FLAVOURS OF AVADH
ROYAL SPECIALITIES AND THE LAST COURSE
Wthe nawabs, Muharram was observed in a luxurious and ostentatious manner, with lavish processions led by drum beats and men in mourning carrying banners on long poles. At that time of the year, the Imambaras were painted and draped in curtains made of fine gold embroidery and the kitchens on the premises did not believe in the old adage of too many cooks spoiling the broth! They prepared tabbaruk or offerings distributed free of cost to countless devotees. All through the ten days of mourning, the nawabs, taluqadars and other distinguished personalities of the city also received tabbaruk from the Imambaras. The typical food prepared for free distribution included one small sheermal bread, two khameeri rotis (roasted yeast bread), one dish of lamb pulao, one bowl of tale-aloo-ka-salan, (fried potatoes in gravy), one clay pot of barfi, (sweet cakes made from milk and sugar) and a bowl of zarda (sweet saffron rice). The end of feudal rule has pulled the curtain down on such lavish practices, reducing the annual tabbaruk offering to a miserly portion of sheermal and potato curry. Besides kabab, quormas and pulao, Lucknow excelled in the making of pickles and chutneys – murabbas, achaars and various kinds of sweets – into which they creatively and painstakingly introduced hundreds of innovations. Mango murabba is a popular sweet and juicy relish, but in Avadh the chefs would make mango murabba with whole unripe small mangoes, skillfully retaining the original appearance of the green outer skin. The final product looked as if, small and unripe mangoes had just been plucked from the tree and dipped into the syrup.
Muslim cooks were not very good in making sweetmeats; the non-muslim halwais excelled in this field. The ubiquitous jalebi, its big cousin imerti, balushahi and sohan halwa were some of the items popularly enjoyed, besides halwas of various other kinds prepared in the home kitchen. The cuisine of Avadh is basically non-vegetarian, but there are regions and communities which excel in the preparation of vegetarian dishes. These dishes are simple, but, are the ultimate choice in gourmet food. Daals or lentils were another staple with plenty of variety. The daal served on royal tables was called khasgi daal. Arhar-ki-daal had two basic varieties—daal badshah pasand and daal sultan. The most popular dish of lentils in Avadh is keoti-ki-daal and daal sagpeta. Daal was also used in making a wide variety of khichdis. It is said that at the table of Mirza Bahadur Sadiq Ali Khan, there would be 23 kinds of khichdis and 32 types of chutneys to go with them.
The cuisine of Lucknow reflected the courteous culture of the region to a large