Decadent Awadhi-era cuisine at Dawaat-e-Awadh festival, JW Marriott Kolkata
It’s a fallacy that history teachers teach us down the generations -- that the Mughal Empire began in 1526 and formally came to a close when the British crown came to control India following the failed revolt in 1857 or that the kingdom of Awadh that flourished during the 17th and 18th century was annexed by the East India Company under the Doctrine of Lapse enforced by Lord Dalhousie in 1856.
Both the Mughal Empire and Awadhi kingdom still exist. They continue to rule even without the emperor's seal, a formal seat of power, political boundaries and any visible symbol of assertion.
The empires have now moved into far more intimate quarters -- they have stepped into kitchens, invaded taste buds and continue their dominance beyond the wildest dream of the first Mughal emperor Babar or Wajed Ali Shah, the last nawab of Awadh, who was packed off to Kolkata, where he introduced the signature culinary style that has become a rage now.
Did you ever know there is something called a Potli Masala, which is a concoction of 25 different kinds of secret herbs and spices in precise measures, used in Awadhi cuisine to enhance the taste of curries, especially the vegetarian fares?
Several such trivia were narrated by Master Chef Mujeebur Rehman from Lucknow, who is orchestrating Dawaat-e-Awadh, an Awadhi food festival that has started from today at JW Kitchen in JW Marriott Kolkata.
The spread was luscious to say the least, starting from the savouries to the sweet delights. “What you usually get in the name of Awadhi cuisine is actually a spicier version of the authentic one. Awadhi cuisine is much more refined and delicate in flavour,” explains the 43-year old chef Mujeebur Rehman, who has been enthralling the who’s-who of our country including Ratan Tata, Sachin Tendulkar, former President of India, Pratibha Patel, Salman Khan and Shilpa Shetty with his expertise in Awadhi cuisine.
True to the words of the chef, the kebab platter that greeted us the first thing was tasty and succulent in a subtle way. The spices blended well with the kebabs without masking each other.
The Surkh Mahi Tikka made with fresh bekti fish deserves a special mention for being such a relief from the overwhelming presence of Basa in most restaurants. The Murgh Tikka Mirza Hasnu was also a bit different than the customary tangri kebabs served at every corner of the city. The taste and consistency of Galawati Kebabs surpassed anything by that name that we had so far.
Though we steer clear from anything vegetarian, mention must be made of the melt-in-your-mouth Tandoori Mushrooms and Lazeez Baigan Masala. What set the Baigan Masala apart from your regular Baigan ki Bharta was the judicious use of Potli Masala that gave it a distinct flavour.
The Gosht Yakhni Shorba came next to serenade us with its creamy, smooth consistency and unique Awadhi piquancy.
But nothing really could beat the Awadhi Gosht Dum Pulao. Rehman stresses that there is nothing called an Awadhi biryani, it’s the pulao that we tend to call briyani. The difference lies in the use of limited number of spices in the pulao and the fact that the rice is cooked with milk.
The pulao literally left us speechless, with no time to spare for the courteous exchange of paeans. The mutton was cooked to perfection, tender and juicy. The non-greasy nature of the dish made it easy on the stomach and we couldn’t refuse a large third helping.
Bong Zafrani Nehari, a slow cooked lamb with aromatic spices, served with sheermals and warqi paranthas was a gastronomic experience to remember for a long time.
But what disappointed us a bit in comparison to the other delicacies was Mahi Chandi Korma, a kind of fish rezala, that didn’t seem very appetising to us.
The desserts – Sheer Korma and Beetroot Halwa -- made their way into our full tummies by sheer dint of merit.
If you want to live through the decadent cuisine of Awadhi era, then this festival will surely live up to your expectations. Go and spoil yourself till it lasts.
Where: JW Kitchen, JW Marriott Kolkata
4A, JBS Haldane Avenue, Kolkata – 700 105
When: July 13 – 22
Timings: Lunch and brunch: 12.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m., dinner: 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Prices: Lunch: Rs 1,250 AI (Monday-Friday)
Dinner: Rs 1,625 (Monday –Sunday)
Saturday brunch: Rs 1,500 AI (Beer and Sangria), Rs 2,500 (Select premium spirits)
Sunday brunch: Rs 1,850 AI (Beer and Sangria), Rs 2,500 (Select premium spirits)
For reservations: 033 6633 0000