The term Avadhi was coined in Uttar Pradesh, a state that forms the very heart of the Indo-Gangetic plains. The cuisine of Awadh was patronized by the Nawabs, and later the Mughals reinvigorated the flavours promoting the cuisine in almost every part of the country. It is believed that the ‘Bawarchi’s who prepared and perfected the cuisine, did so to please the royalty.
I was very fortunate to be invited to the Avadhi food festival in Mumbai. The festival is held at Tiara at Mehula the Fern. My very own and one of my favourite chefs, Chef Mujeebur Rehman, curated the delectable delights. Chef Rehman went out of the way to welcome me, as he really wanted me to grace and bless this food festival. He is known for his distinct knowledge on Indian cuisines, and totally comprehends the nuances of the Awadhi variation. I was just as usual left spellbound by the bountiful spread. The preparations were delicious, and the presentation simply blew my mind.
I was introduced to a sumptuous array of dishes. I may not have enlisted the same in any particular order, but I must add, that the authenticity of each dish made me feel like royalty.
I started with the traditional ‘Tomato Yakhani Shorba’which is a tangy tomato soup. The soup is mildly spiced, and served piping hot. This was completed with a round of traditional, freshly chopped salads. The coriander was the mainstay in this course of the meal. The fragrance of coriander in this course of the meal lingers on all through the meal.
The breads form an integral part of the Awadhi cuisine. The most common bread that is served is the ‘Roomali Roti’. There is a lip-smacking line up of both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian variations that balance the cuisine.
I stared with the steam rice and ‘Dal Arhar’ (A certain kind of lentil preparation finished with a rich smattering of onions, tomatoes, and topped off with cream). I also tried the very famous Paneer Hazrat Mahal (Diced cottage cheese tossed in delicious Awadhi gravy).
The ‘Tamatar Dulmeh’ is one of the most unique dishes I have tried. The dish consisted of char grilled tomatoes, with a stuffing of vegetables, and other savoury spices. The ‘Nawabi Baingan Bharta’ was delicious. I enjoyed the fragrant aroma from the tandoor. The dish is made using a large brinjal that is toasted to perfection. Once toasted it is peeled and is sauté in a rich luscious gravy of onion, tomatoes, garlic, cashews and topped off with some fruits and dry fruits. The ‘Aloo Simla Mirchi’ is a dish that is often consumed in most Indian households. It comprises of capsicum, and potatoes cooked in thick rich gravy complete with spices (but not spicy). The ‘Gobhi Mussallum’ is a dish that predominantly comprises of a full cauliflower, topped off with spicy gravy.
I tucked into the delicious ‘Sabz Akbari’, which is mixed vegetables completed in gravy. The dish also comprises of chunks of cottage cheese and cashew, and other delectable dry fruits. For those who wouldn’t even look at pumpkin would certainly try this one. ‘Lazeez Kaddu’ is pumpkins that are cooked to perfection, and sometimes cooked along with pine nuts. While this speaks volumes on the vegetarian fare, the non-vegetarian fare didn’t fail to impress me.
We had the ‘Ande ka Salan’ a famed egg dish. The ‘Chowk ki Nihari’ is a famous lamb dish that is deliciously done with a lot of spices. The ‘Mahi Meti Korma’ is a dish that involves meat cooked along with fresh fenugreek leaves. It imparts a slightly bitter flavour but is soothingly comforting on the taste buds. The ‘Dum Ka Murg’ is a roasted chicken dish and flavoured with butter and traditional Awadhi spices. The ‘Zaffrani Palou’, is one of the most delicious dishes one can ever try. The dish is cooked in court style, as was in the Mughal courts. The Palou is very fragrant and has a very regal air to it. It involves a rich use of saffron and dry fruits too.
I must admit that I did have a lot more than this but I cannot just wait til I could get to the dessert. Chef Rehman curated an interesting line up of desserts. The desserts were traditional and yet had a very modern twist. One witnesses a confluence of cultures come alive in this course of the meal.
The ‘Thandai Pastry’ was wonderfully done. The traditional milk preparation in India is often prepared in the summer months to keep from the terrible ulcers. Even though it was prepared in the pastry format I simply enjoyed the rendezvous of the east and the west. Very similarly chef had worked well with the ‘Gulabi Cheeze cake’ brining out the flavours of rose and cheese. The unison of both these ingredients is truly magical.
I took to the ‘Angoori Rabri’ like how a glove takes to ones had. It was delightful and flavourful all the same. The preparation comprises of reduces milk that is sweetened and topped off with a round of dry fruits.
The cuisine from Awadh is never complete without ‘Petha’ a traditional sweet made using corn flour and has a slightly translucent appearance. Food lovers usually sip on ‘Falooda’ during the course of the meal. The ‘Falooda’ is a delicious milk preparation that is complete with cooling ingredients like Sabja seeds, and vermicelli. The ‘Shali Tukda’ is just another reduced milk preparation completed with the fragrant saffron and dry fruits. I couldn’t resist the ‘Mango Phirni’, the Indian version of pudding flavoured with the season’s best… mangoes.
I ended the meal on a high note. Chef Rehman and his team were very respectful, and he took time out to interact with me and drop me all the way out to my cab. In a nutshell I will state I was impressed.