After the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the change in laws not only forced the rebel rulers out of their courts but also created turmoil in royal kitchens. “The culinary journey of the state of Rampur started over a century ago in 1774, when Faizullah Khan founded the state. But it took a more glorious turn when these royal cooks took refuge in Rampur.
They used local ingredients to prepare several marvellous dishes,” shares chef Mujibur-Rehman, who has prepared a special menu to introduce Mumbaikars to Rampuri cuisine.
From sandalwood powder, kebab chini (cubed or tailed pepper), badiyan (fried urad dal preparation), melon seeds, yellow sugar to much more; these ingredients are common to this date. Rampuri cuisine also uses plenty of onion (raw and fried) and the mutton is mostly from the castrated male goat.
Keeping the wide array of ingredients aside, Rampur’s water is believed to add that something special to the exquisite cuisine. In fact, Taar Korma, says chef Rehman, “is believed to taste good only when cooked in Rampur’s water; the belief is so entrenched that people order water from Rampur to cook it.”
Innovation on their palate
Chef Rehman adds that dishes like Nadru ke Shami and Kathal ki Biryani; desserts like Shimla Mirch ka Halwa and Aloe Vera ka Halva — and many more come from Rampur. Gosht ka Halwa, a mind-boggling, lamb dish that resembles Suji Ka Halwa in taste and texture owes its origin to Rampur.
The royal cooks also excelled in methods of preparing extravagant dishes like the multi-layered Biryani and introduced many vegetarian kebab preparations — Nafis Dal Shami Kebabs. “The khansamas use a special paste of raw pineapple to grill or roast. This makes the seekh kebabs delicate and soft,” he shares.
Secrecy killed the heritage
Chef Rehman rues that most of the Rampuri culinary heritage is now lost. “We know only 1/4th of the dishes prepared in the royal kitchen of Rampur. Most of the khansamas never shared the recipes with anyone. Some of the original preparations like Anar ka Pulav are also lost. Even today, they are very reluctant to share. But I hope slowly, they will reveal the secrets,” he optimistically adds.