Awadhi cuisine is famous for its resplendent burst of flavours and unique novelties. The cuisine emerging from the royal kitchen of the Nawabs of Lucknow is opulent, rich and delectable, serving the most delicious kebabs and biryanis. While the cuisine draws much of its global fame from its flavourful biryanis and succulent kebabs, equally appetizing is the Awadhi desserts that act as a perfect end to a wholesome meal. Nothing surpasses the bliss of ending one’s meal with something that tickles the sweet tooth and wrapping up a meal with Awadhi desserts with dry fruits sprinkled on top raises a toast to the bygone Mughal tradition and legacy.
Some of the desserts from Awadhi cuisine which is sure to leave one craving for a second helping or even a third are:
1. Kulfi Falooda- A frozen dessert made from milk, sugar, nuts, saffron and rich floral essence. Falooda has always been a constant companion with Kulfi. Though almost bland and without any sugar content, they are flavoured with a mild rose essence adding to the flavor of the item.
2. Nimish- Also known as Makhhan Malai, Nimish is an extremely delicate Awadhi dessert often referred to as ‘daulat ki chat’. It is made with milk cream and is extremely light and sugar and cardamom powder is added for the light and pleasant flavor. This dessert is available only during the winter season.
3. Badam Ka Halwa- A rich Halwa comprising soaked almonds, grounded and cooked with profuse quantities of ghee, this Awadhi specialty is sure to awaken the sweet tooth in one and all! This delicacy is best enjoyed during the cold winters, however unlike Nimish, it is available all around the year.
4. Kali Gajar Ka Halwa- Made with the extremely healthy and nutritious black carrot which is a principle specialty of Northern India. Milk, khoya and sugar is added to this halwa which makes it abundantly attractive and satiating. The use of black carrot helps the body retain heat in the cold North Indian winters. This is a winter special delight which does away with the notion that sweets cannot be healthy!
5. Shahi Tudka- The best known Awadhi dessert, the Shahi Tudka stands testimony to the opulence of the royal kitchen, bringing fried pieces of bread dipped in sugar, followed by a dip in milk reduction. Shahi Tudka acts as the crowning glory to a royal Nawabi meal, making the meal wholesome in every way!
6. Kesari Phirni- Traditionally using broken rice or coarsely grinded rice, milk is used as an essential component. The use of saffron and cardamom powder adds to its rich flavor while the garnish of chopped almonds and pistachio giving this mildly chilled dessert a tempting look and divine taste.
Winters were dedicated to desserts in Awadh wherein a variety of delicacies were brought to the table to be relished. While everyone must be acquainted with the delectable kebabs and biryanis of Awadh, the wonders that Awadhi desserts can cause is also noteworthy. Any meal is incomplete without ending on a sweet note, and the same holds true for Awadhi cuisine as well!
Famous for its aromatic blend of piquant spices, there are some items of the Awadhi cuisine that stand apart from the rest. Lavish and regal in taste and history, Nehari is one such royally revered delicacy, which needs no introduction, originating from the royal kitchen of the Nawabs of Awadh or Old Delhi. Some historians even claim that Nihari is an offshoot of the Indo-Persian influence. The term Nehari is taken from the Arabic ‘Nahar’ which translates to morning. Originally, the dish was eaten for breakfast by the Nawabs after their morning prayer on cold winter mornings and then would go onto take cozy afternoon naps. Gradually it grew onto become a regular breakfast dish for the working class due to its energy boosting properties.
Nehari usually revolves around factors such as the cut of the meat, the slow cooking and the end product of the tender pieces of meat mingled with light, aromatic spices and delectable taste. Nehari is best cooked slowly, and traditionally was cooked over night, entailing a long drawn process that requires patience. Just as all great things come out of patience, so does this flavorful dish that stands apart and tickles taste buds by itself. It comes across as no surprise that Nalli Nehari and Khameeri Roti comes across as one of the most loved breakfasts till date.
