It is all about Nawabi taste, texture and presentation at the Awadhi Food Festival in That’s Y Food

“Off with their bones,” ordered the old Nawabs of Awadh. As some of them had lost their teeth, they could not enjoy their mutton kebabs, meat-on-bone. The royal chefs then devised a plan and found a way to take off the bones and cook the meat in slow heat, for long hours, so that it became soft. The nawabs were happy and so were the people of Awadh.

Chef Kuberan, from Delhi, who has prepared the menu for the ongoing Awadhi Food Festival at That’s Y Food, R.S. Puram, tells me the story of the kebabs of Awadh. Kuberan is here to teach the cooks at That’s Y Food, recipes of Awadhi cuisine.

Waiters, sporting long topis serve up Ruh-khush, a drink, with ice cubes floating on it. The drink is perfect for a hot afternoon. Or you could choose to have a creamy, smooth lassi, served in earthen pots. The starters follow. Vegetarians must try the Mava Sheekh. The paneer kebabs, stuffed with mild khoya, are irresistible. The vegetarian platter includes subz shami, palak papidi kebab and subz ke gullar. Subz ke gullar is a bullet shaped kebab, made of mixed vegetables, coated in rava.

Non-vegetarian kebabs such as murgh merunesha, gosht lachha kebab and kakori kebab are laid out next.

Five different dips, made with ajwain, ginger, tomato, mango pulp and pudheena, are the perfect accompaniments. Murgh merunesha, tossed with sweet peppers and fresh cream, blends like a dream with the tangy mango pulp dip. Marinated in fresh cream and saffron, the tender kakori kebabs melt in my mouth.

“It takes 12 long hours to cook it”, says the chef. “We marinate the meat with brown onions, saffron, ghee, milk and cream for at least four to five hours. We cook it in tandoor for almost eight hours to make it tender. Adding a dash of pineapple makes the meat even more succulent. The hint of kesar gives it a nice flavour and fragrance,” explains Kuberan.

I already feel full. But, that is when the aroma of basmati rice wafts towards me. Murgh biryani, the chef’s special dish has arrived. And, I do not say no. The fragrance of fried, caramelised onions, ghee and kesar adds a nice flavour. The bread basket comes with sheermal, warqi paratha, kulchas, makhani naans and rotis. Dip the sweet warqi paratha into the thick brown onion gravy of nehari gosht, braised lamb shanks, so soft that the meat falls of the bone. Just when I tell myself that I cannot eat even a morsel more, Kuberan tempts me with Qimami Sewai (vermicelli cooked in rose syrup), Sheer Qurma ( roasted vermicelli dipped in milk) and Gulati kheer, (rice puree cooked in milk and saffron). And, I oblige. I decide to burn some calories, by walking around the restaurant and appreciating the decorations. Decked with marigolds, the place is festive. I leave the restaurant, but not before I help myself to a meetha paan that sits pretty on a silver trays.

( The festival is on till March 2. The a la carte is open for lunch and dinner. For reservations, call 0422-4365117/118 )