Gujarati Basundi, Jalebi top vegetarian fare at SAARC retreat

Kathmandu:  The all-vegetarian fare for Saarc leaders at the Dhulikhel resort had a sweet Gujarati touch – Gujarati Basundi with Jalebi – as dessert, perhaps keeping in mind Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hails from the western Indian state.

The luncheon menu during the retreat for Saarc leaders at the Dwarika Resort was surprisingly totally vegetarian.

Modi is a strict vegetarian, and according to media reports has been tucking into jeera rice, dal and vegetables at the Soaltee Hotel where the leaders are staying.

The luncheon began with an appetizer, comprising dumplings infused with spinach, carrot and beetroot, stuffed with seasonal vegetables and homemade cottage cheese, served with Himalayan spiced tomato pickle.

For salad, there was Rolled Cucumber Salad, comprising cucumber rolls filled with avocado, cheese and mizuna greens, topped with fenugreek, fruit, edible flowers and molasses, according to the menu tweeted by the external affairs ministry spokesperson.

There was also Nettle and Fenugreek soup, served with homemade and assorted breads.

The main course was Nepali Thali, comprising green beans and potato curry, cauliflower curry, zucchini curry, sauted Palung greens, sauted mustard greens, spiced mushroom curry, lentil kofta, homemade cottage cheese curry (paneer), black lentils with yam, organic rice (red, brown, black, white), chapatis (wheat and multi grain), assorted pickles, and ghee.

For dessert, there was a Saarc Symphony comprising dishes from each of the eight member states.

There was Baklava from Afghanistan, Rasbari from Bangladesh, Daisee (sweet yellow rice) from Bhutan, Gujarati Basundi (thickened sweetened milk garnished with almonds) with Jalebi from India, Phirni (sweet pudding with milk and rice) from the Maldives, Sikarni (creamy dessert made from drained yogurt) from Nepal, Shahi Tukra (rich bread pudding with dry fruits) from Pakistan, and Watalappan (coconut custard pudding) from Sri Lanka.

Tea and coffee was also served after the repast. The leaders returned to Kathmandu after lunch for the formal closing ceremony.

The leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif and host Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, flew down in the morning by chopper to the retreat for talks in an informal setting.

All the leaders, except for Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who stayed back at the hotel, had yellow scarves around their necks. The reason was yellow was the significant colour of the day of the week – Thursday, and associated with the planet Jupiter.

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