The very mention of Oudh (Lucknow as it is known today) , which was the seat of a rich culture, brings to
mind the tradition of `pehleaap` (after you) ; the language which drips the politeness and the life-style
of the Nawabs. But what appeals to people the most is the cuisine of Oudh which in some ways was a
culmination of all that was best in art, culture and science.
The kingdom Awadh, stretches from Ganges to Himalayas. In the olden times it was a major centre of culture and learning. This land has been ruled by many kings but it reached its peak during the reign of the Nawabs of Awadh who transformed the sleepy village to a buzzing town.
The erstwhile province was famous for its high standards of gastronomic etiquette. This culture, which is preserved in the sanctorum of the landed aristocracy of Lucknow is still found today; and of course the legacy of the rakabdars (master cooks) who with tremendous discipline bordering on religious fervor, still follow the traditional style of cooking, handed over to them by their ancestors.
Awadhi cuisine is reminiscent of its illustrious gourmet nawabs like Asaf-ud-Daulah and Wajid Ali Shah. The unrivalled repertory of Awadhi delicacies that we savor today had the royal feel. Awadhi cuisine has traveled far and wide. But it is believed that only a handful of chefs with royal khansama lineage know the secret ingredients. Spices like zafran, cinnamon and cardamom, dried fruits and herbs are used extensively.
Awadhis became royal delicacies fit for the sovereign at banquets and hunts. And they embellished the "Dum Pukht" style of cooking with aromatic ingredients, dried fruits, and aphrodisiacs that delighted the insatiable Nawab no end and engaged the services of his vast harem full-time.
Dum Pukht is an elaborate method of cooking in big cauldrons filled with rice, mutton, vegetables, and spices, and then sealed with dough and cooked over a mild flame. "Dum" means steam, and "Dum Pukht" literally means to choke off the steam. Dum is the predecessor of the modern day 'slow-cooking' method.
The Awadhi bawarchis revolutionized kebabs by offering endless options like Kakori Kebabs, Galawati Kebabs, Shammi Kebabs, Zafrani Kebabs and Seekh Kebabs to name a few on the platter.