Friday, 30 January 2015

A Culinary Journey through the regal past of Hyderabad @ Cubbon Pavilion - ITC Gardenia, Bangalore

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I was in Hyderabad for the long weekend of Republic day. My line-up for food exploration was set and little did I know that this would extend on even after my return to Bangalore. The extension was by no means an ordinary extension; it was an exclusive 'Meet and Eat' invitation with Master Chef Kunwar Rani Kulsum Begum.

Born in the Hyderabadi royal Salar Jung family and married into a royal Awadhi family, she clearly has exposure to the best of the 2 most wonderful worlds - Hyderabadi and Awadhi. You don't need to be a foodie to know what this means!

Hyderabadi food is no ordinary food and when the food comes from the kitchen of Master Chef Kunwar Rani Kulsum Begum; it clearly spells 'Experience Royal'. With over 6 years of effort into crafting and mastering the royal Salar Jung recipes, she brings them to Bangalore to showcase them at ITC Gardenia's 'Cubbon Pavilion' till 1st Feb, 2015. To me it clearly means, 'Dawat-e-Khas - A Culinary Journey through the regal past of Hyderabad'.

Having arrived early I witnessed the lids on the buffet counter go open. In no time the aroma of various preparation filled the air. I took a quick sneak peak at what's on offer and settled down right away with a platter of kebabs and a glass of lovely red wine.

In a short time, we were joined by master chef Kunwar Rani Kulsum Begum for dinner. Over a wonderful meal comprising of a lot of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies like kebabs, salan, haleem, pulao and more; we interacted on various topics which included her childhood, her food, biryani vs pulao, Hyderabadi vs Awadhi cuisine, food nuances in a royal family, evolution of the Hyderabadi food scene and more.

Over to my meal, the flavors were exquisite, meat really tender and succulent, gravies very rich and the spread in a word - 'Lavish'. The buffet spread offers cuisines from world over and it is the Indian section that is dedicated to Dawat-e-Khas - signature preparations by the master chef herself.

I really looked forward to the mains and when I did get to it, I hit it off with her signature preparation 'Haleem. Haleem was really light in color, mildly spiced allowing the flavor of the meat to stand out, the consistency was really rich - a result of the royal cooking techniques. The richness came from the use of high quality ingredients, dry fruits and meat. Top it with fried onion lime and voila 'A meal by itself'. It was a haleem like no other I've eaten before.

I also tried and loved the 'Lasooni jhinge';  a semi gravy preparation of shrimps, tomato, garlic, mustard seeds, shahi jeera and loads of curry leaves to bring out the flavor. Turai murgh again a semi gravy dish was bang on attractive in flavors. 
Lasooni Jhinge
Turai Murgh
I also tried the Fish kofta salan which was creamy in texture, rich in flavor and had a nice tang to it. The fish kofta was moist and flavorful. This preparation I best enjoyed with the very simple steamed rice.

What had me stunned this evening was the Mutton Hapsi Pulao. It was an excellent fragrant preparation with the mutton melting in my mouth. The rice used was a nice long grained rice and the spice blend along with the sweetness coming from saffron and some secret ingredients had me dumb struck for a moment. With the last weekend spent in Hyderabad over multitude of excellent biryanis, this clearly surpassed each of them. Now come to think of it, biryanis in Hyderabad versus this hapsi pulao; the pulao clearly wins for me.

There was a wonderful spread of vegetarian food as well both as a part of the buffet on the whole and also specific to Dawat-e-Khas segment. Here's a pictorial representation of the same.

For dessert, there was again a large spread but what I did try was just the Dawat-e-Khas section. With all the food downed, even an attempt to try the dessert seemed a task; but I had to. There was Thuli which was a nice and sweet halwa preparation, ande ki lauz, kala jamoon and a meethi pakodi which was a gulab jamoon baked with rabdi.

It indeed seemed like a food festival and with master chef Kunwar Rani Kulsum Begum one thing is for sure - She takes her food festivals very seriously and ensures that not a single dish is repeated over the span of the festival being hosted. This means over a span of 10 days of the food festival - 
 - There will be 1 biryani and 9 pulao each for vegetarians and non-vegetarians dished out. Guess what! All of these of Hyderabadi cuisine. Did you even know if 10 types of pulao/biryani existed in Hyderabadi cuisine?
 - In the mains too, there will be at least 40 different vegetarians and non-vegetarian dishes offered.

Why should you go?
 - All of the above reasons, and
 - If you think you have eaten a lot of Hyderabadi food and enjoyed it; it's time you re-evaluate your experience with some real Hyderabadi food from the royal kitchens of Hyderabad.

The buffet is priced at Rs. 1750 plus taxes and charges. Aptly named 'Dawat-e-Khas', this festival is on only for a short duration till the 1st February, 2015 at ITC Gardenia's Cubbon Pavilion. Do visit and take a culinary journey through the regal past of Hyderabad.

Address: No. 1, Residency Road, Bengaluru - 560025
Phone Number: +91 80 2211 9898

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