The mention of North Indian food sets one’s mind racing in the direction of popular delicacies from cuisines like Punjabi, Kashmiri, Awadhi and Mughlai. However, the northern part of the country has many more culinary styles to offer that are yet to receive the attention that the aforementioned gastronomies have garnered. One such cuisine being Rampuri cuisine that was recently showcased at a specially curated food festival at renowned Masala Bay restaurant at Taj Lands End Hotel, Mumbai
Chef Mujeeb Ur Rehman, a descendant of khansamas in Nawab Wajid Ali Shah' court gave a glimpse of this lesser known cuisine from Rampur city of Uttar Pradesh state to Mumbaikars through some fantastic heirloom recipes during this festival that concluded on July 9.
Centuries ago the city of Rampur became renowned for being home to illustrious poets as well as numerous khansamas. It was the khansamas in the royal court of Rampur, who went on to give the Rampuri cuisine it's intricate flavours using predominantly khada masala or whole spices, nut pastes and highly aromatic ingredients like ittr, sandalwood powder to create a very refined gastronomy in terms of food technique as well as flavour profile.
So here is a look at some of the delicacies of Rampuri cuisine I had the fortune to relish:
I tried five sumptuous appetizers from the menu and each superseded the previous one in terms of flavour. I began the meal with AATISHI KUMBH or chargrilled mushrooms that were redolent of mustard and had a profound smokiness making them absolutely delectable. Next, starter to please my palate was MATAR KE KEBAB which was a smooth textured potato patty with a core of spicy green peas reeling of cumin seeds.
The non-vegetarian appetizers I tried included MAHI PASANDA, a batter coated fillet of fish, CHAPLI KEBAB, flattened mutton mince cutlets cooked on a griddle till crispy and the succulent NAWABI MURGH TIKKA. My clear favourite was the tikka marinated in a masala that included spices like black cardamom, cumin seeds, cinnamon & a plethora of spices, ginger-garlic paste, mustard oil & yoghurt for long hours and then grilled to perfection in a tandoor.
For this course I ended up trying two vegetarian, two non-vegetarian preparations and a Yakhani Pulao. ITTR KI DAL was one of the most rich lentil preparations I have had in my culinary journey so far. Pigeon pea were slow cooked in milk, cream, ghee and given an aromatic touch of ittr to arrive at this flavourful dal. ANNANAS KE BOTI was a dish made with annanas or pineapple cubes coated in ingredients like sandalwood powder and white pepper. These were then cooked in a red chilli spiced thick gravy.
The non-vegetarian gravies were toothsome in their own right. The CHUNGHEZI MURGH consisted of boneless chicken chunks cooked in onion and almond based gravy. The chicken was cooked to perfection and the gravy had a rich, nutty flavour. TAAR KORMA was the epitome of wonders of slow cooking meat. The lamb was falling off the bone and its juices had beautifully leeched into the mildly spicy browned onion gravy it was cooked in.
I polished off the gravies with traditional tandoor-made breads like NAWABI KULCHA and SHEERMAL.
The main course approached its zenith with the simple yet spectacular GOSHT YAKHANI PULAO where long grain aromatic rice was laced with Yakhani gravy or a lamb shank broth flavoured with whole spices. In this dish too the lamb had attained a pleasing moist, tender texture.
The grand feast concluded with three befitting sweet delights. The customary Eid delight of SHEERKHURMA made with vermicelli, dry fruits & milk was the mildest of the three desserts in terms of sweetness. Next dessert that had me indulged was the beetroot halwa or CHUKANDER - E - AFROZ made from grated beetroot simmered with milk. The subtly sweet dish was finished off with a touch of khoya and sprinkling of dry fruits. The final sweet delight was the silken textured GUR KI YAQUITI made by simmering chickpeas flour with milk, jaggery & cardamom. With the flavour profile on lines of the filling of puranpoli, this dessert gave an instant sugar rush.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Rampuri style dishes and would love to savour them on future occasions as well. So, I hope Chef Rehman brings back the legacy of Rampuri cuisine to Mumbai again soon.
Till then, HAPPY EATING...
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- Regional Indian Food & Travel enthusiast