Brought into existence by the bawarchis (royal chefs) of the Nawabs of Lucknow, the method is known popularly as ‘Dum Pukht’. Known for its remarkable ability to keep all the aromatic fragrances of the food surprisingly well-preserved, this one method is a sui generis from Lucknow.
Like the handi in Dum Pukht, Uttar Pradesh, which also happens to be India’s most populous state, is the melting pot of varied cultures. Uttar Pradesh Food is diverse as its geography. The enormity and sheer diversity prevalent across the length and breadth of its vast territory can be seen from the fact that the state has been divided into two distinctive food zones.
A gourmet’s delight and an abode for those human souls given to joyous revelry, Uttar Pradesh is undoubtedly a foodista’s delight and redemption.
Being the former seat of Nawabshahi rulers during the Mughal dynasty, the cuisine of this area bears the distinctive impression of having originated from the royal court of the Nawabs. The city of Lucknow has been christened ‘Nawabon Ka Sheher’ in line with the refined mannerism and the legendary etiquette with which the local folks are blessed. Remember the title song from the Bollywood movie Daawat-e-ishq? It mentioned a word ‘Dastarkhwan‘ in the very first line of the lyrical piece. the word stands for a large ceremonial table laden with delectable mouth-watering fantasies of all kinds, an exclusivity from Lucknow. Uttar Pradesh food is largely defined by this culture of Awadhi food finesse, and the opulent ‘Dastarkhwan’!
The Nawabs of Lucknow were great connoisseurs when it came to the matter of having their food, and that too in an elaborate manner. And boy, what an excellently rich tradition they managed to make the norm!
‘Muskuraiye, ki aap Lucknow me hain!’ Lucknow is the holy grail for all those who wish to titillate their non-vegetarian taste buds! Vegetarians, as well, have an array of vegetarian delights to spice up their day. Lay your hands upon Vinod Mehta’s Lucknow Boy to get more acutely familiar with the cuisines of Lucknow.
From the much-renowned Tundey Kebabs of Aminabad which are best served with Rumali roti to the Galawati Kebabs which dissolve as soon as you place them inside your mouth, Lucknow has a curious way of bringing a smile on every foodie’s face. Kulcha-Nihari and the wonderfully delectable Lucknawi Biryani add to the already rich platter of gastronomic delights on offer.
For those who are hardcore veggies, Tehri and Nargisi kofta, both belonging to the same family of rice-servings, provide for a gastronomic delight. And if it is naan you’re looking for, Sheermals (an unusually tasty sweet bread preparation lathered with butter) must be high up on your list.
Prakash ki Kulfi in the bustling Aminabad area, the Chandni Chowk of Lucknow, serves only Kulfi Faludas which are worth killing for. And yes, I am using the word in its most literal and primitive sense. Lucknawi delicacies hence form a large part of the food of Uttar Pradesh, and not without reason.
Ah Kanpur! The fragrance of your Kakori and Boti kebabs remains suspended like a blanket of festivities, lending a considerable degree of romanticism to your atmosphere. The Biryani served at Baba’s in Swaroop Nagar is something which is hard to resist. Then there is the famous ‘Thaggu ke Laddu’ which has earned a reputation for itself by serving a kulfi under the rather coquettish name of ‘Badnam Kulfi’. Uttar Pradesh Food, like the inherent humor in the state, is a force to reckon with!
For all the fish-lovers out there, Rampur offers two of the best dishes made using fish: Rampuri Rohu and Zamindoz which are by all means a veritable culinary delight. With the aroma of fried fish coated with a thick paste of exotic spices pervading the air, it is hard to resist the temptation even if you are a professed vegetarian.
On the brighter side, there is no need to resist the temptation, as Paneer Pasanda, not of the ordinary kind which is served across the multitude of Indian restaurants, but a class in itself; is there at the service of your taste buds. So now you know where that awesome dish came from – Uttar Pradesh!
You need only dig your teeth into the richly succulent kebabs served in this area, especially Shab Deg, to be able to write eloquently about the unparalleled variety of spices employed to prepare such ecstatic delights, and proudly forms a part of Uttar Pradesh food.
Eastern Uttar Pradesh
Which one place comes to your mind when I mention this part of UP? If the answer is not in the affirmative for Banaras, then I must say that you aren’t a true food-seeker. It is the holy city which epitomizes the richly diverse food culture of this region.
Not for nothing this city is dubbed the city of alleys, and in every neighboring alley you might discover a hitherto unheard of shop which might have a culinary surprise reserved for you up its kitty. Talk about the specialities of Uttar Pradesh food, and Varanasi is irrefutably a part of it. You can begin with a light breakfast of ‘Puri-sabzi‘ (kneaded dough fried in clarified butter and vegetable stew) along with a mouthful of Jalebis (coiled fritters doused in a sugary syrup) to start your day, and a near perfect one at that. And it’d be relatively pointless to mention the Lassi served in earthen vessels called Kulhads. During the winters, it is the Malaiyo which usurps the position of lassi.
The famous Kashi Chaat Bhandar at Godowliya in the old city must not be missed at any possible rate, for the myriad varieties of ‘golgappas‘ and ‘chaat‘ that are, no doubt, the best. Chaat is a favourite part of the cuisine of Uttar Pradesh, and it is one of the most amazing kinds of chaat that you’ll ever have in the country. Not one of the best, but ‘the‘ best. Kesri Chaat Bhandar in the Nichibagh locality, although less popular, is in no way prejudiced when it comes to serving excellent Tomato chaat.
For those who have an irresistible appetite for non-vegetarian delights, Hotel Lallan at Madanpura is the Holy Grail. And just when you thought that the armory up Varanasi’s kitty had run out, the not-so-ordinary Banarasi paan which has this sublime attribute of dissolving in your mouth as soon as you put it in your mouth. No wonder they say that you need not possess teeth in order to savor a Banarasi paan.
As Eastern Uttar Pradesh closely straddles the border of Bihar, a Bihari touch to the local culinary delights can never be ruled out. Take for example the delicious Bati-Chokha, which is a staple Uttar Pradesh food dish for a number of local folks.
The Sugary Appetite
Those who cannot afford to resist the lust for all things sweet in their lives, Uttar Pradesh food has some curious offerings for you. Agra’s Petha and Rasmalai, with its irresistible flavor and dripping sugary syrup, are a sweetmeat par excellence. Khurchan and Peda from Mathura are in no way less distinct and mouth watering. And then the Shahi Tukda of Oudh region and Laal Peda from Banaras are a connivance to titillate the sweet tooth of those smitten by the love for sweetmeats.
P.S: My apologies for writing about a not-so-appealing topic, in the strictest sense of the term. Yours truly is not a sadist, as this post would have you believe.