If we look at the advanced culinary techniques of traditional Indian cooking, it would appear nothing less than a well-calculated and carefully-measured scientific experiment conducted under right temperature aiming for delicious results. One of the most revered techniques that developed in the royal kitchens of the Awadh region in India centuries ago was the ‘dum pukht’ method of cooking, which is still relevant in current times.

Yummy dal makhani and chicken kebabs (picture for representation)

The term coined by combining two words, dum (to breathe) and pukht (to cook) refers to the style of cooking in a heavy-bottomed copper or clay pot called a Handi, sealing it tightly with dough and cooking it over a low flame, mentions executive chef Zoheb Qureshi of Cross Border Kitchens and Namak Mandi. He informs, “The way of cooking involves the dish breathe in its own aroma or juices, which makes the item flavourful. Therefore, handis are sealed with dough or cloth to trap the steam, which then cooks the ingredients until tender. A lot of new-age cooks are now following the principles of slow-cooking to cook items like biryanis in an authentic way, and keep the tradition alive.”

Slow cooking is low fat, healthier method of cooking. One doesn’t need to add much oil as long as there is enough moisture, highlights Ishita Yashvi, co-founder of Cross Border Kitchens. She adds, “Dum and slow cooking uses the juice of the ingredients to cook rather than loading the food with greasy items to make is tasty. Few items – most curries, biryanis, some other rice items, and few kebabs can be slow-cooked using this technique.”

The dum phukt style of cooking requires highly skilled chefs trained in this technique, but under a controlled environment, it can also be tried at a smaller scale. “Rice, meat, vegetables, and whole spices are the key ingredients that are usually part of this style of cooking. It can be tried at home if you use the right kind of vessel, choose simple recipes and cook in the right temperature (200-300 degree Celsius depending on the food item). An important factor to remember is to use replace the tandoor with a regular oven and follow step by step instructions,” sums up Chef Qureshi.

Here are a few vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes shared by executive chef Zoheb Qureshi of Cross Border Kitchens and Namak Mandi using dum phukt style of cooking at home. Try them at home and enjoy the wonderful aromatic flavours extracted by using slow cooking methods.

Dal Bukhari


1.5 cups Whole urad dal

250 grams Tomatoes

½ inch Ginger

4 to 5 Medium garlic

1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder

½ teaspoon Garam masala powder

90 to 100 grams White butter

7 to 8 tablespoon Low fat cream

4.5 to 5 cups of water

1 to 1.5 Additional cup of water

½ inch Ginger-julienned for garnish (optional)

1 tablespoon butter or cream for garnish (optional)

Salt, as required

Pre-Cooking Preparation: Soak the lentils in enough water overnight. Drain them later and add the drained lentils in a 3 or 4-liter pressure cooker. Add 5 cups water and pressure cook the lentils for about 18 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make a puree of the tomatoes in a blender. Crush the ginger and garlic into a paste in mortar-pestle.

Preparation: Once the daal is boiled, into the same pan add the ginger garlic paste, tomato puree, Kashmiri red chilli powder, butter, cream, and salt. Add a few cups of water as well. Next, simmer the daal for about an hour or two. This process has to be continued for hours while slowly stirring and checking. Lastly, sprinkle garam masala powder and stir well. Serve Dal Bukhari, with a dollop of butter or cream & garnish with ginger juliennes. Serve it with sheermal, warqi parantha, or naan.

Awadhi Murgh Biryani


400 gm Chicken leg boneless  (50 gm per piece)

250 gms Basmati rice

25 gms Brown onions

50 gms Desi ghee

Cloves 4 nos

Cinnamon sticks 2 nos

Bayleaf 1 no

Green cardamom 4-6 nos

25 ml Cream

75 gms Beaten curd

Salt, to taste

10 gms Yellow chilli powder

15 gms Mace cardamom powder

25 gms Ginger garlic paste

5 ml Rosewater

5 ml Kevda water (screwpine)

Sweet ittar 1 drop

25 gms Slit green chilies

25 gms Mint leaves

10 gms Ginger julienne

2 gms Royal cumin seeds

20 ml Lemon juice

Half liter water

100 ml Whole wheat flour dough (for lining the lid)     

METHOD: To cook the chicken, marinate it with javitri, elaichi powder, hung curd, gulabjal, red chilli powder and cook in tandoor. Cook the chicken with jhol, yellow chilli powder, javitri elaichi powder, saffron, ittar, kewra and gulab jal. Second step, boil rice by wash, and soak rice for 10 minutes. Boil water in a pan and add the whole spices, salt and lemon juice. Add the rice and cook till 2/3rd is done. To cook on Dum, layer the chicken and add a mixture of ghee and cream. Garnish with mint leaves, ginger juliennes, brown onions and saffron dissolved in water. Line the lid with dough and seal the vessel. Put the vessel on an iron griddle and cook for 15 minutes.

4 thoughts on “The art of sealing aromas in dum phukt”
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