Think of Lucknow and the first thing that comes to mind are kebabs, biriyanis, kormas, and sheermal. While the legendary non-vegetarian food deserves all the attention it gets, there is also an entire alternate cuisine that the city specializes in (and not many know about). The lip-smacking vegetarian options that you find in Lucknow are as good as, if not better than their non-vegetarian counterparts. Don’t believe us? Try for yourself.
No morning in Lucknow is complete without the special dahi-jalebi and khasta combination. No matter what time of the year it is, every morning carts magically spring up in nooks and corner of the city to make fresh jalebis and khasta. Where there are no carts there are shops. The jalebis are best eaten with curd that has been set in clay pots, and the khasta is served with a dry preparation of potatoes laced with chili, asafetida, and, dry mango powder. Every lane of the city has its own Jalebi shop, but some are more coveted than the others. Try Kanchan Sweets in Indira Nagar, or Neelkanth in Gomti Nagar to sample the freshest Ghee jalebis and Khasta.
- Pooris & Kachauris.
Served with a tangy potato curry, these deep fried discs define vegetarian feasts in this part of the country. While every home has its own recipe of the dish, some shops are so famous that even housewives rely on them to feed their guests. Served with a sweet and sour dried mango chutney, boondi ka raita, and a dry preparation of either pumpkin or potatoes, this meal is best had mid morning. The pooris come soft and luscious and the kachauris are crisp and crunchy. They are flavourful, full-bodied, and very, very satisfying. The most famous places to sample them in the city are Netram Ajay Kumar in Aminabad, and Bajpayee Kachauri Bhandar in Hazratgunj.
- Kulfi- Faluda.
Sweet after spicy and spicy after sweet – this is how a typical foodie in Lucknow describes a meal. And so, after Kachauri comes Kulfi. Served with bland, noodle shaped faluda, topped with flavoured syrup, the kulfi here is rich, sweet, and laced with nuts. The faluda offsets the sweetness and the syrup adds seasonal flavours – rose, mango, saffron. The special thing about the kulfi here is that it is still made the traditional way inside a large earthen pot. It’s not only delicious but also eco friendly. Saunter into any sweet shop and you will find their version of kulfi but the best-known shops are Prakash Kulfi in Aminabad and Chanakya in Boothnath Market.
There is nothing a true blue Lucknowite loves more than his chaat. And he has reasons to do so. Pani ke Batashe, Aloo ki Tikki, Nimbu ki Matar, Dahi Chutney ke Batashe, Suhaal, Palak ki Chaat, the list is endless as are the flavours and textures. Whether it is the blandness of the mashed peas against the tang of the lemony jaljeera water, or the crispness of the fried potato patty against the softness of beaten curd, the textures will have you and so will the flavours. Once you have tasted the chaat of Lucknow, you will be ruined forever. The most famous place to sample this: Shukla Chaat House in Hazratgunj.
People in Lucknow take their sweets seriously. So seriously that the most expensive sweet here costs Rs. 36000/- a kilo. While that may be an aberration, there is no denying that the city is home to some of the most mouth-watering sweets in the region. Delicate Doodh ki Barfee, robust Motichoor Laddos, or the indigenous Malai ki Gilori, the sweets from Lucknow are famous worldwide, especially the Malai ki Gilori. Shaped like a paan and made with fresh malai (milk cream), the sweet is filled with crystallized sugar and nuts and garnished with silver varq – thin sheet of real silver. This melt in your mouth mithai defines the very core of the city – sweet, delicate, and unforgettable. You can find the most delectable Malai Paan at Ram Asrey, Hazratgunj.
This post first appeared in The Hindu
Got some recommendations for us to try in the city of nawabs? Do let us know and we’d love to try out.