Nawabi Foods From Rampur’s Royal Kitchens
New Delhi: When one thinks of Rampur, it is the formidable Rampuri "'chaku" (knife) as well as the lilt of Mirza Ghalib's poetry that comes to mind -- but there is more to the city than that.
It may come as a surprise to many that Rampur's culinary history dates to 1774, when Syed Faziullah Khan founded the city.
Rampuri cuisine has its dishes made in clay pots and is spiced with unrefined khada (raw) masalas, dalchini (cinnamon), sandalwood and peeli mirch (yellow chilly).
The city, some 150 km from the national capital, has had an abundance of cooks and artists from the surrounding areas settling there. For this reason, the city's cuisine is heavily influenced by Mughlai, Afghani, Lucknowi, Kashmiri and Awadhi cuisines.
Rampuri cuisine was developed by the chefs of the Nawabs and is known for its distinct flavours and dishes with recipes passed on from the royal kitchen.
Haji Bhoora, a descendant of the city's chefs, is in the capital with his team for a Rampuri Food Festival at the Masala Art outlet at the Hotel Taj Palace.
He said one of his forefathers was chosen by Faizullah to take over the royal kitchen. "He was the first nawab of Rampur and was very particular about his cuisine being unique. And that's how the journey of this nawabi food began," the 49-year-old told.
So, here's what's cooking:
We started our meal with griddle seared kachhe gosht ki tikki, dohra kabab and murgh sondha. It's made of pounded minced lamb kebab -- the best non-vegetarian alternative to the famous aloo tikki and perhaps better than that.
Dohra kabab was intriguing at first because of its skewered combination of chicken and lamb mince kebab but the taste was just perfect. Murgh sondha was like any other desi version of grilled chicken -- crispy and nice.
However, the clear winner was gosht ki tikki that took the gastronomic experience to a whole new level. For the main course, I picked murgh jehangiri and gosht taar korma, along with mutton biryani and rotis.
The main course doesn't really live up to the great expectations that were raised out after eating such delightful starters.
The murg jehangiri, cooked in yogurt and almond gravy, was visually quite inviting but didn't taste all that great perhaps because the very flavor of almonds didn't go well with the meat.
Bhoora described gosht taar korma as the signature dish in the royal kitchen of Rampur. The slow cooked lamb in rich marrow gravy was just fine.
One thing to look forward in the main course is the heavenly mutton biryani -- perhaps the best I have had so far, beating all other varieties available in the city.
By the time I was done with the mains, I was so full that there was hardly any room left for desserts. But the final platter had two unimaginable desserts on offer -- adrak ka halwa and subz meetha -- that were not to be missed.
There was something really soothing about the famous Rampuri dessert made of vegetables -- subz meetha.
Next up was ginger pudding. Before eating this, the only imaginable sweet thing made of ginger is perhaps the herbal solution of ginger juice and honey.
But strangely, this bizarre halwa was so tasty and just the best way to end the meal. Overall, a great experience.
The festival will continue till May 14, giving foodies a chance to savor an interesting cuisine.