The more I taste our traditional Indian cuisine, the more I fall in love with it. In the North-Western Frontier Cuisine, the Lucknowi or the complex and prodigious Awadhi cuisine never fails to surprise me with its varied flavours. Involving a lot of techniques such as the Dum (slow-cooking), Bagaar (tempering with ghee and spices), Moin (shortening of the dough), Loab (slow-cooking till oil rises on top of the gravy) and Dhungar (smoke flavouring), Lucknowi food is a sensual treat indeed. These techniques and many others have been perfected by the Bawarchis (chefs) and Rakabdars (gourmet cooks) of Awadh over many decades of practice and research.
Unique ingredients like sandalwood, juniper berries, red ginseng, rosebuds, rose and Pathar ke phool are used in Awadhi cuisine. Although they do use various amounts and kinds of spices, overpowering flavours are not generally seen in Awadhi dishes. The Lucknowi chefs always believe in the flavour and aroma of each spice, and hence, they take care not to go overboard. It is this judicious use of spices that makes the cuisine of Awadh a class apart.
Tasting the food of the North-Western Frontier Province, especially from the “City of Nawabs”, right here in Mumbai is always thrilling. To be honest, I never miss the opportunity to taste this unique cuisine. The zealously guarded family-secret recipes of the famous Qureshi family, has been passed down to its members, and I was lucky enough to taste the delicacies made by one if its family members, Chef Shadab Ahmed, the Chef de Cuisine of Jyran, Sofitel Mumbai BKC. The new menu at Jyran is great, and it emphasises on the cuisine of the entire North-Western Frontier Province: delicacies from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
Here I felt like I was enjoying an Awadhi Dastarkhwan (a ceremonial dining spread). The first dish that was offered for the tasting was the Galouti Kebab. Making a good Galouti Kebab with the correct balance of spices is a trick known only to a few good chefs. The cotton-soft Galouti or the Gilawat ke Kabab by Chef Shadab Ahmed at Jyran was made with just the minced meat and spices. As no binding agent is used for the recipe, it is a very delicate kebab: more so because it uses green papaya paste as a natural meat tenderiser. You can’t get your hands off till you completely finish these succulent kebabs at Jyran.
The super-soft Galouti Kebab that was once created in the Lucknowi kitchens of the old and toothless Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, is still a gem of a recipe. Although no one knows correctly about all the spices used in the original version (around 100 kinds were used initially!), the modern version of Galouti uses around 10 or 12 spices. Did you know that the original Galouti recipe had real pearl and gold as ingredients, as well as special medicinal aphrodisiacs?
The next appetiser was the Paratdar Paneer: layered triangular cottage cheese slices stuffed with alternately with finely chopped mushrooms and half-broken cooked green peas. The outer layer was slightly crisp. The paneer was marinated with garam masala and tandoori spices. It tasted wonderful!
We tasted the insanely flavourful Murgh ke Parche. The chicken breasts were first beaten to loosen the proteins. These were then marinated with garlic-ginger paste and dry Indian spices. At the end of the cooking process, these were flavoured with sandalwood and rose water by the process of Dhungar (smoking) to supress the overpowering flavours of the two. I loved the science and the technique behind this dish. This is a must-try!
The Lahori Seekh Kebab was quite impressive. Tender lamb mince were skewered after flavouring with Lahori spices and coriander roots. It was one of the best seekh kebabs that I have had in months—robust and yet balanced in flavours.
However, in the main course, the Palak was disappointing. It lacked the flavour and the punch. We had very high expectations with the Raan Changezi. Although the pot-roasted, braised and tandoor-cooked leg of lamb was tender and aromatic with Mughlai spices, it completely lacked the oomph factor. It seemed as if a flavourless gravy had been smeared all over the pulled raan. It also seemed to me as if the dish was cooked in a hurry.
But we were extremely pleased with the outstanding Paneer Dum Anari, which was slightly crispy from outside. The stuffed cottage cheese was cooked in a tangy gravy finished with red wine. The reddish gravy had cashewnut paste, bit of beetroot puree and lots of pomegranate juice and seeds. The dish was garnished with pomegranate seeds. Believe me, this paneer was not the regular “Indian-style” paneer that you get in restaurants. This was pure royalty.
The no-frills Dal Makhni was comforting and tasted very authentic.
The Mutton curry was also very well-cooked and delicious. It was interesting to see how each main course dish tasted so different from the other!
We tasted a mind-blowing chicken curry called Dum ka Murgh, which was slow-cooked cooked with browned onions and had a creamy and different flavour.
But what was completely out of the world was the Murgh Biwi Ka Pulao. This was chicken cooked with brown onions and Indian spices flavoured with aromatic basmati rice. The aroma was beautiful and the pulao was very light.
However, the service needs to be better. The dishes took a long time to arrive. When the appetisers and the main course were served to us, those were almost cold. The only exception was the pulao, which was served hot.
Among the desserts, the Kulfi was okay. It was hardly sweet and didn’t taste quite appealing. The Tabakh Jamun tasted excellent. It was perfectly round and evenly fried. There was a ball of chopped dry fruits inside. The pistachios, almonds and saffron in the Gulab Jamun elevated this simple Indian dessert to a much higher level. We loved the two layers: the outer brown layer and the inner ball of dry fruits. Jyran proved that even a Gulab Jamun can be way different. The only issue, according to me, was that it was a bit extra-sweet. I hope next time I get to eat lesser known desserts like Zardas, Sheermal, Muzzaffar and Baqarkhani.
Overall, the décor, ambience and the food was very good. The new menu at Jyran, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, is soul-satisfying. Try it sometime!
Address: Jyran, Tandoor Dining & Lounge, Sofitel Mumbai BKC
Reservations: +91 (22) 6117 5115
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