The Ramzan effect
A walk through Lucknow’s lanes during the holy month throws up a range of culinary delights
Despite the march of urbanization, Lucknow has managed to preserve fragments of its famed Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. A visit to the old city during Ramzan shows how the dastarkhwan, or spread, continues to be a robust mix of delicious cuisine and love.
I always start from the Chowk area, where the Ramzan bazaars are set up for the entire month of fasting. Just past Akbari Gate, through the serpentine streets towards Tahseen Ki Masjid, lies a different era. Here, the city continues to make an occupation out of feeding and eating. The sound of hammers pounding silver into thin sheets to cover mounds of sweets gradually drowns out the noise of traffic. In this Lucknow, great attention is paid to food, one of the building blocks of culture.
Ramzan in summer is tough, so it’s important for those keeping the roza (fast) to eat a healthy but filling meal at sehri (the pre-dawn period for eating) and a heavier meal at iftar (when you break the fast). A traditional menu comprises fruits, juice, milk and dates. I would recommend you arrive there at sehri to sample nimish (sweetened milk foam). Mildly flavoured with saffron and cooled overnight to be served with nuts, it’s available at every corner on the streets of Chowk.
Right by Akbari Gate is Sri Lassi Corner, an iconic outlet that serves the thick sweetened yogurt drink with dollops of cream—perfect to alleviate summer fatigue. If you prefer a slightly lighter option, try the thandai, a refreshing cashew-milk concoction at Raja Ki Thandai close by. During Ramzan, a number of the Chowk eateries serve khus sherbet and flavoured milk that helps in digestion and hydration.
At iftar, opt for dishes that use the dum pukht style of cooking. The method was nothing less than an art form, consisting of elaborate menus of kebabs and kormas. Even today, these dishes, cooked traditionally, continue to hold sway in different streets. And since each street is named after a dish—for example, Sheermaal Wali Gali—navigation becomes easy.
As you weave your way through the chaos, don’t forget to stop at Rahim’s Hotel for nihari and kulcha. Other quintessential favourites are Tunde Kababi’s kebab paratha, galawati kebabs and ulte tawe ka paratha. If biryani is on your mind, head to Idris Biryani House near Pata Nala, within the old city limits. En route, stop and pick up some mutton boti kebabs from Momin.
A typical Ramzan meal here ends with a kulfi and paan. The choices are many—Chanakya near the KD Singh Babu Stadium, Prakash in Aminabad or Prem Kulfi at the Akbari Gate circle for kulfi, and Maghai Paan Bhandar for paan.
During Ramzan, most restaurants in the city give you the option of paying a little extra to feed those who can’t afford a decent meal. After all, it is a city made for Awadhi mehmaan nawazi and dastarkhwan.
DELHI TO LUCKNOW
Top tip: Use the day to explore the city. Sign up with Tornosindia.com for immersive heritage walks.
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