All About Chef Asma Khan’s Flavourful Tribute To Mothers

“It is a battle cry for justice,” said London-based celebrity chef Asma Khan in her speech before she sat us down for a hearty dinner, the contents of which were inspired by the kitchens dominated by women. As a little girl, Asma would often take a peek inside these kitchens, sit with her mother and watch her rustle up magic. The women in the kitchen would often toil in the heat, thinking about all the four meals for the family. And if guests decided to pour in, they too were catered to with the same love and affection. 

If the kitchen would run out of ingredients, she would reinvent. If she had to choose between a juicy cut of meat and a tiny, bonier piece, she’ll choose the latter. It was magic indeed, magic at the cost of invisibilising hours of labour. In this special dinner, which she named ‘A Portrait of My Mother’, Asma of Netflix’s Chef’s Table fame, packs her fondest food memories from Darjeeling, fusing Bengali and Mughlai cuisines to create a spread to remember at the Claridges, New Delhi.  

We started with the Fish Malai Curry, the fish fillet cooked in mildly spices coconut curry actually has Malaysian roots. It was brought to Bengal via Malaysia through workers and labourers and was originally called ‘Malaikari’, Asma told us. Coconut milk, along with many other ‘staples’ of Bengali cuisine, are not in fact native to Bengal, making the cuisine so eclectic and exciting at the same time. 

Then, we moved on to the Hyderabadi Dalcha and Chicken Chaap, the former comprising lamb cooked in lentils, in tangy tamarind base, the latter was inspired by the aromatic Bengali style korma with nutmeg and mace. The vegetarian alternative was the same Gobhi Chaap. Some other interesting vegetarian dishes were Navratan Korma, Narangi Pulao (rice infused with orange and garam masala) and Kaju Aloo (potatoes cooked with black mustard seeds, cashew nuts and curry leaves).  

The highlight of the spread was definitely Ammu’s lamb biryani. Succulent lamb pieces, marinated in yoghurt and spices, cooked with aromatic rice and potatoes and minimal spices. The spread concluded with Shahi Tukda and Sheer Khurma, a sweet pudding made with vermicelli, dates, nuts, dry fruits, sugar, and loads of ghee, making it all things ‘gharelu’.