I heard a royalty say “While many Royals may now be living like fakirs, their money and the ancestral homes may have been taken away from them, but something which cannot be taken away from them is their pride. So, when they feast, they feast like kings.”
It is the homes of the erstwhile royal families of India, I would say, from where the entire genesis of Indian cuisine originated. And why not, only they could afford the most exotic ingredients, the best cut of meats and the most talented Khansamas. While it is true that the recipes that are part of our rich culinary heritage are slowly diminishing, the bigger truth is that no proper efforts have yet been made to preserve them.
That is why I feel that eatwithindia have taken an outstanding initiative ‘Dine With Royalty’ where members from 50 Erstwhile families are participating and jointly making an effort to preserve the royal recipes, revive the lost culinary treasures and present the grandeur of Indian cuisine on the world stage.
The Gala event will take place in October 2017 where 20 royal families will be showcasing their cuisine. A preview event took place at the Belgian Embassy on 25th Feb 2017 where the Royal families of Rampur and Kangra Valley showcased their cuisines.
Rampuri cuisine, that dates back to the year 1774 had initially been derived from the Pashtun Cuisine i.e. the cuisine from Eastern Afghanistan and Western Pakistan. Since the Nawabi rule, this cuisine further drew influences from the Mughlai and Awadhi cuisine. Over the period of time Rampuri cuisine has attained a legendary status of its own and has fairly distinct features from the cuisines it is inspired from.
It mainly consists of meats that are cooked in raw or khada masalas and the dishes are prepared in clay pots and deghs. The recipes of this cuisine are well-guarded secrets and have been passed down the generations.
I loved everything in the lavish spread but the highlights for me were Chapli Kebab, Dum ki Machhi, Bater Qurma, Taar Gosht, Murg Musallam, Anarkali Zarda and Shahi Tukda
On the other hand Kangra cuisine is very simple and homely though maintaining the richness and intensity. The history of the valley dates back to the Vedic times i.e. more than 3500 years ago. The food of the valley, that is largely Himachali vegetarian cuisine is prepared by Brahmins called ‘botis’ who mainly use the utensils made of copper. Their food involves slow cooking over low heat and generally the preparation of a big wedding or a function starts a day before. I could see a lot of unique preparations such as Rajma Madra and Safed Chana Madra (both dishes cooked in yogurt gravy and Kangra spices), Khatte Aloo with Dry Mango Peels and Badana (a rich dessert made of boondi).
The grand dinner was preceded by a panel discussion on the Royal cuisines of India and its history that was chaired by food expert Sourish Bhattacharya, along with renowned panelists such Pushpesh Pant, Neha Prasada and Nawab Kazmi Ali Khan. The discussion enlightened me with the fact that even though there are many regional cuisines co-existing in the country, a common thread of affinity and familiarity exists between these cuisines. For Eg. If one cuisine has Biryani the other has Pulao. The intermixing of people from different cultures helped the regional cuisines develop a lot of similarities and you will always find one cuisine borrowing something from the other be it the method, ingredients or the spices.
The Belgian Ambassador Mr. Jan Luikx was a great host. I hope eatwithindia continues taking such great initiatives and develop a place for Indian traditional cuisine in the international arena.