Asma believes the original purpose of cooking is to nourish and heal, and that people in the business seem to be forgetting that. “Everybody wants to cook to be on MasterChef, but cooking has lost its original purpose,” says Asma. “We offered food to gods. I find it slightly problematic when I see people playing around with it.” Little wonder then that she sticks with the traditions of the Rajputana kitchens of Hyderabad, her father being a descendant of the Nizam’s family, and the Mughal cuisine of the royals of Bengal, her mother’s forebearers. “I often tell people I cook the food of undivided, pre-partition India. I’m serving you the forgotten food of the Muslim households of the 1930s,” she says.
“Behind me are women who will surpass me, and a time will come when an all-female kitchen will not be a big deal as it is today!” — Chef Asma Khan
There is a nostalgic simplicity to the space inside the restaurant where the only décor is photographs of Asma’s family-owned royal havelis and the fortress from Aligarh. The food itself could well be something a Bengali housewife is likely to read off a list stuck to her fridge as the possible menu for a small house party.