It was a sultry afternoon. As we entered through the gates of Oudh 1590, Deshapriya Park branch, we were greeted with a thumri playing at the background somewhere.
“Babul mora naihar chhuto hi jaaye….Char kahaar mile, mori doliyaa sajave
Mora aapnaa begana chhuto jaay!
Naihar chhuto hi jaay………..”
Amidst the excitement of trying out Awadhi Dastarkhwan (cuisine in Persian) a sadness veiled over my mind because of the connection of this beautiful thumri with Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Awadh (Oudh) who was exiled in Kolkata.
He wasn’t happy to leave Lucknow but he brought a piece of Lucknow with him when he started staying in the Metiabruz area in Kolkata.
Known as one of the gourmet kings of Awadh, the Nawab introduced ‘Dum-Pukht’ or slow cooking method which was completely new in Kolkata, then.
As he was forced to live within a tight pension, the lavish ingredients of the Lucknawi gharana were replaced with locally available but identical ingredients. That was when the Portuguese import, potatoes, were started to be used in the Wajid Ali Shah’s customized version of Awadhi Biriyani. The same potatoes which granted the iconic status to the ‘Kolkata Biriyani’.
The speciality of the Awadhi Cuisine
Cooking is done over slow fire or ‘dum pukht’ which concentrates on preserving the nutrients of the food in the process. Its not very rich in spices like the Mughlai cuisine.
Customizations done by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah: As the nawab did not have the freedom to spend beyond a fixed stipend granted to him by the British, he patronized on using ingredients like local fishes, ducks, fowls, vegetables and locally available spices for preparing the meals and these local ingredients were beautifully blended with the original style of Awadhi ‘dum-pukhts’.
The dishes we sampled in Oudh 1590, Deshapriya Park:
Chicken Zafrani Kabab – a tandoori preparation of chicken marinated with yoghurt, cream and saffron
Mutton Galawati Kabab – a shallow tawa fried preparation with mutton keema marinated in Awadhi spices.
Both the varieties were soft, succulent and melted in mouths as we tucked them in accompanied by Soda Sikanji.
Main Course: Awadhi Handi Biriyani – Mutton Biriyani slow cooked with Awadhi spices, predominantly cinnamon and cardamom.
Murgh Pardah Biriyani – A layered chicken biriyani with common spices.
Shikari Hansa Handi Biriyani – Slow cooked duck biriyani with an earthen aroma left by the earthen vessel in which it is cooked.
Murgh Yakhni Pulao – A pulao speciality slow cooked in chicken broth.
The meats in the biriyanis and the pulao were extremely soft and delectable. We were sticking to the Biriyanis but my toddler daughter disliked the slight hotness in their tastes thus ordered the Yakhni Pulao for her. The quantities of the pulao and biriyanis were quite a lot, one earthen pot of each is enough to satiate the hunger of two people unless you are a glutton!!
To accompany our assorted biriyanis and pulao we ordered Murgh Irani Salaan.
The biriyanis were accompanied with raita and burhani as well.
The delicious dastarkhwan filled our tummies but more importantly our hearts. The food served in earthen pots, the overall ambience with ghazals, thumris and khayals playing in the background, the chandeliers enigmatically illuminating the spaces transported us to the Awadhi era for the entire span we stayed there relishing our food.
If you are looking forward to experience the Awadhi Dastarkhwan too at its best avatar, please drop in to Oudh 1590, Deshapriya Park, Kolkata or in any other of their outlets in Kolkata. Bon Appetit!! Maze Karein!!
23/B, Deshapriya Park west,near Carmel primary school, Kolkata, West Bengal 700026
And if your taste buds are craving for some oriental dishes, check out The Orient, a restaurant in City Center 2, Kolkata.