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Laal Maas

This blogpost is a continuation of an idea that formed with Kalyan Karmakar’s Facebook post. He talked about Vegetarian Brahmin cuisine from the South which kind of put him off as it had been termed Brahmin. Although with the change in today’s societal shift in removal of the caste system, I can’t help but disagree with the fact that the caste system, religion, land and wealth went on to define the food in a household.

Religion as a context shouldn’t apply to today’s behavioral concepts but yet holds paramount importance when it comes to food. With the practice of one’s faith came an amalgamation of local dishes and belief. The caste system gave birth to many such dishes like the use of offal parts which wasn’t bought by the well to do. This can be beautifully highlighted especially in the Telangana cuisine. Despite being under one of the wealthiest rulers in the country, the food of Telangana has always taken a backseat. The ruler believed in keeping his subjects under a lot of pressure. So if most of the citizens are going to be thinking on how to get their next meal, the probability of a rebellion happening decreases. Thus you see a lot of usage of Boti, Gurdha and Keema in the cuisine of Telangana with the most basic spices than the numerous dishes which originated out of Andhra, a fertile belt with a vast shoreline.

But the topic I want to really get into is the Rajputs. There has been plenty of coverage in recent times about the Rajputs because of a movie. But let’s look into this from an angle of culinary history. Now the Rajputs weren’t confined to Rajasthan alone and expanded as far to Central India and Odisha. As most of the invaders came into Indian through the north, they gradually bought in their food too. Hence this led to a seepage of Mughal influences into Rajputana food too.

As they say in India that the language changes every six kilometers, for food that changes with every household. This can be perfectly illustrated with the Laal Maas. Just like the many fictional characters created by literature, this is one fictional dish which arose out of Recipe books. There is no known time frame as to when the Laal Maas went on to be defined what it is now. In fact the many Rajput food historians absolutely do agree that the Laal Maas is a colossal imagination formed out of thin air.

Junglee Maas (Chicken)

The Laal Mass is what we can ingenuously put down as a jhol that is made in many Indian homes. I had heard of a competition happening where the judge said that the original recipe of Laal Maas is only made using the chilies from Mathania, a village in Jodhpur. This is where geography comes into play because the village of Mathania ceased to exist long ago and so did it’s chilies. So the next time you head to Amazon.in to buy the best Mathania for preparing the Laal Maas, this might be worth remembering. So if the chilies were only to be sourced in Mathania, didn’t the kingdoms of Begu, Bhainsrorgash and the other 10-12 kingdoms which make up now Rajasthan have Laal Maas at all?

If the gravy was white and used green chilies, it was called Safed Maas and when red, it was called Laal Maas. This is the most uncomplicated way of putting the nomenclature of a dish whose origins have been a subject of much debate. The Laal Maas uses the most basic ingredients: onions (an approx. of 250 gms to a kilo of Meat. The more the onions the sweeter the Laal Maas turns out to be), Ginger, Garlic, Chili and Coriander Powder, Turmeric Powder, Salt and Khada Masala for the initial tempering in the oil. The curd is used as a souring agent although some of the households do use a little bit of tomatoes too.

Moving on to the part on how the caste and wealth play a major part in making of Laal Maas lay in the tempering. While the wealthy households tempered with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and the likes. The not-so-well-to-do families used the Pathar ka Phool in the tempering. It is believed that this gave a much fuller taste to the Laal Maas as they had to make do with the least amount of dishes and hence a more enhancement of flavor unlike the rich who had variety.

So does the Caste System, Religion, Region and Money play a major role in food? It is a huge resounding YES from my end.

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Royal Cuisine Trail - Bhainsrorgarh

Food from the royal kitchens of Limdi and Bhopal had now been crossed off the list. Although the little bit of experience we had with the food from the two princely states could never justify the vastness of the cuisine, it was at least a start. The next in the ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ was from the kitchens of Bhainsrorgarh Fort. The Bhainsrorgarh Fort is a beautiful heritage property which has now been converted into a hotel. The nearly 250+ years old fort at point of time was impenetrable. Situated on a cliff it is surrounded by the Chambal river on side and Bamani on the other.