Nehari was served as the first thing in the morning to the laborers involved in Mughal architecture construction for free, in lieu of daily wages. The high protein meat allowed a slow increase in blood sugar levels, thereby leading to decreased cravings throughout the day which is a practice prevalent even to the present times. Nehari was also used as a home remedy for colds and fever for its warm properties while simultaneously, it was regarded an aphrodisiac. With the dish having evolved across various geographical locations, today there exists a variety of the Nehari dish, each distinct from the other by dint of the play of spices and ingredients which has become unique to each region. Over time, the dish has carved a niche for itself in the culinary fares of Pakistan and Bangladesh as well, as a result of the partition of India. Though traditionally enjoyed as a breakfast delicacy, Nihari has garnered immense popularity as tastes just as delicious at any given time in the day!
The very name “Biryani” evokes a certain type of emotion for almost everyone from the Indian sub-continent. Arguably the most delicious Mughal preparation, biryani has several different variants that have evolved overtime with geographical differences and the local taste palettes.
It ties together different cultures with its similarities but also divides people competing over whose version is best. A blend of spices, rice, and meat slow-cooked together in many steps, biryani comes in many forms. Every region, every household and in it, every hand preparing it has their own twist on this traditional rice and meat dish. And every region in India has its own special and delectable biryani recipe, from the fragrant Lucknowi biryani to the extra spicy Hyderabadi one, the popular Kolkata version with potatoes and eggs, and the mild and flavourful Malabar biryani, there are numerous regional variations of the dish.
A centrepiece of countless Indian meals for special occasions, Biryani is originally Persian in origin. The name Biryani is derived from the Persian word “Birian” which translates to fried before cooking and “Birinj” which is Persian for rice. But now, it may very well be considered the national dish of India! Although the North Indian biryani variants are more common, there’s a rich heritage of Arab-inspired flavours down South. In comparison to the Mughlai flavours brought to India by the Persians, these Arabic rice preparations are quite different. Some are even better described as pulaos, given, they are less complex than the gravy-accompanied, slow-cooked, spice-rich biryanis we know of.
To truly celebrate Biryani, there are some special preparations that must be talked about. Here is a list of those main biryani types and how to tell them apart from each other and what makes them unique.
1. Lakhnavi or Awadhi biryani - It is mildly spiced and may be eaten with a gravy on the side. Traditionally, biryani is supposed to be eaten on its own without adding a gravy or anything else to it. All Awadhi biryanis have a distinctly royal mouth-feel to it, with the explosion of the perfect blend of spices. Some utterly delicious and most coveted variants under this are:
Some Lucknowi locals say this is meant to be eaten with an accompanying gravy called tari. However, chefs deem it a complete dish on its own. This also has certain vegetarian versions such as the Awadhi Palak biryani which is known for its rich aroma and is usually cooked in a Dum Pukht style of cooking.
2. Kolkata biryani – This biryani is all about the potatoes and eggs—with a slight hint of sweetness.
The Calcutta biryani is distinguished by its yellow rice, which is soaked in saffron and kewra water and, no matter what culinary historians say, it is simply one of the best versions of biryani to ever exist. It has evolved into an entity of its own from its Awadhi counterpart. Containing meat cooked in yoghurt, this biryani has potatoes and boiled eggs, along with a touch of sweetness thanks to cinnamon and nutmeg. This addition of the potato to the biryani was said to be an improvisation by the royal bawarchis at the kitchens of Wajid Ali Shah when we shifted his base from Lucknow to Metiabruz at Kolkata.
3. Yakhni Biryani – Yakhni is a yoghurt and saffron based mutton broth made using meat and a host of aromatic spices. The spice list includes fennel seeds, dry ginger powder, cloves, cinnamon, black and green cardamom. Yoghurt acts as the binding agent in this preparation, bringing the flavours together, lending a unique flavour to this biryani.
Yakhni is a staple in the Kashmiri cuisine and has arrived in India through the Afghan and Pakisthani culture and spices. This is also known for its distinct taste that is highly popular among food lovers. Afghanistan is the birthplace of the highly regarded Murgh Yakhni Biryani. Legend goes, an Afghan King once visited the barracks of this own army and found them semi-famished and woefully under-nourished, he immediately ordered his imperial rakabdars to cook them a vegetarian version of the Yakhni Biryani, also known as the Yakhni Pulau.
