Rezala (Mughlai Food) From the Kitchens of the Nawab


A few weeks back I was watching Satyajit Ray’s film Shatranj ki Khiladi and quite enjoying the fact that the nawabs had so much time to laze around and gorge on some exotic nawabi khaana. Well, I was certainly thinking of Wajid Ali Shah who was known to be foodie. When he came to Calcutta, it is known that he brought all his chefs and cooks to supply him his daily dose of food glorious food. 

It is known that the famous Calcutta Biryani with a potato is similar to the Lucknowi one mainly because the preparation and the spices added to it were introduced by the chefs of the Nawab.

Calcutta style Biryani may still be available in other parts of India but there is one dish which is so typically ‘mughlai’ Calcuttan and that is ‘Rezala.’ Be it chicken or mutton, it is an aromatic yet light stew of meat that usually accompanies the Biryani or Roomali Roti. Rezala is not really found in any other part of the country and hence its demand among the food lovers of that city has never gone down.

The one place that comes to mind when we talk of rezala is Shabir’s. Located in a ‘not-at-all’ posh locality of Calcutta, this restaurant serves the best rezala in town. If you have had the luck to taste Aminia’s or Shiraj’s Biryani, Nizam’s roll or even the latest craze Arsalan’s Biryani, it would be an un pardonable offense not to have tried Shabir’s Rezala.

it is popularly said that a Rezala that is not made with mutton is not a Rezala. This may not be true because Chicken rezala is also popular. For people who do not have the time to visit Calcutta so frequently can enjoy this dish at home. The recipe is simple and taste is mind blowing.

For making this dish  you would need the following:

Meat: chicken or mutton (no skin/fat on it); yogurt; cashew paste, khuskhus paste (posto);  white pepper powder; salt; ginger paste/powder; sugar; cardamom powder; black pepper powder; rose water (3 to 4 drops depending on the quantity of the meat)

for the gravy: 1 chopped red onion, 1 stick cardamom, 3 pods of black cardamom, 2 bay leaves, 4 or 5 dry red chillis and ghee or oil to cook.

Procedure: marinate the meat along with all ingredients listed under it and refrigerate it, preferably overnight. In a heavy bottom pan pour some cooking oil and 1 tsp of ghee. Add all the spices and the onions and fry till the onions turn golden. Scrape off the marinade from the meat pieces and add it to the onion and fry for a while. Now add the left over marinade and stir well. Check the salt and sugar and cook till the meat is well done. Serve hot with fragrant rice (cooked with bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves) or with Biryani.

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