Traditionally, nothing beats ‘maa ke haath ke khaana’. In my case, however, both my mother and father are blessed with phenomenal culinary skills. This Father’s Day, I’m paying homage to my dad’s signature dish- the to-die-for delicious, absolutely drool-worthy Yakhni Pulao!
My father cooking his signature dish- the Yakhni Pulao
Yakhni Pulao owes its origins to the Mughal dynasty. Whatever you may feel about their conquests and politics, the Mughals really mastered their food. In fact, North Indian cuisine largely consists of dishes from the Mughal dynasty.
This Pulao should not be confused with Biryani- another popular Indian rice dish. In a Yakhni Pulao, the meat is cooked with spices in water till it is tender, before adding rice to be cooked in the same meat broth. In a Biryani, on the other hand, the meat or meat broth marinade is added on top of cooked rice. This may not seem like a significant difference, but believe me they are worlds apart in taste and experience. My father’s Yakhni Pulao with its rich aroma and melt-in-your-mouth texture, prevents me from ever truly enjoying Biryani!
A well-made Yakhni Pulao has a delicious fragrance of ghee and spices. If that doesn’t make you drool, then the soft beads of rice laden with a subtle smokey flavor, certainly will. The well-cooked meat melts in your mouth, perfectly offsetting the crunchy bits of fried onion generously strewn through the dish. De-skinned almonds and slivers of soft boiled eggs are a decadent addition on top.
What makes my father’s Yakhni Pulao truly outstanding, however, is his particular bouquet garni of spices (bundle of herbs tied together in a cloth). He hand-picks the highest quality meat and special cuts, chooses the best ghee (cow ghee) as well as the finest Basmati rice to ensure the dish is finger-licking good!
Cooking in progress; the delicious garnishing
MEMORIES OF YAKHNI PULAO:
I am not a cook, but I have always been a die-hard foodie. I thoroughly enjoy eating and can distinguish good food from great food. This talent is inherited from my father, who has always had a taste for the finer things in life- whether it’s an ardent love of travel, a fondness for good literature or a passion for food.
My father mastered the Yakhni Pulao under the able tutelage of his father. My Dadaji (grandfather) was an army man, and stayed away from his family when he was posted in Modinagar, as my grandmother was overseeing the education of their children in Chandigarh. However, on school vacations, my father would spend time with Dadaji in Modinagar. He fondly recalls how my grandfather took him partridge hunting, and taught him to cook his best dishes like the Yakhni Pulao. Strangely, no other member of my extended family makes this particular dish and it is a secret preserved by the men of the Anand family.
Though my father does not want to share the recipe on this public platform, I think I may be able to convince him to share it with me, so my son may someday carry forth the mantle!
AN ODE TO MY FATHER:
As I sit in my father’s holiday home in Solan Himachal Pradesh, this Father’s Day, I think of how thankful I am to him. He has given me life, taken care of me, educated me to the highest possible level, always supported my dreams, been patient with my meltdowns and offered a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, opened the world to me at a young age, instilled the right values and ethics, and of course fed and fattened me on his fabulous and unbeatable Yakhni Pulao!
Happy Father’s Day, Papa- love you always.
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