The first thing that catches the eye is the crystal chandelier; amethyst couches and gilded candle-stands are next, and, by the time you enter the carpeted hall, resplendent with arches and columns, china and crystals, you are certain that you are in an aristocratic Nizami home, but then, Dum Pukht Begum’s is no less than a royal Hyderabadi living room.
Homage to the elegant Nizami lifestyle and refined culinary skills of Hyderabad, Dum Pukht Begum’s is the Indian fine-dining space at the newly opened ITC Kohenur. While the franchise across ITC properties celebrates dum style of cooking mastered in the kitchens of Avadh, Dum Pukht Begum’s brings the cuisine of Hyderabad to the franchise by recreating home-recipes from the kitchens of Hyderabadi aristocratic families.
“Pardon me if I send you too much food, we Hyderabadis sometimes go overboard with feeding our guests.” The ambience of the place and our introduction to chef Aamer Jamal, the Masterchef at Dum Pukht Begum’s, set the tone for the evening that promises to be full of great food.
“People in Hyderabad have always been very protective about their family recipes”, says chef Jamal, “that is why many home recipes of the state have already become extinct – since they died with their creators.” He also tells us how, after losing out on some of the oldest recipes to time, families in the city are now willing to open up their kitchens to outsiders. “We consulted many such families to recreate the recipes from their homes for our guests” he explains.
The evening begins with kebabs – the mainstay of Avadhi cuisine. Made with arvi, beetroot, spinach, and even prawns, besides the regular meats, the kebabs not only showcase a variety of ingredients but also the variation of technique – some are grilled on a skillet, some are made on seekh, some are fried in a pan, and some cooked on stone. Tender, juicy, smoky and flavourful, the kebabs are a fine example of the chef’s mastery over spices and textures.
The food served in Dum Pukht is special on many accounts; the marriage of Avadhi and Hyderabadi culinary styles is one such. So while the Kababs charm with the finesse of Lucknow’s nazakat, the Qalia, Salan, and Qormas have a stamp of Hyderabadi genius. Brought in by the Mughals, Qorma, according to chef Jamal, is made with yogurt and has a thick sauce; Qalia and Salan meanwhile are thinner and indigenous to the region. He promises to send one of each to us.
The course begins with a superlative qorma of morels filled with clotted cream and a piquant preparation of jumbo prawns with a lingering curry leaf flavour. Mutton qalia and chicken qorma follow soon after. Warqi Paratha, Khamiri Roti, and Naans meanwhile are brought in to accompany the curries. Rich and flavorful, each gravy has distinct taste: chicken carries the fragrance of star anise, morels are gingery and creamy, and mutton is aromatic. The breads meanwhile are so soft and flaky that they compel us to reach for second helpings. By the time chefs sends in the Biriyanis – Dum Pukht Special and Hyderabadi – we are already stuffed. But who can say no to biriyani in Hyderabad? Soon we are polishing off spoonfuls of finest rice off our plates surprised at our own capacity.
It has been over an hour since we started eating, and chef Jamal, true to his word, is still sending in food. After kababs, qormas, biryanis, and breads, it is time now for dessert. While the menu declares Badami Kheer as a Hyderabadi specialty, we are also craving Khubani ka Meetha and Shahed-e-Jam. Chef makes it easy by sending in khwaan-e-shirni, a silver platter of all three.
As we bite into the sinfully sweet khubanis, nutty kheer and hot gulab jamum, almost all at once, we know Dum Pukht Begum’s is a place we are coming back to very soon, the overeating notwithstanding.