Jiski khushboo se mehek utthe fizza Jiski rangat se bhi aa jaye maza Ho nafees aur lazeez har luqma Zaiqa iska ho har ek as se juda Kha ke ho jaye jehvan khush mehman Hum bechaate hain wahi dasarkhan.
- A couplet by the Urdu poet, Rizvi
(The aroma of which pervades the air A sight which adds to its flavour Aesthetic and appetising is every morsel With a taste unmatched and unique Prepared just to please our guest Who we serve at our table.)
WE KNOW THAT SEVERAL centuries ago, the adolescent, would-be founder of the Mughal dynasty started out from his homeland in Ferghana in Central Asia, with stars in his eyes. He had little more than a horse, a few companions and a sense of his place in the world. He descended from Genghis Khan on his mother's side and Timur the Lame on his father's, but as things stood, he had little to show for all that. The nomadic streak racing through his veins saw Babur gallop, with a few detours, all the way from his homeland, to India, which would become home for the dynasty he would establish.
The culinary influence of the Mughals on Indian habits was interesting for more than obvious reasons. It wasn't just their extravagant dining preferences (a standard in many Royal Courts in the Indian region) but an understanding of the importance of fitting into the fabric of Indian traditions, maintaining continuity with the past, moving towards an understanding of the underlying theme of syncretism. The menu of breads, fruits, nuts and roasted meats in Babur's Court, steadily began integrating local ingredients and processing techniques even as native residents were beginning to experiment with the roasts, bread and confectionary traditions of the Mughals that found their way to the public space via street cooks. The dastarkhwan (the embroidered white cloth upon which the vessels of food were placed) is a fit metaphor for the Mughal embellishment upon the fabric of a continuous tradition.
As with countless royal Courts throughout the country, so too under Mughal patronage, select local dishes were valorised and taken far beyond the remit of their original field. Dumpukht and biryani, both of which are of ancient Indian vintage, were bequeathed with extra sophistication and a wider fan following. In current times, where every second place boasts Mughal dishes on the menu, I can say there are only a few places that can do justice to the promise – ITC Hotels’ celebrated K&K is definitely one of the few. If you’re in Mumbai, you have the chance to be served the authentic flavours of the Mughal dastarkhwan. Head over to K&K at ITC Grand Central for a rare taste of authentic Mughal sophistication. There isn’t much time left though, so you might have to dispense with your own sophistication and hurry up. The showcase is on only till 31st January.