The sumptuous meal that the city of Awadh has to offer is nothing short of magical. The royalty and the grandeur of it will leave you mesmerized. It will leave an everlasting impression on your taste buds. You’ll always want some more of it. You will get the Nawabi feel in every bite you take. Such is the magnificence of the Awadhi cuisine. The city is notably famous for the dum style of cooking. It originated in Awadh, or the present day Lucknow. This style of cooking goes back to the 16th century. The food is cooked over a slow fire in a closed container. With the increased time of cooking, the entire flavour of the spices and herbs used, is released into the dish. This gives a distinct taste to the Awadhi cuisine. Sometimes cooking dough is used to seal the mouth of the container in which the dish is being prepared. This leads to aroma of the spices to seep through the dough, thus providing it with a flavour.
Not just the style of cooking, but also the way in which the meal is spread out elaborately, will make your mouth water. The presentation of the food has a royal touch to it. When you sit down to eat, it will appear to you that you’re a king and everyone on the table is waiting for you to take the first bite! In the olden times, the spread was laid out in the centre and it was necessary for everyone to sit around and eat together. Such a spread is known as Dastarkhwan. It consists of a variety of dishes like kebabs, korma, biryani, roomali rotis, nihari kulchas, sheermal etc. Such practices can still be observed around the city. The menu of the Dastarkhwan changes with the seasons.
A typical example of the spread: Dastarkhwan
The menu of winters is very different from that of spring. In winters, heat giving, rich meat is preferred. During spring, various kinds of crispy snacks are prepared. Similarly during summers, a variety of dishes and desserts are prepared using raw mangoes. Sewaiyan is another sweet dish which can be often seen in the houses during the pious months of Ramzan. The dishes that form a major part of the Awadhi platter are Kebabs, Biryani, Korma and a variety of breads. Kebab is the identity and pride of Lucknow. Kebabs are made from meat, fish or vegetables that are grilled on a chulha. Lucknow boasts a wide variety of Kebabs, namely, Kakori Kebabs, Seekh Kebabs, Galawat ke Kebabs, Ghutwa Kebabs, Shami Kebabs, and Boti Kebabs etc. Vegetarian kebabs are made using yam, kidney beans, jackfruit (kathal), peas and taro (arbi). The most famous shop for kebabs in Lucknow is the Tunde Ke Kabab. It is a 100 year old shop which serves the best kebabs in the city. It boasts of using 160 different homemade spices which is their trade secret. The who’s who of Bollywood come all the way to try out these kebabs. The list of the fans is endless. So many of the Bollywood biggies fly out the khansamas (cooks) from here to cater their functions. This is surely a feat to be proud of.
Lakhnawi biryani is another dish that is famous worldwide. It is a special preparation of basmati rice with species, curd, meat and/or vegetables. It uses the method of layering. The meat and the rice are cooked separately. They are then layered on top of each other and baked. Vegetarian biryani is also very common.
The various types of breads that are eaten are chapatis, pooris, parathas, naans, roomali roti, tandoori roti and sheermal (sweet naan). Korma is the curry used which is made by braising meat or vegetables in case of navratan korma. The Awadhi desserts have the perfect kind of sweetness and taste that is required after a meal. Kulfi is one such dessert which is famous among the masses. It is made from rich milk and cream. Prakash Ki Mashhoor Kulfi is the oldest known shop for kulfi. They offer the best falooda kulfi in the city. A type of halwa which is specially prepared in Lucknow is the sohan halwa. Different cereals like gram flour, sooji, wheat etc. are used to prepare halwa. It is heavily garnished with rich dry fruits. The barfi, jalebi and rabri are some other desserts to look up to. After the meal, consumption of Paan is quite common. An evening without Paan is thought to be incomplete. Paan is made from betel leaf which is garnished with saffron, spices, silver foils and other condiments.
Falooda Kulfi By Prakaksh ki Mashoor Kulfi
After boasting of the nawabi Awadhi cuisine, Lucknow still has a lot to show off in terms of street food. Be it Idris ki biryani or Shukla ki Chaat, be it Rahim ke Kulchey Nihari or Royal Café k paani-batashe, every single one of them is worth a try. And when you try them once, you’re surely going to be a fan. The originality of the taste will hold you spellbound. Paapdi chaat, tikki chaat, dahi bada, paani poori, sev poori etc., the names are enough to tickle your taste buds. Where else can you get eight different types of paani for the paani puri at one stall? That’s right, in this magical city which has a cuisine so quintessential!
Aaloo Tikki by Shukla ki Chaat
The mouth-watering delicacies that this culture offers are just too many to name. Piece of advice, go try out some Awadhi cuisine, you are missing out on a lot. Trust me, you’ll be thankful!