WHEN INDIAN RAILWAYS’ SERVICE BEAT EVEN THE BEST HOTELS

From Railway Mutton Curry To Bedmi-Aloo: When Railway Food Was An Affair To Remember. What Is Your Earliest Memory Of (Good) Train Food?

It was the first train to have a full fledged restaurant car replete with trained butlers, chefs, cleaners and an a la carte menu to match the grandeur of a well-stocked bar! Dining cars on Mail and Express trains appeared as early as 1903, the same year in which 8-wheeled carriages running on bogies were introduced. Prior to this, all important trains were allowed sufficient halts at appointed stations, for breakfast, lunch or dinner to be had at one of the several refreshment rooms available at the platform: Refreshment Room, European; Refreshment Room, Muslim; Refreshment Room, Hindu – Vegetarian, and Refreshment Room, Hindu – Non Vegetarian.

But it wasn’t till the Frontier Mail (renamed Golden Temple Mail post independence) that restaurant car upped its ante. Run by the Western Railway, the train was considered Rolls Royce of its time – both for its luxury (it had bedrolls, a shower, a salon and even a steam room) and the inimitable dishes it served. It was the first time that Roast Chicken was introduced to the Indian palate, soon followed by Madras spicy mutton curry and rice, the chicken cutlet (which came close to the kebabs) and the now famous Railway Mutton Curry. The iteration of which made it in to the richer food corridors of hotels like The Oberoi and Made in Punjab among others. Story goes that a drunken British officer stumbled into the kitchen looking for midnight snack. The service was over and the cooks were making food for them. One dish was the Calcutta Murgir Jhol, made of farm bred chicken, Dak Bangla style, it was known for its fiery taste. Understandably, the British didn’t appreciate a burnt stomach, but was overjoyed when in an instant the dish was changed from a spicy chicken curry to a Mutton Curry subtle one with yogurt. Such was the impression that the officer ordered it every time he was on the train, and fondly called it the Railway Mutton Curry. And thus was born – The Railway Mutton Curry. Of course the Alam Shah khansama’s invention did undergo the railway ‘touch’, which by then was ‘subtle-izing” Indian flavours to suit the British palate. Of course the rail chefs, who were khansamas of lesser clout, did their magic by creating some addictive dishes like the railway tomato soup (a more mashed up version still exists in Rajdhani), the Bihari Kebab, the Sitaphal Ice Cream with Kalakhatta Gola. Bedmi-aloo comprises puffy deep fried puri like bread served with spicy potato curry. 

Given below are the 03 most liked recipes on train pre Independence which are definitely worth trying even now:

  1. Railway Mutton Curry- (An Anglo-Indian Delicacy)- Page 2
  2. Murgir Jhol – Page 3
  3. Bedmi-Aloo – Page 4

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