India has a rich culinary history and most of the credit for that goes to the royal kitchens of this country. Many of the delicacies that we enjoy at Indian restaurants these days have originated from these kitchens, from the era of the maharajas. The kings and their families had rich culture and traditions, the facets of which could be witnessed in the feasts they enjoyed. With the passage of time most of the royal recipes are lost.
Chef Arun Sunderaraj at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi has tried to recreate few of those recipes in the ongoing 15 day long festival. He has had the first hand experience of working with a few royal chefs while he was working at Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad. In a small tête-à-tête with him, he revealed that the Nizami cuisine of Hyderabad in itself is so rich and its intermixture with so many cultures has hugely benefited the culinary sphere. Chef Arun himself can prepare almost 24 types of biryanis (I’m talking just about the Hyderabadi styles of biryani) and 16 styles of khichdis. He also told us that many royal families have dined at the famed dining hall that can seat around 101 guests at its single table, the length of which is 108 feet, and breadth is 5.7 feet. Now the no. of chairs has been reduced to 89 to assure better movement of service staff. The chairs are made of carved rosewood with green leather upholstery. The original tableware was made of gold and crystal. Some of the dishes served there even bear influence to the French cuisine.
The delicacies served at this festival are inspired by four different cuisines from the four different royal families of the country- the Dogra Family of Kashmir, the Mewar Family of Rajasthan, the Nizam Family of Hyderabad and the Travancore Family of Kerala.
One thing I believe that sets apart the royal recipes from those of the masses was restraint rather than generous use of spices. Of course the spices were used, but in a way that the dishes still did not lose their delicate flavours and the subtlety. Every dish served at the preview was a constant reminder of the class and the luxury the royalties were used to.
Some of the noteworthy dishes that I tried were: Dahi ke Kebabs that were served with beetroot chutney, Lahabi Kebab, a delicately spiced lamb kebab with a filling of yoghurt, that has originated from the kitchen of Kashmiri Dogra Family; Saada Aash, a lamb soup hailing from the kitchen of the Nizams that’s simmered for seven hours and tempered seven times; Nawabi Murgh, a dish consisting of chicken roulades served with smooth subtle saffron infused thick gravy, served with nuts and sweet mango chutney; Noori Hyderabadi Biryani, delicately flavoured biryani cooked in fragrant lamb stock; and Garlic Kheer, influenced by the Mewar cuisine had beautiful flavours just like any other kheer and did not have any hint of garlic.
Rajesh Singh, the head chef at Varq, and who is assisting Chef Arun in this festival, took great care of us and ensured that each dish had the required consistency and refinement.
A meal here is definitely warranted. A royal feast, that will make you feel not less than a maharaja, awaits you.
You can see more picture on our fb page, click here.