4. Purdah Biryani – The Purdah Biryani is made by the “Dum-Pukht” or the dum-cooking style, one of the oldest cooking methods that date back to the 1500s. The book “Ain-i Akbari” abour Akbar the Great describes the various cooking styles and the secret recipes of the royal kitchen. “Dumpukht” in Persian means “air-cooked” or baked. The “Purdah” is made with whole wheat flour, salt, fennel, cumin, a pinch of turmeric, saffron, warm water, and ghee. However, a different Mughal, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah of Awadh made this recipe famous in the 1700s.
The Awadhi delicacy is a slow cooked meal, which when opened, the aroma of spices fill the air, the meat in this Biryani is so tender that it falls off the bones and the other ingredients along with rice make a complete mouth-watering gumbo of deliciousness.
5. Moti Biryani – Moti Biryani has its roots firmly in History. It was one of the famed royal dishes which the Bawarchis of the Shahi Bawarchi Khana (or the Royal Kitchen) used to prepare regularly for the Nawab. The city of Nazakat, an exuberant paradise for food lovers, in Lucknow, is the birthplace of this Awadhi deliciousness. The Shahi Moti Biryani is one such Shahi feast from the rich past that is abounding the treasure-chest of Awadh , in Lucknow, that could tantalize your taste buds by its sheer description.
This royal dish of the Awadhi Cuisine was famed for the edible pearls or Moti which were then made of eggs and minced meat, given the shape of small meat balls wrapped in gold and silver foils by the skilled Bawarchis of yore. With time the appearance of the original dish has changed considerably and the popular versions we get to see these days are much easier to make in any kitchen, however, a food critic of say Gordon Ramsay’s calibre would call it Moti Polau and not Moti Biryani.
The “OG” Moti biryani from the Shahi Bawarchi Khana of Awadh can be found in only a select few restaurants in India.
6. Kofta Biryani – Minced tender and juicy koftas (meatballs) tossed in delicious sauce, layered with flavorful basmati rice and dum-cooked for shorter than usual span is how the Kofta Biryani is usually made. The usage of the correct spices in the right proportions creates a texture that is unmatched and a party of distinctive flavors. This biryani is indeed a “feast for the senses”. This particular biryani goes well with any raita.
These mouth-watering Biryanis make it to the list of the most popular and note-worthy of its variants.
To satiate your understandable biryani craving, order in your favourite biryani from the authentic Awadhi delicacies served at Oudh 1590. Or, as a virtual flier for the religious Biryani lovers, Oudh 1590 is hosting its annual Biryani Festival to honour the late gourmet King, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah! This is the best opportunity for foodies to calm the hunger rumble of their stomach by dropping in for the feast of the year.
Kebabs have remained an international delicacy over centuries now! What is it about this dish that makes it such a global favourite? What is the origin story of our beloved kebabs and the evolution of their “super”-taste? Read on to find out.
Kebabs as we know it have their roots in Turkey. This is if we go by the usage of the term “kebab”, which originated from the term “Shish – kebab”. “Shish” in Turkish means sword and “keba” means meat; more particularly, lamb or mutton. This particular dish came into being when the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire took to putting small pieces of meat on their swords and over a large fire after sundown in their battle-camps. This barbecued piece of meat was called the shish (sword) kebab (meat).
Now due to the vastness of the Ottoman Empire (cue “The Magnificient Century”, the soap opera), the shish kebabs travelled far and wide. This gave rise to indigenous variants of kebabs across many countries. When it came to India, for the first time, in the 14th century with the Mughals, it was a humble preparation of lightly seasoned meat, cooked over a fire. But India being the hub of spices, it could not retain its humble status for long. Very soon, it evolved into a distinctively regal culinary delicacy, perfected by the royal cooks for the Mughal Emperors.
India did already have its own version of the kebab called the “Maas ka Soola” which was cooked with game meat such as venison and wild boar. But all of these indigenous recipes have evolved significantly under the Mughal rule and the finesse of their royal “bawarchis”.
Till about the 19th century, all kebabs were cooked over horizontally placed skewers and not vertical ones. It was in the 19th century that Turkey gave rise to the doner kebab, traditionally served with bread.
Historically, the marinating process of the kebab varies from the place to place but commonly revolves around a slather of lime juice, yoghurt, onion juice, oil, cinnamon, tomato juice and other ground spices.
