The search of kabab cannot start without the mention of Dastarkhwan. Dastarkhwan is a laid out table which is all encompassing.It is famous for its meat dishes based on finely ground and filtered condiments, and for the style with which the food is served.Certain dishes are common to all occassions.These are the pulao, a derivative of the international pilaf; the kabab, again with its international connections; the qorma ( a particular curry);the shorba (like a soup) and the naan ( a bread).It is the symphony of all these together which transcends all regional barriers and gives to the senses, a high.
Amongst the range of kababas are kabab e sangh ( cooked on the heat of stone), pateeli ke kabab ( cooked in a vessel), kabab e gul ( shaped like a rose), kabab e warqi ( made with a fine layer of mince), shammi kabab ( with mince ground daal and filled with green masala), kabab e bayzavi (cooked in the shell of egg), seekh kabab ( roasted on skewers), nargisi kabab ( with an egg within), qeema pasanda ( another mince delicacy), galawat kabab ( mince marinated with raw papaya) and kakori kabab ( smoothen meat kabab which just melts in mouth).
Each and every variety of kabab is a piece of art and the chefs typically have their signature masalas which are guarded from generations.Although there are many ways to enjoy the kababs, these are best enjoyed while enjoying ghazal, khayal, daadra, thumri or kathak(These are various expressions of music and dance.Some maybe considered a measure of nawabi decadence, but still are popular in their various avatars).A bit of liquor also comes in handy and acts as a multiplier effect!!
The seekh kabab has long been considered a piece de resistance in the Awadhi dastarkhwan . The beautifully executed kabab is what every Lucknawi is proud of. The seekh kabab, introduced in this region by the Mughals, was originally prepared from beef mince on skewers and cooked on charcoal fire. But later influences and innovations led to the use of lamb mince, which was preferred for its soft texture. Besides, serving of it on the dastarkhwan did not offend the sensibilities of the Hindu guests. The immense popularity of this kabab led to further refinements and improvements and one bawarchi from Kakori found much acclaim for his efforts in this direction. ‘Kakori Kababs’ drive their lineage from there.(Kakori is a small hamlet on the outskirts of Lucknow, in the Lucknow – Malihabad mango – belt. During the freedom struggle, it became well known for the famous ‘Kakori Case’ when a band of freedom fighters looted the train carrying the British Government Treasury money at this obscure place).These kababs just melt into your mouth.Mere touching makes them crumble.Slide your fingers over these kababs and you can distinctly feel the smoothness of the wrappings.These are actually piece of art.
- It is difficult to find a place serving good seekh kababs and specially kakori kababs. Nevertheless, Al-kauser in Diplomatic Enclave and near Malai Mandir in R K Puram, Delhi serves good kakori kababs.These are neither heavy on stomach or your wallet.The kababs needs to be handled carefully otherwise they just break apart. They are just too soft.Pudina Chutney generally goes well alongwith onion circles.Go late in the evening near malai mandir, grab a chair under open sky, shout out for the man friday, dont even look at the menu and just order the kakori.The hole in the wall eatery also offers the best handi biryani this side of New Delhi.The aroma wafts thru the air. Never mind the ocassional street dog sniffing up the party that you are having and without permission resting next to your leg and waiting for you to be generous. Dont worry, they have never bitten anybody and it would be in scheme of things to throw a small shaving of kabab to the mongrel.Dum Pukht at Maurya serves decent kakori, but the prices make you cringe.Certainly not advisable.
- For more succulent seekh kababs, blindly hit Colonel Kabab at Defence colony. The
right way is to park your car as close as possible to the eatery, roll down your windows and shout. In no time a man would appear and in quick succession would read out all the dishes.You need not be confused.Order only and only mutton seekh kabab ( no chicken, no fish).Focus on mutton.The kababs are cooked on charcoal and melt in the mouth.They melt because they are made of the most fatty pieces the butcher could find on the goat!.So forget about your cholestrol count for a evening and dig.Vegeterians have no place here. Actually alongwith Seekh Kabab, 2 small pegs of whisky in a plastic cup would do harm.Maybe they will dissolve the cholestrol in kababs. For the snooty and the high heeled types who cant stand the sight of eating in the car and driving later with oily fingers on the steering wheel, dont fret. They have a cubby hole upstairs which is so claustrophobic and fire friendly, without any escape route, that you will freeze in horror.But what the heck!, you are just 10 feet above and in emergency, you may just jump down and survive with some fractured bones. The food is cooked down and transported upstairs. My suggestion: dont go upstairs.Give up your high heel attitude once in a while.Moets is nearby, but give it a go by.
- Bukhara at Sheraton, Delhi is a hyped up restaurant.For starters it is obscenely expensive, is not value for money and except for 1 speciality item ( The raan-leg of a young lamb, this dish needs special technique and is not available elsewhere), all the others are good but not worthy of such price, snob and hype.Additionally, sitting on wooden logs is a nightmarish back breaking experience.The daal bukhara is rich, fat laden daal which is prepared keeping the white men visitors rush.The foreigners love the ambience and the family naan ( this naan is carried by 4 waiters!!).The family naan unfortunately becomes rubbery by the time, you reach its middle.Strictly avoidable except if you suddenly get the same wish as Qusay ( son of Saddam who lit his cigars with 50USD bills) or you wish to devour the raan.
- Khan Chacha in its earlier avatar at Khan Market was a decent joint. You go in the alley, push your way through, try to attract the attention of Chachaji and place your order. The fare was decent but not exceptional.I have not been to the plusher version of Khan Chacha but presumably it will preserve its uniqueness.
- In Mumbai, Peshawari at Grand Maratha is great for kababs.The platter is awesome and mind blowing and well worth a try.If you thought that tandoori connotes less oil, lean meat, less rich-think again.Just peep thru the giant glass separating the chef from the carnivores and you would nearly faint as the chef dips a muslin cloth in a large bowl of yellow amul butter and then squeezes all the butter over a single skewer.They make the kababs soft by marinating them in butter !!.These are delicious but very heavy.It is advisable that you walk down to your residence or hotel after this nawabi feast.This way maybe the sin is less and additionally you may digest a fraction of feast!!.
- Khyber at Fort, churn out kababs delicacies by the dozen.The spread is good and the food is great.The kababs texture should never have course flesh, and neither should it have a lingering after taste.This place scores on both accounts.
- I dont know the fuss around Bade Miyan behind Taj. It attracts a mob at sunset and has many dishes. Are they special, many seems to vouch, for me, its Al-Kauzer and Colonel Kabab which wins hands down.
- Also try the “Great kabab Factory”. Only problem is that they nauseate you with the plethora of kababs and you would run away from the sight of kababs for weeks. If you want to get saturated with kababs, do visit, otherwise, just scoot.
- Galawati Kababs are difficult to find outside Luknow.If you happen to be there, visit Bada Imambara, and eat Tunde kababs.These are heavenly and very heavy and worth a try.
- If you dont want to go to a restaurant but still want to dig into great kababs, head for Modern Bazaar in Delhi and buy their chicken reshmi and rainbow kababs. They are great. Green Chick kababs are rubbery, tasteless. Dont waste your money.