Maharaja from Jodhpur to give Mumbaikars dining experience of royal families
The maharaja from Jodhpur's Jhalamand Garh hopes to give Mumbaikars a taste of what's rustled up inside royal kitchens
Five minutes into the interview and we're able to tell that Raghvendra Pratap Singh, the prince of Jhalamand Garh, Jodhpur, is a man of few words. Despite our unabashed prodding, the answers are measured and pointed. He would rather allow his food do the talking. And why not. Driven by his passion for hospitality, Singh even converted a part of the Jhalamand Fort into a heritage resort a couple of years ago, where he helms the kitchen with his trusted team of khansamas. The 18th century castle sits pretty on the outskirts of Jodhpur in the village of Jhalamand. "Actually, cooking and serving delectable dishes is a legacy I have inherited from my father. When he would be in the kitchen, I loved being the sous chef," recalls Singh who has been cooking since the age of 14.
Only within royal homes
But you don't need to make the journey to Jodhpur to sample royal fare. Singh has collaborated with Sahil Arora, executive chef, Renaissance Hotel and Convention Centre, Powai, to serve khana from the rajgharana, which is available at the Nawab Saheb restaurant for dinner till April 10. Incidentally, Singh and Arora met a couple of years ago when the latter was working at a five-star hotel in Jodhpur. "At the time, it made little sense to collaborate on a Rajasthani royal food festival within Jodhpur. Nobody would be interested," he says. Later, when Arora moved to Mumbai, the idea popped up again and the two decided to put it to action.
Bakre ki chaap
Naturally, the menu has been carefully handpicked to include what is special to the royal family. Having said that, the dishes you see on the menu aren't items they eat on a daily basis. "They're too rich for that but they hold significance to us as a family, because these are recipes that have been passed down generations and you'll be hard-pressed to find it at restaurants," says Singh. The first dish that he learnt to prepare and has included on the menu is the maas ka sula where slender slices of lamb are marinated in hung curd, chilli powder, kaachri powder and barbecued on coal. Kachri is a wild variety of cucumbers that grows in desert areas. "Dried kachri powder, when used in cooking, adds a tangy taste," he explains. Fresh kachri is rarely available outside Rajasthan.
Put some meat on
Considering Singh hails from a family of rulers, most items happen to be "shikari" recipes. "When the men in the family would go hunting, they wanted to enjoy the kill within the forest itself. Therefore, an entourage with basic necessities would be carried including whole spices, ghee, red chillies and whole garam masala and salt." Mattu shahi is one such dish in which lamb is cooked with fresh Jodhpuri green chillies, onions and tomatoes. All the ingredients are then put together in a cauldron with oil and cooked on low heat. "The dish was invented by my father, whose nickname was Mattu. You'll find this only in my home," he says. Junglee murga, too, is cooked in ghee with curd and whole red chillies. No other species are used.
Thakur of Jhalamand Garh, Raghuvendra Pratap Singh
Unfortunately for vegetarians, the menu is tilted in favour of meat eaters. Vegetarian items are few and far between. But there's the signature Rajasthani dish, dal batti churma, low cooked lentils with onion, tomato and ginger served with oven baked bread and churma, and Marwari kabuli pulao, a rice preparation of masoor dal koftas. "We consume a lot of meat, so it was a challenge to strike a balance in this matter," he adds.
The most exhaustive is the dessert section with 15 menus on offer including malai ghewar, a sweet dish on the lines of a cake made with rabdi on top and garnished with saffron and dry fruits. Singh has reduced the size so that it doesn't get overwhelming for guests. If that doesn't rock your boat, he recommends gulab ke laddu made with fresh rose petals and mawa, because "it's light and airy with a memorable aftertaste".
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