Sa’ad Ahmed Shaikh
India is known for a lot of things, not least, its sumptuous dishes. The land of the Himalayas has no dearth of culture, with 150 languages having a sizable speaking population (the total number of languages is placed at a staggering 1652). With a tradition spanning centuries, it’s not surprising to find that India’s cuisine is as diverse as its population. One can never say; “I’m gonna have some Indian cuisine tonight,” and be satisfied with one, for India boasts of several; Mughlai, South Indian(which has a cuisine for each of its four states) and Awadhi, among many others. What’s special is that each of India’s 29 states has its own cuisine to boast of; some of them having more than one!
S.U.M brings to you the first dish in its feature of Unique Indian Cuisine.
Pathar ka Gosht Recipe
Presenting Patthar ka Gosht! In Urdu, patthar means ‘stone’ and gosht means ‘meat’. The phrase, therefore, roughly translates to ‘meat cooked on stone’ in English.
Yes, you read it right. This particular dish dates back to 19th century India in the Deccan region (present-day Hyderabad), ruled by the Nizams, the then rulers of Hyderabad State. Legend has it that this dish came to pass on a hunting expedition of the 6th Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan. The 18-year-old Nizam used to have his dining and bedding carried on elephants for all-time convenience. Talk about royalty! For the Nizam’s comfort, the royal chef found a slab of stone for special cooking purposes and cooked kebabs on it for the Nizam. The Nizam loved it so much that he ordered it to be cooked again on his return. And thus the peculiar dish of Patthar ka Gosht came into being.
Though this claim is unconfirmed by reliable sources, it has the same royal sound to it as other majestic whims of the Nizams. The dish is a roaring success in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when, in the evening after breaking the fast Muslims generally go into the streets to have a light feast.
Coming to its conception, PkG is prepared by first marinating the meat (beef and mutton are the preferred kinds) in various pastes and spices for around 5 hours. Meanwhile, the stone used for cooking (granite in most cases), is heated by kindling charcoal underneath it for approximately 30 minutes until it’s hot. The right temperature of the stone is determined by sprinkling water on it: if the droplets sizzle on the slab, it’s ready for cooking. The meat is then placed on the stone slab and allowed to fry in the open. The fat and marinated paste from the meat sizzles on the stone and gradually evaporates. The meat is turned to the other side and vice versa till both sides are brown and crispy. The meat is then taken down and served with one or two Indian breads; Naan or Roti. The meat, thus slow-cooked, acquires a silky-smooth texture that simply melts in the mouth.
But times have changed. Today’s fast-paced life is making it difficult for old-school recipes to flourish because of their time-consuming nature. Restaurants are reluctant to allow such dishes in their original state, opting instead for stoves to light the stones. Their contention is that they would be feeding only 10-15 people a day if they chose charcoal over gas. Of course, old-timers rue this nimble change but the others… well, the others still swear by its unvarying novel taste.