Imagine a scenario when you have the privilege to experience food which is a perfect balance of two distinct and yet best known cuisines, for their mouthwatering dishes – What will be your reaction? Amazed, thrilled and speechless – I presume!
I was speechless when I got call from my good friend Osama Jalali who himself is an excellent food critic and also curator of food festivals. I reminisce my first interaction, when he and Chowder Singh organized food walk of walled city and more than eating food it was an experience of life time, to interact with people who have amazing knowledge of food. Shahjahanabad ki Sair is a food festival that is being held at The Ssence, Surya Hotel from 12th to 21st dec(Dinner only). It is brilliantly curated by Osama Jalali and his mother Nazish. Mrs Nazish is from Rampur(a place which is known for his culinary history) and Osama is born and brought up in Old Delhi(earlier known as Shahjahanabad).
Honestly speaking I was nervous about reviewing Shahjahanabad ki Sair. Do you know why? Let me ask you – Have you ever tried judging food that your mom cooks? I mean, not when you were kid – specifically NOW, when you are all grown up! Has there been any meal which you didn’t like?? Have you wondered that at times you feel your mom cooks some of the dishes better than your wife/girlfriend? Well, now you would understand the reason of my nervousness! This journey took me to my childhood days, reminded me of those meals that were prepared by Javed’s ammi, my friend’s mother and it was unforgettable experience!
Osama is born and brought up in the walled city where he learnt the art of Mughlai cooking from the khansamas and bawarchis of old Delhi.
As per Osama, most of the food that you eat at jama masjid and their by lanes are more of street food where spices and oil is added to make it more richh. Real mughlai food that we experienced at this festival is hard to get outside, unless cooked at home.
I was very sure for one thing – each and every dish that I would taste will have great flavor and mouth-watering.
Beans and jackfruit shami kebab were new for me and they had great texture and were dripping with flavor!. Mutton seekh was simply outstanding, perfect texture, succulent meat and with every bite you simply get amazed as unlike other places, excess spices make the meat lose it’s taste. Kacche keeme ki shami was another star dish which was absolutely delicious. But for me hari mirch ka keema and nehari were outstanding. I am not a keema fan, however I loved the keema dish that I had here. I have eaten nehari at many places, however this was not only different but the best I have ever had. Perfect viscosity, brilliantly cooked and smartly chosen meat cuts.
Last but not the least we finished our meal with my alltime favourite zarda pulao and jalebi in hot milk. Zarda pulao is one of my favorite and have been eating since my childhood. The difference between what I have eaten in other places and here – is the rice. Here it was prepared with para boiled rice(or sela) and in UP it is prepared with basmati rice. Nevertheless it was just perfect.
Zarda Pulao – one of the rare sweet dish which can only be found in the kitchens of Muslim household and that too confined to very specific geographical area specially in eastern part of UP and some parts of Bihar. I remember my childhood friend Shams Javed who mom was an excellent cook and used to make Zarda Pulao on my request (though this dish is majorly prepared during marriage). I was not only fan of her Zarda Pulao but also used to love the salan(mutton curry) that she made.
Do you know that Zarda Pulao is originally known as Afgani Narinj Palaw and is one of the most popular desserts in Afghanistan that is believed to be brought to central India by Muslim rulers.
It was truly an amazing evening which will last in my mind and heart forever. I definitely have a major concern here and this is post this festival – where will I get authentic and amazing Mughlai food! Osama – I hope you will take a note of this!J