The era of the Maharajas’ & Nawab’s was a period of grandeur in our country. The worship of art in all its forms was at peak during this era. One would agree that a golden leaf out of the pages of this history is the development of culinary traditions across the numerous royal kitchens of India. Today, these culinary customs form the basis of some of the famous cuisines of our country.
While a big chunk of food enthusiasts end up travelling to the state of Uttar Pradesh to sample fares of the famous Lucknowi & Awadhi cuisines, there are some who would agree that the state has many more gastronomic marvels to offer beyond these two rich and popular cuisines. One such cuisine being that of the erstwhile kingdom of Rampur in the state.
Today, this cuisine does not enjoy the same popularity in the country as the Lucknowi or Awadhi cuisines but it is slowly and surely making its presence felt. The Rampuri Food Festival held recently at Poolside - VITS Hotel in Andheri (East) gave me a chance to explore this cuisine right here in Mumbai.
The Royal Rampuri cuisine is characterized by use of khada masala or whole spices coupled with a complexity of cooking procedures that impart a robust flavor to many traditional preparations. Along with select ingredients, these unique procedures lend a touch of secrecy to the recipes of the Khansamas, who have proudly defended them for years together.
In bygone days, Rampur apart from being famous as a hub of renowned poets was also known to have a huge populace of Khansamas. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the curator of this food festival was Chef Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, a descendant of the Khansamas of Wajid Ali Shah era. Chef Rehman had put together a delectable spread for this festival and ensured that each and every guest was well-informed of the nuances of this cuisine. He patiently sat through our questions, quizzed us on ingredients & flavors and shared his immense food knowledge.
He ensured that even the ambience, the table setting, the attire of the staff and ghazal singers were all organized in a way so as to recreate the imperial setting of the Nawabi traditions of Rampur.
The fares were put together as a lavish buffet spread. Below is a glimpse of some of the preparations we ended up devouring:
GHUTI DAL KA NAWABI SHORBA was the vegetarian soup option. This was a very subtly flavored lentil soup. For the non-vegetarians, AKHANI KALI MIRCH KA SHORBA was provided. The flavor was distinctly meaty and was certainly an acquired taste.
A total of 6 appetizers were served – six vegetarian and six non-vegetarian. LAZEEZ ALOO TUKRI was one of the most delicious vegetarian appetizers I have had till date. In non-vegetarian appetizers, the highlight was the MAJLISI KEBAB, a delicious mutton based kebab preparation that had a smoky flavor and texture mid-way between a paste and kheema (minced mutton).
Some of my favorite picks that reflect the culinary heritage of the Royal kitchens of Rampur from the spread were:
In the dessert course, there were two very unusual preparations – ANDE KA HALWA and CHUKANDAR KA HALWA. Both the preparations were rich, delicious and were a perfect way to end a grand meal fit for a king.
It was indeed a meal I will cherish and I will go ahead and say that Rampuri cuisine is my new favorite gastronomy from the northern frontier region of the country.
Although this food festival has concluded, I am sure there will be more such taking place in near future to honor this cuisine. Let's hope while staying in Mumbai we get to enjoy more of this special gastronomy soon.
Till then, HAPPY EATING…
- Regional Indian Food & Travel enthusiast