Awadhi cuisine hails from the city of Nawabs, Lucknow. Nawabs of Awadh were inhabitants of Persia (modern day Iran) and initially were deputies of the Mughal Emperors, though later independent kings ruling the kingdom of Awadh.
Nawabs were used to a particular diet which comprised grains, fruits, dry fruits and vegetables that were available in that country, apart from meat in various forms. The Mughlai style of cooking was further refined by the Nawabs by adding exotic flavours of saffron and dry fruits and innovating coking styles with lots of inputs from Persian way of cooking. Dum cooking and cooking on slow fire was an art that was perfected in Lucknow and then there was extensive use of scents from flowers and plants that was quite a unique feature hear.
The Murg Mussallam is a typical example of Persian flavours merged with the Awadhi style of cooking. So is also the case with kababs. Originally, they were simply pieces of meat roasted over open fire, called boti kababs. Later, innovations were brought about in Awadh and the Shaami kababs, Galauti kababs, Kakori kababs, etc., were born out of innovations and improvisations here. Saffron was available in abundance in Persia and so, even the rice was flavoured with this spice. So is the case with sweet preparations, as saffron not only added colour, but it enhanced the flavours of the desserts too. The generous use of fresh and dry fruits in Awadhi cuisine is another gift from Persia, as a wide variety of dry fruits were available, like papaya, pomegranate, apricots, figs, pistachios, almonds and different varieties of currants, to name just a few. Dry fruits in the dishes symbolised prosperity and were a sign of opulence and royalty.
Awadhi cooking in Lucknow particularly improvised and flourished after the capital was shifted from Faizabad to Lucknow, as it was then that the successive Nawabs who ruled the province were connoisseurs of good food and fond of holding ‘daawats’ (feasts).
Lucknow’s dastarkhwan (laying of dinner on floor setting) would not be complete unless it had the following dishes, Korma (braised meat in thick and rich gravy), Salan (a gravy dish of meat or vegetable), Keema (minced meat), Kababs (pounded meat fried or roasted over a charcoal fire), Bhujia (cooked vegetables), Daal (lintels), Pasanda (grilled ribbons of marinated tender meat, usually kid lamb or beef served as kabab or in rich gravy). Rice is cooked with meat in the form of a Pulao, Chulao (fried rice) or served plain. There would also be a variety of breads including Sheermaals, Parantha etc. Desserts comprised Gullati (rice pudding), Kheer (milk sweetened and boiled with whole rice to a thick consistency), Sheer Birinj, (a rich, sweet rice dish boiled in milk), Muzaaffar (vermicelli fried in ghee and garnished with saffron). The Awadhi menu changes with each season and is unique to the festivals that mark the month. The severity of winters is fought with rich food Paya (trotters) that are cooked overnight, over a slow fire and the ‘shorba’ (thick gravy) eaten with Kulcha (a flaky pastry type bread).
Awadhi Cuisine is more of an art that can be perfected by practice and with a bent towards improvisation and innovation. Sure this is a complex cuisine that has survived the winds of change and no other cuisine has had a larger measure of love and loyalty from its citizens than the Awadhi Cuisine.