After having wowed everyone with their quaint little restaurant in KP, Saoji Khamang now opens its doors in Baner. Two IT professionals, passionate about food, going back to their roots, learning and honing recipes, techniques and taste of Saoji – Varhadi cuisine and serving one of the best versions in Pune. All the hard work has payed off and we have ended up with food that is just so flavourful, tongue tickling, soulful and exciting!
Saoji and Varhadi are cuisines from Eastern Maharashtra. Saoji specifically from Nagpur and Varhadi from Vidarbha region. This cuisine is found in every home in the region and multiple variations are found depending on who’s mom or aunt is making it!
This cuisine is famous for being spicy and all the heat comes from Bhivapuri chillis indigenous to the region. But in spite of being heavy on this fiery red chilli, it doesn’t upset the stomach (which I can vouch for) due to the freshness of the chillies and the way the masalas are prepared.
This is not a cuisine for the faint-hearted, but that shouldn’t stop any of you from trying it. Saoji Khamang have 3 spice levels – 1, 2 and 3 – and you can opt for what you can dare! We tried the level 1 – least spicy – and though we were sweating, eyes were red and there was a wonderful hit at the back of the tongue, not once did we feel uncomfortable or faced any consequences later! And most importantly, I just loved the food!
Interesting dish to start with! Maggi noodles cooked in Varhadi masala and topped with heaps of crispy sweet and caramelised onions. I normally don’t like Maggi (please don’t hate me, Maggi-philes), but with this Varhadi masala, I actually loved it and would happily have it again!
Saoji Mutton Thali
Absolutely the best they have to offer and one of the best I’ve ever had! Thali has Saoji Sukha and curry with Poli, Bhakri or Phulkas and Rice. Saoji Masala is so earthy, spicy and aromatic! It uses loads of Kala Masala, onions and has a beautiful black (or very dark brown) colour with a super smooth luscious texture.
The Saoji Mutton Sukha, is probably the best mutton dish I’ve every had! It was thick, intense, spicy and the mutton was juicy and amazing. (A bit bony, though.)
Varhadi Chicken Thali
Fiery red in colour, Varhadi Masala is equally intense and spicy but what distinguishes it is the lack of earthy taste. It was great with the juicy chicken.
Garlic Rice (Lasooni Bhaat)
We had this with the curries and man, it was a revelation!! The overload of garlic just tastes so good with the flavourful local Indrayani rice and it just ramps up the flavour quotient of the Saoji and Varhadi curries. It is a must have.
Varhadi Chicken Biryani
Basmati rice with Varhadi chicken and topped with heaps of deep fried crispy onions. It was a truely tasty, of course quite different form other styles of Biryani.
Puran Poli (Vidarbha Style)
This was a monster! Super thick and plump Puran Poli, literally soaking in fresh ghee!! So fragrant! The filling is not made with jaggery but with sugar. So, the taste is different. Not as caramelly or earthy. It was very satisfying and heavy, especially after the huge meal, I needed a nap, stat! But I still prefer the jaggery based Puran Poli. Would love one as thick and soaked in ghee though!
I didn’t have much experience in Saoji or Varhadi cuisine before, but I must say, I absolutely loved it! I had avoided it till now mostly because of its reputation of being very spicy and not having many restaurants that serve the real thing (from what I’ve heard) in Pune. But Saoji Khamang has just knocked the ball out of the park.
I just can’t get the Saoji Mutton Sukha out of my head. I crave for it everyday. Trust me, you have to try the Saoji thali, either chicken or mutton. The masala is just incredible! And like I said, because of the freshness and balance of the masala, you just don’t get any acidity or stomach upset even though it packs a real punch! I can’t wait to visit again!