Small, modest outlets in Lucknow dish out some of the richest cuisine that harks back to the city’s glorious past..
Delicious family secret: The hugely famous Tunday Kababi outlet in Lucknow’s Chowk area is over 100 years old.
Lucknow, the city of Nawabs, is famous for not only its tehzeeb, tameez and nafasat (refinement) but also for the variety of delicacies it has on offer for foodies. The Tunday Kababi situated in the small and crowded Chowk area of Lucknow is a regular haunt of kebab lovers. Tucked away in a small lane in the bustling centre of the old city, the name and fame of this eatery has gone beyond Lucknow and even India. It is particularly well known in the Gulf countries.
Following its huge success, and noting the demand for the kebabs in air-conditioned comfort, a new outlet has been opened in the market area of Aminabad.
The original Tunday Kababi boasts a lineage that is well over a century old, spanning three generations. Its present owner, Mohammad Usmaan, gives the credit more to his clientele than the sumptuous fare his cooks prepare. “Customer se hi pehchaan banti hai” (It is only through customers that one gets an identity), he says.
But his patrons know the special place the Tunday Kababi has in the history of Avadh cuisine.
Established by a handicapped bawarchi, who was commonly called Tunda, in 1899 in the criss-crossed lanes of the Chowk area, where today it is impossible to walk briskly, leave alone ride/drive a vehicle, this food joint has miraculously preserved the original taste and flavour of its kebabs.
In Urdu, tunda means ‘without an arm.’ Mohammad Usmaan’s grandfather, despite being handicapped, managed to earn repute and respect for his speciality — preparing delicious and mouth-watering kebabs with just one hand. Ask the owner the recipe for such tempting kebabs and he says simply: “Yeh toh ek secret hai, jo hum batatey nahi kisi ko” (This is a secret recipe and we don’t share it with anyone).
The Aminabad outlet is also packed most of the time. While at the Chowk outlet the kebabs are made only from beef, at Aminabad both mutton and beef kebabs are served. Even with the availability of gas stoves, the Tunday Kababi at Chowk prefers to prepare its trademark kebabs on charcoal. This, says Usmaan, is what helps retain the distinct taste and overpowering aroma of the kebab, and makes it so soft.
While its fame has attracted Bollywood celebrities such as Dilip Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Anil Kapoor, Shabana Azmi and Anupam Kher, as well as several politicians, a full, satisfying and finger-licking meal — two parathas and four kebabs — can be had here for a mere Rs 30!
In addition to kebabs, the famous outlet offers other traditional cuisine including Biryani, Tandoori Murgh and Mutton Qurma.
The owner proudly tells us: “Hamarey kebab bahar ke sheharo mei bhi mangvaaye jaate hei aur log apni pasand se lekar bhi jaate hai” (Our kebabs go outside Lucknow too). But he adds that he does not export either cooked or uncooked items on the menu on a regular basis.
Usmaan sells 30-35 kg of kebabs every day, and the amazing story of Tunday Kababi is that many vegetarians, instead of getting put off by the sight of so much meat being tossed around, stand there and enjoy the goings-on at this bustling eatery.
Uday Dixit, a Lucknow resident, is one such person. “I’m a vegetarian but the aroma of the kebabs from the Tunday in the Chowk is so appealing that I deliberately stand outside the shop and savour the aroma of the kebabs,” he says.
Aiman Khan, a student of Lucknow University finds “the mouth-watering kebabs irresistible and the flavour exceptional.”
Saahil Rizvi, a software engineer based in Mumbai, makes it a point to visit the Tunday Kababi on every trip to Lucknow. “I’ve been eating these kebabs for years and just can’t get over their taste,” he says.
From kebab to nahari
But Lucknow has more than just kebabs to its rich cuisine. Another favourite eatery, more among locals than visitors, is Raheem ke Kulche-Nahari.
Established by Haji Abdul Raheem in 1893, this place is now manned and owned by his great grandson Mohammad Osama. It is a small and modest eating joint and a meal here costs a mere Rs 27. This modest amount gets you four kulchas and two pieces of nahari (morning in Persian), which is a thick and spicy gravy prepared either from trotters or beef shanks.
According to legend, when the Imambara was being built in Lucknow to provide employment to the poor and starving people of the city during a big famine, Nawab Asaf ud Daula ordered that some food should be served to the labourers right in the morning (nahari) as they would have come to work on an empty belly.
What was served was thick gravy made from beef shanks, and over the years the city included Nahari in its cuisine. While kulche-nahari is the clear favourite here, the joint also serves shirmaal (delicious, soft parathas), paya (trotters) and biryani. Each day about 50-60 kg of beef is consumed by its patrons. Rita Shah, a Chowk resident, is all praise for Raheem’s nahari and says: “My entire family adores the taste and this is a regular dish at our home.”
Irfan Malik, a labourer, says, “Purey din ke kaam ke baad raat ko ek nahari aur do kulche khakey pait bhar jaata hai saste mey” (After working all day a nahari with two kulchas fills my stomach for a modest amount).
The popularity of these two joints in Lucknow proves that even though this city is marching towards rapid urbanisation and modernisation, one of the ways in which it keeps its links with its roots is through the food from its glorious past.
Courtesy:The Hindu BusinessLine