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Javed A. Khan's culinary blog

Date: 12.03.08

Being a Pakistani and a corporate banker by profession and a gourmet chef by hobby and living in Canada, I have been advocating, talking, preaching and publicizing a lot about the Muslim and Moghul cuisine which seems to have been hijacked by the current culture in India and it is being marketed through restaurants all over the world and sold as, "Indian Cuisine."

The westerners have been sucked into this farcical notion and made to believe that whatever these Indian restaurants offer to them is authentic Moghul cuisine, which is not correct. The irony is these people who claim to be chefs and cooks have never ever tasted the original, authentic dishes, because some of them are either non-Muslims from India who are vegetarians, or are Muslims from Bangladesh who have no idea about the real, authentic, Moghul cuisine - and these are the people who are dominating the Indian restaurant business in the west.

They have created a new stupid dish called, "The Butter Chicken" to attract the non-desi population and call it authentic Moghul recipe. One can only laugh at their naivety and ignorance or give them the credit to fool the ignorant people very convincingly and successfully for over a couple of decades.

When I was running my own restaurant only for the sake of pleasure, I used to make the original and authentic Biryani using the spices and ingredients from scratch and not from the ready made spice packets from Shan, National or Tit-bit, whatever.

Its a shame to see that in some of the Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants use food colour for Biryani instead of Saffron and still call it authentic biryani. I can accept that notion if they do that in India because, Saffron is very expensive over there, but for restaurants in the USA, Canada and in the UK it is like a sin to use food colour and say it is authentic Moghul recipe.

The way Shami Kebabs were prepared by my mother and my grandmother were very different from the way these people make it here using mince meat. The real authentic ones are made from meat cubes and not mince meat. Also, there is some stuffing in these kebabs and they are called "shikam-pur kebabs." The word "shikam" is Persian and it means stomach and "pur" is filled with or stuffed with.

The way they make Seekh Kebabs here which comes out like rubbery sausages instead of soft, tender and succulent like the original Rampuri Seekh Kebabs which would melt in your mouth. And there is so much aroma, flavour and a taste in it that you like to savour and remember it forever.

The way the original "Yakhni Pulao" is made with authentic spices and tender meat selected from the shank or "bong ki boti" and the way it is presented with golden brown fried onions in desi ghee is yet to be seen in any restaurant. They say that the test of a good Yakhni Pulao is when you start eating it and, you don't ask for any curry, raita, chutney, pickle etc., and you just eat the Pulao. Some traditionalists prefer to mix Pulao with "Zarda" i.e., old traditional rice desert that they mix it with Pulao in their plates and eat it. But that is an acquired taste and I cannot mix my dessert with any salty dish. Preparing a real good Zarda is an art and it tastes best when you eat it with real Malai or the original cream from top of the milk especially when the milk is allowed to simmer on low heat charcoals, the cream that we get in supermarkets in cans and packets is a joke.

The authentic Pasenday, the Koftay and the Hyderabadi Dum ka Keema, the Bagharay Baingan and the traditional Qubaani ka meetha have never been heard or seen in the restaurants in the west. And when I used to make all this along with the traditional Dilli Nihari, Hyderabadi Haleem, Peshwari Chapli Kebab and Lahori Chargha, I used to get praise and accolades not only from the customers but from the media as well. The French people loved the original recipes and the press applauded the authenticity of the medieval cuisine, not just about the European or the Mediterranean era but the sub-continental Indian Pakistani medieval cuisine. My cooking was shown as a documentary on the French TV networks.

I decided to put a lid on restaurant cooking because it takes a lot of your time and effort, so I decided to rent my place to someone else. I do enjoy cooking at home and I get a lot of pleasure BUT only when I cook for family, relatives and friends and I thoroughly enjoy it. Cooking is not only an art, but it is one of the sweetest pleasures of life, it releases stress and gives you joy when people appreciate your cooking. There is no limit, no boundaries in cooking, one can use his/her imagination and can be as creative as possible and make or create new recipes and new dishes. But, preserving the old and traditional recipes and the way they are prepared is very important. We need to maintain this tradition by preserving the art of cooking Mughlai dishes.

Postscript: Javed Khan specializes in BBQ and enjoys it most. At home, instead of using a gas grill, he uses wood charcoal and a wood smoker. Unlike most people, who keep their gas grills on their terrace or at the poolside patio, he has created an exquisite ambiance by keeping his wood charcoal grills and the wood smoker under a huge maple tree at his humble abode, that is so unique and different and a perfect setting for outdoors cooking especially during the summerMost amateur people cannot handle wood charcoal cooking as they find it very difficult to handle the fire, whereas it is easier for them to turn off the gas or to reduce the heat by using the gas knob. The best way to handle a wood charcoal fire is by keeping a big bowl of water nearby and keep sprinkling it over the charcoals to reduce the heat. By doing so you don't put the fire off permanently, the charcoal turns red again and gives better fire and you have to keep repeating this process - which he calls "Fire Management." There is a big difference in taste, aroma and flavour when you BBQ anything on gas and when you BBQ the same on wood charcoal. The smoke enhances the flavour and the taste. The best time to cook on wood charcoal is when the initial red flame has died off and the charcoals are simmering in silver ash and when the flame is white and low, then it is much safer to cook i.e., to avoid any charcoal burning the food which is not recommended by doctors. However, there are numerous tips on various Internet sites on how to reduce carcinogens in grilled foods and make outdoor cooking safer and healthier.

Javed A. Khan, a Pakistani corporate banker was in Dubai for several years before migrating to Canada. Owing to the nature of his profession he has traveled extensively all over the world. He has a taste for culinary cuisine and enjoys gourmet cooking to the extent that for a couple of years he used to cook for fun at a restaurant in his commercial property tht he owns as an investment. Apart from making the traditional sub-continent dishes mainly the Moghul Cuisine, he specialized in the Mediterranean, Arabic and Chinese cuisine as well. He has also created a nouvelle cuisine that, by improvising and blending different types of cuisine, suits the culture and the taste of a wider palate. Mr. Khan would be writing for Salaam from time to time and he can be contacted through his personal email or using the form below.

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