There is a special food festival happening at Kanak, the Indian specialty restaurant at Trident Hyderabad. Called Khasa Dastarkhwan which loosely translated from Urdu means, Special ceremonial dining and showcases Mughlai cuisine.
Being from Hyderabad, the raging debate about which city does Mughlai food better between Hyderabad and Lucknow is tough to escape. To be very honest, I find debates on authenticity and ratings of food from various places and communities extremely tiring. Each place and every interpretation of a recipe is dependent on so many things which include but are not limited to the geography and weather to the availability of ingredients. I would like to believe that each place brings to the table, its own version of a dish and can therefore not be compared.
This food festival is special because it brings to hardcore Hyderabad a version of the food so loved by the city and its people. Awadhi cuisine, largely represented by Lucknow and some parts of old Delhi is a richly documented and well-loved cuisine. The chefs from the Trident hotels across India were specially trained by some of the most famous cooks of Awadhi cuisine, both from Lucknow and the Jama Masjid area of Delhi even to maintain authenticity. Each recipe has been standardised to ensure the end product is the same no matter which hotel of the Trident one eats at. Chef Sandeep Bhattacharya is heading the kitchen here in Hyderabad and has done a wonderful job of putting together a menu with some of the most loved dishes and introducing new ones for the festival.
With this as the background, and having eaten on numerous occasions at the various restaurants at Trident, I was excited to join my dinner companion and fellow blogger Preethi to try out some of the dishes.
We began with a delightfully sharp Chilli vodka martini for me and a Pina colada for Preethi. The chilli martini had a nice kick from the green chilli and was a good accompaniment to the Kadak Roomali – a crisp version of the roomali roti, served with toppings of freshly shredded onion, tomato, coriander and herbs with a generous sprinkling of cheese.
For the appetizers, we had the Seekh Nilofari – a seekh kabab made of khoya which is reduced milk and finely minced vegetables, a generous amount of nuts and subtle spices, grilled on a skewer. The sweetness of the reduced milk khoya (khoa) which is generously used in mughlai cooking both in sweet and savoury dishes, the crunch of the nuts and the very subtle flavours of the carefully chosen spices of which cardamom and mace stood out. Usually Mughlai cuisine is partial to meat eaters, but this kebab was delightful.
For the non vegetarian appetizer, we sampled the famed Galouti kebab, soft succulent lamb meat, pounded till the texture becomes buttery and cooked with kebab spices on a heated griddle. This was served on small discs of Tava paratha and one needs a few moments of silence to savour this brilliant rendition of the Galouti kebab.
For the main course we were served Amrood ki Subzi which piqued my interest when I glanced at the menu. So far, I had only eaten guavas raw as fruit, or the occasional jelly or guava cheese. I had never eaten it cooked as a vegetable in a savoury curry. The gravy was thick and rich with a nut paste, almost like a qorma, and the distinctive flavour and aroma of saffron was hard to miss, but the flesh of the guava was the most surprising. Firm and yet moist, with a light hint of sweetness, the guava did not feel out-of-place in the sabzi and went well with the Sheermal that I ate it with.
The Mahar Paneer was large chunks of paneer, stuffed with nuts and cooked in a rich tomato gravy. This was the least impressive dish of the evening for me.
For the Non vegetarians, Mughlai cuisine is synonymous with tasty qormas and gravies that are rich and indulgent. And the two dishes that were presented did not disappoint.
The Murgh Handi Qorma which was a gravy similar to the Amrood ki sabzi. Chicken drumsticks simmered in a gravy that was fragrant with saffron and rose-water and rich with a nut paste. The qorma is best eaten with lightly sweet Sheermal which is a flat bread, the dough kneaded with milk for its softness and mild sweetness.
The stand out dish of the meal was the Shahi Nihari which is slow cooked lamb with a rich yogurt and saffron gravy. The lamb was succulent and almost falling off the bone, the gravy flavoured with the juices of the lamb and rich from the slow cooked spices, it was a terrific combination with the pudina paratha.
The Lacknawi dal similar to the kaali dal, but less rich and therefore not so heavy. I had this dal on its own and it was very good.
How can one have a Mughlai feast and not taste some biryani right? The Rampuri murgh biryani, subtle and yet full of flavour at the same time, succulent chicken cooked to perfection with minimal spices and chilli was fabulous. Even though I desperately love Hyderabadi biryani for it’s in your face spice and flavour kick, it was a delightful little detour to eat an almost delicate version of this much-loved dish.
We ended the meal with two beautiful desserts, the Kesar Phirni which is a rice pudding flavoured with saffron and a Rampuri Gulathi which is a semolina and Khoa pudding, from the royal kitchens of Rampur. I personally preferred the Kesar phirni because it was just the right balance of sweet and richness.
The festival ends on the 28th of January and they have a four course preset menu that one can choose from, that highlights this cuisine. The dishes are also available to be ordered A la Carte.
The preset menu is priced at ₹ 1975 + taxes per person.
We were invited for this meal and it we were served a tasting menu which was complimentary. The views are my own.