Being in Lucknow during Ramzaan is a treat for all your senses — touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. It is nothing like anything anywhere else. From the Korma and Kebab at Tundey, to the Biriyani and Nihari at Chowk, to the sheermaals, ulte tave ke parathe, seviyan, kheer, kulfi, everything is a sensory overload.
To think that I had had no view of this side of the town is as surprising as it is true, after all I grew up in a vegetarian family where eating out was restricted to chaat at Shukla and Dosa at Marksman. If we were feeling too rich — which happened rarely, we were indulged in a nan and paneer dish at Ritz. Those were the days.
My introduction to the Muslim food happened very late, by who else but husband, and am glad it did. I have been trying to compensate for all the lost years ever since. The first stop in the town is no longer Shukla chaat but Tundey kebab.
Tundey kebab remians the most famous in Lucknow, and without doubt they’re the best galawati kebabs ever, but, that’s not all Lucknow has to offer. There are as many kebabs as there are khansamas. Galawati, Kakori, Chappli, Majlisi, Boti, and Seekh are the few that the novice in me knows of. And yes, I have eaten them all.
The interesting thing about these kebabs is that none of them look or taste like typical kebabs. No form, no crunch, no bite. Some are pasty, some are creamy, some flat, some come in tiny pieces with gravy and then there is one which is nothing but a rich smooth paste. But, they are still called, and considered, kebabs.
Then there are the rotis. The glorious breads of avadh. Ulte tave ka paratha, roomali roti, sheermal, khamiri roti, the variety is as much as the kebab if not more.
The only thing that has no variety in Lucknow perhaps is the biriyani. I mean, there is the mutton and chicken and buff varient, but by and large the preparation remains the same. Simple, subtle, and yet complex. The king of the cuisine, according to me, is the biriyani.
While the world, or at least most of it, considers a spicy, gravy infused rice preparation as Biriyani, the Lakhnavi thinks of that as blasphemy. The biriyani has to be rich yet simple, plain yet flavourful, no spicy yet flavourful. And that’s the true test of the kevra infused Lakhnavi biriyani.
I can go on and on about the food. But for now, I’m going to eat some more, so got to go. Will come back with part 2 of this story soon. Until then shabba khair.