'Molasses' Brings An Ingredient-Focused, Immersive Slow Dining Experience To Pondicherry

'Molasses' Brings An Ingredient-Focused, Immersive Slow Dining Experience To Pondicherry

Every decision that I have made in life that has been off the beaten path, I would credit it to having lived in Pondicherry. The people I met during my time were a major factor in that, but there is also something transformative about the city. Talk to anyone from the folks behind the renowned chocolate brand Mason&Co., or the students who moved there to intern in Auroville’s many unique ventures, they’d talk of at least a few ways in which their time spent immersed in the locale transformed them. 

When thinking of immersive experiences, from acting to eating, I think of Pondicherry. There are a whole list of things that I could rattle off, but a relatively newer entrant in the locale is Molasses. While they’ve not garnered the attention they ought to have yet, they are a dining experience in Pondicherry that is truly homegrown. Quite literally, they are run by a venture called Homegrown Produce in Pondicherry, founded by entrepreneur Rachna Rao, who now offers this farm-to-table dining experience to those who truly want to savour refined gastronomy. Just a 40-minute drive out of central Pondicherry, Molasses is located in Molasur Village near Tindivanam and sets the scene for a dining experience unlike any other.

'Molasses' Brings An Ingredient-Focused, Immersive Slow Dining Experience To Pondicherry
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While you do have to book ahead to dine here for groups of 6 or more, it is worth the drive and the effort. While this writer has yet to experience Molasses in real life, marketing maven and Pondicherrian Mansi Reddy counted this as one of her favourite eateries in the city to Live Mint, and mentioned how, "My preferred food option is the banana leaf meal, which includes multiple vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian preparations locally sourced or grown on the farm. My favourite is the foraged Brahmi chutney with chorizo vada, and the farm-grown black rice pongal for dessert.”

Molasses sets the background for one to unwind and savour experiences. You take a discreet turn off the highway to be met with banyan trees and there are animals, and birds galore just going about their way. From the recounts of those who have dined there, it almost reads like a place where one would get a reality check as to the fact that the world doesn’t belong to humans, but rather that we are just part of the larger ecosystem. The main venture, HGP specialises in small-batch, farm-fresh ingredients such as raw mango mustard, herbed salts, and millet-based miso.

Founded on degraded land, the Aranyaka Forest that HGP is set in has been reforested extensively and has witnessed the return of many native species. Rachna Rao founded the brand with the intention of ecological restoration, and sustainable agriculture, while also being an escape from urban life. Even before Molasses took form, HGP has been hosting farm experiences and pop-up events featuring local chefs to promote farm-to-table dining experiences. These events, featuring local ingredients and traditional cooking methods that foster a deep root in one’s origins, are what eventually paved the way for Molasses.  

'Molasses' Brings An Ingredient-Focused, Immersive Slow Dining Experience To Pondicherry
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Today, Molasses integrates local and culturally significant ingredients like everything from Palmyra tree to locally raised poultry. The experience that they offer includes much more than just delectable dishes and includes guided farm walks, and even a rainwater catchment pond that you can go and cool off by. The sheer serenity of their slow approach shines through every facet of the space.

In thinking of what it would be like to be dining amid the trees in Aranyaka Forest, one would would imagine courses of food, overlapping conversations, and curious explorations into new ingredients. In retrospect, their branding of 'offering food for thought' now seems a little on the nose. Having learned more about the immersive experience they offer, it is pretty easy to imagine walking away from Molasses with one's hunger satiated but the mind hungry for more information. And perhaps, in piquing that curiosity, Molasses as a venture is helping us realize the intention behind the food we consume.

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