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Dine like the Nizams of Hyderabad at the Dastarkhwan-ul-Mulq festival hosted by ITC Kakatiya beginning today

IF words such as Mehlati and Begumati sound like Greek and Latin and not Hyderabadi, it’s time to update yourself with some heritage cuisine of the city with ITC Kakatiya’s Dastarkhwan-ul-Mulq festival. The fest promises to bring back delicacies of kitchen of Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam, on to your table. Speaking about the festival which begins today, Chef Aamir Jamal says, “The idea is to present the guest with authentic dishes that were made during the Nizam’s governance. Nizam-ul-Mulq actually means governor of our area.”
Moving further onto understand the exact authenticity of the dishes, Chef Jamal mentioned that there are three different brackets in Hyderabadi cuisine. To begin with he highlighted the Mehlati (royal) food. “This particular style of cooking involves a lot of nuts as ingredients. It is rich in almonds, cashews and walnuts and other common ingredients for majority of the dishes,” he adds.
“The Mehlati dishes are highly influenced by the Arabs and Iranis who had come in during the Nizami era which is why the essential elements include naturally rich nuts,” he added. Dum Ka Murgh and Ghost Aloo Korma are two dishes from the Mehlati cuisine that is available even today.
Elaborating on the second catergory – the Begumati category Chef Jamal says, “This is the rustic food that was made in every Hyderabadi house during the early 1950s. A few among these dishes – Aloo ghost, tamatar ghost and Aloo baigan salan – are popular even now.
“Eid-ka-khana, the third category, features dishes that are served during festivals, weddings and special occasions. Haleem, Dakhni Murgh roast and Marag are a few dishes meant for festivals. Apart from this the buffet is divided into sub-menu sections. This includes dishes that were initially no part of the Indian cuisine. “During the time of British rule, our dishes were divided into starters, main course and desserts,” he elaborates.
A few prominent dishes that would be served as starters are Pathar Ka Ghost, Jhinge ki Shammi, Fulwari Tikki and Makhai ki Shammi. Nahari and Marag would be served on a cyclic basis during the week-long festival.
To keep up with the custom of serving shorba or soup with different breads, they have on offer 11 different breads.
The main course includes korma, khaliya and salan. The dishes presented is prepared with various spices like cinnamon, cardamom, pan ki jhad, ghas ki jhad and kebab cheeni. “It is said that the last Nizam had a small appetite, but he used to taste whatever came out of his kitchen and had a opinion on every dish. Hence, we would be using different spices which are uncommon,”he adds.
Surprisingly what caught our attention was the salan. Alredy thinking of the spicy mirchi salan? “Unlike most people think, a salan is not what we get with biriyani. The actual definition of a salan is everything that accompanies the main course, but does not fall under the category of khaliya or korma.” Aloo Baigan and Ghost hari mirch are two dishes that fall under the category.
The festival also houses Hyderabadi biriyani along with a variety of pulaos. Did you know that biriyani was not considered to be a royal or homely dish in Hyderabad? It was prepared and served by the bawarchis during those days to the men in the battalion. Usually the biriyani was prepared in a handi, the dish comprises meat, masala and a layer of rice. The dish was then drawn into the daily cuisine. The buffet would also have Nurani pulao, Samundari pulao among others. And then finally, the desserts such as Urusa and Jauzi ka halwa.
The buffet begins today at Deccan Pavilion, ITC Kakatiya for dinner and is on till July 17. Price: `1,499 (++). Details: 23400132

— Nishad Neelambaran

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