Packing a punch, dum style

The dum pukht technique is staging a comeback, evident from the increasing demand for such slow-cooked meals
Packing a punch, dum style

All of you would agree that Dum Biryani or Dum Aloo is far more delicious and aromatic than when cooked ‘normally’. Preparing these dishes is a lengthy process, but the results are scrumptious. But over time, with modernisation becoming the buzzword and most of us leading fast-paced lives, the concept – dum pukht meaning cooking on slow fire – was put on a backburner. However now, this unique cooking style is staging a comeback. 

For example, Old Champaran Meat House and its outlets in Delhi-NCR serve their famous Mutton Handi cooked in earthen pots, dum style. “The dish is cooked for 70 minutes which ensures the moisture and aroma stays in the handi without losing any nutrients,” says owner Gopal Kumar Kushwaha, adding that Mutton Handi and Chicken Handi dum dishes garnered a good response during the lockdown.

Radisson Noida, Sector 55, started a special Dum Biryani Nights on Fridays post-lockdown period, offering Dum Murg Biryani, Dum Gosht Biryani, Dum Kathal Biryani and more. “Dum biryanis have been a favourite with our guests, especially the Dum Mutton Biryani. Conventionally, tough meat is used for dum pukht as the cooking process is very slow, and chefs can extract as much flavour as they want to. Some chefs have started preparing chicken dishes using this method,” shares Executive Chef Kapil Sahi.

Kapil Sahi
Kapil Sahi

The coffee shop menu at the hotel also has Dum Ka Murgh, Roohant Gosht and Bater Biryani dum dishes, as their demand has increased in the last few years. “A fair number of Indian/Mughlai food lovers ask for dum dishes,” says Sahi, attributing this surge to the travel and exposure that has introduced people to different styles of cooking and cuisines.

At Hotel Samrat in Chanakyapuri, dum pukht cuisine has been on the menu for over two decades now. “Being an Indian kitchen, we always had dum delicacies. With time, we have introduced concepts like cooking individual portions of food in dum style, cooking in only ceramic and aluminium handis, and hosting dum pukht live kitchens, which contribute to a guest’s overall experience,” says Junior Sous Chef Rubal Papneja. On offer are Lamb Biryani and Kachche Gosht Ki Biryani for non-vegetarians, and Dum Gulnar (veg biryani) and Kathal Biryani, with korma dishes for vegetarians.

Given the time consuming process, taking such orders at an la carte restaurant is difficult for the chef who needs to deliver the dish within the limited time. “But dum cooking is great for banqueting style food as it is done in bulk. These days, chefs pre-prepare dum style food, reheat and finish the same food in dum style,” says Chef Sahi who learnt the art of dum pukht cooking during an interaction with chefs from Rampur at a food festival.

Anuj Wadhwan, Executive Chef, Roseate House, says he learnt the art from his mother who cooked Dum Biryani for the family on Sundays. “These dishes cooked on slow heat add more flavours to the dish. The preparation is ready a few hours before the restaurant operations start to ensure the guests enjoy the flavourful dishes, while they dine with us,” he adds. On the Roseate House menu, since 2017, Gosht Biryani, prepared with bhuno and dum cooking methods, is among the highest selling dishes till date. “We also cook poultry and greens in dum pukht style,” puts in Chef Wadhwan.

These days, says Chef Papneja, dum dishes are the star items in 70-80 per cent dine-in settings, including at their hotel. “And the number goes up by another 10-15 per cent in a banquet setting,” he adds. Chef Sahi observes that the fuel in dum cuisine is much more than regular food, “but in dum pukht cuisine, wood and coal are favourites over cooking gas. It may be time-consuming, but surely tastier.” Agreeing, Chef Wadhwan adds, “It is not about the cost of the dish or the ingredients, but the taste and flavours it gets to the guests.”

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