The city of Lucknow is famous for its history, architecture, tahzeeb (culture), language, khatirdari (hospitality) and most of all- its food. The Awadhi cuisine developed over the years, acquiring great finesse in cooking and presentation of food, under the royal patronage.
From over a hundred-year-old restaurant to high-end restaurants in Lucknow, all cater to the individual’s craving for satisfaction after having good food. The blend of age-old cooking methodologies and spices which have been passed down over generations from the bawarchis of the nawabs knows the best ways to bring alive the taste buds of your tongue. The romance between Lucknow and great food goes back to centuries.
So, the next time you are in the Nawab city, here are the top twenty dishes that are not to be missed at any cost.
Lucknow without kababs is like pizza without cheese. The city is famous for all kinds of kababs- from galouti kababs, ghutwa kababs, pasanda kababs, shami kababs, boti kababs, seekh kababs, goli kababs, and most of all- the tunday kababs. The name came into existence because the man who first brought these kababs into existence had a broken arm.
These kababs involve a mixture of over 160 different spices which gives the meat the much-needed tenderness and each spice used in the kababs give the ‘melt in the mouth’ taste. These kababs are cooked in ghee over a very low flame that gives the kababs the smoky smell and taste. Present in the street of Gol darwaza in the chowk area of Lucknow, the original ‘Tunday Kababi’ is the best place for you to start your ‘kabab tour’.
To all the mutton lovers out there, your craving for spicy flavors of meat and rice can be satiated by the famous Lucknowi biryani. This Awadh dish is a combination of large quantities of yoghurt and few strands saffron to give it a creamy taste and mouthwatering aroma. To top it off, the biryani is served with fried onions, roasted dried fruits, and vegetable raita.
The best part of Lucknowi biryani is that, you can get almost the same great taste and texture everywhere in Lucknow- whether you have it at a roadside stall or at a posh restaurant, the personal favourite being ‘Lalla Biryani’ located on a busy street of old Lucknow.
Also known as the Kashmiri chai or Rose chai or the salt tea, this delicacy arrived in Lucknow back in the ‘60s when the Kashmiris arrived. Since then, many chai lovers have made it a point to include this gulaabi chai as their daily dose of beverage during their stay in Lucknow.
During Eid, this chai is served along with imarti on the side. It’s usually topped with saffron and spices from the secret pantries of Kashmir. This tea alone is worth your night out and nothing like the typical chai that you have had all your life. To all the chai lovers out there- try the Nakhas market at night to realize what you are missing out from your life.
Lucknowi cuisine is incomplete without the mention of lip smacking chaat. The streets of Hazratganj (Royal Café being the personal favorite), Gomtinagar and Aminabad are flooded with all kinds of chaats ranging from dahi-vada, papdi, ghugni, aloo dum, bhujia, onion, chutneys and the mouth-watering pani-batasha, dahi bhalle aalo tikki- all in many flavours. Being in Lucknow and not having street food would be impossible and trust me, Lucknow chaats are the best place to start.
As the name suggests, this dish is cooked in a handi (and earthen pot), the heat energy derived from coal. The smell of the burning coal diffuses into the cooking meat giving it a pleasant smell and taste, almost hitting your nostrils and taste buds alike. The best handi chicken dish is available in the Kalika Hut in Badshah Nagar and Gomti Nagar. Sided with soft sheermals, handi chicken is the best combo you can have during your visit.
Malai Ki Gilori
‘Ram Asrey’s’: Malai Paan is very different from the usual betel leaves enveloping the contents. Rather, this paan is made up of milk and malai (cream)! The paan is made up paper thin sheets of malai which is rolled into paan shape to include dry fruits and sugar cubes (mishri) and is coated with chandi ka warq (silver) giving it a very expensive look!
Nothing quenches the thirst and hunger after a long day out, like a glass full of lassi. Located in the Chowk area, ‘Sai ki lassi’ is the best place to have a variety of lassi at the same place. What makes this place to stand out from the rest is the topping over the lassi with a thick layer of cream and nuts. With every sip, the cream will diffuse into the lassi to trigger your taste buds to cry (if that was possible) and the crunchy nuts coming between your teeth will simply enhance the taste.
Paya nihari is the best morning breakfast you can come across when you visit Lucknow. Paired with soft kulchaa (bread), no other combination beats this one! The best place to have Paya nihari is at the Raheem Hotel at the Chowk in Lucknow. Paya is very slow cooked stew meat (mutton or beef) which consumes almost eight to nine hours to be prepared. And Nahari means ‘morning’ in Urdu which explains why this particular dish sells like hot pancakes in the mornings.
