- Sunday, 17 October 2010

Lucknow, India: City of Nawabs & Kebabs

I decided to go to Lucknow in March 2010. Yes out of all the places, Lucknow. The question is , why? I chose this place because its home to some my really close friends and as a young traveller & thinker i wanted to try all sorts of Lucknowi food.

I have been to Lucknow a couple of times before, in fact have even spent a brief period of my childhood there, but those visits did not have much purpose, as this one. I took early morning Shatabdi from New Delhi and by noon reached Lucknow. My friend M (the islander) was there to pick me up from the railway station. Amidst all the honking and rash driving of her driver we reached her home. I had made my purpose of the trip very very clear. We were not sitting at home, but driving or walking through the city and explore.

We were later joined by another young friend of ours A, who probably owns the roads of Lucknow, or more rightly he likes to think so. To him, traffic lights are invisible & cars can not be driven at less that 70kmph in busy hours. I can probably give him the title of modern lucknowi nawab. Now let me clarify, I say nawab not for rash driving or luxuries he likes to indulge in, but for the knowledge he seems to have of all the right eateries, streets & history of the town.

It was 4pm and we started with Shekhawat (near Lucknow Golf Course in a thin lane). Its a small eatery serving tone of he best of kebabs in town. You have choices of Shammi & Seekh kebabs only. Yes it sounds weird, but this tiny eatery has survived for ages by serving only these two mouth-watering kebabs. Plus Biryani of course.

We then headed to Idris-ki-biryani in chowk (Old Lucknow) set among old crumpling houses. This tiny eatery also comes with history of its own. Generations down, the recipes have been handed over but the aroma & flavours, as they say, have remained intact. As the name suggests, this eatery serves the best Lucknowi biryani. Let me also clarify at this stage, the biryani in lucknow is different from what we get in Delhi or Hyderabad. Lucknowi biryani comes with aroma filled white rice, each grain separated & full length, and a few chunks of mutton with some masala. Its served with a curry which you can choose to have or have not. My friends tell me, royalties of lucknow & common people have always prefered mutton over chicken. So if you are in lucknow, and you are a chicken lover, you might be disappointed.

We then did a short trip across the city. I noticed all the lights, roads, people, old cramping dingy houses, cows, innumerable rickshaws, hospitals, schools, government buildings, historical places, tongas and not to forget the big Ambedkar park. But there was an air of calmness. It was a pleasure to see such a mix of two religions so beautifully spread across everywhere. We were home by 8 pm, thats the standard hour for children to be home. It was lucknow, it was sweet and we were children.

The moment we got home, we were told that some family friend had dropped in some mutton curry at home, cooked in the most authentic way in a Muslim kitchen. I was curious again. But i was already so stuffed. So me and M decided to have it as our mid-night meal with probably 1 roti or bread. We both later went up to the terrace and sat there to talk , think & do our secret ritual.

Next day was the day of Aminabad & Tunday. Oh yes, i was super excited for it. We were now joined by another friend of mine from Delhi (whose parents also live in Lucknow) AG. She has always been the on-the-foot-explorer kinds. We always have a good time together. Me & M picked her up and together we went to Aminabad. Aminabad is a very busy market area in Old lucknow- it will easily remind you of Chandni Chowk in Old delhi. I bought kolhapuri chappals which is strong & sturdy till date.

Ok, so when you are in Lucknow & been appetizing for world famous Tunday Kebabs you might just get confused. There are very many duplicates. The historical, authentic and original Tunday Kebabi is located in Aminabad, M.U. eating Point, Naaz Cinemas Road. My historian-nawab-friend had told me the history of this eatery. Tunday is basically hindi term for 'one who has a missing arm'. So this place was originally owned by a man who did not have one arm but used to make the best kebabs in Lucknow using his other hand. His kebabs have now become world famous & the eatery is now run by third generation using the same old secret recipe. This generation has also acquired the trade mark for its logo. But mind you, this hasn't stopped duplicates thriving across Lucknow, and thats the beauty of our India.

Its located in a thin clumsy lane, so you can not take your car through it, or probably through entire Aminabad. The best way to explore is to walk or take rickshaw. I finally reached the much talked & heard about eatery. As usual we got a few glances from locals who were wondering on who we were. The eatery is small but with ample place to sit. This is one of those places where you can not sit & linger on by chatting up or drinking fresh lime sodas. You come in- sit- order-eat-order again (for sure)-eat-pay-go. We ordered for kebabs which are served with paper thin parathas which again you can choose to have or have not. After almost 4 plates of mouth-watering-finely-spiced kebabs , followed by Thumbs Up & Baba Elaichi, we left. We had filled ourselves up again. We walked through the Aminabad market again to find our Car in the parking lot.

After all the heat & sweat, we thought of having a coffee or smoothie. M took us to Mint, a nice warm modern coffee shop with lounge like seating. It was a total contrast to the old world charm of Aminabad. We ordered our coffees & shakes & just sat there talking, giggling & taking mock-witch pictures of each other with chocolate cream smeared teeth. Our favorite time pass on holidays.

After two days of non-stop mutton bonanza, me along with these two friends of mine were heading to Benaras without any train reservation. All three of us were seeking quarter-life-salvation.


  1. So Well said abt lkn .. you reminded me of my gud old days .. :)
    few facts to add -
    1. On every Eid - Tunday supplies biryani n kebabs to SRK's and Aamir's Aftari Parties. And did u notice pics of all actor hung in Tunday's restaurant.
    2. You missed out - eating out at Dastar-Khan, another speaciality of Lkn .. and u r rite.. people at Lkn prefers mutton to chicken ..
    3. Near Mayawati's house there is an amazing Cafe, its Cheese Bread n Coffee is vry famous. am forgetting the name of the place will let knw later .

    You didnt buy Chiken Kurta or tops frm Chowk?
    Did u try Pani Puri @ love lane in hazratgunj?

  2. Point # 1- well noted, i really did not know this =)
    Point # 2- Dastar-e-khan was on the agenda, but we really did not have anytime.
    Point # 3- Cappuchino Blast? Just gguessing.
    Last Point- My friend's mother gifted me beutiful chicken work pieces, i still have them..in unstitched form though :(

  3. I went to lucknow resently . I visited Idris Biryani after checking up your page and Doing other research here and there

    Thanks for putting up the Info it was really helpfull

    I have shared my review on Idris on below link


    1. Glad to know, this blog served some purpose Anirudh. :)
      I read your review and liked it too ! well done.