Ramadan 2024: Rampur Special Shahjani Pulao Is A Pure Feast

Pulaos and biryanis have been integral to Indian cuisine, influenced by various cultures spanning from Portuguese to Persian. Amidst the dominance of Awadhi and Mughlai cuisine, Rampuri cuisine has silently contributed its unique and intricate cooking style. The princely state of Rampur, rich in culinary heritage, boasts a diverse food repertoire curated by skilled khansamas. This city with a Muslim majority offers a wide array of delicious flavours to serve your palate, perfect for Ramadan or any time of the year. With the holy month of Ramadan starting on 12th March in India, here's a Rampuri exquisite dish to explore - the shahjani pulao. It's a perfect choice to savour during this special time and add a special touch to the festivities. 

In her book Degh to Dastarkhwan – Qissas and Recipes from Rampur by Tarana Husain Khan she mentions, “The Rampuris love their Pulao and turn up their noses at the richer and spicier version of the original pulao called the biryani generally served in Lucknow and Hyderabad. The biryani is rebuffed by the Rampuris as a soulless mixture of Qorma curry and boiled rice.” 

She writes, “Pulao Shahjahani is the more evolved Mughal variation of the Persian pulao which had found its way into the Mughal kitchens when Humayun returned from his exile with Persian cooks. Whereas the Persians marinated the meat in curds, the Mughals started using almonds in the marinade. I tried out the recipe and it turned out to be as elegant and opulent as its name”.  

Here’s how you can make at home and enjoy Ramadan: 


1 kg Meat  

1 Kg Rice 

500g Roghan (ghee) 

160 g Almonds  

100 g Curd 

80 g Cinnamon 

80 g Cloves 

48 g green cardamom 

48 g Cumin seeds 

62 g Kali Mirch 

100 g White onion 

60 g Ginger 

32 g Coriander seeds 

16 g Saffron 

32 g Lahori salt 

Method: Put the rice in water and let it sit there for around half an hour. It is necessary to grind the coriander seeds into a thick pulp. Make a paste out of almonds that have been peeled. Put meat with half of the finely cut onions, two tablespoons ghee, half coriander paste and about 2.5 litre of water in a deghchi to make yakhni. Keep on boiling till the meat becomes tender. Take out the meat from the yakhni. Sieve the water (shorba). Prepare temper with one tablespoon of ghee after adding about ten cloves, and seeds of ten cardamoms. Heat till cloves become reddish and put into the shorba. Keep it aside. In another deghchi heat the rest of ghee (leaving about 100gms). Add (the remaining) finely diced onions. When the onions are fried and become reddish, add cloves and then add meat. Stir till the meat is well coated with ghee. Add the remaining coriander paste and stir. Add ground almond paste and curd. Ground half of the spices and add to the gravy. Keep cooking till a little gravy is left, the ghee separates, and the meat is tender. Boil the rice in water till it is about half done. It should be firm. Sieve the rice grains in a colander to remove excess water and soak them in the shorba prepared earlier, for about fifteen minutes to half an hour. For the final preparation, put the whole spices on the meat, take out the rice and lay it on top of the meat. Put just enough shorba to cover the rice. Cover the deghchi and seal with kneaded flour so that no steam escapes. Simmer for about 15 minutes. This is dum. Put ghee on top after opening the deghchi. Soak saffron in warm water and sprinkle this water and saffron threads over the pulao. Serve hot.