Sunday, April 8, 2012

Awadhi Food Festival at Hotel K C Residency

The richness Awadhi cuisine lies not only in the variety of cuisine but also is the ingredients used in creating such a variety. The Nawabs of Awadh were renowned for their extravagance and their patronage of the best courtesans, craftsmen and cooks. 

Under dim lighting of Falak, the hotel's restaurant where everything bears a rural feel, from the mughal jharokas to the earthen warmth, the Chef recreates the nawabi delicacies. From a dessert made of lamb stock to a course of dal chawal prepared solely from dry fruits, the rich and ostentatious cuisine of the Muslim royalty has always made for a curious study. However, a cuisine that has remained unexplored till date is from Rampur, a city that once was home to hundreds of nawabs, a city that gave way to several gastronomic inventions, courtesy the Incessant experiments of the royal khansamas (cooks) and a city that still hold several food secrets in its belly.

Awadhi cuisine was never paid attention to, except for a few food enthusiasts like Mohammad Rehman who are now trying to gather these secrets from the predecessors of khansamas. Rehman, who has been researching on the cuisine for years, has developed a few royal flavours and organized Awadh food Festival at the K.C Residency these days. 

Rehman has not only worked on getting the flavours and techniques right but also on reviving the log -lost recipes from the royal kitchens. So you have something like Gosht ka Halwa ,a dessert made from mutton lamb and even Mirchi ka Halwa which is made of green chilles and was devised by khansamas after years of experiments to keep aliments like flu and stomach infections at bay. There are many dishes with sandalwood powder too, like Gobhi Musallam (cauliflower dish) and Rampuri jheenga (prawns) and in some, he has used khus attar (poppy seed fragrance). "The cooks then were so sharp that to suit their employer's royal taste, they created a recipe of dal chawal from badam (almonds) 

The cuisine still remains one of the most unexplored ones because its history was never documented anywhere."If you try hard, you many come across some culinary information in Persian. Whatever is left of this cuisine is through the passing on of the recipes from one generation to the other, "rues Rehman. Though a few gave away their secrets one the condition of confidentiality, most never divulged their methods & techniques. 

"Words like korma, sheema and pulao stumble upon in most Muslim royal cuisines, be it Kashmiri, Hyderabad or Awadhi and every khansama will claim it belongs to the cuisine of his state. The fact, however, is the truth got buried in the pages of history centuries ago, except for a few that were passed on from one generation to the other.Taar kormas, the dish, still an essential part of Rampur, got its due to the unique gravy which, when held between two fingers, produce a wire-like texture. "Its is a lamb dish and requires a good 24 hours of slow and continuous cooking. Lamb bones contain gelatin and the more you cook, the more they get gelatinized. Hence, the wire-like consistency,"he explains, adding, "It is because of prolonged cooking only that this cuisine acquires its character."

After the downfall of the royals, these cooks could not become popular, partly because of the lack of opportunities and partly because of what Rehman describe as "attitude problem."He says, "since most nawabs were hypersensitive about how their food tasted, they employed different cooks from different delicacies. For example, if someone excelled at the art of firni making ( rice dessert),he would make just that and not do anything else. Over the years, these khansamas developed an attitude which resulted in them finding it difficult to survive anywhere else other than royal kitchens. They don't like to be ill-talked - something that happens in most restaurant/hotels, they won't do any chores other than what they are expert at and things like that. That is why they are still confined to the smaller towns and cities. 

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