Although, the origin of kebab was most probably just cut up pieces of a hunk of freshly killed animal meat cooked over a wood fire with a dash of salt, and maybe some chilli powder added to it. The subtle addition of the myriad flavours, nuanced textures, and a wide taste range was an art form that evolved over a long period of time and is still continuously innovated and experimented upon.
In the 21st century, kebabs have become a high end delicacy served in top-notch restaurants and eateries. Some of the most interesting modern kebabs and their origin are:
1. Tunde and Galawati Kebab - This tender, succulent melt-in-the mouth patty shaped kebab from Lucknow got its unsuspecting name from its creator, Haji Murad Ali. He only had one hand and was locally called Tunday, as is common in colloquial Hindi for people with any arm handicap. Haji Murad, is said to have used 160 spices in his special kebab and had secured the patronage of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who expressed his wish to eat a kebab that was soft and easy on his toothless mouth. While the local name of the maker was given to the kebab, this soft and tender preparation with certain slight variations is also known as the Galawati kebab because of its sheer tenderness. Unlike most kebabs that are roasted on open flame, these are deep fried in clarified butter.
Galawati means 'soft', a kebab that melts in the mouth, and that was the specific purpose. It is believed that it was Haji Murad, who made the first Galawati Kebab, and gave the court this creamy, rich, mouth-watering delicacy is also accredited with inventing the Moti Polau. Instead of beef, he used the finest portions of lamb, which was finely minced and to it a meat tenderiser (unripe papaya) was added, along with a divine mix of over 160 exotic spices to build the rich, distinct flavour. The minced meat was then given the shape of patties and fried in clarified butter for a delectable finish. Has the talks of Galawati kebabs got you craving for some? You can order in from Oudh 1590, for a safe, hygienic and fast home delivery.
2. Kakori Kebab – The place Kakori is famed not just for the well-known Kakori Conspiracy of 1925, but also the delectable kebabs that are the name-sake of this small town in Uttar Pradesh. Kakori Kabab is one of the most famous dishes of Awadhi cuisine and is known for its moist, soft texture, fragrant flavour and rich aroma. Just like Seekh Kebabs, they too are roasted on skewers and served with Indian breads (usually, naan). In fact, they have evolved as a softer, more tender version of Seekh kebabs which were already in peak popularity in Awadh.
Legend goes, a local lord of Lucknow, in the Kakori district, Nawab Syed Haider Kazmi, arranged a dinner party for some of his British colleagues during the mango season. The Nawab served the very best of Awadhi cuisine for his British friends, including the immensely popular Seekh kebabs. His lavish hospitality took a severe setback when a certain British official made a hurtful remark about the hard, chewy texture of the Seekh Kebabs.
This offended the Nawab greatly, and he asked his Rakabdars and Khansamas to immediately design a tender version of Seekh kebabs. The royal cooks then spent several days and nights in the palace kitchen to curate a more refined variant of the Seekh kebabs and then after about ten days of rigourous experimentation and wild inventions, they finalised the recipe of what are now popularly known as the Kakori Kebabs.
These kebabs has a very refined, soft and smooth texture. The usage of 'Maliabali' mangoes to tenderise the meat and a blend of eclectic spices, was the secret behind the softness of these kebabs and their distinct flavour. It was after this that the Kakori Kebabs rose to fame. Crossing the boundary-lines of Kakori, these kebabs became popular in the entire region of Awadh, and popularised the art of using raw fruits (such as raw mango and papaya) as meat tenderizers in kebab recipes. Kakori kebabs are a great option for a family dinner or lunch.
3. Shami Kebab - A very popular kebab in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Shami kebab is made with meat, chickpeas and egg. Eaten as a snack, and a starter or an appetizer, the kebab dates back to the Mughal era when Syrian cooks invented it in the emperor's kitchen. Bilad-al Shaam was the historical name of Syria, the kebab derives its name from there.
These three make the most popular list of modern kebabs with the richest of history and also taste. If this journey of kebab through the ages ignites the hunger-fire of the inner Nawab in you, order in your favourite kebabs from the authentic Awadhi delicacies served at Oudh 1590.