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Today’s Diverse Wedding Menus: expect the unexpected

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Wedding MenuOnce a traditional wedding sapad (meal) meant the typical rice, sambhar, rasam, kootu (vegetable), pickle and papad served on a green banana leaf. Remember, scrunching your fingers in the lightly, flavoured scrumptious rasam rice liberally mixed with dollops of ghee or slurping on the milky tasty vermicelli payasam?

But, the wedding food once a sacrosanct and a pivotal affair in Indian weddings (given our obsession for food!!), has gone through a dramatic make-over. 

Today, you can sample anything from pani-puris to ice-cream smeared dosas, colourful appalams scribbled with the names of the bridal couple, to healthy fruit juices and not-so-heavy sweets for the calorie conscious.

“Variety is the key here”, admits wedding caterer VB Maheswaran of VBM Caterers in Chennai. “Wedding menus offer a blend of different cuisines today–north, south, Chinese, and tandoor – it has to be a big spread so visitors can get a taste of everything.”

A point echoed by R Satyanarayanan of RRK Caterers, the 40-year-old wedding caterers in Chennai. “Today, people want to experiment and offer different varieties. They understand the current trends in food and most importantly, they are willing to spend,” he says. All they want is to provide different and tasty food, something people will talk about long after they have left the wedding hall.

Recently, he cites the example of how a traditional Kumbakkonam family opted to serve cornflakes, oats and doughnuts as the wedding breakfast instead of just the standard idli, wada and puri combo.

If fried rice and noodles have replaced the ubiquitous white rice or the calorie-ridden biryani, sweets- the ultimate mainstay of Indian weddings - is also witnessing a twist. The heavily-sugared theni pal (a round vermicelli dish eaten with milk and sugar), poli and mysore pak have been swept aside to make way for the North Indian princes like badam and kaju katlis, rasogolla or the less sugared payasams made of jaggery etc.

Maheswaran says that these sweets require half the amount of sugar and cater to the health-conscious elders and youngsters of our times. 

The funfare starts with the breakfast. “We provide any item… be it appams, puris, paniyarams, puttu and the Kerala banana, or something different like the Andhra pesaratu (green lentil dosa stuffed with uppama) and ginger chutney to rasamalais and ice-cream laced dosas,” says Maheswaran. His company also specialises in providing dishes which sound and taste like non-vegetarian dishes like : Karaikudi fish koyambu which is actually made from green lentil, tiny onions and garlic!

Syrian Christian S John, whose daughter got married a couple of months ago, looked for the “right combo” and a cosmopolitan meal to keep all her guests happy when she was planning the menu for the dinner reception.

Apart from mutton, chicken and fish dishes, she also ensured that the vegetarians had a good choice as well. “The spread you see in Kerala weddings today is so diverse today. Earlier, it was just the biryani but now since people are so well-travelled and know about food, we offer a wider choice,” says John.

Chennai doctor Uma Rajakumar, who recently had a grand reception for her son at Accord Metropolitan in Chennai, spent a lot of time over the dinner menu. “I was particular about the food, I changed the standard hotel wedding menu around quite a bit. I added one more non-vegetarian, two differently styled rotis, a mushroom pasta, lasagna, bhendi khur khur (dry and crispy ladies fingers) and onion varatha koyambu. It was a blend of different items. I also wanted healthy food and so I made the fish grilled, and made sure they used less oil and no dalda in the dishes. I insisted on mango and pears in the fruit salad and took care of all the small things like my welcome drink which I ensured had plenty of elaichi.”

Her dinner was a huge success as her guests went away remarking that the dinner was a tasty meal and not the standard hotel buffet fare. Wedding meals will never be the same again, surely.

Sample of wedding menus:

South Indian breakfast: Two or three combinations of Puri, uttapam, dosa, idli, appam, idiyappam and pongal with sweet like pineapple or carrot halwa, rava puddings or a jangari

Lunch: A traditional lunch with a twist like a fried rice or a coriander or pudina rice thrown in, or a kerala dish as a variant, a chapatti or a naan with a shahi paneer or an alu kofta added in. While the sweets would be mostly North Indian or an offbeat Kerala sweet dish like adai in rice payasam

Dinner: A welcome drink like a fresh fruit juice like a butter fruit or a grapefruit juice or badam milk

Starters such as babycorn or paneer pagoda, different varieties of rice, Chinese fried rice and noodles, spring rolls, and pulaos, one soup

South Indian curries like mixed vegetables, potato curries, uthapams or rumali rotis, stuffed parathas, and North-Indian gravies like paneer butter masala, potato chops, curd rice, varatha koyambu, ice-creams, sliced fruit pieces and sweets like the dry ones like badam roll and kaju katlis and syrupy ones like gulab jamun etc.

Chaat and savoury corners are also a favourite these days. Before the dinner, you can tuck into a bhel puri, pani puri or a chaat or tiny samosas and down it with a juice before going in for the big dinner. 

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