India has a lot of culinary secrets that have been handed down across generations, and many recipes have been created and perfected within families and gharanas. While there are many gastronomic historic journals, some of the actual food of the era is long lost, and well out of our reaches. Food critic and Chef – Osama Jalali, along with his mother Begum Nazish Jalali and wife Nazia, have curated a special menu from the journals of Khansamas and family passed down recipes, and The Oberoi is running a 10 day special Purani Dilli Ki Dawat at Le Jardin, bringing a part of this celebrated yet lost food to Bangalore. I was invited to be a guest for a tasting of this event, and had the opportunity to meet chef Osama for a tête-à-tête, where he shared many stories and anecdotes around his life, journey and food.
This curated menu is on buffet, and our meal started with a long list of appetizers. A curious aspect that I was happy to note during the course of the meal was that, contrary to our notion that Mughlai cuisine didn’t have much of vegetarian offerings, there were quite a few creative veg dishes. Mr.Osama also informed us, that in course of his research into the cuisine, they discovered Aurangzeb, the Moghul emperor, was a vegetarian. The starters comprised of various kababs like mutton shammi, chicken sheekh, keema tikiya, dahi phulki, kathal ki galaoti and more. The starters were rich but not heavy, and the vegetarian kababs were quite interesting – especially the Kathal Kabab, given an interesting distinction to jackfruit.
The highlight of the experience for me however, was when the large array of interesting main courses were served. Aloo Gosht was a beautiful dish, succulent pieces of mutton cooked with potatoes. While in Bengal potatoes with meat is a common dish, the blend of strong spices and essence brought in a different harmony to this preparation. The Nalli Nihari was another work of perfection, a rich curry that tasted delicious. The saag kofte was an interesting rendition, having minced chicken koftas – the saag was very well made, and complemented the chicken perfectly. Another one of my favorites that evening was the chicken stew – a simple preparation, slow cooked with whole spices and the aromas permeate well within the meat and the light curry. The mutton biryani was quite flavorful as well.
There were many other interesting dishes that I just had to taste a tiny bit to leave space for dessert. Both Mr.Osama and Amit Wadhwan, the exec chef of Oberoi were quite happy to present the sweetmeats. And sweet meat quite literally it was, there was a mutton gosht ka halwa, cooked in cardamom, milk and ghee. And if we were asked to guess, mutton would be the last thing we would have expected in this dessert! This was a recipe Mr.Osama and his family recreated and developed after hearing of this dish from an old Khansama. The evening had such intrinsic revelations about the lost cuisines, and dishes that were discovered on their journey. One of the dishes that were described was Parinde Mein Parinda – a rendition of a bigger meat roast starting with camel stuffed with various smaller animals. Their adaptation comprised of duck, chicken, quail and quail egg with dry fruits – all three birds having different marinates, textures and cooking duration!
This Purani Dilli food festival buffet is on until 24th November and is priced at 1475++, served both during lunch and dinner. An opportunity to have this kind of authentic meal is rare, and I highly recommend the experience.