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A taste of royalty

THE RAMPUR food festival that is currently on at the Ashok Hotel, is as much a kebab and biryani fest as it is a lesson in history. Almost all of the dishes being featured have a story behind them as chef Harsh Krishna Prasad has "gone into the interiors of the royal gharana of Rampur and learnt from the chefs who cooked for the nawabs".

There are vegetarian as well as the usual mutton, chicken and more unusual fish kebabs. "Making kebabs is all about the ingredients and the heat they are cooked in", says the chef who concentrates on the aromas, flavour and the style to give every dish its unique taste. No two dishes taste the same, be it the fish with dry methi, the chicken kofta or the kamal kakri kababs and the feat is achieved by "using about 30 to 35 spices and a lot of ghee".

"Rampur is famous for the amount of ghee that is used in the food but now people are becoming more and more calorie conscious. So, I have reduced but even now if you go to Rampur, you will be served khithri with a lot of condiments and a lot of ghee", the ghee though is still there and dripping. The biryani is the real pleasure and there are also all the different types of breads Rampur is famous for. Although Rampuri cuisine is usually known for its non vegetarian specialities, the chef has gone one step ahead and offers a number of choices to the vegetarians including the kabab platter which consists of Kathal Seekh Kabab, Laungiya Aloo Dhoka Kabab and Naqli Kabab.

"The food that I am presenting is the result of 20-25 years of research, I learnt from all the authentic chefs who used to cook for the nawabs and my food represents all the different cultures that became a part of Rampur after people came and settled there following the revolt of 1957", says Harsh. The secrets that he has unearthed, are exemplified in the desserts that come with the chef's recommendations. Ghingwar Ka Halwa is the most unusual part of the meal as it is made from cactus!

"There are only about five people in the country who know how to make this, the man who makes it here is 90 years old and not ready to give out his secret". The halwa, he claims, can cure a person of arthritis as it brings back the elasticity in the bones that one loses with age. There is also Adhrak Ka Halwa, which, the chef says, can keep one away from the usual winter ailments like cold and cough.

The festival is on till November 30 and will be accompanied by Faizal Alkazi's play "The Perfect Murder" from November 27-30. Bookings for the `supper theatre' as the combination of the meal and the play is called, will have to be made in advance and cost Rs 450 plus taxes.

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