Friday, June 21, 2013

a mughlai meal and the possibilities of a great take home nawabi zayeka...

I heart regional cuisines and any chance to taste foods from a distinct Indian regional cuisine allures me like a magnet. Mughlai is one such cuisine I have been very very curious about. The robust flavors of Hyderabad mughlai, the meats and the different ways they cook their meats with vegetables make me extremely curious. Awadhi mughlai is a delicate balance of flavors and Bengal mughlai is another shoot off from the main stock. Then there is Punjabi mughlai, Kashmiri Muslim cuisine and even Bohri Muslim cuisine. I am not sure if we would categorize Moplah as mughlai but it always amazes to witness such diversity.

I want to learn more and experiment more with this cuisine as I love my spices and have started loving my meats too in the past decade. Although I advocate using spices and even meats according to seasons and moods.

A Hyderabad foodie and caterer Sadia Durrani invited a few of us at Cal bloggers table to showcase her food. We all lapped it up as it was a nice opportunity to taste home cooked mughlai cuisine. We braved the hot sun to reach Sadia's home and taste the food, it was a hot summer day but it did not deter us carnivores at Cal bloggers table.

The table at Sadia's place was laid with old fashioned elegant wares and the food was served with much anticipation. All of us carnivores had great expectations and we clicked a few pictures of all the dishes before we dug into them. The tandoori rotis and sheermal was ordered from outside but everything else was cooked at home.

Fluffy breads like these tandoori rotis are the best way to enjoy the thick gravies these meat dishes are cooked in. The soda tandoori roti at Al Jawahar is the best I have eaten with the korma they serve, the mutton ishtoo and the nihari of course.

At Sadia's place also, I took a piece of Nihari first. I am so smitten with this slow cooked meat dish that it always tempts me to go to purani dilli every few weeks. I liked Sadia's nihari quite a lot too. Tender falling off the bone meat, the spices imbibed well in every fiber of the meat and juices of the meat seeped well into the gravy. Just as it should be, all flavors melded together well.

Gosht dopyaza was also done really well. The sweetness of onions balanced by well cooked tomatoes and overall balanced flavors. Some recipes of dopyaza used curds instead of tomatoes and some don't use any souring agent but all dopyaza varieties taste wonderful if cooked nicely. Well cooked meat that must have been cooked for a couple of hours, it didn't look like pressure cooked which kills the flavors of the meat in my opinion. This dish can be a good party staple for Delhi crowd I am sure.

I had taken a quarter of roti and used it as a palate cleanser only, I can't eat much roti with meats dishes as it makes me feel stuffed. And here I had to taste all of the dishes served. I was biting into my roti judiciously.

Sadia had arranged the kebabs prettily and I was very curious about the sesame coating and seemingly 'deep fried' kebabs rather than the shallow fried as we do it the 'awadhi shami kebab' way. I had never had deep fried kebabs earlier. Sadia's reason for deep frying the kebab is it's ability to retain the shape probably as she has to pack the stuff and hand it over to customers who would carry it home and by the time the kebabs are eaten it will be around 30 minutes at least after deep frying them. Although the shami kebabs we get packed from Dastarkhwan (in Lucknow) wrapped in ulte tawe ka paratha gets all shapeless, is still yummy to the core.

Anyhow, the kebabs were nice and crisp on the crust and melt in the mouth type inside. There was a stuffing of broken nuts and probably a little hung curd like it is done in shikampur kebabs, the texture was also much moist than the traditional shami kebab I have eaten till now. I found them really tasty, the sesame coating tasted great too, I wont go into the argument of what kind of kebab it will be, or it will be a hybrid. Something that tastes good, uses good ingredients is good enough for me.

The dish I tasted after the kebab was the awadhi murgh. The taste was good as a chicken curry but I failed to feel any awadhi spicing in it. May be everything was cooked with a bit more of chilly and the chilly had overpowered awadhi spicing. This awadhi murgh was a nice chicken curry but not awadhi for me.

