|Nawab Syed Mohammed Ali Khan of Rampur and wife Jeeva at Taj Bengal (top); biryani platter from Manthan. Pictures by Rashbehari Das
While Ketan Mehta is still providing finishing touches to his sepoy mutiny epic The Rising, we can all go back to 1857 by visiting Sonargaon at Taj Bengal before Sunday. The Indian speciality restaurant is holding a festival of the choicest cuisine of Rampur, a small town near Lucknow, where the intelligentsia had arrived in droves when war broke out between the British and Wajid Ali Shah.
Rampur may have been forgotten, thanks to the vagaries of time and space, but the recipes are very much alive with Nawab Syed Mohammad Ali Khan or in short, Murad Rampur.
What sets Rampur's food apart from the oft-eaten Mughlai recipes is the elaborate procedure that goes into the making of the dishes. In those times, a kaliya master would only make kaliyas, a kebabi would just prepare kebabs and the same was true for the men behind the sweetmeats. 'I have all the recipes compiled in one book, which I may publish some day,' revealed the Nawab.
At the Taj festival, you are truly spoilt for choice. If you want to take a non-vegetarian trip of Rampur ka khana, you can start off with the Murg Chapli Kebab (chicken mince dumplings flavoured with aromatic spices and cooked in a traditional vessel from Rampur) or the more exotic Bhuna Gurda Kaleji (pot roasted mutton liver and kidney cooked with traditional Rampuri spices). For the main course, while there are quite a few dishes on offer, the must-haves include Mutton Tar Korma (a special lamb preparation from the house of the Nawab), Shab Deg (a kaliya of mutton chops cooked overnight in yoghurt) and Bater Mussalam (quails cooked on dum with a thick almond and cashew gravy).
For a veggie, Rampuri food doesn't sound all that romantic but the use of lotus seeds and stems is quite unique. You can try the Kamal Kakri Kebab (lotus stem cooked with Rampur spices) and then move on to Subz Makhana Qaliya (celebrated Rampuri vegetable curry with lotus seeds).
To go with the kebabs and gravies, you must try the Sheermal (rich bread made with flour and milk) or the less exciting Rampuri Roti made from wheat.
For that sweet ending to your culinary conquest, have the Gulathi, a thick phirni with dry fruits. You can also go for the Khubani Ke Meetha, whose recipe has been formulated recently by the Nawab's wife, Jeeva.
The prices of the kebabs and main course dishes start from Rs 275 while the desserts come for Rs 145.
After the hilsa hysteria, biryani passion is fast catching up with every hotel worth its zafran hosting a feast of the Mughlai classic. The latest to bite the binge-wagon is Kenilworth with a biryani and kebab festival tantalisingly titled Mahek Biryani Aur Kebab Ki, at its Indian speciality restaurant, The Marble Room.
The a la carte lunch and dinner menu features a wide variety of biryani with some lip-smacking kebabs. One can choose between Kachchi Gosht ki Biryani, Peshawari Biryani, Murg Dum ki Biryani, Ilish Biryani, Seafood Biryani, Vegetable Parda Biryani and Paneer Tikka Biryani, priced at Rs 200 per dish.
The kebab menu consists of preparations like Murg Irani, Nawabi Tangri, Dum ke Mahi Kebab, Jhinga Anarkali, Noorjahani Gosht Kalia, Bawali Seekh, Bharwan Subz Bahar, Chutney Aloo Tikka and Paneer Pasanda Kebab. The menu also features some rather oily preparations of Chicken Chaap and Mutton Kassa. The prices range between Rs 200 and Rs 400 in this section.
To end the sojourn on a sweet note, there are Zarda (sweetened rice) and Phirni offerings. The treat will be on till September 26.
If you thought dosas and idlis is about as good as south Indian cuisine could get, check out the Chettinad Chicken Biryani and Chettinad Mutton Biryani on offer at the biryani fest at Manthan, 3, Waterloo Street.
Serving up preparations from 'Padma nadir paar theke' (read Bangladesh) like Elish Machher Biryani and Chingri Machher Biryani, the classic Mughlai dish it seems has travelled east as well. The restaurant completes the circuit with Lucknowi varieties like Murg Nawabi and Gosht Nawabi Biryani and those originating from Hyderabad like Dumpukht Gosht Biryani and Dumpukht Murg Biryani. Prices range from Rs 99 to Rs 120 per dish. A complimentary beer or whiskey serving adds to the treat.