Most red-meat eaters thrive on the texture of the stuff. So, it is inexplicable that Lucknow’s gourmets have invented kebabs so soft that they could give a vegetable a complex. The galauti and the kakori have both originated in Lucknow. In my ignorance, I thought that they were both largely the same, until a visit to Bangalore’s newest hotel, Vivanta by Taj, proved otherwise. I had the privilege of having a meal cooked by none other than chef Anwar Ali Ansari, son of the legendary Ghulam Rasool, a contemporary of Imtiaz Qureshi. In his heyday, Rasool worked for the Taj. Quite a lot of the spectacular meal was nouvelle Indian. However, chef Ansari’s qormas and kebabs bristled with authenticity. The single most outstanding feature of the entire meal was the galauti, which is when I asked him whether galauti mince could be used for the kakori and vice versa.
Roadside feast: In Lucknow, the galauti kebab is considered street food. Hindustan Times
For a fraction of a second, he looked shell-shocked. After all, to be asked such a profoundly ignorant question couldn’t be a regular occurrence for him. When he had regained his composure, he pointed out the differences between the two. The galauti is a kind of street food. At least, it is in Lucknow. Galautis are made of mince, taken from the leg of a lamb that has been through the grinder three times. The defining factor of a galauti is the fact that it has to be smoked. You fill a small cup with lit charcoal, a drop of ghee (clarified butter) and cloves, put the cup in the same container as the spiced mince and cover it with a close-fitting lid. In a few minutes, the smoke will perfume the mince. Too little smoking and you may as well not have bothered; too much and the dish will be inedible.
Potli masala, and garam masala, the recipes for which are closely guarded secrets anyway, constitute the spicing, besides saffron, fried onions, ginger and garlic. Galautis are formed into patties and roasted on a tawa (griddle).
On the other hand, kakori kebabs are an occasional treat, being much richer. Traditionally, they used to be made by specialist caterers on special occasions. Every kilogram of lamb (taken from the thigh) has to have 200g of kidney fat. It goes into the grinder no fewer than six times, and contains cardamom, saffron, onions, roasted chana powder, cashew paste, rose petals, cloves and khus-khus (poppy seeds). They are grilled on an open charcoal fire on skewers.
When Rasool first worked in a commercial kitchen, it was the norm for an apprentice to grind the mince for kakori kebabs on a silbatta (grinding stone). It took 8 hours for two assistants to get through 10kg of mince! Nowadays, food processors do the job in as many minutes.
That the galauti makes its appearance on sophisticated menus around the country says a lot about Lucknow’s street food.
Lamb Galauti Kebab
1kg meat from a kid lamb’s leg, minced
150g onions, fried brown
100g cashew nut
100g raw papaya paste
2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 tsp garam masala powder
2 tbsp roasted chana powder
2 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste
2 pieces of hot charcoal
Mince the meat thrice to ensure a very fine texture. Put the onions, cashew nuts and raw papaya in a grinder and make a fine paste. Mix in the lamb mince, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well in a large vessel. For smoking, make a well in the centre of the prepared mixture. In a small steel bowl, place the hot charcoal and put in cloves, and then add clarified butter. Immediately cover the larger vessel and leave it for 5 minutes so that the smoky aroma is absorbed by the meat. Remove the smaller bowl and refrigerate the mince overnight.
Make small patties of the prepared mince and cook it on very slow fire on a flat iron griddle for 3-4 minutes each. Serve hot with onion rings and mint chutney.
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