Bhainsrorgarh Fort

To justify the food we had the night from Rajpootana Kitchen, I have to first tell of my first encounter with Kunwar Hemendra Singh. His passion for food, cooking and knowledge of ingredients is can’t be explained in mere words. When we first met, he had made us a Hari Mirch ka Maas and Jungli Aloo in a commercial kitchen which was literally one of the best dishes I’ve had in awhile. Yet he’s his own critic and lamented the change in taste that he could have got with with his own set of tools and at his kitchen. That’s when I knew that the food was going to be worth every bite.

With The Kunwar and Kunwarani of Bhainsrorgarh

Happy Moments

As Kunwar Ajay Raj Singh of Begu would later tell me that Hemendra Singh did head out early morning to get the right cut of meat from the butcher for each of his dishes. Starting off the dinner was with the Bakre Ki Champ and Macchi ke Sule. The Bakre ki Champ were mutton ribs which had been roasted magnificently with spices. In the afternoon I did sneak a chance to get into the kitchen while Kunwarani Vrinda Kumari Singh was marinating the fish and all I did notice is the simplicity. Other than the basic spices, there was no extra dose of masala and the fish was the centerpiece. These were then smoke-roasted to give us the delicate melt-in-the-mouth sooleys.

Bakre Ki Champ

Machchi Ke Sule

Now it was time to indulge in true Rajasthani-style food. There were a couple of dishes that I’ve tried before and some hereto unknown. The Safed Maas Hari Mirch was exquisite along the with the Jungli Chicken. If we take a look at Indian culinary history on a simpler note, then you either had a red (Laal) or a white (Safed) gravy to each of your dishes. The Laal Maas as a dish is a very colloquial term that went to named as a dish. The Safed Maas in turn had a light tanginess from the curd with the spice coming from the fresh green chilis. You’d be amazed to know how 3 ingredients can make a wonderful dish and that was the Jungli Chicken. Just meat, red chilis and ghee is all that goes into making a Jungli Chicken and yet it’s the precision at which to cook it makes the difference. This was simple authentic Indian cooking at it’s best.

Food From Rajpootana Kitchen (1)

Jungli Chicken

The Siri Paya makes use of both the trotters and head of mutton to get the juices out with all of the spices with a slow cooking. The result was a magnificent gravy which I thoroughly enjoyed. The vegetarian dishes that night featured traditional Rajasthani dishes like the Bharwa Bhindi, Sangri ki Sabzi, Gatte ki Sabzi and Papad ki Sabzi. The Makki ka Soyta was another superb dish where the mutton was cooked with corn kernels.

Bharwa Bhindi

Makki Ka Soyta

Siri Paya

I liked the fact that there was Bafla to go along with the gravies. The Bafla are balls of dough which have been baked with a shine on top coming from clarified butter. These can be crushed to help soak in any of the gravies much like what a bread would usually do.

Bafley

Food From Rajpootana Kitchen (3)

The desserts from the kitchens of Bhainsrorgarh that night was the Makki ki Kan and Panna Halwa. The Panna Halwa a dessert made with Hara Channa (Green Lentils) had me excited, a dish you’d seldom come across most menus across the country.

Panna Halwa

Makki Ke Kan

It was a wonderful meal curated by Rajpootana Kitchen from the erstwhile princely state of Bhainsrorgarh. Each of the meals we’ve had till are soaked in history, with each dish having a story to tell. With the next post we travel to the kingdom of Dhar.

Other Posts of ‘Royal Cuisine Trail’ are as below:

Limdi – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/limdi/
Bhopal – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/bhopal/
Dhar – http://www.fooddrifter.in/travel/dhar/

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