Published — Thursday 5 September 2013
Last update 2 October 2013 1:19 pm
Copper Chandni is a celebration of Indian food. Until recently it was true that the best Indian food was cooked in the homes. But not anymore.
One of Copper Chandni’s specialties is Dum Pukht. This cooking technique appeared during the reign of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah. Dum Pukht, which literally means “choking off the steam,” has been described as “the maturing of a prepared dish.”
Dum Pukht originated in Persia where a dish filled with food was sealed and buried in hot sands to cook. In India, the Dum Pukht technique appeared a little over 200 years ago. To feed his starving subjects during the famine of 1784, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah decided to provide jobs by building the Bara Imambara.
The monument was built by day and destroyed at night. During its build-and-destroy stages, huge quantities of food were cooked, sealed in degs (gigantic handis). A handi has a thick bottom to ensure that the food does not stick, tinning on the inside to prevent any chemical reaction and, a lid to retain the aroma and flavor. The food was then kept warm in massive double-walled “bukhari” or ovens. As a result, the food would get steamed in the gentle heat of the bukhari. One day the Nawab decided to sample the food. He enjoyed it so much that he decided to introduce the dum pukht cooking technique into the royal kitchen. An English traveler, who encountered this dish in the 17th century in Moghul India, referred to “dumpukht” as “dumpoked” fowl. The mogul word “dumpukht” means slow braising in a tightly sealed pan. In India today, this word has been shortened to “dum.”
Copper Chandni offers two kinds of Dumpukht dishes, Chandni Dum Biriyani Chicken and Chandni Dum Biriyani Mutton.
The menu also features two delicious chicken specialties Murg Korma and Murg Makkani known as “Buttered Chicken” because pieces of chicken are cooked in a tomato based sauce enriched with cream and flavored with a highly aromatic mixture of ground cumin, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and black peppercorns.
Korma refers to the technique of braising. There are many kinds of kormas but one of the best kormas hails from Hyderabad. Nurtured by what was once a wealthy Muslim court in the heart of South India, Hyderabadi cuisine combines the very best kebabs, pilafs, kormas and yogurt dishes with the redolent aromatic, pungent and creamy flavorings of the South: mustard seeds, cassia buds, cinnamon, curry leaves, hot chilies, peanuts, tamarind and coconut milk.
Copper Chandni offers all the classic tandoori specialties. One can truly say that it is the tandoor, which has helped popularize Indian cuisine around the world. The traditional tandoor is a clay oven, fired by charcoal. Although there are now gas and electric tandoors, it goes without saying that none of these matches the versatility of the clay oven. The clay tandoor is essential to bake good bread and to grill the popular kebab. Dals, which are also cooked in a tandoor, acquire a unique taste. Incidentally, the success of a kebab depends entirely on the exact time the meat is marinated; moreover, basting is very important. It is the application of butter or oil, which seals in the juices of the meat and makes kebab excellent.
Tandoori specialties are delicious with “nan,” a soft, flat-pear shaped bread. Nan can be cooked in a conventional oven, but the surface of nan becomes crustier than the soft supple ones baked in a tandoor, and the flavor is not the same. I also noticed the presence of a Goan Fish Curry on the menu. Beware that this dish, like most Goan, cooking is extremely hot but tasty. It is the presence of coconut milk and tamarind that gives this dish its distinctive taste.
The biryani is very popular with Saudi customers because of its similarity with the kapsa. Besides the classic chicken, mutton, vegetable and prawn biryani, there is also a less common Fish Biryani. Biryani is one of the most aromatic, rich, colorful and tasty of Indian dishes. It is prepared across India.
But the best biryani is found in the regions around Delhi and in the southern city of Hyderabad. What is unique about the Hyderabadi biryani is the fact that both the meat and the rice are precooked and then mixed together.
To get the true flavor, the lid is sealed on with a dough paste to prevent any of the aromas from escaping. A distinctive feature of this biryani is its use of fresh or dried mint. The meat is also first marinated in yogurt and spices, then cooked to almost tender, before being added to the parboiled rice. Instead of the two just being mixed together, they are placed in the saucepan in layers and left to finish cooking very gently.
The dessert’s section includes a Fudge cake, a Carrot cake and a Caramel Nougat sweet with snickers. I am surprised that not even one Indian dessert was included. What about Kheer and Phirni, mouth watering rice puddings and Gulab Jamun, fried dumplings which are delicious when eaten warm with vanilla ice cream and Kulfi, the rich and creamy ice cream flavored with saffron and cardamom.
Copper Chandni has two outlets in Riyadh: one in Hayyat Mall and another in Tahliah Street.
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