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'My journey through Old Delhi drew me closer to Mughlai cuisine': Mohammed Afroj Alam

My journey through Old Delhi drew me closer to Mughlai cuisine: Mohammed Afroj Alam

The Complex Specialty Sous Chef of Purani Dilli lets us into his kitchen



Published: Fri 18 Oct 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 20 Oct 2019, 5:57 PM

Your best food-related experience.
I've always felt drawn to Mughlai cuisine. To experience it in all its glory, I decided to visit the streets of Old Delhi four years ago. From breakfast to dinner, there are a lot of Mughlai specialties that foodies can feast on. I spent a day around town, starting with Paranthe Wali Gali, with their famous kebabs, nihari and butter chicken. When I saw a delicious plate of changezi murgh, tandoori breads and biryani, I said yes. And after all that, I couldn't help but go for dessert too, indulging in shahi tukra and kulfi falooda. The complexity of the flavours and spices was an overwhelming experience and I was left wondering how, even after decades, each dish managed to retain its authentic flavour! My journey through Old Delhi's busy lanes drew me closer to exploring the nuances of Mughlai cuisine, which eventually materialised into Purani Dilli. It's been a fabulous journey.
Who do you admire most in the culinary world, and why?
The culinary world is graced by extraordinary artists. My mentor is Chef Deepnath Mukherjee, who was my culinary professor at NSHM school of Tourism & Hotel Management, Durgapur, West Bengal.

Your favourite culinary destination, and why?
Being an ardent lover of Indian cuisine, my favourite culinary destination is Lucknow, India, with its Awadhi cuisine. Among the most famous are the kebabs - the melt-in-your-mouth tunde ke kebab, idris ki biryani, the aromatic kakori kebab, and many more.
How often do you eat out? What's your favourite place around town?
I love to try Indian regional cuisine, but I also keep a look out for restaurants that serve food from different cultures. Fortunately, Dubai is a great spot for foodies to sample cuisines from around the world.
If you could cook for a high-profile personality, who would it be and what would you
serve them?
I would love to cook for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. It would be an honour to treat him to Purani Dilli's mutton galawati kebab, a traditional Mughlai kebab made of 21 spices mixed with fine mutton mince; followed by tandoori lobster, mutton nihari with kulcha, Mughlai mutton biryani and to conclude, shahi tukra.
You're asked to invent an unusual dish - what would it be?
Mutton galawati egg benedict.
One ingredient/dish you can't stand, and why.
I used to enjoy eating crabs until recently, when a spiky piece of its claw hurt my mouth. So, now I try to avoid it or eat with great caution.
After cooking all day, do you cook for yourself at home too?
I love to cook for others but, on my day off, I unwind with a quick and simple maska paav with spicy egg bhurji.
Favourite comfort food?
My mother's chicken pulao with onion masala salad. I have fond memories of that dish - I can devour it any day, any time.
If you could choose a last meal, what would it be?
Any dish prepared by my mother.
Where can we find you, when you're not in the kitchen?
Discovering Dubai and sampling dishes at the city's hole-in-the-wall eateries.
- As told to Karen Ann Monsy


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