Slurrp Exclusive- Interview With Osama Jalali On Reviving Lost Recipes
Image Credit: Osama Jalali

Eminent food historian, restaurateur and food writer Osama Jalali, who himself comes from a non-hospitality background has created a mark in the culinary circuit with his Awadhi, Rampuri, Shahjahani, Nizami based menus. Having grown up in the by-lanes of Purani Dilli, Osama has always focussed on reinventing and bringing  the dishes from the bygone Mughal era. The best part is his team which consist of his mom and wife and the trio has been eminent in preserving cultures through food as his mother, Nazish Jalali hails from the princely estate of Rampur and has collected all rare recipes over the years. Known for his gastronomic extravaganza, his research to get the lost Indian cuisines on the table is absolutely commendable. 

Osama Jalali with his Mother (L) and wife (R)

Not at all, actually it was quite smooth as I always loved cooking. Our house is famous for daawats every weekend. I used to assist my mother always being the only son. Doing it professionally was a blessing, very few people get a chance to build a career out of their passion. 

Why did you think of bringing your heritage age old recipes out?

You know when I used to write on food I noticed a trend that every Indian cuisine restaurant was launching their Modern Indian menu or progressive Indian menu in which I noticed that our traditional cooking methods and heritage cuisine is getting lost. No one was taking pride in our regional culinary heritage. So we decided to document age old recipes and showcase them at various platform through food festivals and pop ups across the globe.

What according to you is best way to preserve any recipe or cuisine?

The best method after documenting the recipe is to pass it on and teach it further. Nothing should be hidden . The problem with heritage cuisine is no one is willing to share the recipes, nuskhas and all. 

Tell us something about your and your family’s whole effort to revive the lost recipes?

When we started working on reviving and guarding age old recipes the first task was the preserve the ones which we have in hand and standardise them. Second was to research and find hidden or forgotten recipes. I remember my wife used to visit Libraries and search Persian and urdu books for Mughlai recipes. I used to interview old cooks and khansamas along with interviewing old ladies to get the recipes. Another challenge was to source the ingredients which were getting lost . A lot of days were spent at khari baoli spice market and meeting hakeems for the spices and knowing the taseer of ingredients. 

When conceptualizing a new project what are the few tings that you always take care of?

That we get to source the right ingredients and secondly get the right utensils to cook Indian food. The challenge with hotels are they don’t have utensils and right spices. We don’t use packed masalas and believe in fresh grinding and making our own blends for different dishes. 

Which is that one dish in Awadhi or Old Dilli or Mughlai cuisine that has always been wrongly presented or interpreted?

Dishes change with time and with new cultural influences. I have noticed in recent times the Nihari and Biryani have gone through many changes. Commercially people are using tomatoes in Nihari which for an old school like me is a complete no. And biryani is now a complete new avatar with achari masalas and what not. 

What is that one ingredients that has changed of the Old dilli cuisine and that does make you happy?

I don’t like changes when it comes to old school cooking. Nowadays every one is loading the humble kebabs with butter and cream which public is liking a lot but I still prefer the kebabs right of the grill just with a chutney. 

Talking about Rampuri cuisine what are your USP dishes?

Rampur is famous for its Taar Gosht and different kinds of Halwas  and so are we… Our maximum orders are of the Taar Gosht which we prepare at our cloud kitchen The Mughal Plate by Jalalis . Across hotels we are famous for our Rampuri Gosht Ka Halwa. 

A question of tug between your mother and wife who cooks better ?

It’s a simple one and one of the most important ones. When my wife came she only knew how to make a Maggi so my father appreciated that and said that “ Its easier to write on a blank slate” I was worried how the legacy will pass on but it got transferred and today my wife cooks as good as my mother. Life is sorted now.