When I think of amazing dishes made with closely guarded recipes having mysterious ingredients, the history of the royal Khansamas comes to my mind. The grandeur with which they served the Rajas, the Nawabs and the Zamindars, and the innovative dishes they created, are memories - doors to remembrances of days different from now. I remember the Khansama in my grandmother's kitchen dishing out explosive dishes all day long, making eating an all day activity with mouth watering dishes churned out one after the other. I don't remember eating most dishes again as he came up with delectable new dishes day after day. The sense of fulfillment that such dishes provide, more or less have become things of the past now, because neither do most of us have the time to enjoy such food nor can we find or afford some of the rare ingredients.
Wow, what recollections! All back to my mind because of the Rivaayat Food Festival that I recently experienced at the Trident Hotel at BKC, Mumbai at their Indian Specialty Restaurant - Maya. Thanks to the khansamas of Rampur, Awadh, Punjab and Hyderabad sharing their expertise with the chefs at Maya, we revisited some legendary dishes of India that are made from recipes more than 200 years old. Chefs Himanil Khosla and Jeewan Singh gave us an evening that is going to stay inscribed in my mind forever. You today are going to live that experience with me!
Maya has a warm ambiance with elements of traditional gold leaf work, complemented by striking accents of red and burnished gold. Personalized name cards made us feel special right from the beginning and the format of a scroll for the menu further added to the royal appeal. It was a busy night as I don't remember seeing a single empty table. Shows how much the people of Mumbai crave for such exquisite experiences.
We started with a Kebab platter consisting of tasty hand-picked kebabs by the chefs.
- The Rampuri Sigri Ki Seekh had the melt in your mouth effect along with the poppy seeds giving the minced lamb a lovely flavour. It's cooked in a traditional barbeque.
- The Galouti Kebab was really soft due to all the pounding that the lamb meat goes through with clarified butter. It was aromatic and flavourful due to the spices used in making the kebab which included the special Awadhi garam masala, kebab masala, saffron, rose water and itr(edible perfume).
- The Chapli Chicken Kebab originating from Peshawar is a flattened mince chicken kebab with just the right amount of spice to please your taste buds. It is also known as the Peshawari Kebab.
- The chef saved the best for the last - Purani Dilli Style Fried Chicken which is originally a street food and comprises of chicken pieces marinated in a special yellow masala called Noori Masala, deep fried and served with chat masala.
The chutney to accompany these kebabs was a wonderful amalgamation of coriander with olives, and was nice and fresh with a tangy taste to it.
Then it was time for the main course. Like the starters, once more the chefs served us a great choice of dishes.
- Awadhi Nehari - This dish is made with slow cooked lamb shanks where the meat absorbs all the yummy flavours as it gets cooked for hours over a fire. This dish has a very interesting history to it - Nehari's literal meaning is nihar muah which means the dish which is eaten early in the morning. Nehari originally used to be made with trotters or joints of animals which was considered cheap meat and was eaten by the poor people of the nawab’s kingdom as they could only afford that. Slowly and gradually the dish became so popular that the nawab himself wanted to try it but could not do so because of the reason that he was the ruler and could not eat a poor man’s meal. He asked his Khansama to prepare it and the cheap meat was replaced by lamb shanks and that is how the dish became a royal dish. The nawab decided that he will try this dish in early hours of morning so that people would not know about it and that’s the reason it’s a breakfast dish and called nehari (nihar muah). Interesting isn't it?
- Saag Murgh Kofta - Never before have I eaten such soft chicken koftas and the combination of it with a spinach gravy was delightful. The smell of ghee and kasuri methi added to my joy.
- Langar wali Dal - A tasty blend of whole black urad dal and chana dal with basic spices and ghee which not only me but also the royals could not resist! It was basic yet a delicious preparation. Sometimes you don't need special ingredients to make a special dish! This dish owes its origins to the langars for the devotees at the Gurudawaras in Punjab.
- Mahi Kaliyan - A fish curry served to the royals of Hyderabad, the gravy of this dish is made with peanuts, coriander and sesame seed. Hands down the best dish I had that night! I savoured every bite of this dish and couldn't get over how a fish dish had a gravy so flavoursome yet not overpowering.
To accompany these dishes, we were served the Khameeri roti - roti with a sweetish taste to it, Amritsari kulcha - an aloo stuffed mildly spiced kulcha and the all time favourite Makke ki roti.
The finale to the main course round was brought about with the Kacche Gosht ki Biryani - a fragrant and succulent rice dish made of basmati rice, soft lamb and aromatic spices. It was a light preparation and more like the yakhni pulao made in our North Indian houses.
To accompany the biryani we were also served a Papad Platter with rolled roasted papad, methi khakra and nachni khakra. Three interesting dips were served along with the platter - a walnut and radish dip which was something that I had never heard or tasted of before, a papaya relish which was sweet and the coriander and olive chutney. Once again a wonderful combination.
The sumptuous meal was followed by three equally great deserts. Though we were full to the brim, we couldn't say NO to the sweet seduction that lay ahead. The chefs clearly know their proportions because if one is not careful with the ingredients and the blend of sweetness, then deserts tend to be just sugary without any taste of the main ingredient.
- The Gajrela - the traditional gajar ka halwa put to rest any doubts that were there about the deserts. The sweetness was balanced and the taste of carrot was not overpowered by any other ingredient used.
- While I was busy enjoying the halwa, PS went for the Gulathi, and did not put the spoon down till he had cleaned up the entire serving. Gulathi is a rice pudding made with clarified butter, milk and sugar and served with chandi vark(edible silver foil) and nuts. It was originally made by the ladies of the house and is a traditional recipe which is uncommon. Once again the sweetness was balanced allowing one to experience the subtle taste of all ingredients used.
- The third desert was the Sewaiya ka Muzzafar. It was the sweetest of the three and it really provided a perfect end to the meal. It was made of cardamom flavoured vermicelli, sweetened and cooked in ghee, and then served with rabdi.
With this we lived the life of the royals for the evening, and if you want to do the same, head to Maya at the Trident BKC. I would definitely say Go For It! The chefs and the attendants will dazzle you.
The festival is on from the 13th to the 23rd of January and serves thali for lunch and an a la carte menu for dinner. I would recommend reserving a table by calling on 022 66727777 in advance.
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