When one talks about Dawat-e-Awadh, be assured it is mostly about non vegetarian food. Awadhi cuisine is either mughlai which is quintessentially non vegetarian or it is Bramhin cuisine which includes loads of milk products, vegetables, lentils and desserts and can include or exclude onion and garlic. You would find a vast variety of koftas, pasandas, kormas and pulaos in bramhin vegetarian cuisine that has a clear influence of mughal food of Awadh. But then there is some more variety like Tahiri and khichdi, daal and rice, pooris and kachoris, curries like nimona and tawa fries, miloni subzi, gatte, kheer and a wide array of mithais etc that are essentially the vegetarian food of the Gangetic plains.
There is a whole word of Bramhin vegetarian food from Awadh but today I am talking about the royal mughlai food that is so synonymous with Awadh and is considered the root stock of all mughlai cuisine offshoots around India. Mughlai food is very very different in these regions of India and Awadhi is subtle, aromatic and rich with milk products and nuts along with saffron and flower essences, supposedly an influence the Mughals took from the Bramhins of the Gangetic plains, not sure about the influences but the result is history.
We got to taste some good Awadhi food at Cafe Uno, Shangri-La's Hotel here in New Delhi. We liked a few dishes there and the taste still lingers on.
The best thing was the Nawabi Tangdi. A drumstick of chicken stuffed with chopped nuts and khoya and then grilled in tandoor, wrapped with foil. Chef Anwar Ahmed and Chef Abhinandan Singh told us that they have created flavours that are essentially Awadhi but have used modern cooking techniques and presentation to suit the requirements. The result was good as I witnessed. I would definitely be trying the flavours of this stuffed tangdi in my own kitchen.
Khoya is a favourite ingredient of the region and lends a nice sweetness to a dish and this Nawabi Tangdi was a good example of how Awadhi cooks meld the flavours of spices and milk products along with nuts to create magic.
We liked the Mahi Tikka Chutney wala and it was really good too. A river fish grilled with a smear of green chutney. The Awadh ka Malai Murgh was succulent and soft as the name suggests and was really creamy too. Tender boneless thigh pieces done right.
What stumped me among starters was a nice Vegetarian Galaouti Kabab. Who would think a vegetarian galouti kabab can be nice tasting. It had the right texture and a really nice taste too. I finished the one on my plate unexpectedly.
Alu nazakat was avoidable, vegetarians might like it. Khumbi pyaz was nice but nothing notable. But vegetarians have a really good option in Mirchon Wala Paneer.
This is something very intriguing, a paneer dish cooked with pickled stuffed red chillies. I loved it. But the addition of bell peppers was unnecessary. I would get rid of them when I try this recipe in my own kitchen. Yes I am doing that very soon.
Nargisi kofta was nicely done. The flavors of seekh kababs that we get in Delhi more than awadhi I would say, but really a nice kofta curry.
This Murgh Shameena looks beautiful on the table. With soft iceberg like egg white poached meringues floating in a white creamy gravy, this dish may become a conversation point. The chicken and the gravy are nice too.
I liked the flaky crisp parathas too, tandoor baked rightly and very good accompaniment to everything we tasted. We did not have any space for desserts, they have some phirni, kheer and kulfi etc on the menu and we decided to share a paan kulfi. Their paan kulfi comes from Kuremal in purani dilli and it is as good as it can be. We did end up having a few bites even after being stuffed to the gills.
I have seen some nice dehydrated paan at Rupak stores and might be one of the first kulfis to be tried this summer. I wouldn't mind some nice paan kulfi even now. It has been some time since I had a nice paan, some kulfi might work fine.