Rare and fusion recipes at The Saffron Tree, Kolkata are pure indulgence
DID you know that in the pages of history, it is said that the figure of Nawab of Bengal turned the Nawab of Awadh into his ally with no more than a litchi kebab? Or that the famed Daulat ki Chaat in Delhi is actually the outcome of a Nawab’s whim to taste clouds? The Saffron Tree at Southern Avenue is all about such nuggets of arcana, with a range o f Mughal items on offer, and each one telling a story of its own.
“We meticulously curated each dish referring to history books, consulting food historians, and meeting the descendants of the Mughal chefs,” explains Sambit Banick, a trained chef from Paris, who started The Saffron Tree last year on Independence Day, and finds Mughlai cuisine to be as fascinating as French offerings.
The menu at this 72-seater contemporary diner is replete with dishes crafted by the rakabdars of the royal kitchens of Bhopal, Rampur, Mursidabad, Lucknow and more. Our tryst with the Nawab, Nizam and Begum’s whims and fancies began with an appetiser or Shuruw at (star ter) platter. The Litchi Ke Kebab’s sweet and spicy concoction, laced with cream, whetted our appetite for more stories and food, of course. While the piquant Machli and Aam Papad ke Kebab, with a hint of sweetness, was the result of a challenge thrown by Begum Qudsia of Bhopal to her head chefs, the Paan aur Gosht ki Tootak came into being as the eccentric Nawab of Hyderabad, Mehboob Ali Khan, didn’t wanted to spit after chewing on betel leaves! The latter dish had a distinct bitter tinge of betel leaf covering the spicy minced meat.
Next came the Khamri Roti and Luchai ke Paratha, which we had with the Hyderabadi Haleem. “It’s not Lachcha, but Luchai,” explains Sambit, adding, “It’s one of the rare paranthas from Lucknow that is extremely laborious to make.” The layers of ultra-thin, crispy strips of the paranthas are a proof of that. Fried in ghee, the parantha goes well with the haleem, which is different from the regular haleem available during Ramzan. We ended our meal with Nimish or Daulat ki Chaat, a whimsical dessert made for a Nawab who wanted to eat clouds. Made with only milk froth, the dessert is high on cardamom and saffron, and tastes nothing less than heavenly. Apart from the revived recipes, you can also taste the Kataifi Achari Prawn, which is crisp and delectable. Pork lovers can rejoice too, as there’s a fine Pork Biryani on offer as well. Meal for two: `600.