Dum Pukht


I had written this a few years ago, found this among some stories that i have written. You may read this as a story, or simply a description of a place i been to, that is up to you, dear reader.

Khaanaa Aabaad, Daulat Zyaadaa.

The evening was magical. Dinner at the Dum Pukht. The ambience decidedly reminiscent of the Nawabs. Low lighting. Songs, sung to the accompaniment of the Haarmonium and the Tablaa, the variety that appeals to old fuddy duddies like me, at any rate. Did the gentleman who was singing recognize me from my earlier visits, or was he just being courteous? Not exactly chandeliers, though the lighting did add to the magic of the ambience. Bas, yoon samajhiye, shamaa ki qasar reh gayee. Even an electric one would have been nice.

I decided to venture for the Diwaan, the low seating arrangement. Definetely a pleasant change from the dining table. And, quite comfortable, too. Though, I hope they do something about the cushions which have this annoying habit of falling on you while you are eating. I would recommend taking off your shoes when being seated. Though its not mandatory, I like to believe that’s an essential ingredient of dining on the Diwaan. Otherwise, you are not doing justice to the ambience. They could, in my opinion, do away with the candles, and introduce a lamp in their stead. Would definitely add to the aura. The menu helpfully informs you that the technique of Dum was perfected in the royal kitchens of Hyderabad, Awadh, Delhi, Kashmir, Bhopal, and Rampur. They sure had it good, didn’t they?

I decided to play it safe on the opening night. And, you definitely cannot go wrong with the Dum Pukht Biryani. Its described in the menu as Basmati simmered with mutton stock (though I wonder whether they do it from dawn to dusk), and finished in a sealed Handi with saffron and cardamom (though I would prefer to be the one to finish this Biryani), served with its traditional accompaniment, the Burrani – the Raita that sings in garlic. Definitely not what your friendly neighbourhood dietician would recommend, for its loaded with Ghee, for good measure. But, I suppose if I was in the mood to listen to the dietician, I wouldn’t be sitting here, ordering this in the first place, would I? The Ghee, the cardamom, and the saffron surely do play their magic with the rice, and the mutton is just so. And, the raitaa, with the red chilli, and the garlic is the perfect accompaniment. The rice is coloured the colour of saffron, and the ghee gives it that texture. The raitaa gives it the flavour, and the meat is tender. Worth every morsel.

Day two, and I decided to skip rice for the day, and go for the breads. Being too lazy to go to the restaurant, I ordered from the restaurant in the room itself. However, the selection they provide from the restaurant in the room does not constitute variety by any stretch of the imagination. Mugh Aloo Khourma, a quintessential Hyderabadi chicken and potato Curry flavoured with rich Indian spices, was quite good as far as Chicken Curries go. Vastly different from the Chicken Curry that’s availabe in the northern part of the country, but definitely worth a go. The Parathdar Paratha, an exotic Ajwain flavoured multi-layered bread baked in the Clay Tandoor was more like a run of the mill paratha, and as for the Ajwain, well, I will take their word for it.

Whoever said Mughlai food is the sole preserve of those who deem the human race to be at the top of the food chain? Day three, and as I decided to go vegetarian, the Phulwari Kofta, vegetable dumplings finished in a gravy of special Dum Pukht spices, answered the question. Delectable gravy, and the Kokftas were quite good, too. To go along, I ordered Wara Pudina (though you can get the Sada variety too), which is wafer thin unleavened whole wheat bread, baked on a domed griddle. Somewhat like a Roomali Roti, but thicker.

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