A taste of traditional Awadhi food, combining ‘sheermal’ authentic bread with exotic trout found in the cool waters of Himachal Pradesh, is now being offered on a platter by a prominent hotel using authentic ingredients.
The Oberoi Group’s Clarkes Hotel in this tourist town – which served as the summer capital of British India between 1864 and 1939 and acquired the ‘Queen of the Hills’ moniker – is offering its ‘Himachali trout mussalam’ signature dish wrapped in ‘sheermal’.
Baked in wood-fired oven, it’s served as a main course dish in The Dining Room of the 117-year-old heritage building that was built in 1898.
“We wanted to do something new with the trout that is quite popular among our guests as a western main course. We came up with the idea of combining authentic Lucknowi ‘sheermal’ with trout. This is our signature dish,” Executive Chef Meet Singh Malhotra said.
For the dish, the trout – both brown and rainbow introduced by the British in India to promote angling – is marinated with Awadhi spices and saffron and wrapped in ‘sheermal’, a saffron-flavoured ‘naan’ or bread.
It is then baked in the wood-fired oven.
“When the ‘sheermal’ is opened, the fish can be eaten with the bread,” Malhotra said.
“The bread ensures that the trout is cooked inside the wrap, ensuring all the nutrition and juices remain inside,” he added.
Mughlai ‘sheermal’ is a mildly-sweet, saffron-flavoured ‘naan’.
“We worked on almost 30 Awadhi dishes and some of them have been introduced in our regular menu,” Clarkes’ General Manager D.P. Bhatia said.
He said starting Awadhi dishes in this hotel is an attempt by the Oberoi Group to revive traditional Indian food.
“To carry on the tradition of rivaayat (reviving traditional Indian cuisines) our chefs with expert Izzat Hussain last week not only tried to revive the traditional Awadhi recipes but also brainstormed on innovation of new dishes like Himachali trout mussalam at a food festival,” Bhatia said.
Lucknow-based Hussain, who started his career as a Unani practitioner, believes in cooking dishes mainly with milk instead of water.
Another recipe, ‘nariyal machi’, a local ‘mali’ fish stewed in fresh coconut and tempered with curry leaves and mustard, has also found its way to the new menu, which includes Chinese and Italian offerings, besides traditional Himachali and Punjabi cuisine.
Malhotra said vegetarian and non-vegetarian saffron-laced ‘briyani’ is cooked in a typical traditional style.
Newly introduced Awadhi non-vegetarian dishes like ‘shammi kabab naan’ and ‘murg musallam’, a whole chicken stuffed with ‘briyani’, are also much in demand in the hotel.
For vegetarians, there is ‘rajma ki galawat’ or kebab made of kidney beans.
Adding relish to the dishes is ‘nadru achari’, a pickle made of lotus stems.
For those with a sweet tooth, there is mouth-watering ‘chandi ki khurchan kheer’ loaded with dry fruits and saffron and ‘akhrot ka halwa’ or walnut ‘halwa’.
“We are using the finest ingredients to give an authentic taste plus an assortment of organic herbs,” Bhatia added.
Where: The Dining Room of Oberoi Group’s Clarkes Hotel
Cost: An Awadhi meal for two would cost between Rs.1,000 and Rs.1,500 (without alcohol).
Timings: Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
By Vishal Gulati