Delicious tales from the royal kitchen
Each time I open up to people about my hometown, the only thing they seem inquisitive towards is the formidable 'Rampuri Chaku' – but of course, there is a lot more to the city of Nawabs than this.
Not many people are aware of the rich culinary history of Rampur that dates back to 1774. The cuisine, a perfect blend of Mughlai, Awadhi and Rajput food culture, remained under the cover for a long time as Nawabs didn't prefer the royal food to be cooked and consumed by the commoners. It was only after the descendants of royal Khansamas (chefs) turned back the pages of tattered history books, recipes of the dishes that were prepared in the royal kitchen came to light.
JW Marriott, New Delhi Aerocity recently hosted a food festival – 'Dine like Royals' where five chefs, who are descendants of the khansamas, teamed up to show off their culinary skills and serve mouth-watering Rampur delicacies to Delhiites.
Characterized by the use of dry spices (khada masala) which majorly constitute cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and yellow chilly, the food had a very distinctive flavour. The spread started with 'Nalli Shorba'– which is simple chicken soup with mild spices. This was followed by 'kachche gosht ki tikia' (prepared with minced mutton) and 'fish anjeer tikka'. Served with peeli mirch ki chutney, the starters were not as spicy as I expected them to be. Explaining the reason, Chef Suroor, who headed the team of five Khansamas from Rampur, said, "Originally, the royal food is quite spicier, but here, we have people coming from different areas with unalike forbearance to spices. Hence, spices can be added only within a certain limit."
Moving on to the main course, I had option including 'Chicken stew', 'Murgh Changezi', 'Dal Khass' and more. But a person hailing from Rampur would always pick 'Tar qorma' over everything else. Korma, which might seem very spicy in the first look, will actually be a treat to your taste buds. Served in thick gravy, the extremely tender mutton melts in the mouth instantly. The dish which was also modified as per the general taste of everyone for the festival (with less spices and oil), has rich history attached to it. Enlightening me about the same, Shariq Khan, owner of 'Heritage catering', who joined hands with JW Marriott to organize this festival narrated, "People in the court of Nawab once urged to eat what His Majesty used to have in his meal. Owing to the request, the recipe of 'Tar qorma', which was easy and affordable to prepare, was revealed henceforth."
Amidst the talks around the rich legacy of nawabs, I was served 'Keema Teheri' (rice cooked with minced mutton) which actually took me by surprise. Prepared with hand-picked spices, the dish was actually an experiment by the chefs to bring out something new. Accompanied by refreshing mocktails, namely 'Mango mule'- a mouthwatering fusion of fruit juices, 'Black Rose'– a perfect blend of mint syrup, lime, and cola served with the brown sugar rim and 'Masala iced tea', the food was enjoyed thoroughly.
Then, I could hardly wait to dig my spoon in desserts and to take me back to the memory lanes. 'Gullati', a traditional sweet dish of Rampur- prepared on happy occasions with milk, khoya, and dry fruits was a total delight. The creamy texture and perfect consistency is what makes it an irresistable seal to the deal.