The monarchs of Awadh, now known as Lucknow, have been relegated to the pages of history books, but the cuisine that evolved in the Nawabi kitchens lives on. The fragrant, gorgeous, and luscious delicacies of Awadh are known for effortlessly marrying Central Asian cooking techniques with Indian spices. Chef Mujeebur Rahman from Lukhnow has been invited by Sheraton Hyderabad to offer the city of Nizams a taste of the city of Nawabs.
The Oudhi Food Festival is being hosted at Feast and is a part of the regular buffet spread. I was invited to a tasting and interaction session with Chef Rahman. We began with one of the most iconic dishes – the Galauti Kebab, which is simply referred to as Kebab in Lukhnow. There are numerous tales on the evolution of this kebab as well as its most famous proprietor – Tunday Kebabi. Chef Mujeebur explained that sometimes it’s almost impossible to separate fact from fiction, and people’s fascination with the history of a dish sometimes lead to elaborate stories being crafted where there is none. However, one thing is certain, the Galauti is a dish fit for the royals. A generously spiced, meaty kebab that melts in your mouth; it’s a dish that never fails to amaze. For vegetarians, a Shammi Kebab crafted from chana dal (bengal gram) was served along with a distinctive bread called Friti Naan. The bread had a hint of sweetness due to the batter being soaked in milk. Lucknowi cuisine is known for its delicate balance of flavours but the kebabs on offer had a surprisingly high heat quotient. Chef Mujeebur acknowledged that although he stays true to the heart and soul of the cuisine he is showcasing, he tweaks the recipes a little to suit the local palate. He believes that there’s more to be gained in enabling a wider audience to appreciate a cuisine than being a purist.
I was surprised by the absence of Kakori Kebabs and Lucknowi Biryani in the buffet spread. There are five sets of menus that are being rotated for the festival, and these dishes will be featured on other days. Nevertheless, I’d love to see the signatures like Galauti, Kakori, and Biryani being included every day. Chef Rahman has attempted to go beyond the popular dishes and is highlighting a few lesser-known gems from Lucknow. Methi (fenugreek) Pulao is a popular winter breakfast in parts of Uttar Pradesh that’s typically consumed with dollops of Ghee. Chef recommended pairing it with Raita as a summer alternative, and that too was quite delicious. Fenugreek also made an appearance in the chicken gravy ‘Methi aur Murgh’. Some of the other highlights were Badami Gosht, Dal Sagpatta (Lentils with Spinach), and Gobi Musullum (Spiced Cauliflower). The gravies are accompanied by a selection of Awadhi breads like Sheermal and Bakarkhani.
The surprise element in the dessert was the Chukandar ka Kheer – a beetroot and milk reduction. I was a tad sceptical about this dish as there are very few dishes in which I like beetroot but the Kheer was surprisingly good. The flavour of the beetroot was mellowed down due to the reduction but it managed to lend an interesting character to the dish. The Anjeer Halwa, on the other hand, was unabashedly rich and indulgent. It’s a sinful indulgence that’s all about the anjeer (fig) and the ghee.
The Oudhi Food festival will continue at Feast until 24rth April.