Chef Jamal of ITC Kakatiya rediscovers some culinary gems from the Unani system which blend in health and taste with healing.
Muqawwiyat. It’s a term of Unani medicine system and diet pertaining to food that energises not just the body, but mind as well. At K&K, ITC Kakatiya, sous chef Aamer Jamal is rediscovering the hidden gems of Muqawwiyat. As we sit to talk, he sets on the table delicacies prepared with select condiments and unique ways of cooking methods. We sample Gilawati Kebab, a delicacy preferred by Nawabs of Awadh that just melts in the mouth. The layers of different tastes was subtly balanced especially of ground dry fruits and nuts. When Kareli Gosht arrived in form of Nihari the pieces were succulent with aroma of root spices. And this a prime dish in Muqawwiyat.
Dishes of Muqawwiyat are also known to have anti-depressant properties. These dishes used to be prepared for the royalty. The hakims would advise the royal cooks about the health benefits of such foods that are to be eaten at different times and seasons. Shares chef Jamal, “Muqawwiyat is our effort to bring back those golden days. Most of the recipes used to be complex and hence have been lost. As the people would travel, with them travelled the culinary secrets and spices. For example in North India, the qorma has very light aromatic gravy. In Muqawwiyat,there are categories defined in methods of cooking and choice of ingredients that are based on proteins.”
For example for the preparation of Khamiri Kulchey, it’s not yeast that’s used. On the contrary, it’s white muesli soaked in buttermilk. Chef Jamal says, “Meat of Kareli Nihari is drawn from lower part of the raan which contains maximum part of bone-marrow and collagen.”
Chef points to the sauteed platter of vegetables that have been cooked dry while their juices pour from below the vessel they are cooked in. “Such food is ideal for newly-weds and supposed to be eaten at a particular time,” says he. Other dishes that are part of ITC Kakatiya’s menu of Muqawwiyat are: Daura-E-Tafreeh, Dilkash Parchey, Mallika-E-Dariya, Charminari Seekh Ke Kebab, Tarkari Bhuni, Chauk Kii Tikki, Gosht Dumpokht Biryani, Guchhi Pulao along with Kareli Nihari. Mallika-E-Dariya is nothing but salmon.
“European delegates used to frequent the royal courts and offices often, hence something of their choice was introduced in the menu. Hence, we have this fish. Special mix of four root herbs known collectively as tuqmesan is added to the dish which is good for energising the mind,” explains chef Jamal. For dessert he prepares Yaqooti, a sweet porridge made with Urad Daal. “We don’t add any baranj (rice) to the dish and use saffron for colour and flavour. This dish is known for its energizing powers,” he shares.
There are methods of cooking that makes Muqawwiyat special. “We use tandoor, bhuna (veggies or meat cooked in their own juices), sigree and dum.” Some of these dishes are aphrodisiacs and hence children should not be encouraged to eat the same.
— Saima Afreen