I grew up in one of the few cities in India where royalty thrived long after the independence. The heritage of the royal family of Jaipur survived in several forts, palaces, hotels and even schools. The accessible (but limited) glimpse into Maharaja’s lifestyle fueled in me a deep desire to learn more. I was (still am!) curious to know how the Maharaja lived? How did he endure scorching summers without air conditioning? Most of all, what did he eat? (And…as much as me??)
My curiosity has not been limited to the Jaipur royal family. I have longed to learn what the Moghul emperors ate, especially as Mughlai is my favorite cuisine. Shah Jehan was believed to be indulgent. He must have been served elaborately prepared meals. How was the camp food when the Moghuls were away, hunting? Or, fighting battles?
I found pure gold when I learnt that Karim’s was opened by a butler from Bahadur Shah Zafar’s royal kitchen. It was closest to “authentic” Mughlai cuisine as it could get, I suppose. My first trip to Karim’s was memorable. The ambiance of the place was unremarkable but the food was out of this world! I never had such delicious korma. And the sheermal were heavenly. My mouth waters even at the thought of that food.
I made several trips to Karim’s with friends and family during my six years of stay in Delhi. I have yearned for that taste since I relocated overseas. My search for the Karim’s recipe led me a precious one shared by the owner himself. Watch the YouTube video here. I adapted the recipe to replace mutton with the more easily available chicken (here in NYC). And replaced ghee with oil.
It turned out exceptionally well. This recipe is amongst my all time favorites. And the real beauty of this recipe lies in its simplicity. Most of the ingredients are cooked together on slow-medium fire.
- 750 grams chicken (drumsticks)
- 12 tbsp whole milk yogurt
- 1 inch ginger julienne
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 6 cloves
- 6 pepper corns
- 6 green cardamoms
- 3 black cardamoms
- 1/2 tsp mace
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
- 1 tsp jeera
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 6 tbsp oil
- 3 tsp salt, or to taste
- Whisk the yogurt and mix all spices; add the chicken to the spiced yogurt
- Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion till it turns dark
- Strain the fried onions out
- Remove the pan from heat for a few minutes to let the (residual) oil cool down; this is important because adding yogurt to hot oil would make it curdle, which should be avoided
- Once the pan has cooled down, add the chicken soaked in spiced yogurt
- Cook on low-medium flame for about 30 minutes, stirring intermittently
- Add the fried onion and adjust salt
- Cook for another 15 minutes and Karim’s Shahi Korma is ready! Enjoy with garlic naan or roomali roti
PS: I have continued my search for Mughlai reciepes and have discovered this priceless book – The Emperor’s Table. I would try some recipes, soon!