When we mention ayurveda, it denotes something medicinal. And when it involves food, the image of some herbs and vile concoctions comes to mind. But think Irani chicken, flavoured steamed fish, pancakes and phirni, all complemented with some nice wine or spirits, and ayurveda is surely the last thing that comes to your mind.
However, you will be surprised to know that eating the ayurveda way can involve all this, and more. First, ayurveda does not prohibit liquor or meat. Moreover, food need not be bland or medicinal. It can be as flavoursome as any other well-turned-out dish, except that you eat according to your doshas, or personality type. Ayurveda believes there are three energies that circulate in our bodies and govern physiological activity, and these energies, or doshas, are greatly influenced by the food we eat.
The concept takes on sophisticated hues as ayurvedic experts team up with hospitality partners to provide highly customised fine dining experiences based on ayurvedic principles. As it gains popularity, several corporates are also requesting such unique experiences.
The first step is to identify the dosha of every person, for which a questionnaire needs to be filled. Ayurvedic experts evaluate the answers to arrive at the dominant doshas of every person, after which menus are prepared accordingly.
As Ipsita Chatterji, an ayurvedic expert with cosmetic company Forest Essentials, which frequently curates such experiences, says, “The most fundamental edict of ayurveda is to choose ‘foods’ for the skin and your meals wisely to lead a life of holistic well being.” Speaking at one such event at the Taj Mahal Hotel in the national capital, where the experience came down to even customised flower decorations at every table, she said for food to truly benefit the body, it should be consumed in beautifully appointed, serene surroundings. “The ambience is perfected with hors d’oeuvres and dinner prepared for each dosha, customised individual flowers deciphered from the Vedas, beverages and music additionally complementing all the elements. All these factors come together to provide a holistic experience that not only ensures well being, but is a gourmet adventure as well.”
Obviously, all this needs a great degree of precision and extensive work. Arun Sundararaj, executive chef at The Taj Mahal Hotel, agrees. “Organising an ayurvedic dinner involves a high degree of customisation. The process of developing the menu is quite extensive and intricate. Since the menu for each guest is tailored to suit their respective doshas, the ingredients take centrestage. Each of the specially crafted dishes use fresh, organic and wholesome ingredients and are designed to integrate the benefits of ayurveda,” he says. However, he adds that it is how the ingredients are used that makes the meal unique. “The ingredients are basic and readily available in our regular stock; the key is to create something unique and innovative with them.”
Having received tremendous positive feedback for the attempt, he is looking forward to curating similar experiences again. “The concept of integrating the benefits of ayurveda with culinary experiences is still at a nascent stage, because while curating such experiences, it is essential to have the guidance of an ayurvedic expert. But it is enriching, not only for us, but our guests as well.”