Nagpur and Vidarbha has its own culinary treats. Nagpur itself has its own speciality cuisine like “Saoji”. Nagpurians are known for their love for spicy food which is prominently evident in popularity of Saoji Food. Even after that Nagpurians are open to try out new food options and throng to food festivals in hordes. Few years ago, many food festivals used to be organised which got tremendous support from the city. Regularly, Food festivals at SCZCC are enjoyed by Nagpurians.
So when city got decorated with hoardings of a food festival named “CKP Khasiyat” meaning CKP specialities, a tremendous buzz got created amongst the food loving Nagpurians. The organisers promoted it well and promised a divine food experience to the foodies. The Festival dates are 7, 8, 9 November 2014.
Organisers picked a classy venue for the Festival and organised it at Chitnavis Centre near Hislop College. It gives an elite feel to the whole ambience. The seating arrangements on the green lawns was excellent with round tables having 6 chairs around them and a big umbrella to cover you from sun (for lunch time).
At the entrance, you are charged 20 Rs. per head as entry fees. The logic behind entry fees is to ward of unwanted crowd. As you enter the main gate manned by bouncers, you pass through metal detector and towards temple of “Ekvira Devi”, Kul Daivat of CKP community.
On the left side, there was a “wall of fame” displaying stalwarts and famous personalities from the CKP community from Baji Prabhu Deshpande to Balasaheb Thakare. And then the right side was having stalls for promotions given to various vendors. One which could not go unnoticed was “Nagpur Wine & Food Festival” to be held on 22nd and 23rd November. Nagpur seems to be the place to be in winters with so many events around.
On the right, besides Ekvira Devi Temple, there was Food Coupon counter followed by a counter for plates and spoons. After picking coupons and plates, we can move to food counters to get our choice of food. The distance between coupon stall and food stall does seem too long. Especially when you are in middle of your meal and need to buy coupons for remaining items. This got corrected on Day 2 with more coupon counters near the food counters.
CKP Khasiyat has row of veg and non-veg counters each dedicated to 2 or 3 dishes on the menu. They claim to have separate kitchens for veg and non veg. After collecting food items, we can go to seating area and relish the food.
CKP Food Festival offered a variety of veg, non-veg, seafood options for the gourmets in the city to savour. In the seafood menu, they had Bombay Duck (Bombil) fry, Stuffed Pomfret (Bharla Paplet), Kingfish (Surmai) Fry, Lipta Kolambi (Prawns) and Jawala (Spiced Dried Prawns) Bhaji out of which Bombay Duck, Jawala Bhaji are not easily accessible in Nagpur. Then it had CKP style Kheema Pav, Chicken and Mutton Curry.
Vegetarian menu had Kadvya Valacha Birhad, Kadvya Valachi Khichdi as unique speciality as Kadva Waal is rarely available in Nagpur. Then Masoorachi Aamti, Bharli Wangi, Kothimbir Wadi, Mutter Pattis was also on menu.
In breads, tavs roti, bhakar and wade (spicy puri) was available. In rice preparations, they had Chicken Biryani, Prawns Biryani and Sodyachi (Dried Shrimp) Khichdi.
On the sides, Solkadhi which is a very famous Kokani/Malwani/CKP drink made of Kokam and Coconut Milk.
Overall, it was very comprehensive menu and provided a big spread of CKP delicacies. However, I wonder why there was no fish curry or prawns curry on the menu.
In the starters, I tried Bombil Fry, Stuffed Pomfret and liked both. However, people who tasted Bombil Fry in Mumbai and Kokan felt it needed to be more crispier. I felt Pomfret was small for the price (It was 250Rs on Day 1 and then reduced to 200 on Day 2) and the claimed stuffing was nowhere evident while having it. Some experts commented that due to packing in foil, the fish lost its crispiness. Barring these points, it was good for the tastebuds.
I loved the mutton curry. It was perfectly cooked and curry was delicious. Even though the quantity was sufficient for 1 person, I found it expensive for 250Rs. Lipta Kolambi i.e. prawns was good too but again the quantity of prawns was less for the price. I had my main course with Wade i.e. Spicy Puri and found the combination to be tasty.
