Manish Mehrotra is a man who needs no introduction. A multi-awarded and much acclaimed chef who has been in the public eye for more than a decade now, he is often credited with ushering in a new, bold and exciting phase in Indian food the world over, and being the original creator of what we now refer to as Progressive or Modern Indian food.
It was while reading Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India, a seminal book by Colleen Taylor Sen, that I came across a mention of Qanoon-e-Islam, or The Customs of the Moosulmans of India. Published in London in 1832 and written by Ja’far Sharif, this fascinating book chronicles the rich food customs of the Indian muslims. What took me by surprise was this exhaustive list of 25 varieties of pulaos, listed by Sen that were prevalent at the time and were mentioned by Sharif. These included: the babune flavoured with chamomile; korma; mittha or the sweet rice made with rice, sugar, butter, spices and aniseed; the shashranga – a drier version of the mittha; tarl with rice, meat, turmeric and butter; soya; macchi; imli; dumpukht; zarda; koku with fried eggs; dogostha or two meats; mutanhan with meat, rice, butter and sometimes pineapple and nuts; haleem; lambni with cream, nuts, crystallised sugar and butter; jaman or made with jamun fruit; titar; bater; kofta; and khari chakoli with meat, vermicelli and green lentils.