From the Kitchens of the Tanjore Royal Family

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One of the banes of Indian historical recipes is the lack of proper documentation,  probably why our foods did not reach beyond our multiple borders. The French and the Italians are notorious for documenting their recipes and passing them down generations in a written form that could be accessed at any time. Our grand moms passed it to their daughters and daughters in law, before a combination of laziness, evolution, creativity and other adulterations took over and we lost those recipes forever. Or in some cases, the British translated a short cut and modified versions of the recipes to suit their spice-averse palate and called them Indian food.








In a refreshing change, the Tanjore palace has documented recipes. Written in a script called Modi on palm leaves, some of them are yet to be translated. In fact, what is surprising is the detailed account of the measures and the number of people these measures are expected to serve. ITC's Kitchens of India food festivals dig out heritage recipes, send their cooks to the Royal palaces to learn and preserve some of those recipes and this time, it is no different. The Madras Pavilion at ITC Grand Chola is hosting a food festival with recipes from the Royal Palace of Tanjore.

In what was an honour to dine with His Highness, The Price of Tanjore, the down to earth prince, his wife and daughter shared candid stories of their life, their culture, their history and more importantly (for me), their food. When I asked him, which is his favourite meal of the day, he promptly said, "the one that tastes the best!"

Chef Praveen Anand has worked tirelessly to accurately bring out the recipes from the Tanjore Palace and the Prince has approved the final outcomes. Coming from the region which gave us the sambar, the beautifully familiar, yet very different flavours was a treat to our humble palates.

Take the Valli Kezhangu Sunti and the Rustom Gola for example. Two similar dishes, both spiced balls, one made of sweet potatoes and the other from lamb, were not vegetarian and non vegetarian versions of the same dish, but two two entirely different dishes. Both dishes exude an air of familiarity of the unique flavours of Southern Tamil Nadu, but with a pinch of, for want of a better word, good-adulteration, from the north.

The best dish on the table was the Kesar Mass, originally made with deer meat in the recipes, but now made with lamb. Painfully stringed manually, the red juicy fibres of meat was very similar to idi-eratchi of Kerala in stringiness, but entirely different in flavours. In its own painfully-difficult-describe-and-write way, the Kesar Mass is a dish I wish I could go back right now and have another helping of.

Whenever my grand mom and mom needed the gravy to be white, I remember they used coconut milk for the creaminess. I'm not sure if that applies to the rest of Tamil Nadu, but I do believe the use of cream was not very prevalent in this region. So the Komda Kali, an amazingly creamy chicken gravy, had every semblance of being a royal dish that it is. It did appear to be enriched with cream. And being made with country chicken, the meat simply melts away in your mouth, but doesn't take away anything from the gravy that it is dunked in. Perfect for the staples such as the rice and dosa.

Our dessert was a deceptively simple sweet rice dish, called the Shakar Brinji, and chef Praveen confirmed that this was a dish that will probably not make it to the regular menu  because of how difficult it is to make.

One of the few hotels in the country that is able to pull off food festivals on a buffet with ease, this festival is an example of what amazing food history we have. Kudos to this team for pulling it off and I believe they've worked a year to be able to pull this off. The Royal family is staying at the hotel and you might even get to meet them when they savour the food from their kitchen in the ambiance of a five star hotel. A chance to dine with royalty!

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Grub Waz: From the Kitchens of the Tanjore Royal Family
From the Kitchens of the Tanjore Royal Family
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Grub Waz
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