Wednesday 5 February 2014

A Feast fit for Kings: Dawat-e-Awadh at Cafe Uno at Shangri-La's-Eros Hotel, New Delhi

Cafe Uno at Shangrila-La's-Eros Hotel, New Delhi invites you to Dawat-E-Awadh which promises to take you on a luxurious journey to the majestic land of the Nawabs. Chef Anwar Ahmad, Sr. Sous Chef at the hotel, along with his team of chefs, has put together an exciting menu consisting of choicest of Non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes reflecting the food and culture prevalent in the Mughal era. 
The buffet includes mouthwatering starters like Galouti kebab, Kebab-e-kalmi, Hara dalcha kebab, Gosht shammi kebab, Khasta murg tikka, paneer tikka, Aloo nazakat amongst others. The main course offers Gosht Biryani, Murgh Shabnami, Shirazi murg, Nargisi Kofta, Kathal wala pulao, Bharwan pomfret masala, Paneer Long lata, Sharmili dal, Mushroom roganjosh and many more mouth watering delights. For dessert, you can look forward to traditional fare like Badam ka halwa, Phirni, Sheer Kurma, Anjeer aur badam ka halwa, Chenna malai kheer and Sabu dana phirni.
Attending the sumptuous feast, not only were we gastronomically satiated but also got a lot of insight into the history and tradition of Awadhi cuisine during our conversation with Chef Anwar who spoke with intense passion about Mughlai food. Boasting of a lineage, where his forefathers used to work in the kitchens of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, Chef Anwar regaled us with many episodes from his times along with stories connected with each dish. 
He spoke how eating trends have changed in today's age as mostly people have got health conscious and request for less ghee and oil in their food. Awadhi cuisine is mild in taste and bends towards sweeter taste because of the use of perfumed Ittars and kewras. But nowadays guest like their food to be spicier hence there has been a marked change in the authentic taste of Awadhi food. 
He also told us an interesting story about the origin of the dish "Haleem", a dish which is cooked essentially with barley and meat. When Emperor Shah Jahan was held in captivity by his son Aurangzeb, he asked for two things - his shahi chef and one red rose daily. Soon he fell sick and became very weak. The doctor advised that to gain strength he should be given a healthy diet. So he was given a little Haleem and a bit of galouti kebab which sustained him and gave him strength for the whole day and helped him to recover fast. Since then, Haleem is traditionally eaten at Sehri, a  small meal eaten before daylight during Ramdan by Muslims, before the day's fast begins, to give you energy for the whole day.
Chef Anwar also explained how Nihari which is traditionally had for breakfast has become so popular that it is in demand for both lunch and dinner. Nihari comes from the word "Nahar" which means "morning" or eaten for breakfast. In olden days it was cooked overnight in various vessels, sometimes even buried underground while it cooked, as Shab Deg (cooked overnight) is, which results in extremely tender morsels of meat, including the flavorful bone marrowThe whole idea of consuming Nihari in the morning was that it was so rich and heavy, it kept the stomach full the whole day and that it could be easily digested by night time, making you ready to have your meal at light. If consumed at night time, it will be difficult to digest leaving you feeling heavy. So for all those, which includes me too, who like to savor this delicacy at night will seriously need to rethink.
According to the chef, the taste of good biryani comes basically with mutton and the only authentic method to make it is by "Dum". "Dum" style of cooking which is synonymous with  Awadhi cuisine, is a process which involves cooking the food on low fire, in tightly sealed patilas till the flavor of the meat seeps into the dish. 
Another interesting tale that he shared was about the origin of the name Nargisi Kofta, which is made with ground meat mixture wrapped around a boiled egg and served in a spicy gravy. (You can also call it an Indian version of scotch eggs). Nargisi comes from the Urdu word "beautiful pair of eyes". So, when you cut open the kofta in half, the white part and the yolk of the egg resembles the shape of an eye hence the word Nargisi Kofta. Interesting information, isn't it? 
When asked about his favorite dish he replied with a smile, that it was his mother's biryani, the taste of which no one could hold a candle to till date. Chef Anwar's delightful stories and anecdotes added more flavor to the food that we were having. It was a pleasure conversing with the chef and his indepth knowledge about his culture and cuisine truly mirrored in the food served that day, which was nothing short of being perfect.

It was indeed a royal treat. We enjoyed each and every dish, which were full of flavor and had a distinguished taste. What was amazing was that not only the non-vegetarian dishes were exceptionally tasty, the vegetarian dishes were also well prepared. 
Amongst all the dishes my favorite were the Gosht Yakhani Shorba, Paneer TikkaGosht Gilafi seekh, Chicken Shirazi, Gosht Nihari, Kathal Biryani and Keema biryani which were to die for and absolutely worth going back for. I forgot, a special mention for the Khamiri roti too which was delicious with the Nihari. The exquisite taste and the delicious aromas of the dishes will remain on my mind for a long time.
If you too want to treat yourself with these royal flavours from the culinary kitchens of the Nawabs, head towards Cafe Uno at  Shangri-La's-Eros Hotel, New Delhi
The food festival is on till the 9th of February.

Served for dinner, the buffet is priced at Rs 2100 plus taxes and kids buffet is priced at Rs. 1099 plus taxes. 
I will leave you here with glimpses of the mouth watering delicacies that we savored during the Dawat-e-Awadh festival.
Gosht Yakhani Shorba
Tamatar aur Ambi Ka Shorba
Gosht Gilafi Seekh
Khasta Murg Tikka
Ummi Paneer Tikka & Bharwan Mirchon Ki Rangoli
Array of Papads and Chutneys
Kathal Ki Biryani
Keema Biryani

Nihari Gosht
Shirazi Murg
Shalgam, Khumb aur Makhane
Sharmili Dal
Sabz Kofte Palak ke Saath
Khamiri Roti
Sheer Kurma & Khajur aur bhuje kaju ka halwa
An array of mouth watering desserts on the dessert counter

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