Noor Mohammadi has been a favourite of mine for years. They serve what’s generally known as Mughlai food. Just wanted to make the distinction here between Mughal food and Mughlai. Mughal food, some call it Mughlaia; is what was cooked in the kitchens of the Mughal emperors and other royal kitchens in Delhi and Agra. Mughal influences varied from Central Asia, where Babur originally came from. To Iran, where Humayun took refuge when he lost the war to Sher Shah Suri and won back Delhi with the help of the Safavids from Iran.
Ain-e-Akbari details out not just administration, but also food and recipes from Akbar’s era. Dishes like Zamindoz (meat or fish wrapped and cooked underground: probably a throwback to Central Asian roots), Qabuli, Kima Pilaf, Shola (all three different types of rice preparations), Bughra (a meat and vegetable dumpling) and Keshk (a Persian stew) are dishes that were popular in Akbar’s era.
Shahjahan wasn’t just the most architecture-forward Mughal emperor, but also a great foodie. Nuska-e-Shahjahani is the compilation of the popular recipes from the period of his rule. Mughal food had a lot of Iranian influences. Pilaf and to an extent, Khichdi ruled during those times and not the Biryani, which is lashkari (army) food by the way. It was developed as a one-pot meal for the armies of the Mughals and later on, spread to other parts of the country. One day perhaps, the Khichdi and Pilaf will regain their lost glory on the current Indian culinary map.
Mughlai food, as we know today. Is the generic term for Muslim food that came out of households and local eateries in Muslim dominated localities. Mohammad Ali Road in Bombay is one such area.
Chicken Sanju Baba at Noor Mohammadi Hotel
Noor Mohammadi serves a decent Buff Nihari and what they call Shahi Plate, which is Buff Nihari cooked with Beja (brain) in ghee. Their Chicken White Biryani is special. Made in yakhni-style where the rice is cooked in chicken stock with a potli of garam masala (whole spices tied in a cheesecloth). This comes with a simple yet delicious onion-tomato raita.
But the dish that I keep going back there for is the Chicken Sanju Baba, which Noor Mohammadi claims that the recipe for this dish was given to them by actor Sanjay Dutt. I found a video of him confirming the same (link shared below). The Chicken Sanju Baba is an interesting combination of onion cooked with whole spices and pounded Kashmiri chilli. The dish has a fiery red colour because of the pounded chilli but is not very spicy hot. The dominant flavour is that of black cardamom, along with hints of other whole spices
Noor Mohammadi opened in 1923 and has crossed a 100 years and going strong. They’ve renovated the restaurant some time ago and the ambience now is quite decent. It was looking run-down earlier and I’m glad they did improved the ambience without letting go of the old charm. Though I wish they focussed more on cleaning the floor. I guess old habits die hard. Overall, it’s still a decent ambience to sit and have a tasty meal.
Here’s the link to the YouTube video where Sanjay Dutt acknowledges that the Chicken Sanju Baba recipe was made by him and given to Noor Mohammadi.
A must visit in Bombay. Happy hunting and chowder-on.