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BAATI CHOKHA

In this molecular age, nothing inspires quite as much awe as coals on which dishes are being baked. Or so it occurred to me the other afternoon, as I entered 'Baati Chokha' in the heart of Varanasi. It's set in front of the restaurant, like a peasant's hearth, where the cooks use a wrought-iron hand crank to adjust the heat. As baati was being roasted over glowing embers, the cooks watched the flames in silent reverie. "That," one of them said, "is the way food should be made."

 

Baati Chokha has the right rural connotations, using local spices, dried herbs, grains, pulses and organic vegetables. Aside from artfully displayed rural motifs and charpoys where one can relax and eat, wall art of the ghats and rural life, tables with electric lanterns, wooden plates, khullars and retro songs are notable signs of the restaurant's commitment to showcasing rural Banaras. The menu lives up to its rustic promise with hearty vegetarian dishes like sattu baati — you can have the grain flour ball stuffed with dal baked or deep fried with dollops of ghee, the most sumptuous aubergine bharta; steamed or fried phaaras — baked rice dumplings stuffed with dal; dal handi with steamed rice; salted buttermilk with coriander leaves. So it was no wonder that lunch in Varanasi was a textural triumph; sumptuous, regional and vegan.

 

A little history… since the past fifteen years, Baati Chokha has been serving vegetarian traditional authentic food in Banaras. Baati played an important role in the War Of Independence of 1857. Its simplicity was said to be the real reason that many including Tantia Tope and Rani Lakshmi Bai made it their travel meal. Baati needed less water and could be baked without utensils. But what really worked was these could stay for as long as two to three days and is packed with almost every nutrient including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and calcium! I highly recommend this rural themed restaurant on your next trip to Varanasi … it's not on the tourist trail!

— JASMEEN DUGAL

 
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Raja Bazar Road, Chetganj, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

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