In an Awadhi kitchen
Ista Hotel in
“The first dish is Dum ka Chaanp.” My mouth was already flooding with the mention of lamb chops. Goswami explained how it will take more than an hour an a half to cook it, since it is slow cooking. That is what Dum cooking is. “Sad”, said my tummy as it growled in rebellion. “The second dish I will show you is Murgh sid dumpukht.” Boneless chicken, cashew nut paste and white gravy already gave me ideas about the taste. “The next one is a little exotic- it is bharwa guchi.” Guchi or morels are basically dried mushrooms and Goswami had an Zaman specialty dish which sells for Rs. 450 a plate.
A guchi passed around the class room as the teacher wanted us all to have a feel of the thing- a black shriveled mushroom that needed to be soaked before being cooked. He informed that it was Rs. 25,000 per kg. Because of time constraints, we were also shown the final preparation the dish. As the class wanted to know any alternatives for guchi, Goswami mentioned tindi, karela and even capsicum. He explained, “Food and cuisine is such a thing that it depends from person to person.” He adds, “A composer makes music out of seven notes and you get to hear new songs every day. Cuisines have at least one million ingredients. I can not count the number of permutation and combination. It is all about imagination.”
The last dish for the day was announced as “Khajur ka kofta”- a sweet and tangy vegetable dumpling is thick gravy. And there was a discussion of chillies. I did not know there were more than 80-90 varieties of chillies in the world and that they all taste different. The chef asked his audience to experiment masalas on alu ki sabji since potato is a neutral vegetable. “Mexicans use seven to eight varieties of chillies.” I was amazed. I just use a basic red chilli powder found in the market.
Then started the cooking of the lamb chops and Goswami explained how to clean raw meat and how to make it tender. It was pure learning. As the cooking progressed the room was filled with the aroma of Awadhi food. He shared a very funny experience in the room. He told us how a few years ago he used to do television shows and that in one episode he cooked one of his favourite dishes. The next day more than 100-200 people wrote back saying that the dish was bland and without taste. “It can happen to everyone.” The classes guessed in chorus, “Salt.” With a smile he added salt into the wok.