Located in the ITC Maurya Hotel in Delhi, Dum Pukht is an interesting place. Forget the luxurious feel of the decor and the outstanding service and let's focus on the history behind this restaurant:
Centuries ago, in 1784, the rich and powerful Kingdom of Awadh, known for their love for culture, music, dance and epicurean delights, was struck by famine. Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah initiated a food for work program employing thousands in the construction of the imposing monument of Bara Imambara. Large cauldrons were filled with rice, meat, vegetables and spices, and sealed to make a simple, one-dish meal that was available to workers day and night. One day, the Nawab caught a whiff of the aromas emanating from a cauldron and the royal kitchen was ordered to serve the dish…thus being the ‘discovery’ of ‘Dum’ or ‘slow’ cooking, which was further refined to please the royal palate.
Source: Dum Pukht restaurant website
So, Dum Pukht is a slow cooking method from the Awadh region of Northern India, Dum meaning breath in and Pukht meaning to cook. What is extraordinary there is that the Chef, Gulam M. Qureshi, is a fifth generation of Chefs, and cooks according to the tradition.
He was nice enough to give me a tour of the kitchen where all the magic happens.
The food was a succession of dishes, some of them very surprising, such as the lamb kakori kebab that is literally melting in your mouth. The secret? The lamb is minced seven times, making this so delicate that moving it from the main dish to the plate requires a special move and there is not need for a knife to eat it.
At the same time we got the kakori kebab, they served some fantastic Jhinga Dum Nisha (tandoori jumbo prawns marinated in cheese and yoghurt) that were in fact one of my favorites, Harra Kabab Awadhi (spinach and channa dal kabab stuffed with cottage cheese), Dudiya Kabab (cottage cheese stuffed with mashed potatoes).
Next was Koh-E-Awadh that is lamb shank that was perfectly cooked and so flavorful, as well as yellow dal.
But it was not it: we got to try two other Dum Pukht specialties. The first one was Murgh Khushk Purdah, that is pieces of boneless chicken cooked with garlic and onions in a dish sealed with some dough to keep the aroma.
Once the seal was broken, a delightful smell emanated from the dish.
The second dish was the biryani that was also delicious.
Of course, I should not forget the nan and chapati.
Last was dessert, with a large gulab jamun, as well as kulfi that is ice cream.
I should probably mention the wine that was Indian, the wine list having plenty of wines from different countries, but, being in India, I thought it would be a good idea to try something local. So I chose a Fratelli Merlot Sangiovese.
To digest, my colleagues dared me to try a beetle leaf that was stuffed with various seeds, similar to what you would find in many Indian restaurants (the seeds at least). And you know what? I liked it!
The dinner at Dum Pukht was definitely interesting, a unique culinary experience in a beautiful setting. As far as I am concerned, it is not as good as Bukhara, also located in the ITC Maurya, but it is worth trying.
Enjoy (I did)!
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