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The taste of opulence

Nawabi murgh

Nawabi murgh   | Photo Credit: 18dmcMurg

From tujji chicken to garlic kheer, an ongoing festival at the Taj Mahal Hotel rediscovers the lost recipes of the royals

A long time ago, when I started studying about the food of Delhi, I learnt a new term – lashkari – or the food of the soldiers. The food of Dilli was simple, because that was what soldiers ate. Lucknawi food, on the other hand, was nawabi. As a resident of Delhi, I continue to enjoy the lashkari food that the city offers. But once in a while I quite like the nawabi food that you get in different parts of the country.

I went for one such nawabi food festival at the Taj Mahal Hotel on Thursday. I like the way Arun Sundararaj, the executive chef of the hotel, wields the ladle. I liked the theme of the festival, too. Called the Lost recipes of the royals, the fest at the restaurant Varq is on till June 30.

The dishes are mostly from four erstwhile royal states – that of Travancore, Mewar, Hyderabad and Kashmir. The menu was interesting and I decided to try out the two types of soups that had been listed on it. I am not much of a soup drinker but I had both the saada aash of Hyderabad and the drumstick leaf soup of Travancore. The Hyderabad one was delicious – a peppery lamb soup with mince quenelle and lukmi – those small mince pastries – in it. I was told the soup had been simmered for seven hours and tempered seven times. The soup of drumstick leaves was a new one for me and I found it most refreshing.

The appetisers included two kababs from Kashmir – a tujji chicken and a lahabi lamb kabab. Among the non-vegetarian main dishes were three from Hyderabad – nawabi murgh, noori biryani and khichdi rafat. The biryani had been cooked in lamb stock, which gave it a nice taste and texture. But I felt the flavour of cloves was a bit too overwhelming. I enjoyed the khichdi rafat – chicken, lamb and duck cooked with rice and chana dal.

What I enjoyed the most was the nawabi murgh, which was a chicken roulade stuffed with char magaz (a mix of seeds), coconut and cashew nuts, in a light gravy flavoured with saffron, and with some sweet mango pickle. The sweet and tart taste of the pickle complemented the mild flavours of the chicken – and I liked that.

What I didn’t have, but a fellow food writer did, was the cheera ada curry of Travancore. And when I saw it on the table, I wished I had asked for it. It was a layered spinach and amaranth dish, covered with a top layer of crispy spinach. I must say it looked delicious.

For dessert I had the garlic kheer. I had eaten it earlier once when Kulsum Begum of Hyderabad had prepared it for us at a festival, and I fell in love with it. This was a bit different, thicker and richer – and equally tasty.

Chef Arun didn’t disappoint us. But I think what he should now look at is an entire menu on the food of Travancore. Little is known in the north about the food of this former royal state of southern India. If the soup of drumstick leaves is anything to go by, that’s a royal cuisine that needs to brought to Lashkari Dilli.

Rahul Verma is a seasoned street food connoisseur

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 8:22:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/The-taste-of-opulence/article14428063.ece

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