Dinner at the Darbar: Indian chef brings travelling culinary show to Dubai

Eminent food historian, restaurateur and food writer Osama Jalali lavishes praise on the emirate and homegrown restaurant chain Golden Fork ahead of his show, which is being held between September 23 and October 14


Joydeep Sengupta

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Published: Thu 22 Sep 2022, 8:22 PM

Eminent Indian chef, food historian, restaurateur, and food writer Osama Jalali is hosting his signature “Dinner at the Darbar” from September 23 to October 14 at Golden Fork, the UAE’s homegrown restaurant chain, where he is showcasing a curated menu of home-style food and heirloom recipes of Old Delhi and his native Rampur in Uttar Pradesh.

Osama is renowned for reviving “Lost Recipes of India’’, and perfecting forgotten flavours. Diners can indulge in classic starters such as Dilli Nihari, Anjeer Mewe ke Kebab, Chitta Murgh Tikka Makhni and Ghilafi Seekh among others. Signature dishes from the main course include Dilli Nihari and Hari Mirch Qeema in the non-vegetarian offering, and Ballimaran Chana Dal, Mughlai Gobi Mussalam among others in the vegetarian section. Shahi Chawalon ka Zarda, Siwai ka Muzafar, and Shahi Tukda will round off a delectable meal.

“Travel back in time to an era of royal kitchens, where preparing food was a treasured art and each meal was fit for a king! We’re proud to partner with Chef Osama’s and bring his culinary prowess and exemplary menu to life across Golden Fork,” said Chef Abu Sultan, Executive Chef, Golden Fork Restaurants.

“As a 45-year-old brand here in the UAE, we understand the significance and importance of tradition and chef Osama is a fine example of someone who preserves that when it comes to the culinary arts,” he added.

Osama’s affair with food dates to his childhood, most of which he spent amidst the royal khansamas (cooks) of Delhi and Rampur gharana. His mother, Nazish Jalali, who hails from the princely estate of Rampur, collected rare recipes during the years she spent in the Walled City, and Osama has been the natural inheritor of this culinary legacy.

wknd. spoke with Osama ahead of his trip to the UAE.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

You’re a reputed food writer, historian, restaurateur, food festival curator and a passionate Masterchef. How did you veer towards culinary trends, despite your non-hospitality background?

I started my career as a food writer, which gave me the opportunity to travel across the country. During this time, I wrote more than 2,000 food reviews. I recall a visit to a restaurant where my daughter and I were served a samosa chaat with chutney in foam form. Even the dessert was a deconstructed phirni. I realised that it was now trendy to serve modern Indian cuisine or progressive Indian cuisine. Molecular gastronomy was being touted as the way forward and because of this our traditional dishes and staples were being presented in new forms. It became clear to me that reviving regional recipes was imperative to preserve our rich culinary heritage. I roped my mother and wife into this endeavour and together we scoured libraries to find recipes in languages like Persian. We translated them and added modern measurements (tola to teaspoon). We interviewed old ladies who were reluctant at first to share their family recipes but eventually understood the importance of our cause. I created a Facebook group called Lost Recipes of India, which is now arguably the largest social media group dedicated to this subject. Soon, I started getting invited to curate food festivals both in India and abroad where I cook the recipes and present them on a more global platform.

Recount your formative years in old Delhi and your roots in Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, whose founders were Rohilla Pathans?

I was born and brought up in Old Delhi, specifically Ballimaran. I was the first family member born in Delhi. So, Rampur, naturally, inspired our palate at home. As one of the most prosperous principalities of India, Rampur has a rich legacy of culture, craft, and cuisine, and I was lucky to grow up with the khansamas (male cooks). We have a big haveli (palace) in Rampur and as a child I watched my mother cook with the khansamas of Rampur and Old Delhi. It gave me an appreciation for the versatility of Indian cuisine. The flavours and texture of the food cooked in Rampur and Delhi for example, are quite different. Delhi is very robust whilst Rampur is more subtle and refined — you could say I got the best of both the worlds.

How “Dinner at the Darbar” ties in with your contributions towards reviving the lost recipes of India?

Golden Fork has been such an integral part of the UAE food landscape, so this collaboration is an exciting one. They are traditionalists just like me and they believe in authenticity which made the restaurant chain a natural choice to showcase our lost recipes and revive them for the discerning UAE palate.

Have you been to Dubai before?

I have been to Dubai before, but this is the first time I am doing a travelling food festival across the UAE showcasing a curated menu of home-style food and heirloom recipes inspired by my roots.

What’s your take on Dubai’s emergence as the food capital of the world?

Dubai isn’t just the food capital. I think it’s the global capital of the world capturing the imagination of people from all over the globe. You can find cuisines from all over the world here because it is easy to source ingredients and the audience is receptive to trying new cuisines, which makes it a joy to cook here.


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