What makes Maharashtra Sadan so special is its menu, which comprises six pages, reflecting the variety of food present in the canteen. Apart from vegetarian thali (consisting both dry and gravy-based platters) and Maharashtrian thali, there is one special category in platters: Upwas chithali (pronounced as Upwaasaachi thali), a special meal taken for maintaining fast during festivals such as Navratri and Mahashivratri.
It may contain sabudana khichadi, ratalyacha kis (a sweet and spicy dish made from grated potato), kavathachi chutney (wood apple chutney), shengdanyachi amti (a curry made using peanuts as a base), sabudana papad, among other things.
There are two Maharashtra Sadan, located a few hundred metres away from each other on Copernicus Marg. The old Maharashtra Sadan canteen has a capacity of around 80 people while the new one has space for around 300 visitors.
The menu in both the houses remains the same, and the only difference is the ambience. While the older gives the feel of a regular eatery, the newer one looks like an expensive restaurant. The price, decided through tender, remains the same.
“The footfall is good enough. We receive almost 500 – 800 people daily (aggregate for both canteens), which include both north Indians and Maharashtrians. Old Sadan has a dedicated clientele, especially those officials who have been coming to the house for years. And during festivals like Ganpati, which have been celebrated in the old Sadan for years, there is more footfall in its canteen than the new Sadan canteen,” says Sudhir Bisht, owner of the canteen.
“A lot of food-lovers visit the place. They come for Kolhapuri dishes (egg curry, chicken, mutton) and we also have one speciality called Saoji dish (egg curry, chicken, mutton) which has an entirely different taste because of its entirely different spices. During winter seasons (September – February), fish becomes very popular among visitors due to availability. We have a whole variety of food from different regions of Maharashtra,” he adds.
The menu contains a wide range of food and has a separate tandoor section which includes variety of vegetarian kebabs, paneer tikkas, tandoori aloo, mushroom tikka, afghani chicken, tandoor chicken, chicken tangdi, fish tikka, among others. The Maharashrian vegetarian specialities such as pitla (spicy gram flour curry), zunka (gram flour porridge, often considered dry form of pitla), vatana usal (a dish made of peas), matki usal (made from dew beans), saoji aloo (Nagpurian potato curry), sev bhaaji are popular among visitors. The menu in the vegetarian section contains almost 40 types of dishes.
For those who prefer non-vegetarian food, there are many options.
Apart from Saoji and Kolhapuri dishes, there Malwani dishes (egg curry, chicken, mutton, fish curry), fried fish, Koliwada dishes (prawns and fish). The north Indian dishes such as Bhuna Chicken, Chicken Do Pyaaza, Mutton Masala, Butter Chicken are also available, among other meat products.
There are 12 choices in rice which include jeera rice, veran bhat (lentil-rice), curd rice, and biryani. Visitors can also enjoy different types of bread as per the dishes, the popular being bhakari, baan, and tandoori roti.
“In breakfast, we offer poha, sabudana khichadi, misal pav, thalipeeth, and many other things. Since this is a guest house for officials of Maharashtra, there is a lot of emphasis on the authenticity of the food. We make sure that everything is made with the best ingredients and given a homely vibe,” says Anand Rawat, Food and Beverages Manager at the canteen.
The canteen has Chinese, continental, south Indian food with a variety of soups as well. What makes Maharashtrians living in Delhi be particularly interested in Maharashtra Sadan canteen is the variety of sweets that it offers.
Modak (a traditional sweet dumpling), puran poli (a sweet flatbread made from wheat flour, jaggery or cane sugar, cardamom powder and/or nutmeg powder, ghee and water), shrikhand (a sweet dish made from strained yogurt), shah sewai kheer, sheera (sweet pudding made from semolina and ghee, complemented by nuts), and different types of halwa is what works as an end game to a satisfying meal.
Vishakha Nikam, a journalist with BBC Marathi, often visits the place whenever she feels like visiting home.
“In Delhi, there are not many restaurants that serve good Maharashtran food. [So] I feel at home whenever I visit Maharashtra Sadan. Whenever I go there, I see the people of my state, its traditions, and it gives a great feeling. Almost all the Maharashtrian festivals are celebrated there. And ofcourse, the best thing about the place is Maharashtrian food,” she says.
Vada pav, the famous Maharashtrian snack, is a food that could be easily available in any shop in Delhi. However, what makes it different here is its authenticity and originality in taste, which Bisht informs is much appreciated among visitors in Maharashtra Sadan.
“There are people who come from Sonepat, Faridabad, and other places near Delhi. Whenever they visit the canteen, they eat snacks there, especially vada pav. Whenever they try, not only do they eat it, but they also ask us to pack it. It is because the taste here is completely different from other places in Delhi,” he says.
Because of its cheap food with authentic flavours, Maharashtrians, who visit Delhi, often prefer to visit the place. So much so that some of them remember the food even when they return to Maharashtra.
Shalini Raut, 62, from Thane would often visit the place whenever she wouldbe in Delhi where her son once worked.
“My son took me to the Maharashtra Sadan. I felt like I was at home when I visited the place. If I ever come to Delhi, I would like to visit Maharashtra Sadan to try their food once again,” she says.