6 Southern Dishes From The Royal Indian Kitchens

From the exquisite palaces of Rajasthan, to the opulent courts of the Mughals, the royal families that graced the country in the bygone era, were renowned for producing spectacular cuisine that is still served today. Some of these dishes have become an inseparable part of yearly festivities that are sometimes a celebration of the splendour of the royal familial legacy. These dishes more than often took birth in the royal kitchens, where teams of expert chefs would spend hours meticulously preparing elaborate feasts featuring the freshest ingredients, all fit for a king. 

Today, these dishes are widely eaten by people; the lineage of the royals and royal chefs guarding these recipes and passing them down to their families. Royal dishes like Mambazha Pulissery, are no longer just a royal affair; it graces Onam Sadya even today without any changes in the royal recipe and is enjoyed by people across all social statuses and hierarchies. Even the rich ghee sweet, Mysore Pak, is from the Maharajah's kitchens in Mysore that is widely available in sweet shops across south India. So, without further ado, here are the royal dishes from the country that remain steadfast in their original taste. 

1. Mambazha Pulissery

Mambazha Pulissery is a ripe mango dish cooked in a rich coconut spiced gravy, from the palatial kitchens of Kerala, cooked in a true Kerala style with curry patta, jaggery, and yoghurt. Once enjoyed only by the upper echelons of society, it now graces the Onam Sadya feast, as an integral part of Kerala's celebration. The celebration is of the homecoming of a benevolent and generous royal, King Mahabali, and also the beginning of the harvest season in the state. The recipe remains unchanged, a reminder of the splendours of the state's bygone royal legacy.

2. Bisi Bele Bhath

You might be aware of Mysore Pak, that was an accidental invention by the royal chef, Kakasura Madappa, to appease the king, which is widely known; however, lets focus on another popular staple of Karnataka: Bisi Bele Bhath. This comfort food that traces its origin to the palatial kitchen of Mysore about 300 years ago and took at least a century or two to reach the public. It is a blend of rice, lentils, and a whopping 30 plus ingredients, flavoured with trademark aromatic spices and is spicy. This nutritious one-pot meal has remained unchanged for centuries and,  in its simplicity, captures the soul of Karnataka cuisine.

3. Mutton Shikampur

Moving to Hyderabad, to the royal Nawabs, the Nizam’s royal kitchen boasted an array of dishes including Haleem and the ever-popular naan which amalgamated the local flavours with Mughal, Arab, and Turkish flavours. While there are many to list, Mutton Shikampur takes the crown with its melt in the mouth texture and its malai stuffed interior. Literally tranalted to stuffed belly, this pan fried minced mutton patty will stuff your belly and soul. The recipe of this dish has been mastered by subsequent generations of the last Nizam (ruler) of Hyderabad and was served in the now-closed Paya House of Hyderabad. 

4. Sambar

It said a Maratha cook invented sambar, yes the sound Indian staple that still incites debates on which version is the best, in the royal kitchen of Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore). The ruler, Maharaja Serfoji II was said to have been a foodie who was the only known ruler to have penned down the recipes made by his cooks. It is said this dish was invented when the head chef was away and the kitchen too the liberty to twist the Maharashtrian spicy toor daal, Amti by substituting kokum with tamarind and toor daal with moong daal. While Sambar might have evolved today, this remains one of the most popular stories for the south Indian dish. 

5. Ambur Biryani

Smoked sharbats and dishes smoked with oud wood are a legacy of the royal family of Arcot who still reside in Amir Mahal, Chennai. But, their biryani is equally famous, if not more. With different regions, come different variations for this special biryani from Tamil Nadu that can be accredited to the royal family of Arcot. The Arcot or Ambur biryani boasts a unique balancing blend of spices featuring a short-grain rice that absorbs flavour while cooking. Yoghurt and tomato are extensively used to tenderise the meat, and add flavour to the dish, then cooked in true “dum” style. 

6. Kurukku Kalan

Kurukku Kalan is a creamy, thick dish from Kerala that is a staple in Onam Sadya feasts. Tracing its roots to the Malabar rulers in Kerala, this dish is still relished till date. To make it, plantains and yams are diced and cooked in a spicy coconut milk and a buttermilk based sauce, for several hours. This paste is tempered with mustard seeds in oil before adding water to get a pouring consistency. The resulting kalan has a rich, thick and creamy texture from the coconut milk and yogurt. 

These royal dishes continue to be enjoyed across India today, transcending social barriers and reminding us of the rich heritage left behind by the royal families. With the changing palates of the modern generations, challenging their persistence; these classic dishes retain their original royal recipes, and continue to live on, showcasing the pride of regional culinary traditions.