If you have a faint idea of the Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow, galauti kebabs and biryani will spring to mind immediately. But the cuisine has so much more to it, along with intriguing tales of yore. And this is exactly what the Awadhi Food Festival currently on at Waterfront Terrace and Bar, Goa Marriot Resort and Spa, Miramar aims to showcase.
An indigenous part of Lucknow, also known as the City of Nawabs, the restaurant sets the mood for what is to come with its carefully done decor all around which will instantly transport you back in time and give you royal feels.
Guest chef Asif Qureshi, who hails from Lucknow and has carefully selected and put together the buffet options, has used the authentic age-old techniques of cooking these sumptuous dishes, including grinding the many masalas on stone.
While most of the buffet options change every alternate day so as to offer guests variety, the iconic galauti kebab, which includes a non vegetarian and vegetarian option too, remains a constant, prepared over a live counter. Also known as the tunday kebab, it is quite obviously a favourite with people queuing up for second helpings.
The other starters also feature an assortment of flavours to choose from including the tandoori murgh baradari, haldi mirch ki tawa macchi, multani paneer tikka, and the ananas ki tikka, among others. If you are someone who believes that fruit and spice should not be mixed, the explosion of flavours in your mouth as you sample the ananas (pineapple) ki tikka will definitely change your mind.
The heroes of the main course are without doubt the nehari and the murg korma shiraz. In keeping with the traditional method of cooking, preparation of both these takes approximately 24 hours.
The many masalas used in the preparation of the nihari are not put directly into the oil. Instead these are put into a pouch or potli which is then added into the pot. While much of what comprises Awadhi cuisine is non vegetarian, the festival has also provided for the same dishes in vegetarian style. Thus while the signature non vegetarian dish is known as kareli nihari and is best had with taftan (a type of bread), vegetarian options include arvi ki nihari, kathal ki nihari, and bamiatan ki nihari.
The murgh korma shiraz is also done over a slow fire and according to Qureshi, although quite popular during the times of the nawabs, is not seen too often in Lucknow today. Nowadays it is prepared only on special occasions like weddings. Digging into this is quite an experience.
Coming to the hugely popular biryanis, Qureshi reveals that the difference between Lucknow biryanis and those from other parts of India is that while one may encounter the masalas added in other biryanis, despite adding masalas to it, the Lucknow biryani is done in such a way that it appears completely clear. On offer are biryanis like chuara ke biryani, champ paya ki biryani, gosth dum biryani, murg badyani biryani, etc.
In fact, he says, the unique thing about Awadhi cuisine is that although a number of spices are added in the preparations, one does not feel the spiciness of the dish, however you will get all the flavours. Something that guests will agree to whole-heartedly.
While chicken and mutton tend to dominate the Awadhi menu, a few fish options are also on offer. These are the fish caught from the River Gomati which flows through the city. And the dum ki macchi is truly enjoyable. Other non vegetarian options include the must try aloo kheema, samak hussaini, murgh stew, nazarabadi gosth korma, mahi qualiya, etc.
The vegetarian offerings include dal e asifi, nawab kofta, subz noor e chaman, warakat, mash qualiya, dastarkhwan e sahi paneer, etc. Guests can finish off the meal with a sweet sampling of desserts like sahi tukda, anjeer halwa, gultatti, chukandar ka halwa, etc.
According to Qureshi, even sometime after you have had your fill, the taste of the varied flavours will remain. However it would be fair to go one step further and state that long after you have tasted the dish, the memory of the flavours will remain etched in your memory constantly tempting you to return for yet another feast.