Recreating menu of India’s last night as a colony

Recreating menu of India’s last night as a colony

Consomme al Indienne, Delicacies a l\'Hindustan, Poularde souffle independence. These were some of the dishes on the dinner menu at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, on August 14, 1947.

Hyderabad : Consomme al Indienne, Delicacies a l'Hindustan, Poularde souffle independence. These were some of the dishes on the dinner menu at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, on August 14, 1947.

The night when India ushered in its Independence, it was celebration time at the famed five-star hotel with music, dance and speeches and, of course, the delicious food, reflecting the Indo-French cuisine of those times.

At Shamiana, the popular restaurant at the hotel, the menu of three courses was set to cabaret entertainment, albeit rationed as per government regulations at the time, say officials of the Taj Group of Hotels.

The rationing conditions were applicable to all restaurants at that time and diners had to choose course combinations rather than feast on each choice.

Dosabhai Framji Karaka also known as D.F. Karaka, an Indian newspaper editor and then owner of Current Weekly, addressed the guests, the officials said quoting from the book 'The Taj at Apollo Bunder'.

Seventy years later, Taj has recreated the menu served on that memorable night. The group's flagship hotels in Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata besides Taj Mahal Palace and Mumbai will take their guests back in time by serving the same dishes beginning this week and till the Independence Day.

The chefs have developed a menu which is in sync with the culinary trends of that year. They had to go back and understand the essence of the recipes, and adapt it to current tastes using local ingredients and techniques.

"We've retained the Indo-French touches not just in the dish names, but also in their foundations on the core French sauces and ingredients -- albeit with a modern Indian twist," said a chef.

Nitin Mathur, Executive Chef at Taj Krishna, Hyderabad, pointed out that since the photographs of the dishes are not available, they used their imagination to match the menu.

"As chefs we tried to recreate the whole thing by working on it. We used our imagination to match the menu," Mathur told IANS. "We did not tweak the menu and retained all dishes that were there," he added.

However, the chef has provided a few choices to the vegetarians. "There were no vegetarian choices in the menu, but we have added a few," Mathur said.

There were a total of five combinations on the original menu, comprising a soup, a starter, two dishes in the main course and one dessert. Words like 'al Indienne', 'a l'Hindustan', 'independence' and 'liberation' were added in tune with the significance of the occasion.

The chef tried to match the preparation of the menu with the Indian dishes. Cardamom enhanced clear chicken soup (Consomme' al Indienne) was the only soup served, but the chef has added another soup -- creamy almond veloute.

The starter comprises three flavoured smoked cottage cheese steaks with mint chutney (Delicacies a l-Hindustan). The original main course comprised Paupiette de saumon joinville (Salmon roulade, soft creamy mash, wilted spinach, turned vegetables and joinville sauce) and Poularde souffle Independence (chicken souffle with steamed vegetables and lemon parsley sauce).

The chef added two vegetarian choices -- Crepes aux epinards (stuffed spinach crepes with makhani gravy) and Champignons Vol-au-Vents (truffle and wild mushroom, paprika cheese sauce).

Taj has fixed Rs 1,947 as the price of this dinner (for one person). While guests will enjoy the sumptuous meals inside, the hotels from outside will be illuminated in the Indian tricolour.

By Mohammed Shafeeq

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