Massive kitchens, unique tastes: India's ancient temple cuisine sits in a class of its own
(CNN) — Across India, temples have long served not just a spiritual need but a social one as well.
Many of the country's temples have adopted a long-standing tradition of feeding the masses, allowing pilgrims and travelers alike to enjoy wholesome, delicious meals every day.
Any typical Indian temple, whether in a city or village, will have its own kitchen where these meals are cooked, sanctified and served, and offered free of charge or for a small token price.
But these are no ordinary meals. What sets temple cuisine apart is the taste, which is unique to each location and notoriously hard to replicate.
In fact, many established chefs have tried to offer temple cuisine in their high-end restaurants, but ultimately failed to generate the same magic.
"Temple food is very ancient and has been prepared by special cooks, known as Maharajas or Khanshamas, who belong to just one family," explains Sandeep Pande, executive chef of New Delhi's J W Marriot Hotel.
"Therefore, it is impossible to recreate the same taste in restaurants, even by trained chefs," he adds.
Indeed, it's tough to match the flavor of the puttu -- made up of steamed rice flour, coconut and jaggery (cane sugar) -- served at Meenakshi Temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, to name but one of the many incredible dishes on offer in the country's places of worship.
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