To most people Mughlai food is synonymous with Lucknow.But there’s more to the rich aromatic gravies, mouthwatering shammi kababs, creamy kormas,roomalis and fragrant biryanis of Avadh,. The Kathol (jackfruit) ki Biryani, and Chhole ki Biryani made in traditional spices, minus meat or chicken, as well as Subz Kakori and Vegetable Galawati can leave one spoilt for choice.The culinary spread from the land of nawabs is sensual treat indeed.
It is said that few parallels can be drawn to the lavishness and form of the traditional dastarkhwan (meaning spread of food).
The cooking style goes back a long time to when the former nawabs of Lucknow had a specialised chef for each dish that was made in their households.
“These chefs had to come up with innovative dishes to please their masters. They began to prepare food that did not look like what it was meant to be, like a paheli ka khaana, The dastarkhwan had at least 12 dishes or more and the tehzeeb (respect) flowed into the manner of eating.
The meal began with the guests’ hands washed in a
chilamchi, one learns. Then a sharbat was offered, made of a what was in season – either bel, phalsa, shijkanjveenj, gulab or khus. The soup known as shorba was a light extract of meat or vegetables.
There was no concept of starters then. One went directly to the main course – galawati or kakori kebabs, a salan or korma and accompaniments of breads and rice,
The cooking of rice was raised to its highest form in these kitchens – transforming the long-grained basmati rice of the Dehra Dun valley into biryanis and pulao, layered with meats and spices, and topped with raisins. Also, each of the dishes had their own particular taste.The secret to the taste lies in a jugalbandi of hand-pounded aromatic herbs and spice mixes, But though the menu seems elaborate, food does not ‘float in oil’ as is the common misconception. “Ghee and spices are used in moderation,“In fact Nehari was had at sehri time before beginning one’s fast in Ramzan as it gave one strength through the day.” The meal ends with traditional desserts like kheer and shahi tukda
With such a royal menu, it’s no wonder that the Lucknowi dastarkhwan is a much cherished gastronomic experience.