Lucknow, also nicknamed ‘the City of Nawabs’ has a special place in my heart. I had visited the place when I was about 9 or 10 years old and remember that I was mesmerized. I instantly fell in love with the enchanting land – the architecture, the tall buildings, the food! Oh, and did I mention the food? I think we can agree on the fact that food makes everything better. Lucknow is a dream destination for all kinds of food lovers; whether you may have a massive sweet tooth or like a tangy taste, the streets of Lucknow are sure to have a stall for you. If you ever visit Lucknow (and you must!), do not leave without trying out the below-listed food items.
1. Shahi Tukda
Starting our list with a magnificent sweet dish, Shahi Tukda is a beautiful dessert conceived in the times of the Mughals. The word ‘Shahi’ translates to royal and ‘tukda’ means a piece. Therefore, Shahi Tukda is nothing but a royal dessert, a favorite amongst the emperors of Lucknow. It is made with fresh milk, bread, sugar, and some desi ghee. This deep-fried bread is a staple in most Lucknowi parties and celebrations.
2. Chole Bhature
There isn’t a soul in India who doesn’t know the grandeur of Chole Bhature. This timeless classic is the king of street food and extremely popular all over the Northern part of India. Simple ingredients to a delicious treat, Chole Bhature is made with spicy chickpeas and a fried flatbread known as bhature. It is usually served as a breakfast dish and has several variations. Since the dish is so famous and widespread, its place of origin remains a subject of debate. Any foodie can relate to the fact that Chole Bhature is not only a dish but also an emotion. Can a dish be an emotion? Yes, sir, it can.
3. Dahi Badey
If there is anything the north is famous for, it is its chaat. Dahi Badey is one of the most popular and well-known chaat dishes of Lucknow. Although it is intended to be a snack item, Dahi Badey can be eaten at any point in time. This amazing dish is made by soaking the ‘badey’ or vada in water and eventually frying them. The sweet chutney and various other toppings give a tangy twist to the dish.
4. Kaju Curry
Rich, creamy, and infinitely delicious, the Kaju curry or Kaju masala is a must-try dish in Lucknow. This mouth-watering preparation of cashew, tomatoes, and cream is usually eaten with naan (made with maida) or paratha. Kaju curry is a savory dish and a favorite amongst the locals of Lucknow. This dish is made extensively during festivals such as Holi and Diwali, and it is also made for social gatherings and parties.
5. Makhan Malai
Trust me, once you eat this fabulous dessert, you’re bound to forget the cheesecake! Made from the goodness of fresh cream, milk, cardamom, and powdered sugar, Makhan Malai is a flavorsome source of happiness. This dish is prepared all over Uttar Pradesh and is a staple during the winters. Although Makhan Malai is quite time-consuming to prepare (taking about 8 long hours!), the end product is worth every delicious bite!
6. Galawati Kebab
If you visit Lucknow, do not leave without trying out this melt-in-mouth, exquisite kebab! Finely chopped keema, made better by adding a range of Indian spices and herbs on top, Galawati Kebab is indeed the food of the kings! According to a popular legend, this dish was specially invented for a toothless Nawab who just couldn’t relent to life without kebabs. So, you can probably imagine how tender and soft the kebabs are. Relish in the Awadhi aroma of the Galawati Kebab as you eat to your stomach’s fulfillment!
7. Gulabi Chai
If you’re bored of drinking the same, old tea every single day, feel free to try out this splendid variation! Gulabi Chai is a Lucknow special; it is refreshing, warm, delicious, and everything you need to give your day a jump start. This fancy drink is made with green tea leaves, saffron, cardamom, and kewra. It is sweet to drink and is highly beloved by the Lucknowites. Although this tea is a play on the traditional Kashmiri chai, it is widely accepted as a perfect blend of energy and taste!
8. Katori Chaat
Another addition from the chaat category, Katori chaat is a delicious delicacy in a bowl. This unique recipe is served in a deep-fried edible bowl and contains several vegetables such as potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. Serve this tangy dish with a tasteful chutney and you have a great evening snack for children and adults alike!
Brought into India from Iran, Sheermal is a mildly sweet flatbread made of flour with just a pinch of cardamom. It is well famed not only in Lucknow but also in Hyderabad, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Aurangabad. Sheermal is an ancient recipe and has evolved. Initially, it was made in resemblance to roti, however, as time passed by it came to be associated with naan more. This Awadhi treat is often enjoyed alongside kebabs or nihari in Lucknow.
10. Nihari and Kulcha
After spending the entire day exploring the streets of Lucknow under the grizzling sun, your hunger will surely soon fire up. The best way to satisfy your hunger in a cheap yet delicious way is by having the famous Nihari and Kulcha of Lucknow. An absolute favorite amongst the meat-lovers, the savory taste of this delightful dish is a must-try. The oldest and most popular restaurant for getting the best Nihari and kulcha in the city is Rahim ki Nihari in Lucknow’s Chowk area. Bon Appétit!
Disappointment remains out of the question when you’re in Lucknow. The best thing about the city (aside from its architecture, culture, and literally everything else) is that you’ll find eateries at every corner, so you need not worry about a growling stomach. You’ll find yourself to be in love with the city just as I was, and after trying these royal dishes, you would despise returning home. A food paradise, that’s what Lucknow is!