I can eat quite a good amount of spices and chilly but by this time I had started feeling the heat that hit me. I was sweating like I had never before in this whole summer for sure. I wish Sadia had served some vegetables along with all the meats as well. Some lightness both in constitution as well as in taste was required and was missed sorely.

This achari murgh looked quite attractive and proved it's worth too. Very well balanced pickling spices , the right amount of sourness added by curds and nicely tenderised well seasoned chicken.  I would definitely try and recreate this recipe as I liked it as much as I like my murgh achari tikka.

This badami korma was nice too, but by the time I had this, it was clear that Sadia loves super spicy food. A korma should be very delicate to my understanding. The spicing is just a lingering aroma that you get apart form the smooth nut paste and the meat flavors. This korma was too spicy for it's name. Although I would like it if I am eating just one meat dish in the meal and there are loads of vegetables around my plate. Look how sorely I missed vegetables.

 And the last of the meat dishes I tasted was the laal maas. It was good, definitely spicy but not the best laal maas I have had. Average laal maas I would say as otherwise too I like laal maas only for the red chilly capsaicin flavoring it has. I think it would have been superbly good if it was cooked in ghee. I knew what I was missing in this laal maas, I inquired and found out all the dishes were cooked in refined oil. I wasn't expecting this.

I know many many great cooks use refined vegetable oils for cooking but I would prefer the good old mustard, sesame, coconut oils for my desi foods and ghee would rate the highest.

She served murgh dum biryani as well and we had high expectations for the biryani. Although I would say chicken doesn't make biryani at all, but still a biryani should have some flavors of the meat stock in the rice and the overall aroma that is so characteristic. It lacked everything. The rice was sticky and overcooked and I didn't find any flavor that would confirm it's a biryani. It would have gone by the name of pilaf probably.

The kheer looked good and tasted perfect. With the earthen aroma of the terracotta bowls this was a kheer one finds in wedding parties mostly. Perfectly cooked rice, reduced milk and whatever it takes to make a fairly good kheer. Not the best I have had but good.

Overall, it was a nice meaty meal. I liked most of them, but felt it would have been a lot better if it was cooked in ghee or mustard oil. Slow cooked meats don't use much ghee anyways but the flavor that develops is unmistakably rich. Ghee also cuts the heat of chilly that we all found so hard hitting.

I would emphasize one point that a meal can be predominantly meats but there should be enough options of vegetables and some cooling type raitas when there are so many meat dishes on the menu. I would have loved even a bhindi gosht or turai gosht for that matter.

A meal ordered from Sadia costs about INR 1000 for two. I would definitely order nihari and murgh achari form her if I do. May be the gosht dopyaza and lal maas as well. I think one can request her to keep the spicing low or cook the meats in ghee to get a better experience. She is an awesome mughlai cook I must say. Preparing so many dishes and serving them in one go is not easy for most of us. Apart from me,  Ruchira, Parul, Mukta and Sid khullar were also there to taste this spread.

You can contact Sadia on her fb page called Nawabi zayeka here and call her at 08588960966 to order your preferred dishes.


  1. I like how you write your posts. They are always packed with so much connect and information. Looks like the carnivores had a really sumptuous meal at Sadias.

    1. Thank you Deeba. Your sweet comments are always so dear :-)

  2. The meal looks delicious and really like all the pointers you have given, they would be really helpful for Sadia in the future. Mouthwatering food and I am drooling over the phirni.

    1. Yes the food was really awesome. It happens very rarely that you get all the dishes perfect at any place and 3-4 brilliant dishes out of 5 is good enough.

  3. That is some great food...I would love to have a few plates from there. I haven't had Nihari and Laal Maas in years and years. Serving veggies as a side along with such heavy meat dishes is a must, and one must never underestimate the power of a fresh juicy salad as a side for these - I feel they are a must. Great review.

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