The crowd in the large waiting hall was trying to divert their agony for the unusual late arrivals on both up and down directions.
Most people attached earplugs to their sets were either talking or listening music, a group was playing “tinpatti” and a family occupying the center table was hogging critically.
The eldest of them with a B-sharp female voice defeating the blare of announcements in the waiting hall told her accompanying mates “This cannot certainly be Korma but only a well cooked mutton curry, Kiron what do you say?”
Kiron “ Ji Mummy ji, they tried to make a white base from white seeds, coconut milk and saunf( fennel seeds). OH! It is so hot, too much chilies. The look and taste both are bad.”
This family occupying the center table could not finish their critic session as the arrival of their train with platform No. was announced. Simultaneously, the loudspeaker blared the further delay of an hour for our train.
“Our train” means in the waiting hall I made new friends; Dr. Sharma, Prof of history and Nikhil kapoor executive chef in a restaurant of a Five star hotel waiting for the same train in the same compartment.
We were enjoying the session of the critics in the center table. As the group left, Nikhil who also ordered lunch from a friend’s restaurant went to wash room to freshen up and I was wondering about the criticisms on Korma.
I said in a low voice “Professor Saab, what is so great about Korma? Why people liking it are so orthodox about the culinary of Korma?”
In his baritone voice, he said, “Well I do not know why people are so orthodox, the name Korma originated from the Turkish Kavurma, meaning cooked meat.”
I said “Then why they were so critical about it?”
Prof. replied “No comments but as far as I know, Korma a hot favorite of Mogul emperors underwent a fusion of Persian and Indian cooking. The interesting thing is that most likely the Rajput cooks who accompanied Empress Jodhabai were the architects of fusion. They modified the original Persian cooking by introducing braising. In Urdu, Korma means braising. Alternatively it is also said that Rajasthani cooks named it after a Rajasthani tribe Kurma.”
We heard a husky female voice “Professor Saab, very interesting. Pardon me for overhearing your discussions but I could not resist.”
This lady occupying a bench near the windows and covering her face with a big handkerchief was asleep but it appeared not so.
Meanwhile Nikhil came back from the washroom with a fresh appearance and at the same time people from his friend’s kitchen brought our lunch and placed the hotpots on the center table.
It seems that the lady and Nikhil knew each other. He said, “Well mam! What a surprise and good luck to see you here.”
He introduced her to us. She is Shyama, hosts Cuisine serials in no. of TV channels and also author of few culinary books.
Nikhil said,“It shall be our pleasure to share our lunch with you. Please do not say you just had lunch or do not wish to have food right now. This food is from Jolly’s kitchen, promoted by you and you know better than us he always gives plenty.”
Smilingly she said “Difficult to say no to you. I had a heavy breakfast. I shall give you company more on the discussions and less on food.”
Previous train has swept away the waiting crowd; the big upper class waiting hall has few passengers now. We four occupied the center table, Nikhil already signaled a person from Jolly’s kitchen to serve.
“Except me, this is quite a panel of discussion on Korma. My first attempt to cook is very pitiable.”
Shyama said, “Let’s hear that, a good cue to resume.”
I said in a hesitated voice, “As a beginner, I thought it would be simple to cook Khichdi, but at the end of the hour long sweat-bath, the net result was even far away from hopeless. I tried but could eat a little and dumped the entire handi outside before a waiting dog, but...”
I was about to gulp a little water, Prof Sharma said “ “What happened?”
“The dog was about to release his long tongue, but suspended the action, barked at the heap of Khitdi and went back to curling.”
There was a joint laughter but consoling me at the end Nikhil said “Sir, It could be due to turmeric.”
I said “Turmeric? Oh Yes! That was the only spice I was supposed to add.”
Shyama said “Perhaps, you added a little more, a reason you yourself tried but could take a little.”
Nikhil said “Dogs seldom like the smell of turmeric.”
Prof Sharma “The smell in the food counts a lot. Aroma excites the saliva.”
Shyama said “Exactly. In Korma, braising matures the marinated meat to blend with white saucy base made from the paste of Almond, Cashew, white seeds, Khuskhus, curd, cardamom and finally release an unique aroma and taste.”
I was gulping those words but stumbled badly at “braising”. Nikhil rescued me and said “to braise, cook the marinated meat at first with a high heat to the extent of light frying. Now turn the heat gradually to low flame, add the liquid paste of grinded Khus khus, cardamom, white seed, Kaju, Khowa with warm water and seal the pot with wet dough. The rest of the cooking is done using the moist heat.”
Shyama said “Oh hoi! Stop here. You are disclosing the entire trade secret.”
Nikhil said, “Nothing remains secret in these days of you tube and TV cuisine coaching classes.”
Prof Sharma Said “Korma was warmly welcomed in all parts of India and in each state this recipe has its own variations as per popular taste.”
Nikhil said “Sir even in North India besides veg. and Non-veg. Korma, there are three major types, the Sahi, Mughlai and Kashmiri. However from North to south the braising is common. Only the ingredients of White sauce vary. In Kashmiri korma the raw white sauce is made from thick milk, Almond, cashew, Pista, Akhrot and Saffron. South Indians make their white sauce from fresh coconut, coconut milk, white seeds, Chilies and Fennel seeds. But everywhere the flavor is unbeatable.”
The announcer interrupted us with the arrival of our train. Getting to his feet Prof. Sharma said “Yes the aroma that remains the same.Because this is one India and my India is great.”