Lucknow Food & Culture
To Wajed Ali Shah goes the credit for tapping much of Lucknow's cultural potential. An unusual man whose preference for the finer things in life was matched by his disinterest in state affairs, this poet-king composed verses that inspire singers to this day. The Nawab's interests in the arts was shared by his people who freely indulged their refined and artistic inclinations, playing chess, visiting the theater and gorging on fine cuisine. Chronicles list about 37 types of breads, 47 types of pulao, 35 types of zarda, 19 types of kababs, 5 types of meat curry and 37 types of halwa cooked in those days.
Ever the truant, once Wajid Ali Shah tricked prince Asman Qadar of Delhi by serving a mutton curry which looked like marmalade. Asman Qadar then reversed the trick and served a lot of dishes made of sugar but which looked otherwise. Culinary rivalry was rife between nawabs and cooks were as important a royal servant as generals.
Every great cuisine style of India carries its legends but the story of Dum Pukht is unique. In the 1780s, the kingdom of Avadh was struck by famine. Ruler, Asaf-ud-daula began building the Bara Imambara in his capital Lucknow, to give employment to people.
Feeding hundreds of workers was a mammoth task, so the cooks used an ingenious traditional way to prepare the food. Rice, meat, vegetables and spices were put in huge vessels, the top sealed and the dish allowed to simmer in the slow heat of bukhari ovens. As the handis were being opened, the Nawab, who happened to pass by, decided to sample the food. Delighted by the subtle taste and delicate flavors, he introduced it into the royal kitchens, where refined by chefs, the unique Lucknow style of Dum Pukht cuisine was born.
Dum Pukht literally means maturing of a prepared dish. The handis (huge pots) of kormas, dals, and biryani are brought to the table and then unsealed. The melting taste of kakori kebabs and the temptation of sheermal rotis .heavenly! If Dum Pukht cuisine is the ultimate gourmet experience, Nihari and naan, a mutton dish served for breakfast, is the only thing that can complete a holiday to the land of Mughals.
Pan Chewing : The ritual of offering pan was the first thing served to a guest at the time of his arrival and at the time of his departure. This custom, chronicled by Ibn-e-batuta still remains popular in Lucknow. Pan is a leaf of a vine grown in hot and humid climate but under the shade so that direct sunlight does not burn the leaves. Generally pan is used with catechu (kattha) and quick lime which brings the red color to the mouth. Beetlenuts and other items like clove, cardamom, peppermint are added for special taste and aroma.
Languages spoken: Hindi, Urdu, Awadhi and English