Lucknow is called the city of Nawabs and Kebabs!
While the Nawabs and their tales are remembered by a handful, it’s the kebabs that have everyone from across the globe drooling over them. Generally kebabs include a wide variety of skewered meals but in the Middle East it refers to meat that is cooked over or next to flames. Though originally the kebabs originated in Turkic kitchens and later spread to the Middle East; it was in Lucknow and under the patronage of the Nawabs that cooks were encouraged to experiment and to create the softest kebab found anywhere.
During British rule it was at a mango party in the nearby town of Kakori that a British officer complained about the hardness of the kebab. This prompted the cook to prepare a kebab that melted in the mouth.
Another legend regarding the royal cook who invented the very soft Kakori kebabs is about a toothless nawab who had yearned for a kebab but was unable to chew. Whatever the truth behind its origin, the town of Kakori became famous for the softest kebabs made in this part of the world that are considered today a culinary marvel.
The old part of the city, especially the areas of Nakhas and Akbari Gate have a number of eateries that prepare the kakori kebabs also called seekh kebabs. My search for the most popular maker of this delicacy ended at the Bawarchi Tola near Taaleem Gaah. In the narrow alley, flanked by small general stores and houses, is the modest kitchen of Raju where the mouth-watering kebabs are prepared and catered to parties and weddings.
Raju’s family has been preparing kakori kebabs for generations and the sight of various acknowledgement certificates, carefully hung on the plastered walls is proof enough of his popularity.
“Kakori Kebabs are a hit at parties and other functions. They make a great starter and when served with green mint chutney and lemon none is able to eat just one,” he says smiling confidently. But preparing the famous kebabs is not everyone’s cup of tea. According to Raju, it is an art unlike simple cooking.
“The marinated paste of lamb and other spices is prepared with utmost care. If the proportion of herbs and spices goes wrong, then that’s it! These days kebabs in five-star hotels are prepared in an oven and that is why they do not taste as good as those cooked directly over flaming coal.”
The kakori kebabs are a foodie’s delight. Its smoky aroma engulfs the senses and as soon as it reaches the mouth it truly melts and enslaves each and every taste-bud.
So if you want more of this lip-smacking delicacy, then don’t wait make it yourself just like Raju! Recipe
Preferably cook directly on flames/burning coal
- 2 cups minced mutton/lamb
- 1tsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1/4 tsp powdered black pepper
- 2tbsp chopped green coriander
- Chopped green chillies to taste
- 2tbsp chopped raw papaya
- 4 cloves
- 1 black cardamom
- 1/8tsp powdered cinnamon
- 1tsp cumin seeds
- 1 blade mace
- 1⁄4tsp grated nut meg
- 2cups onions-thinly sliced and fried till golden brown in 1⁄2 cup of ghee
- 1⁄4 cup bhuna chana powder
- Ghee for brushing
- Garnish with sprinkling chaat masala, onion rings and lemon wedges. Serve with green chutney
- Mix all the ingredients except ghee and garnishes to marinate for about 4 hours, then grind to form a smooth, thick paste.
- Knead this mixture well and mix in the roasted gram and the egg.
- Cover and refrigerate for another hour.
- About 25 minutes before serving,shape the meat around the skewers and place the kebabs on to a grill over a drip tray, or on a pre-heated oven (also on drip tray)
- If cooking them over a charcoal grill, you will have to keep rotating them so that they brown and cook evenly.
- They should take 15-20 minutes to cook.
- Brush with ghee and cook another 2 minutes.
- Garnish with chaat masala, onions and lemon and serve with green chutney.