Lucknow – the city of nawabs, one of the most hustling bustling cities of Northern India, where modern architecture shares ground with ancient masterpieces, a food lovers paradise and the ride from Ameenabad to Hazratganj tells the city’s story of transformation and the history of royal glories. During childhood I visited Lucknow few times for a family holiday, back then it was all one state Uttar Pradesh, I loved the city at first site but despite of my love for it I never gave a thought about it’s cuisine – the Awadhi Cuisine. Awadh is a region in the centre of the Uttar Pradesh, which was before independence known as the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. The traditional capital of Awadh had originally been Faizabad, but it was later moved to Lucknow, which serves as the present-day capital of Uttar Pradesh. Since the ancient time Awadh developed it’s own culture, cuisine, dialect and architecture, so when I got invite for Awadhi Food Festival from Sheraton I took it as a opportunity to know more about the Awadhi Cuisine.
The Awadhi Dastarkhwan is a buffet spread of Awadhi delicacies prepared traditional way with a dash of modernity in plating and flavors. Chef Rehman Mujeeburspecializes in Indian Muslim Cuisine and has his roots deep in the heart of Awadh – Lucknow, his knowledge about the cuisine is clearly reflective in the flavor profile of each and every dish, he has travelled across the length and breadth of Awadh, discussed recipes from the royal cooks of Rampur to the local artisans of Lucknow, each dish in his menu has it’s own distinguished personality, which is possible only after kind of detailed research which he has done in Awadhi Cuisine.
The lunch started with a glass full of Badam Milk (the paste of which is very much made in the hotel’s kitchen), then came the platter full of Galawati Kebab, Murgh Barrah and on the vegetarian platter there was Achari Paneer Tikka and Aloo Neze Se, I was keen to taste the Galawati kebab and I was not disappointed at all, mouth melting texture, aromatic with lovely flavors, it reminded me of Tunday Kebabi in Lucknow. For the second plate of starters I had Paye ka Shorba (the aromatic soup made of trotters/hoof of a goat simmered for hours over low heat and flavored with spices), the soup had subtle aroma of saffron, perfect blend of spices and what I liked most about it that no flavor or aroma was over powering my senses.
While discussing with the Chef about the Awadhi breads, suddenly in the midst of conversation he went into the kitchen and came back with a plate full of Gurda Kaleji & Keema along with Sheermal and Lucknowi Naan, I was intrigued by the fact that Sheermal is a popular bread in Awadhi Cuisine as well and when Chef shared the fact that within Lucknow there are some 15 different recipes of Sheermal I was totally surprised, breads were soft, flavorful and had a splash of little sweetness.
The whole buffet spread has equal proportion of vegetarian and meat dishes, being a meat eater I always have an advantage of tasting vegetarian dishes as well but this time I must say for the first time I feel a true justice has been done with the vegetarian dishes when it comes to taste and flavor, Baingan Ka Bharta, Urad Dal, Dal Makhani were delicious and I helped myself with another helping of Baingan ka Bharta and requested Chef for the recipe, which he has promised will share with me.
And of-course when it comes to Awadhi Cuisine biryani is always in the menu, the Awadhi biryani is very different from Hyderabadi one, less of whole spices are used, once again subtle aroma, delicate flavors, medium spicy and full of flavors, and yes layering technique is not used while making Awadhi Biryani meat and the rice mixed together so that rice soaks up all the meat and the curry flavors. I was so full after relishing Biryani so tasted a spoonful of Makhani Gosht Masala (lamb cooked with lotus seeds in a spicy curry), which was totally delightful.
For the desserts I tasted Anjeer ki Kheer, Lapsi Kheer and Badusha, I liked Lapsi so much that very next day made it at home, the broken wheat was completely disintegrated in the flavorful milk, served chilled it was a true bliss after such a heavy meal. The Awadhi Dastarkhwan is a weeklong food festival going on at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore, ending on Sunday 19th October 2014, so if you want to know more about Awadhi Cuisine then this could be a great festival to start with.