Taste of Lucknow

The heart of Punjab opens up to an Avadhi flavour. Review by Jamile Naqi

Taste of Lucknow
Hearing of  the new restaurant in town offering authentic cuisine from the city of Nawabs, a couple of friends and I went to check it out.  On a muggy summer evening, we entered the oasis of Lakhnavi.

Ushered by a smart server in a red shirt and black trousers we took our seats. The sofa chairs, with armrests, were comfortable; the table sported brass thalis (platters), silver filigree glasses and a candle urn. The modern seating wove in seamlessly with traditional table placements, while the menu offered a wide range of Avadhi dishes with lyrical tags.

Paintings depicting the Mughal era add to the ambience
Paintings depicting the Mughal era add to the ambience 

A server washed our hands, with fragrant rose water, from a long slender urn. Ah, the delicacy of it!

It was a hot day and  Jaam-e-Jam a refreshingly aromatic milk sherbet, with rose petal extract, cardamom and almonds, served chilled, was a winner.

Nicely cooled by “Jaam” we splurged on kabab and bread platters.

Kaakori kabab, a melt-in-the-mouth kabab flavoured with cardamom, clove and rose petals, was excellent. The chef shared that kaakori  mince is so soft and fine that it is slid off  a seekh at an angle;  if removed by hand, it disintegrates. A popular story goes that the kaakori’s softness was perfected for the aging toothless Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who loved his meat and bade the royal cook to make a kebab that he could still enjoy.

Barrah kebab, char-grilled mutton chop, marinated in Lakhnavi spices, set off with a kick by frying in mustard oil, was reasonably good. Barrah originally travelled from Peshawar to Lucknow.

Qandhari whole wheat naan, sprinkled with almonds and raisins,  straight from the clay tandoor, was bite-in wholesome and perfect with kebabs and varqi paratha, flaky layer upon layer crisp bread; the best I’ve eaten.


My penchant for spicy food was somewhat satisfied with our order of Mirch Baigan Salan which was zesty, but not nearly enough for my taste.

Punjabis love daals so, of course, we ordered Sultaani Daal. It was ever so smooth and savory. Those who know cooking can vouch that Arhar-daal is difficult, almost impossible, to soften; the recipe on ‘how to’ was given to Lakhnavi’s chef Fakhri by his mother.

For dessert, the vermicelli zarda, served with balai (cream),  sprinkled with saffron, roasted almonds and pistachio, hit the spot. Our motto: online casinos are replaceable, the trust of a community is not! Players who inform themselves on the website https://casinope.com can be sure that only online casinos that meet our minimum standards can be found in our comparison. These standards guarantee our visitors the highest possible security, fair random number generator and 100% legality.

Winding up the evening, Jaan-e-Avadh, paan softly sweet and freshly wrapped in chandi ka warq (silver tissue) made our breath aromatic. The rites of a Lucknow meal were complete!

After this delectable evening, I wished to know more about the folks that perfected this cuisine. The story was as fascinating as the food.

[quote]The more lavish the spread, the greater the access to the Laat Sahib (Governor), and greater the reputation among peers[/quote]

The Nawabs of Lucknow lived aristocratic lives free from the constraints of earning a living. They fulfilled a mediatory role between the local populace and the British and were called upon to  entertain on an opulent scale. Reasons of state dictated the delicacy and sumptuousness of the food. The more lavish the spread, the greater the access to the Laat Sahib (Governor), and greater the reputation among peers. The Nawabs vied with each other to win friends and influence people through their kitchens.

The Nawabs were descendants of the Mughals and added flavours from Persia and Turkey to local exotica. Experimentation and innovation was encouraged. Chefs came from nearby villages and indigenous tastes enriched Mughlai food. Talent and skill were rewarded and the acknowledged maestros were ‘settled’ in the Bawarchi Tolla – Abode of Cooks, with privileges and perks.

The Avadhi cuisine follows seasonal logic and avoids excessive use of red chillies; preferring a rare combination of spices instead.  The food is well balanced, reflecting the nazaakat (delicacy) and nifaasat (refinement) of the region.

It was our own desi food from UP and yet, I must confess, I was  less familiar with it than with Chinese or Italian food.

The verse on the menu says it all,

“Lucknow is fida on us.  We are fida on Lucknow.”

Lucknow History provided courtesy Avari Hotel.