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Eat the royal way

`Ziafat-e-badshahi', a food-festival at Dum pukht, ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers takes one down the historical lane as a feast fit for the kings is laid out for the commoner.

A MEAL in `history', a repast befitting the kings is laid out for the commoner today at the Dum pukht restaurant, ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers. Masihuddin Tucy (a descendant of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar), a food consultant with the ITC group of hotels, continues to ensure that the medieval culinary traditions are not buried in the sands of time. With his research expertise he ensures that the royal aromas of the Mughal court and Bukhara, Samarkhand and other parts of Central Asia waft into the 21st Century.

The present festival Ziafat-e-Badshahe, is a continuation of Khwan-e-dum pukht which served food of 1850 A.D. This time too there is a royal feast for the commoner - a meal comprising dishes where there is a balance between taste and nutrition. Special herbs, flowers and seeds having medicinal value besides spices are used to create the unique flavours. The vast repertoire of food from Deccan plateau to Central Asia has been tapped and a few dishes reinvented. While you settle at Dum pukht Chef Khantwal and Masihuddin Tucy explain the details about the cuisine and a menu (which opens like a farman - royal decree) is given to you. From a shorba-e-khamash (mutton) and makhane shorba (veg and makhane - lotus seeds) to a variety of kebabs, qormas, other curries, biryanis, rotis to desserts - there is quite a bit for the vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Perhaps the main speciality of this festival is masq biryani - an item served in Haroun-al-Rashid - the Caliph of Baghdad. For that matter there is another traditional preparation from the royal kitchens of Baghdad - the sailani qorma (spring chicken in almond gravy flavoured with aromatic herbs). The other exotic items are Jehangiri kebab (aromatic mince marinated in hung curd flavoured with the mahua flower) and kade kebab (a speciality of central Deccan, chunks of mutton with local herbs skewered in green bamboo which perhaps dates back 500 years) and murg methi (chicken with vilayati methi - fenugreek leaves grown in Central Asia - the seeds of which were brought by Tucy and grown in Hyderabad). The other vegetarian kebabs are Uzbeki kebab (made of broad beans) and subz shahi shikampur, while the non-veg ones include mehlathi jhinge (prawns), maratib machli (fish cooked on charcoal), trashe kebab (chicken) and selva shikampur (meat).

There is enough for meat eaters in terms of surq khaliya (a speciality of the royal army), desi gosht (mutton cooked in hung curd and whole spices) and rice and yekhni biryani (a traditional cooking style of south Deccan) and murgh milwan mirch (desi tandoori chicken).

For the vegetarian there is something totally different from the usual - khatal ka qorma (jackfruit in almond gravy with aromatic herbs), dum ke karele (stuffed bittergourds), ambada hari mirch (gongura preparation), a dal and a tarkari ki tahari (a combination of rice, yoghurt and fresh greens cooked on dum). These curries form the accompaniments to Uzbeki naan (a traditional central Asian naan), rogini roti and parathdar paratha.

The dessert section has the royal imprint - rich desserts like uroosa (betroot halwa), qooba (apricot served with malai - cream dieters beware), anjeer ka halwa (figs) and kharbooze ki kheer (musk melon).

End the meal with paan and walk out satisfied with the mehman nawazi feeling like an aristocrat. The festival is on till April 20 at Dum pukht (open for dinner only).

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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