New Delhi | Long forgotten delicacies that were once relished by the erstwhile kings, maharajas and nizams of India can now be savoured courtesy a unique opportunity for food connoiseurs. Gastronomical delights from the kitchens of the Kashmiri Dogras, the kings of Travancore, the Nizams of Hyderabad and the Mewars of Rajasthan have been recreated by Varq at the Taj Mahal Hotel here.
The recipes, which are on offer at the restaurant till June 30 have been curated as part of Executive Chef Arun Sundaraj’s passion project. What we have beeen doing is an extensive research on the lost cuisines of the royals primarily to look at how we can go back to our cultures, see what flavours were used by them and why were they lost, he says.
He said that they had altered the recipes slightly and also toned them down in terms of the spices. A glimpse of the menu is enough to know that almost all the vegetarian recipes are from the kingdom of Travancore in Kerala, while the rulers of Hyderabad and Kashmir clearly prefered meat.
The restaurant has curated a well balanced five-course meal, with equal number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items to choose from. It will be served as part of their a la carte menu. Opening the culinary extravaganza is a pair of kebabs from Kashmir.
While the ‘Vegetable Duo’ consists of ‘Pattode ke kebab’ and ‘Paneer Gulnar Kebab,’ meat lovers can relish ‘Tujji chicken and lahabi kebab.’ According to Chef Rajesh Singh, Chef at Varq, both the kebab duos used to be popular delicacies of the Dogra cuisine. The filling in the paneer gulnar kebab is made of a mixture of vetiver or khus and cashew nuts. Pattode ke kebabs are made with spinach, says Singh.
While non-vegetarians have a variety of options, the vegetarians’ palettes are likely to feel bored with the unswerving flavour of spinach, that is recurrent not just in the appetisers but also in the main course. Again from the house of Travancore is the ‘Cheera ada curry’ that is visually quite unappetising and likely to remind one of the floral foams that are used for making bouquets.
The preparation is a block of mashed green spinach flavoured with coconut and cashew nuts and is topped with red spinach fritters. The ideal way to eat this is with something crispy and that is why we have put some banana chips on the top, says Chef Singh.
The regality of the menu is best showcased in ‘Saada aash’ soup that uses a 150-year-old recipe from the kitchens of the nizams. This lamb soup is simmered for seven hours and then tempered seven times, the chef says. It is served with small raviolis or lukmis stuffed with minced lamb along with a miniscule portion of quenelle made out of shredded lamb.
Nawabi Murgh is another delicacy that tastes as royal as it looks. Instead of the traditional chunks of meat, the chefs here have prepared the dish in the form of the European roulade, a dish consisting of rolled meat.
Served with nuts and sweet mango chutney, this chicken dish has a saffron curry to along with. Rice being the staple in most Indian cuisines, it was conspicuous that Khichdi, although not regal enough, would be an essential part of this menu as well. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian rice recipes have been culled out from the Nizami cookhouse.
Unlike the traditional rice and lentil khichdi that is often recommended for a patient’s dinner across India, the Nizams apparently savoured it in style and authority. In an unlikely overdose of meat, ‘Khichdi rafat’ has tender pieces of chicken, duck and lamb and is flavoured with aromatic spices and almonds.
The vegetarians will get to relish an equally delectable ‘Khichdi azam shahi’ that is rich is exotic vegetables. No royal Indian meal can be complete without a Biryani and no one does a biryani than the Nizams. Prepared in lamb stock, ‘Noori Hyderabadi Biryani’ is a four-hundred year old delicacy of succulent pieces of lamb and long grain rice cooked in a fragrant lamb stock, says Chef Singh.
The most intriguing and a must try recipe on the menu is the Garlic Kheer which bcomprises of layers of garlic kheer and broken wheat porridge from the kitchens of Mewar. The sweet crispy brandy snap in between the layesr of kheer is what gives this unique dessert its distinct taste.
The cloves of garlic are boiled for over 45 minutes so that it loses its pungent flavour. I am not sure but it was probably because of the digestion properties of the garlic that it was used in a dessert, says the chef.