On Day 1, I did not get Walachi Khichdi at noon times, so I opted for normal rice which was steaming hot. I ate it with Bombil fry and pleasantly realised why “Maase-Bhaat” i.e. Fish and Rice is a favourite combination in Costal Region. Walachi Khichdi is the best dish I discovered in this festival which I could get on Day 2.
In veg, I tried Kothimbir wadi which was actually like a wadi and not stuffed one as we get in Nagpur. I did not like it at all. I tried Bharala Wangi (Stuffed Brinjal), Valacha Birdha. Though it was little sweetish (Rather “Gulchat”), both were tasty. So Kadva Waal is a sure shot winner here. Bhakar wasn’t that crispy and make better ones in Vidarbha.
Finally, my favourite was a hit with everyone as 2-3 glasses can be seen on each table. However, the taste was not consistent. On Day 1 Lunch time, it was perfect and had the tangy-spicy “kick” Solkadhi should have. But on Day 2 Dinner time, it was sweet and bland. I was disappointed with that one. Also Solkadhi is easiest to make once and keep serving throughout the duration, but even that was unavailable at times with the volunteers at the stall saying “It will come in 30 mins”. Why? I do not think it needs to be made fresh like other dishes.
Overall, I got to taste various CKP delicacies and liked them.
In General Seafood is pricey, but for the size of the fish, I found it little expensive on Day 1. On Day 2, it was reduced but still the size was small. Same with the quantity of meat or prawns in main course dishes, quantity was not sufficient for the price. So if you go for 1 starter, 1 main course, 1 rice dish, 1 dessert and 1 bread pack, 2 Solkadhi, you will end up paying around 600-1000 Rs which can be shared by 2 persons. So around 300-500 per person depending on veg or non-veg. Still you will find quantity to be little insufficient. So a foodie with big appetite would end up paying around 700-900 for 1 meal.
Infact the Bharla Wanga had only 2 pieces of Brinjal in it for 100 Rs. We get good quality full thali for 100 rs in Nagpur. So 2 pieces of Brinjal for 100 rs seems outrageously expensive. Same goes with mutton or chicken. We can understand about seafood to be expensive but why were these other dishes priced so high?
In a food festival, prices are generally high, but I suppose if a community is introducing their food delicacies, the could have done some price management to make it little more affordable so that foodies can try multiple varieties. Here, if you want to do that, you would need to visit the festival on all 3 days or go with a large group so that cost is shared and multiple dishes can be tasted.
Overall, good taste, less quantity and pricey.
“CKP Khasiyat” must be given full marks for publicity campaign. They were very successful in creating the buzz and getting the footfall they were expecting and even more. However, they could not cater to that much crowd very well and more than 50% seemed disappointed. On Day 1 they had to close the entry even before it was dinner time as the food was over. On day 1, when I was there at Lunch time, many dishes were said to be available in the evening. But if the advertised time is throughout the day, all the dishes shall be there at all times. Not everyone can afford to do repeat rounds to the festival venue.
The layout of the venue was perfectly planned and full marks for the ambience and atmosphere at the venue. Generally, food festivals are chaotic at peak times. So I went there 1 hr prior to the peak times and I had great time enjoying the CKP culinary treats. I loved venue and seating arrangements.
Organisers genuinely wanted to give fresh food to the visitors and the stalls which needed fresh preparations like Fish Fry were always crowded and chaotic. But it has to do more with the people than the organisers as they were rushing to brag their piece first. If they followed proper Queue culture as repeatedly requested by Organisers, it would have been less chaotic.
I think they should have kept at least 3 stalls for Fish and 3 stalls for breads which need to be freshly served. That would have divided the crowd and management would have been easier. We must give it to the organisers and volunteers that they were always cordial and never lost their calm.
Overall, the management was good in non peak times and could have been better in peak times if they had anticipated the crowd for the items which needed to be served fresh.