This particular delight is available usually only in winters and only during the early mornings. This fluffy and airy dish is a culmination of milk and sugar and also includes a hint of cardamom to give your mouth an explosion of flavors and disappears from the mouth in absolutely no time. Lucknowi makhan malai portrays the elements of nafasat (softness) and the traditional charm that comes with it. This particular dish is available easily in all the streets of old Lucknow (Chowk and Nakhaas).
Located in Aminabad, close to ‘Tunday
kababi’, ‘Prakash ki kulfi’ is one of the places to have your dessert at. It is
a super cold dessert topped with vermicelli. This one sweet is enough to
satiate your sugar cravings for a while. Famous for its kulfi faluda, ‘Prakash
ki kulfi’ also serves creamy fruit kulfi that can be the perfect way to end
your night on a ‘sweet’ note.
Pundit Raja ki thandai located at
Chowk in Lucknow is the best place to have thandai. Serving only two variants
of thandai- plain thandai and bhaang thandai, this place makes this drink is
made with milk and flavored with a variety of nuts and includes a strong flavor
of saunf (fennel seeds) to give the drinker a soothing and energizing
feel on a hot summer day.
Originally from Rajasthan and Gujarat, this sweet is available in the Awadh region too. It is a sweet donut like hard bread soaked in sugar syrup and cream (rabri). Symbolizing the Nawabi culture, this sweet is topped off with saffron and dry fruits. Ram Asrey is the best place for you to go and have this delicacy.
Located in the Gomti Nagar, the dish’s name sake ‘Rogan Josh’, is widely popular for their Rogan Josh. Amazing, right?
This slow cooked meat (mutton or lamb) is of Persian origin and utilizes the dampukht style of preparation (slow cooking technique, like oven). Often paired with biryaani, Roghan josh is one dish not to be missed while you stay at Lucknow.
Sheermals are one of the oldest breads available in the Indian subcontinent which came to India in the 13th century, during the Khilji period. Unlike the other kinds of breads available, like the roti or naan or kulcha, Sheermal is slightly sweetened to counter act the taste of spicy Roghan Josh or Chicken handi or any spicy meal that you pair it up with. Sheermals are easily available in any of the street side restaurants, with the same great taste.
Paan is considered as a delicacy in Lucknow and a couple of dozen decades ago, paan used to be offered to guests during their arrival and after desserts every time. Paan has always been more than just a personal choice and rather is a part of the Lucknow’s tradition, symbolizing the lavish lifestyle of the Nawabs.
Azhar Bhai Ka Pan at the Chowk in
Lucknow is the best place to have your favorite pans, and after having paan
from there, I assure your love for paan will only increase!
As the name suggests, this kabab has small pieces of meat (mutton) that is cooked on a very slow flame to give it tenderness and in thick gravy to allow the various spices to infuse within the layers of meat. Dastarkhwan in Hazratganj is the best place to have the dragon within you craving for meat to calm down.
This particular type of kabab is
very, very tender, almost gives the feel of having marshmallows. The mined meat
(mutton or beef) is tenderized by the usage of many different grounded spices
and lots of papaya. Originally created for a toothless King back in the 1780s,
this dish has gained popularity all over the world. ‘Tunday’s Kababi’ is the
best place for you to go ‘toothless’ for a while!
Shammi kababs are also made from the
minced meat; however, they are not made ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ soft. Rather, they
give away the feel of actually having meat and the texture and smell of the
spices used are felt in every bite. Often paired with paratha, Shammi kababs are
eaten as a complete meal, either eaten separately or eaten as a paratha roll
with the kabab filling inside. The best part of this kabab is that it is
available easily on every street restaurant in the evenings with almost the
same great taste (Sakhawat being the personal favorite).
The best available at Naushijaan, the Majlisi Kababs are nothing
like the previous mentioned kababs. Having the texture like very thick gravy,
almost like that of haleem, this kabab is meatier than the usual gravies mainly
because even the gravy and the kabab is made up of minced meat alone! To all
the meat lovers out there- this is the best dish to start off with during your
stay at the land of Nawabs.
The talk about the food in the royal city is incomplete without the mention of Shahi Tukra. As the name suggests, this dish has the link with the Nawabs that ruled the place, majorly because the usage of dry fruits and garnishing with saffron threads (both of which are usually expensive and was not affordable to the commoners at that time). This delicacy is prepared with bread which is shallow fried and dipped into sugar syrup and topped with sweet rabdi, nuts and saffron giving it the royal taste. Try the best piece of Shahi tukra at the Dastarkhaan, Hazratganj.