The descendant of King Wajid Ali Shah and Begum Hazrat Mahal, Manzilat runs a house diner that retains numerous royal delicacies alive, particularly the Kolkata Biryani, which she says has deep roots within the area of Lucknow.
In 1856, King Wajid Ali Shah, the final nawab of Lucknow, was exiled by the British to Metiabruz, a suburb of Calcutta (now Kolkata). Heartbroken to go away behind his expensive metropolis, the king established a ‘chota (miniature) Lucknow’ in Metiabruz to maintain the sense of familiarity and the reminiscences of his metropolis alive.
This transfer would go on to affect Calcutta’s native tradition in quite a few methods. For one, Wajid Ali launched sports activities like kite-flying and cock-fighting, in addition to poetry within the area. Amongst these notable contributions was meals, specifically, biryani. So what has been embraced at the moment as Kolkata biryani the truth is has its roots in Lucknow, town of nawabs.
As Manzilat Fatima, the great-great-granddaughter of the king, tells The Higher India, “You’ve got the attribute of Awadh biryani within the Kolkata one. They’re like cousins of 1 household.”
For the final 5 years, the 55-year-old has run Manzilat’s, a house diner to maintain the legacy of royal delicacies alive. We sat down along with her to know the historical past and relevance of the meals delivered to town by the nawab.
Wajid Ali Shah was a patron of artwork, music, poetry, drama, and gastronomy – the artwork of cooking and relishing good meals. “Though he was not a Badshah (emperor) anymore, Wajid Ali Shah was born a nawab. His love for gastronomy formed the Lucknowi biryani after he got here to Kolkata. With the introduction of potatoes, it turned what we at the moment relish as Kolkata biryani,” says the 55-year-old.
Throughout that point, potatoes have been thought-about a nayab (unique) delicacy. Though widespread individuals couldn’t afford them, the vegetable was launched within the royal kitchens. “Because it has the capability to soak up all aromas of spices, it enhances the flavours when it’s added to the dish. It was readily accepted by the King and the individuals. After his demise, when his mulazims (staff) have been jobless, they went to cities and this biryani was unfold in Kolkata metropolis and have become widespread,” says Manzilat.
She explains what units the Awadhi and Kolkata biryani aside from the remainder. “Since nawabs have been of nazuk mizaz (delicate nature), spicy meals didn’t swimsuit their palate. This makes the Awadhi meals delicate and lightweight, in addition to extraordinarily flavourful and fragrant, in comparison with Hyderabadi, Muradabadi, and southern biryanis. Others use a number of spices and ghee. We really feel full even after consuming one or two lukma (mouthfuls). There’s a class in Awadh meals!” she says with delight.
Talking in regards to the distinctive species and cooking strategies she makes use of to prepare dinner Kolkata biryani, Manzilat says, “First I put together korma, which I add as a layer within the utensil. After this, I add a layer of boiled potatoes savoured with ghee, salt, and spices. Lastly, I add a layer of boiled rice and add the flavouring of ghee and saffron. If you prepare dinner in logs and matkas (clay utensils), it provides a smoky flavour.”
“I prepare dinner biryani with common spices like kebab chini, nutmeg, shah jeera, mace, cardamom, and clove. In some Awadhi delicacies, I take advantage of specialised Awadhi spices and herbs like paan ki jad, khas ki jad, patthar ke phool (herbs). They’re extra fragrant. The one secret I’ve is the proportion of spices for use, it makes a number of distinction,” she smiles.
Apart from the biryanis, Manzilat’s menu affords a variety of delicacies together with Lakhnawai Mutton Yakhni Pulao, Rooster Nawabi Chaanp, Ulta Tawa Paratha, Fish Chatpata Handi Kabab, Rooster Lazeez Shami Kabab, and Shahi Badam Firni.
Learnt cooking by way of letters
Manzilat recollects that when she began cooking on the age of 10, she was not at first.
“I used to be residing with my father in Aligarh. At the moment, ordering meals from exterior was not as related as it’s at the moment. So I needed to prepare dinner together with a helper and would serve kacha pakka (half-cooked) meals to my father. Generally, there could be extra water in khichadi and generally rice could be half-cooked. I’d fail to make an ideal meal,” she laughs.
Usually, her mom would come to her rescue. “She used to write down letters to us from Kolkata. In these letters, she would write a recipe and cooking technique for me in Urdu. Throughout holidays once we could be house, I used to be taught from her. The very first thing I learnt from her was shami kabab. My father relished it,” she recollects.
After getting married, Manzilat settled in Kolkata. She liked to host friends of her husband and pals of her youngsters. By means of cooking through the years, she developed an immense curiosity in meals. “However I by no means knew that I’d construct a profession in it,” she smiles.
In a bid to maintain the legacy of royal delicacies alive, she arrange Manzilat’s house diner in Kasba of Kolkata in 2018. “All of the nawabs have been very keen on meals and Awadhi delicacies could be very widespread however not so widespread exterior Lucknow. Individuals even in Lucknow and Metiabruz have no idea the historical past related to the meals. I needed to contribute in the direction of carrying the legacy of my household earlier than the world forgets our lineage and the relevance of meals,” she says.
Manzilat manages her house diner with the assistance of 4 staff and caters to foodies from the world over, together with Japan, China, Abu Dhabi, Toronto, New Jersey, and Singapore.
“My mission is to not earn from a business arrange, however to unfold consciousness on the historical past of Awadh, its final King Wajid Ali Shah, freedom fighter Begum Hazrat Mahal, and our household historical past. For this, I get immense love, honour, and respect, which is priceless. That’s my actual incomes,” she says.
Edited by Divya Sethu