When Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Awadh (Oudh), was dethroned in 1856 by British Empire he packed off to Metiyaburj, about four miles south of Calcutta. Among many the ousted king was joined by his khansamas (royal chefs). The nawab had Bhojpuri, Mughal, Hyderabadi and Kashmiri khansamas in his kitchen. I was extremely thrilled with a sense of pride to try delicasicies coming out of kitchen of Begum Manzilat Fatima, great great granddaughter of Wajid Ali Shah.
Do you know that Awadhi cuisine may have influence from Mughlai cuisine but both are not same, quite distinct from each other. Crux of Awadhi cooking is dum style slow cooking that leverage natural flavours and aroma of the food with minimal use of spices.
A huge number from our family clan infested the cozy rooftop of Manzilat’s, who started her home dining service at her cozy rooftop since 2018. She always welcomes with a smiling face even though how much deliverable pressure she has or even she is short-staffed that day. We tried everything from starters to biryani to gravies and desserts. So let the food wagon journey start.
In starters we commenced with Mutton Chatpata Handi Kebab, is crumbled mutton seekh kebab delicately spiced and cooked in pot with onion, tomatoes and green chili. Freshly chopped coriander leaves topping adds a punch to its flavour.
Mutton Awadhi Galawti Kabab, made from a mix of juicy minced mutton finely blended with a bouquet of herbs and spices and griddle with desi ghee. Garnished with onion rings and split green chilies, try this aromatic and delicate kebab with paper thin and crispy Ulta Tawa Paratha.
The legend goes that the Nawab Asad ud Daula had lost most of his dentures due to old age, but his penchant for kebabs were far from dying. So for their toothless Nawab, the seasoned khansamas came up with a popular variant which needed no chewing yet had the same rich flavours and taste of a kebab. Galawati means ‘melt in your mouth’. It goes with another name as Tunday Kebab.
Mutton Majlisis Pasanda Kabab, soft textured shredded mutton wrapped in a thick consistent creamy gravy. The magic of smokiness from Bandel cheese and punch from ginger slices makes it a complex flavour to decipher. This can again be tried with Ulta Tawa Paratha.
Before moving to main course a quick detour towards Kalkatta Nahari, a slow cooked mutton stew with delicious amalgamation of spices. Well cooked mutton shanks fell off from the bone with the slightest effort and exposing the gooey bone marrow. Must enjoy the stew by squeezing few drop of lime juice on it until the last drop till you feel the traces of fresh ginger in your mouth. This must be relished with crispy and flaky Dal Puri, brought straight from the frying wok. This is available only during winter months.
“Nahar” comes from Arabic, which means “morning”, indicating at the time of day its best served. This is also known as Nihari.
In main course the showstopper was the Kalkatta Shahi Mutton Biryani, has long grained basmati rice with the trademark potato sitting atop and mutton pieces are peeping through the rice. The meat was soft as ever, succulent and full of flavours. Chef cooks her biryani with mustard oil to keep it non-greasy and light but its so moist. One may find this mild if compared to its commercial counterparts available all over town. It was served with a decent portion of Burhani, a coriander based raita seasoned with cumin and other spices.
Do you know that Nawab Wajid Ali Shah asked his khansamas to introduce potato to the biryani because of its exotic value. It was a new vegetable in the market introduced by the Portuguese.
Mutton Shahi Rezala, bony mutton pieces marinade in yogurt and curried with cashew and poppy seed paste with Indian spices to prepare a luscious creamy white gravy. There is mild pungent sweetness in the dish coming from the onions. The gravy is richer than a stew and is flavoured with several spices. Tempered with dry red chilies and makhana (fox nut). It’s a revelation.
Mutton Begum Qorma, is a rich thick gravy of slow cooked meat in brown onions, nuts, spices, yogurt and aromatic essences like saffron and kewda (screw pine). Yogurt gives a beautiful velvety base, ground brown onions gives texture and gentle spices with nuts gives richness to this exceptional korma recipe. Topped with grated almonds for a nutty texture to your bite.
Mutton Nawabi Chaanp, is prepared with mutton ribs (chops) with chunky succulent meat slow cooked with the exotic spices with a delightful undertone of kewra water. All the mutton gravies can be enjoyed with Dosti Roti.
As a welcome drink during summer she offers her guest with chilled kush sarbaat while during the winter months there is option for piping hot Kashmiri Chai (pink tea). Also during the hold month of Ramdaan she prepares light and fragrant mutton/beef haleem with oats and other cereals.
Time to move to desserts with Shahi Halwa. Semolina (suji) is continuously stirred over low flame with clarified butter to give the creamy texture. Topped with nuts and edible silver this is indeed a royal affair.
Finally it was time for the Shahi Kheer. Creamy and aromatic rice kheer or Indian Rice Pudding is made with basic ingredients and is the quintessential Indian dessert that every Indian grows up eating. Flavored with cardamom, nuts & rose water, topped with dried rose petals and edible silver foil. It’s the best way to finish off an Indian meal.
I met Manzilat Fatima only twice but the way she reciprocates her warmth through her conversations and hospitality as if I know her since ages. No wonder how this pure soul wands magic inside her cozy kitchen. Many looks at her for her royal lineage from the family of Wajid Ali Shah but for me at first she is always a wonderful home chef and an entrepreneur which defines her primary identity. Kindly ensure to call her in advance to place your order and book your spot as she has limited place.
Pocket pinch: INR 500 to INR 1000 per person depending on how many course meal.
Bro Tip: Must try Mutton Awadhi Galawti Kabab with Ulta Tawa Paratha, Kalkatta Shahi Mutton Biryani, Kalkatta Nahari, Haleem and Shahi Halwa