As we continue on with the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ after Limdi, we headed onward to Bhopal. The moment you enter into Bhopal, the beauty of the lake surrounds you. An expanse of a city is built around the Bhopal Lake. A huge statue of Raja Bhoj with a sword looks down at the city towards the upper lake. But this trail is all about the food and that’s where we are headed now to.
We were hosted in Bhopal by Sahibzada Raashid Ali and Ayesha Ali Khan of Bhopal at their residence – Shamla Kothi. Bhopal being a central princely state, borrows it’s cuisine heavily from the neighboring kingdoms of Rampur, Awadh and Hyderabad. Rampuri and Hyderabadi touches play a primary role in most of the dishes. But there are three dishes which the Nawaabi kitchens of Bhopal identifies with – Gosht Pasinda, Bhopali Rizala and the Filfora.
The environment at Shamla Kothi was truly a royal setting once the sun set. Livening up the evenings was mellifluous qawaali and great conversations on history with Sahibzada Omar Faruq ‘Ali and Kunwar Ajay Raj Singh of Begu. We started with the Bhopali Shamis and Cocktail Chicken Samosas. The Shami Kebabs were outstanding with the dash of lime on them. But it was the Cocktail samosas which turned out to be quite addictive. Among the other starters that night were fresh Hummus and Labneh with Za’atar which were served with pita bread. The Labneh had been infused with chili and garlic.
Now it’s important to note that most of the Bhopali cuisine uses a lot of coriander in them. In fact most of the dishes feature coriander prominently either in whole seed form, freshly cut coriander or as a powder component while cooking. Hence the dishes Filfora and Bhopali Rizala were born. The Filfora is a jungle recipe originating from hunting expeditions. The meat is pounded finely and is cooked in it’s juices with light spices and whole lot of coriander.
The Nawabi Murgh Bhopali Rizala is though not to be confused with the Rezala of Bengal is also inspired by the Mughlai Cuisine. There is no use of cashews and coconuts unlike the Bengali Rezala in the cooking process but it definitely packs in complex flavors. The dish again values the coriander which gives it a fine green color. The dish is garnished with peeled eggs.
It is now that we gradually move on to the Rampuri and Awadh side of effects on royal Bhopal dishes. The Taar Gosht is a delicacy from the royal kitchens of Rampur was exceptional. The gorgeous red of the Taar Gosht comes from the use of fresh tomato puree which also gives it some tanginess. I absolutely adored the Koftas which were made in an exquisite gravy. The other dishes included Quail (Bater) Masala and Paya.
Bhopal literally marries the cuisines of the North and South kingdoms. With the Hyderbadi influences came the Mutton Dum Biryani, Mirchi Ka Salan, Dahi Baingan, Khatte Aloo and Khatti Dal. But there is one dish that I wish to discuss here and that’s the Tamatar ka Kut. One of the most popular dishes among the Hyderabadi Muslims, the kut in the name refers to dry roasting of the spice mix. It’s tangy and spicy and goes great with hot rotis and Baghare Rice.
The food that we had from the Royal Kitchens of Bhopal was exceptional but the best was saved for the last. Among the desserts was the Double ka Meetha which had a lovely aroma of saffron and cardamom and Phirni. The highlight though will have to go to the Chana ki Daal ki Halwa. Made from split bengal gram it is sautéed till a rich aroma is achieved and flavoured with cardamom and saffron.
It was a remarkable experience at Shamla Kothi with all of this food available under the bespoke brand of Bigde Nawaab.
Other Posts of ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ are as below: