In the past 2 decades we have connoisseurs, curators , critics and historians all specifically for food. what’s breaking to the obvious next level is a reviver. Someone who is the lone torch bearer for a cuisine or recipe. India unfortunately does not have its food history documented in a proper text for unknown reasons, one the strong reasons I personally believe is in a country where culture and language change every 100 odd kilometers food changes at an even shorter distance. Creating infinite versions of even the simplest everyday recipe.
Anyone who gets these separate poles together puts in tremendous effort and is definitely worth noticing, one such initiative was taken by Mr. Osama Jalali accompanied with his wife and mother who are food and heritage revivers in my humble eyes. They are trying to revive the dying Mughalia cuisine of India that is lost under the layers of modern day cooking. They curated an extensive menu for a 10 day long event held at Oberoi-Gurgaon with the executive chef Ravitej Nath named “Lost recipes of Mughal era”, which was highly appreciated by the everyone.
The pallet started with Luleh Kawab which were succulent lamb kawabs rolled in cardamom flavored nan. The Kawab-E-Burghal is a vegetarian kawab that would put the finest non-vegetarian kawabs to shame. Based on broken wheat, lentils, pepper and coriander this is a possibly the healthiest and finest take on anything remotely called a kawab.
For the main course it was Amba Qaliya that is, braised lamb cooked in raw mango and desi-ghee finished with pistachio and raisins. It was a great blend of sweet and sour flavour, which is rarely found on the diverse Indian pallet. Next was the Kancha Kofta which takes it’s name from the tiny marbles which kids play in the field. The beauty of the dish is, when you break the kofta; there is an empty space about the size of a marble in the center of meatball.
The more intricate dishes were in the follow on like Murgh Zamindoz, which is whole chicken, wrapped in dough and cooked in earthen pot, sealed with mud in a deep pit; which is dug under the earth, which acts as an intense pressure cooker, with very high temperatures. Parinda-Me-Parinda was possibly the toughest bet in my eyes where an egg was stuffed inside a quail, which was stuffed inside a chicken and the whole thing was in-turn stuffed inside a duck. The difficult part here is to ensure all the birds cook well inside out, none of them stay uncooked or become overcooked and start falling apart.
For the rice it was Mutanjan, which is sweet chicken pulao that I consumed a lot as a child and have always, loved the sweet and savory flavours. Another rice variation was the Motia Pulao, where poached egg whites were placed inside small intestine of goat, tied an inch apart and boiled giving it a definite pearl shape hence the name.
The dessert had Maleeda, an instant nostalgia for me. This used to be the dessert for poor back in old times. Left over maize flour bread pounded with desi ghee and sugar, making it the ultimate dessert for anyone. The one served here had dry fruits and cinnamon added for the fine taste.
In all honestly I do not consider myself to be the authority to judge the food that was revived with such good initiative. I was impressed by the meal is the least I can say about it considering the Mughal emperors had the same food 5 centuries ago. The festival was held in Oberoi-Gurgaon from 7th to 16th August 2015 and would hopefully sail to other cities too and with a price tag of 3500 INR if you get to eat all this and feel royal for even a moment then I can safely say it was totally worth.
This is just an overview of the dishes and I would be following on these and other dishes from the same era in my blog section named “The Origin Series”, stay tuned for all the intricate details.