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'History' on the table

Have a 19th Century culinary experience at the Dum pukht, ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers. For the Khwan-e-Zaffar food festival is on till July 20.

ROYAL REPAST: The medieval age food recreated.

THE FOOD of the kings, nobles and warriors are generally confined to the annals of history. But this is researched, revived and presented by Masihuddin Tucy, a descenda

nt of the royal house of the Mughals (of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor), periodically in the form of food festivals at the ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers. Such an exercise is normally a joint effort between the Executive Chef, O.P. Khantwal and Masihuddin Tucy. The royal repasts may be a thing of the past - but they are brought alive in the Khwan-e-Zaffar, a food festival at Dum Pukht, ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers till July 20. This is a continuation of the earlier efforts on Lashkari cuisine, Khwan-e-Dumpukht and Ziafat-e-badshahi.

"The Lal Qila recipes were mostly non-vegetarian. But some of the vegetarian dishes were made for some nobles like Birbal and the Hindu queens of the emperors. Bahadur Shah had collected most of the recipes of his ancestors. Since the Mughal Empire extended up to the Deccan, the influence of the food of the peninsula is visible. In this festival, the vegetarians are also looked after as there are quite a few dishes for them," says Masihuddin Tucy. "We have tried to tone down the level of nuts used as the Mughal cooking used a lot of it," says Chef Khantwal.

The `feast' is a sumptuous one - reminiscent of what the warriors (including the kings) ate in the 19th Century. The cuisine was cooked in a special style (so that its preservation was ensured for days) with a delicate blend of unique herbs and spices. Khwan-e-Zaffar brings you a sample of that. There are some dishes dating back to the 16th Century (Akbar's time) in the menu judging from the names - for instance, Akbari Navratan (mixed vegetable delicacy), Paneer Birbali and Murgh Akbari biryani. Almost the same ingredients used originally are utilised.

For starters there are shorbas (two veg and two non-veg) and kebabs (six non-veg and three veg) which are almost a meal by themselves. The royal names in the menu card may be tongue-twisting but the one-line explanations help in understanding what the dishes are. It is important to note that there are eight veg items in the main dishes (with a shahi dal) as compared to six main non-veg items (fish, prawn chicken, mutton and lamb). A not-so-common vegetable in a five-star repertoire colocasia (arvi) figures in the form of Arvi ka dalcha (combination of Bengal gram and vegetable). This along with kaddu ka dalcha may be on account of the influence from the Deccan. In fact, it is good to taste vegetables like these at times in a five-star menu.

No meal can be complete without the biryanis, rotis and naan. The Roghni roti may look to be a small one judging by the size but it is actually very filling (it is layered with ghee). The naan is slightly different - is flavoured with ajwain. One of the non-veg biryanis Gul-e-zer is a speciality of the Lal qila. It uses gul-e-zer seeds found in the Himalayas. Saffron is used in the biryanis - imparting colour, taste and the royal touch.

On the whole, the food is rich and perhaps even exotic (considering its use of spices) but moderately spiced. The sweets too are interesting made out of dates (Khajoor ka kund), pineapple (Muzaffar-e-Ananas) and bottle gourd (Kaddu ka halwa).

SAVOUR THE PAST: People enjoying the delicacies.

The ambience of the Dum pukht restaurant with the ghazal in the background is apt for this `medieval repast'. If you can afford the meal (as it comes at five-star rates) it is certainly worth trying out. Remember only for dinner though and by July 20.


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