King's fare: Erstwhile royal Hemendra's recipes enthral Hyderabad
Deccan Chronicle.| Sriram Karri
Kunwar Hemendra Singh, of Bhainsrorgarh in the Mewar region of Rajasthan, with secret and nearly-lost recipes researched and extracted from the royal family households.(DC Image)
HYDERABAD: It is not unprecedented for kings to cook. In Mahabharata, during the final year of hiding and staying incognito, the second Pandava, Bhima, became Ballava (or Vallabha) and took the role of a master chef in the Matsya kingdom.
Food lovers in Hyderabad are currently being enthralled with lip-smacking and finger-licking royal fare by erstwhile royal, Kunwar Hemendra Singh, of Bhainsrorgarh in the Mewar region of Rajasthan, with secret and nearly-lost recipes researched and extracted from the royal family households.
The Riyasat-E-Zaika festival underway at the Aish restaurant in Park Hotel has already won hearts, with several food lovers making repeat bookings, to taste the food being served by the guest chef, with several dishes being brought to the city for the first time.
A former sportsman shooter and promoter of a famed tiger-trail Fort hotel resort on the banks of Chambal River, Hemendra Singh is as accidental a chef as anyone could be. It was a chance hobby that became his profession.
"Between being a medal-winning shooter in my youth and being a hospitality promoter, I discovered my core passion for the conservation of heritage and culture, which shaped me as a chef. As much as I inherited a lovely fort on the banks of Chambal, which I turned into a resort to preserve it, I felt it important to conserve and continue the cooking traditions of our households. The recipes are carefully curated for an authentic, royal guest’s gastronomical experience," he says, overseeing the serving of the starters.
"It cannot be good, it has to be perfect," he says, revealing how it was a centuries-long tradition for royal families not to serve any dish that was less than perfect to guests.
Dishes like macchi Bhainsrorgarh, safed kesariya murgh, malwa mass, bhutte ki kees, or bakre ke champ are delicacies that draw lovers of meat away from thoughts of calories. The dal Bidwal from the royal household of Bidwal would likely leave connoisseurs incapable of referring to ghar ki murghi as equivalent to dal. Of course, no Rajasthani thali is complete without the bafla.
Everything is cooked in ghee, yet each taste is delicate, elegant and understated.
It is an equally rare sight to be handed a menu at a star hotel having a dish like chakki ke sule, a 100 per cent glutton dish, in the era of food allergies and dieting; or to be offered sorbets after the starters to thoroughly cleanse one’s palate and prepare for the main course. Be it commoners or royals, the highlights are the section of deserts, on cue here, rarities like aam ki kheer or amrut ghuka.
"The culture of Hyderabad is very distinctly different from Rajasthan, but both the Rajputana kings and Deccan Nizams had a common strand of loving the rich life. Food was central to celebrating the joy of life. And Riyasat-E-Zaika marks the best for the best," says Hemendra, who will be hosting the fest for all of this week.
Sriram Karri is the Resident Editor of Deccan Chronicle, based in Hyderabad. He is also the author of the MAN Asian Literary Prize long-listed novel 'Autobiography of a Mad Nation' and 'The Spiritual Supermarket'.