjan Goela, to its Indian restaurant, Ashiana. Chef Gunjan, who comes from an industrial family that originally disapproved of her profession, was flown in to Dubai from New Delhi to create a menu featuring specialities like laal maas, junglee murgee, dal bati churma and paneer laung latika. “We are trying to introduce the food from the interiors of Rajasthan. Every dish has something to say, with four stories behind each one. This food is from the Royal houses, not from the locals, so it is a delicacy. It is the heritage that comes along with the food,” chef Gunjan said. Rajasthani cooking, which has been influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the availability of ingredients in the desert region, also features a lot of meat, as well as spices. However, the region’s most famous dish is dal-bati, which consists of spicy lentils with baked balls of wheat and ghee. The variety of sweet dishes is also immense, and sweets are relished as much as the spicy curries in Rajasthan. “The traditional style of cooking is what I am trying to maintain, and the maximum authenticity that I can achieve using dum, which describes the cooking of ingredients in its own juices,” she added. During her first visit to the Middle East, chef Gunjan cooked food belonging to the Royal houses, however, she believes good cooking is accomplished in Rajasthan when the men of the family are interested in cooking. “It is an insult to a lady when a man takes over, and yet it is with passion that men cook. It was my father who influenced me,” chef Gunjan comments. Chef Gunjan, who travels extensively sharing her knowledge in specialised vegetarian cuisine, commented on the secret to her culinary success: “I started baking cakes when I was nine, and by 11 I could make a whole meal. That interest has taken me to where I am today, but it is not just passion, it is a lot of hard work and endurance. It is not just food, it is the entire culture and heritage.”

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