Secrets of Dum Pukht

How Dum Pukht Came To Be

No true Indian would ever have deprived himself or herself of a Dum cooked dish. It has always been on the menus of Indian restaurants and even a mention of this legendary cooking style is enough to get everybody salivating. But what actually goes into it?

Well, some meat or vegetables, not too much water, liberal amounts of ghee, and little spice. Yes, little spice. ‘Dum Pukht’, which literally translates to ‘heat choking’ in English, is a cooking method which relies mainly on the flavor of the ingredients alone, which are cooked in their own juices. Though the cooking method is considered a royal one, it has a humble beginning.

The Awadhi Nawab Asaf-ud-daulah, during the famine in 1780s, initiated the construction of the Bara Imambara in Lucknow, to provide employment and food to his subjects. Legend has it that to make food available through day and night, they cooked food very slowly, using low heat and by trapping the steam inside a handi. They used flour dough to seal the lid, which was broken only to serve food.

Since spices at the time could not be easily afforded, their use for the common man was limited, and hence Dum Pukht started with a low amount of spice. But when the lids were opened, the wafting aroma of the tenderly cooked meat and light spices caught the attention of the Nawab, and he ordered the same to be cooked in the Royal kitchen. The rest is history.

There have been modifications in the procedure since, and original Dum Pukht is hard to find these days. Recipes are available in abundance, but we’ve tried to gather and present some nuances of the authentic process. Why don’t you try and let us know how it worked for you?

Dum Pukht
Dum Cooked Mutton Biryani

Dum It Right!

Get the right Handi:
Basic, right? But here’s where most people go wrong. While Handi is almost always used for Dum Pukht, the material makes a world of difference. Go for a thick-bottomed Handi made of clay, but is not glazed. Clay is porous, and it dissipates heat through steam very slowly, maintaining the temperature inside which is critical for slow cooking. The thick bottom too makes sure that the heat from the coal below reaches the food slowly and thus, helps control the temperature. However, if clay pots are not available, use copper. But please avoid steel

Patience is key:
Good things take time. In slow cooking, slower the better. There are some dishes which are cooked for a week, but we’ll tell you about them later. Of course, don’t let yourself starve in anticipation

Avoid over seasoning:
In Dum Pukht, the flavor of ingredients is key. Don’t use excessive amount and variety of spice. For example, using a lot of Garam masala mix may not be a great idea.

Break the seal only before eating:
You have worked very hard to cook the food and retain the aroma. Savour it. Break the seal only before eating. After all, the aroma is part of the dining experience

Happy Dumming!

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