Dastarkhwan-e-Awadh: The Cuisine of Lucknow
The Land of Nawabs and Awadhi cuisine, Lucknow is a total foodie’s paradise! From kebabs to paans to biryanis, wander around in the city and you’ll never know which narrow alley takes you to food heaven. The taste, the smell and the air of the city screams magic! Even though the list of delicacies is endless, here are 7 mouthwatering dishes that are highlights of Lucknow:
This soft, succulent melt-in-the mouth patty like kebab from Lucknow got its name from its creator, Haji Murad Ali. He had just one hand and hence was called Tunday, as is commonly done in colloquial Hindi with people with upper limb handicap. Haji Murad, apparently used 160 spices in his kebab and got the patronage of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who wanted to eat a kebab that was soft and easy on his toothless mouth. While the name of the maker was given to the kebab, this soft and tender preparation with slight variations is also known as Galawati kebab because of its tenderness. Unlike most kebabs that are roasted, these are deep fried in clarified butter.
Ibn Battuta, the famous Moroccan traveler has mentioned that Kebab was an integral part of the daily diet of Indian royalty in as early as 1200 AD. No wonder the Afghan plunderers and invaders brought it to the Indian kitchens long before the Mughals ventured in. If the pre-Mughal Kebab was more about marinade and meat-being more of rustic chewy chunks, char-grilled in open ovens, with Mughals it evolved into a delicacy, that was soft and succulent, made richer with aromatic spices and dry fruits. Out of the different Kebabs variant, Boti Kebab is one finger-licking starter you will relish! Tender pieces of meat heated under intense heat. A popular Mughlai recipe, this is one the many famous Kebabs that Lucknow has to offer.
Biryani is derived from the Parsee word `birian`, which means `fried before cooking`. While preparing the dish authenticity mandates ‘Dum’ cooking – this clearly indicates that the dish originated in Persia. Emperor Taimur Lang is believed to have brought Biryani to our country. The Great Mughals also played a vital role in entrenching Biryani in different parts of the country. Mughal style of cooking left an indelible mark in the Gangetic plains and led to the evolution of the Awadhi Biryani in Lucknow. Later, Biryani became very popular and spread eastwards to Kolkata in 1856 during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Do you know how Lucknow Biryani is different from other Biryanis? The rice is cooked separately in garden-fresh spices and the marinated chicken is added later. This technique infuses just the right amount of flavour in the dish and the final product is something that you just cannot resist.
4.Paya Ki Nihari
Nihari is a curry consisting of slow-cooked lamb along with bone marrow, garnished to taste. The word Nihar originated from the Arabic word “Nahar” which means “day” as it was typically served after sunrise Fajr prayers, who would then sleep until the afternoon. In 1785, a year of a devastating famine, when people were dying and both elite and commoners were helpless, the Nawab of Awadh, Asaf-ud-Daula came up with an ingenious plan. To help support the people of Awadh. He thought of building an Imambaara. He called upon all the subjects of Awadh – elite and commoners alike to participate. In the morning, breakfast was served to the laborers. and it was the same breakfast everyday. Two rotis and a bowl of Nihari. this gave strength to the laborers to toil throughout the day in hot sun.
A sweet naan, this one is baked in tandoor and goes well with anything spicy! Sheermals are made with warm milk which is sweetened with sugar and generally flavoured with saffron. Totally mouth-watering, this! The story of Sheermal started in 1830 when Nawab Nasir-uddin Haider asked his chef Mohammadu to serve him a different kind of roti which the Nawab has never tasted before. Mohammadu prepared sheermaal in milk and added zafran, desi ghee and cooked it in a tandoor and served him which was highly appreciated by the Nawab. Subsequently, Nawab Saheb added this special roti ( sheermal ) to his meal.
6.Malai Ki Gilori
If you have a sweet tooth, sink your teeth in the oh-so-soft Malai Paan or Balai Ki Gilori in Lucknow! The beauty of our balai ki gilori is its melt-in-the-mouth quality and its delicate taste, especially the one with kesar ki mishri. The origin of the Balai Ki Gilori is in some time around 1800 A.D. During that period tobacco and paan were banned during the rule of one of the nawabs of Awadh. So Balai Ki Gilori was invented as a substitute for paan. To keep that quality of paan intact in the sweet, only mishri was used in it along with dry fruits. Malai Paan, though a dessert, was served as a paan, wrapped in silver varq.”
Falooda belongs to a family of Indian sweet items, such as halwa, jalebi and kulfi, of Persian/Middle Eastern origin. It is said to have come into India with the Mughals (who looked to Persia as their cultural model). The fourth Mughal emperor Jahangir (ruled 1605-1627) was reportedly fond of falooda eaten with cream and fruit (which suggests the noodles rather than the drink). Kulfi is a popular frozen dairy dessert from the which is often described as “traditional Indian ice cream. Kulfi likely originated in the Mughal Empire, which ruled India in the 16th to 18th centuries. It was prepared in royal kitchens using ice brought in from the Himalayas. Kulfi Falooda in Lucknow, especially from this shop of Prakash Kulfi in Aminabad is so lip-smacking that it leaves all former kulfi experiences behind. This is indeed the best place in Lucknow to have the dessert. Local, simple and so gastronomically satisfying!