A mention of Rampur may remind you of the famous Rampuri chhuri -- the switchblade Bollywood villains of a certain vintage proudly flaunted. But a taste of this Uttar Pradesh town's cuisine will leave millennials quite surprised.
Of late, many hotels have started to showcase this delectable cuisine and one such ongoing fiesta is "Dine Like Royals" at K3, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity, from March 16 to March 26.
For non-vegetarians, the cuisine is a delight all the way. But vegetarians won't go hungry either.
Whisked, stirred, pounded and cooked by a team of third-generation cooks from the royal kitchens of the Nawabs of Rampur and chefs at the hotel, the mouth-watering traditional Rampur delicacies are characterised by the use of dry spices, or "khada masala" (black and white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon or cassia bark, mace, black and green cardamom pods, bay leaf, cumin and coriander), which lend the dishes a unique flavour.
Chef Suroor, who is among the team of "magicians" cooking up the delicacies at the restaurant, told IANS: "The cuisine was unheard of earlier -- or very few knew about it -- as the nawabs at the time did not want the food that they enjoyed to be had by all and become common.
"They wanted it to remain unique... for their palettes only. People came to know about the wonders of the cuisine when they found documented recipes in the library of Rampur."
Munch on the kachche gosht ki tikia (minced mutton tikka) and the fish anjeer tikka (fish and fig tika) while sipping on the Rampuri punch -- a summer cocktail comprising Rampuri spices, and a strong shot of vodka. The combination will prepare you for the rich and heavy main course dish -- tar qorma.
The word tar (wire) has been given as the consistency of the curry is like that of a wire when you slide out the spoon from the dish. Not too soft, nor too chewy, the mutton which had soaked in the flavourful spices was cooked perfectly and was not even as spicy as it looked.
"The speciality of the spices is that all of them are hand-pounded. None of them comes from the market," Chef Suroor explained.
I would highly recommend the fish and fig tikka as it was a lovely amalgamation of fig with the spices and was melt-in-the-mouth soft. The taste of fig is not so strong if that is what you fear. Don't forget to try it with the garlic-yellow chilli dip.
The yellow chilli is specific to Rampur and is hotter than the green chili that you get in the market. However, it is not as hot as the "bhut jolokia" found in the northeast Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur.
The keema aloo dish is dry and looks like minced soya bean, but like they say, "Never judge a book by its cover" -- it was delicious and I could not help but lap it up with a sheer maal roti which is very different from its usual Mughlai-style preparation.
In the vegetarian section, the rich and heavy paneer shorma and the brinjal dish should be tried out even if you're partial to the non-vegetarian menu.
For dessert, go for gulatthi (a cousin of kheer and phirni) and adrak ka halwa -- a sweet made of minced ginger. It warms up the stomach a bit, so the chef said it's a perfect winter delight.
The price tag for the menu may seem overpriced to some, but for those who like to experiment with their taste-buds, it's a must-try.
Where: K3 at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocit, Asset Area 4, Hospitality District, Delhi Aerocity, New Delhi 110037
When: Lunch: 12.30 pm to 3 pm; Dinner: 7 pm to 11 pm
Cost: Lunch: Rs 2,550 plus taxes, Dinner: Rs 3,350 plus taxes; both include the mocktail and cocktail menu
(Kishori Sud was at K3 JW Marriott at its invitation. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)