Book Review: Celebrating Nazakat and the Spirit of Sheherwalis with Royal Vegetarian Cuisine from Murshidabad, West Bengal

Sheherwali: Regal Vegetarian Cuisine of Murshidabad By Pradip Chopra

Cover of Sheherwali: Regal Vegetarian Cuisine of Murshidabad By Pradip Chopra

Members of Sheherwali Community of Bengal

Kolkata, December 6, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) With the launch of a book titled “Sheherwali: Regal Vegetarian Cuisine of Murshidabad”, the city was introduced to a tradition of nazakat that it had come across but rarely. The occasion took place at iLead management institute’s campus which played host to a few well-known guests including Mr. Harsh Neotia (one of the city’s top entrepreneurs and the Chairman of Ambuja Realty), Mr. Raghavendra Singh (IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Tourism, West Bengal) and some members of the Sheherwali Community.

Authored by Mr. Pradip Chopra (Chairman, iLead and CMD, PS Group), this book unearths the culinary secrets of the Sheherwalis. The book was launched by Mr. Harsh Neotia and the author himself while he shared his first tryst with Sheherwali food. Mr. Chopra recounted how his interaction with the community had left him absolutely delighted and fascinated with their delicacy, their etiquette and their love for details…things that have driven him to write this book.

Sheherwali Royal Cuisine of Bengal

Sheherwali Royal Cuisine of Bengal

Sheherwali Royal Cuisine of Bengal

Sheherwali Royal Cuisine of Bengal

Sheherwali Royal Cuisine of Bengal

Sheherwali Royal Cuisine of Bengal

The astounding historical facts show how this small community of Oswal Jain Traders from the deserts of Rajasthan had settled in lush-green Bengal and with aplomb! Considered to be one of the wealthiest communities not just in India but world, it is said that 200 years back, 5% of the world’s total GDP was contributed by West Bengal and primarily, by Murshidabad alone, courtesy, the Sheherwali community!

Talking about the book, Mr. Chopra conceded that it was a rather difficult task to gather the recipes in their most authentic form since not much of the real cuisine can be found being rustled up in a modern Sheherwali kitchen, thanks (but no thanks!) to the elaborate cooking methods and the exact use of ingredients and spices required to create a magic of a well-balanced and flavorful platter. Yet, as a tribute to the culinary genius of the Sheherwalis, the book takes a peek not just into the traditional Sheherwali kitchen but into the life, the culture and the customs of the community.

Introducing the readers with a brief history of the Sheherwalis, the book enlightens on their journey, the geographical influences that had shaped-up their life, their food, their way of life and their hallmark recipes. The hard-bound book has an ornate filigree designed rose water container on its cover jacket signifying the trademark use of rosewater in the Sheherwali style of cooking. The book has separate sections dedicated to snacks, main course, breads, accompaniments and sweets and is followed a by a very useful glossary for all those who wish to try their hands at the Sheherwali cuisine.

The book launch was followed by an elaborate lunch comprising of some of the most typical Sheherwali dishes such as kheera ka kachori, pitha, bhapia, saloni mewa ka khichdi , nima and more.  Delicate, mildly flavorful and interesting on the palate, this cuisine carries rich influences of Rajasthani, Bengali, Awadhi, Afghani and Mughal cuisines…the first fusion food of India much before the term “fusion” came to be coined.

A perfect recipe book for all those who wish to embark upon a veritable gastronomic exploration, it sure celebrates the Joie de vivre of the Sheherwalis.

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