As a true blue Lucknowite and a chef, a familiar query or point of conversation that I inevitably attract is about Biryanis and Kebabs.
Given, my heart will always beat a little extra for the Lucknowi Biryani, but let’s save that spicy conversation for another day. Let’s talk about Kebabs today.
A gift from Turkey & Persia, Kebabs made their way through via the Silk route & what happened next was what we do best. A marriage of flavours, spices & techniques to make this dish a ubiquitous part of our cuisine.
Mentions of Kebab-style cooking of meat however, go as far back as the Mahabharata era. Where the pre-Mughal kebab was more about marination & open grill cooking, basically more rustic in nature, the Mughal culinarians evolved it into a delicacy, enhancing them with spices, dry fruits & cooking techniques.
Kebabs don’t just come with variations, they come with interesting foodfables!
For instance, the Galouti or Galawat ke Kebab, a labour of love from the legendary Haji Murad Ali for the toothless Nawab, is synonymous with Lucknow’s kebab tradition, to the point of becoming a must-do on your itinerary. There are many more that deserve equal mention and respect. Let’s talk about a couple of them close to my heart..
Kakori has its own claim to fame. Nawab Syed Mohammad Haider Kazmi’s chefs were instructed to make the seekh texture as fine as they could to counter a snide remark from a British guest. After much research and toiling the Kakori Kebab was born. The secret to the softness being the Maliabali Mangoes used to tenderize the meat.
There’s another kebab which is always on my personal favourite list, the Dorra. A delicate kebab from Rampur with nearly a 200-year old recipe, its flavours stand out from the use of smoked meat, rare & exquisite spices and being cooked on a silken thread dabbed with sandalwood oil. The trick here is to cook without burning the silk thread & gently pull it off with a single tug before serving..
Aren’t food stories the true spice of any dish?