Ganesh Chathurthi is incomplete without its mouth-watering array of sweets.
Crowds pouring out onto the streets to complete their last-minute shopping, lights strung up along the pavements, giant pandals blocking the roads and Ganesha idols being wheeled home on carts are not the only signs that indicate that the much-awaited festival has finally arrived.
One only needs to step towards one’s own kitchen and the sheer variety of sweets. Modaks, sheera and laddoos are a staple for Ganesh Chaturthi and a number of chefs across the city have taken these simple sweets and given them their own unique twists.
Puranmal, a 90-year-old restaurant in Juhu is celebrating the occasion with a Modak Mania festival. Head chef Jitendra Jadhav has used a variety of flavours ranging from traditional options like kesar and kaju to innovative types like choco-chip and strawberry modaks. “One of my childhood food memories is shaving modaks during Ganpati festival. And after all, when one thinks of the festival, one thinks of this particular sweet, which is supposed to be Lord Ganesha’s favourite,” says the chef.
“Modaks are still a family tradition. One of the most complicated varieties that features in the menu here is a three-in-one modak, which has three different flavours packed into one sweet,” he adds.
Chef Sharique from 29, Kemps Corner, on the other hand has tried to keep things healthy for Ganesh Chaturthi this time round. “There are two dishes that we are serving here at 29 Kemps Corner specially for Ganesh Chaturthi. One is a nachni pudding. I thought that it would be a good idea to make something a bit healthy, while still retaining the traditional flavour. So, I decided to make a sweet dish with nachni, which is basically made from ragi flour. Ragi is high in calcium and iron, so it’s good for the body and we’ve cooked it in jaggery instead of sugar, to ensure less calorie intake. We also have a besan and kesar pinni, which are just laddoos fried in pure ghee, for those who simply want to indulge themselves,” he says.
Though his family has never celebrated the festival, the chef has fond memories of pandal-hopping while snacking on modaks. “My next-door-neighbour also used to come and share karanji with us,” he recalls with a smile.
+91 restaurant in Juhu is also serving up modaks with a twist. Staying close to traditions and mixing two traditional sweets together, the restaurant is offering a gajar halwa modak. Explaining the technique further, executive chef Sameer Bhalekar said, “We created the gajar halwa modak. It’s basically gajar halwa Mousse shaped like a modak. For the plating, I have used halwa coulis, pistachio coulis, lavender and rose flowers to give it an elegant yet classy touch. And just so everyone can enjoy it, this dessert is sugar-free.”
The chef’s idea is a product of childhood nostalgia. He admits, “Ganesh Chaturthi, as a festival, is very close to my heart. I have very fond memories of preparing for the festival by making modaks with my mom. Quite a few of the dishes on the menu contain elements inspired by my memories and evoke a sense of nostalgia.”