“These masalas have been made by the women of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh using over 30-36 spices,” says Chef Suroor Khan, showing us the coarse and fine hand-ground spices – chaat masala, peeli mirch, and achari masala. We are at the 10-day Rampur Food Festival at Blooms, Eros Hotel, Nehru Place.
Khan and his team comprising chefs Farid Ahmed and Mohd Saleem are here to showcase the culinary legacy of Rampur that evolved with its sultans and their taste buds. He adds, “Though people have started moving to the ready-to-use spices, we prefer the handmade ones because we want to preserve this traditional art of crushing spices using mortar and pestle.”
Khan has curated a menu replete with soups, starters, main courses and desserts. “We want to promote this hidden cuisine designed by the last khansamas of the bloodline, who used to cook for the nawabs for Rampur. Our dishes look like Awadhi or Mughlai dishes, but the taste is totally different. And since nawabi food is high on mutton and chicken items, there is a huge variety for non-vegetarians, but serving the vegetarians is a challenge,” he says.
The spread, a combination of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, starts with Paneer Baluchi Tikka with a tinge of sweet and Mewa Mawe ki Shaami, made using dry fruits and khoya that melts in the mouth, Kacche Gosht ki Tikki (lamb patty seasoned with homemade spices) and Murg Sondha (char-grilled chicken with added whole pounded spices).
Most of the savoury dishes are mildly sweet and derive their yellow colour from the yellow chilli grown in the Tarai area.
“Unlike North-Indian food, tomato and red chilli are the least used ingredients. Instead of tomato, we use curd to get the tanginess in our recipes. That’s why our dishes are not spicy. All dishes have a subtle taste,” adds Khan, who owns Heritage Hospitality in Rampur.
The strength of Rampuri cuisine is slow-cooking. Be it the Dal Sondhi (yellow lentil tempered with cumin seeds), Tar Korma (lamb in rich marrow gravy), or Murg Kundan Kaliyan (marinated chicken, cooked with yellow chili, ginger and garlic, and cream), each dish is cooked for three-four hours, which explains its rich texture.
Instead of biryani, the Rampuri cuisine has pulaos to accompany the gravy dishes. Saans-e-Dum Pulao is prepared as a Yakhni Pulao with lamb or chicken, while the vegetarians have the peas pulao, Suroor-e-Tairi. Again, both have a subtle taste with least taste of spices. Khan, who has been in the profession for over 20 years, says, “We use minimal oil. We do the yakhni first by boiling the chicken in coriander, fennel seeds, ginger, and garlic. It lends a different flavour to the chicken. And then we cook it in curd.” Mirch ka Saalan in tangy garlic-ginger gravy and baingan achari (baby brinjal cooked in gravy) make good side dishes.
The desserts are also a savoury-sweet surprise. For instance, take the Mirch Ka Halwa. Made after boiling capsicum, draining out the water, then cooking it in ghee with khoya and dry fruits, it doesn’t give the taste of capsicum at all. Khan says, “Guests are relishing these halwas. We are even experimenting on making halwa from green chilli, though it’s a tricky and lengthy process,” Khan adds. Apart from these, there is Gulatthi (sweetened reduced milk thickened with rice and garnished with chironji). At: Blooms, Eros, Nehru Place Till: November 18 Meal for two: `4,500+taxes