Once Upon a Dastarkhan: Traditional Eid delicacies are slowly vanishing from dawats
Eid delicacies such as Zameen Doz Biryani, Nargisi Kofta and Qeema Fara seem to be slowly fading with time. Gourmands and chefs in the city talk about festive dishes that they miss the mostmore lifestyle Updated: Jun 23, 2017 14:44 IST
Eid al-Fitr, also known as Ramazan-Eid or Sweet Eid, marks the end of the month of Ramzan (fasting) for Muslims around the world. The Eid dawat is a unique experience. It’s an occasion when close bonds are formed, and differences forgotten over delicious food.It’s not just an opportunity to gorge on delicious food but a chance to savour culture and history as the traditional recipes are often handed down from one generation to another. However, the tradition of revisiting Eid delicacies is slowly fading as many handpicked dishes are missing in dawats. The flavours are also less authentic. “Owing to urbanisation, families and friends are scattered. People are busy with jobs. They prefer to order than cook. The tradition of passing down recipes is dying,” says Pushpesh Pant, food historian.
Biryani is not the same anymore
For years, biryani has been a must-have on Eid but veteran chef Gulam Qureshi of ITC Maurya says that it doesn’t taste the same anymore. “Earlier, the meat for biryani was cooked over charcoal. Today’s biryani lacks authenticity. Gosht Ka Khichda is another delicacy that is not made anymore. It’s an intricate combination of meat, various dals and wheat. It’s cooked overnight and served after the fast is broken. This delicacy is time consuming and people find it too complex to make it now,” says the chef.
The lost gems
The slow demise of community culture is not the only reason why certain Eid recipes are lost. “I think people have genuinely lost interest in cooking. To cook these recipes, one requires skill. Even if people want to learn that skill, they don’t have the time. On Eid, my grandfather used to make Kimami Seviyan of Tigni. When I say Tigni, it comes down to ration of sugar in seviyan. It is an art to cook with so much sugar and keep the delicate seviyan unbroken and separate from each other with no lumps. Today, you’ll hardly find anyone who has the skill to make seviyan like that,” says chef Osama Jalali. Nargisi Kofta is yet another dish that is rarely served. “The nargis or narcissus flower is shaped like an eye with white petals and deep yellow centre. The dish is a mix of raw meat and shami kabab paste wrapped around boiled eggs, cooked in korma masala and then cut in the middle. It resembles a nargis flower. I rarely get to cook this now as it takes a lot of time to prepare,” says Rana Safvi, food historian.
Zameen Doz Biryani, once a prized delicacy, is also rarely seen. Chef Nishant Choubey says, “The meat was cooked under the sand. A hole was made in the ground and filled with burning coal. The dish was cooked on it and it used to be delicious. Compare this to takeaway food on Eid and you know that there’s so much that we have lost,” he says.
For kids, Eid was the perfect occasion to gorge on Warqi Samosa. “Growing up in Bihar, my favourite was Warqi Samosa. It had layers and layers of fat. The outer shell of the samosa used to be very thin. The flour was kneaded with animal fat to make it crispy. The meat filling was flavoured with sautéed onion, garlic and other spices. It was then deep fried in oil and animal fat. I don’t think I’ll be able to eat this dish anymore. It makes me sad. I don’t know how many of my friends in Delhi have ever heard or enjoyed the zayka of this snack,” says chef Sadaf Hussain.
Qeema Fara is another dish that was popular. “It was a steamed savoury, prepared using fermented dough. It was stuffed with minced lamb or chana dal and rolled into dumplings for further steaming. One doesn’t see it being prepared as part of traditional Eid feasts anymore as the preparation takes a lot of time,” says chef Arun Sundararaj of The Taj Mahal Hotel.