Interesting Story Behind Two Legendary Kebabs of Lucknow

Do you know the tale behind the world famous kebab brand called Tunde Ke Kebab from the ‘City of Nawabs’ ? The aura that surrounds this famous food joint has an interesting story that is little known to the world. Over 100-year old food joint is no less than a food pilgrim to the visitors and locals alike. Thanks to its succulent kebabas. Let us explore the real legend behind this Indian food joint in Lucknow.

Unlike Kundan Qalia and Kakori, Tunde Ke Kebab does not have a royal ancestry. It is name incidentally after the physical characteristic of the kebab maker who was one-armed chef. The brand was established under the reign of Wajid Ali Shah, just a couple of years before the Last Nawab of Awadh was exiled to Kolkata.

The legend of Tunde begins with the origin of Kebabs in India. According to Ibn Batttuta, who was a famous Moroccan traveller kebabs were served to the royal families in 1200 AD, when not only the royal families but commoners too used to enjoy them. It is believed that when Alexander met King Porus he was served with mish-mashes that resembled the kebab of Greece. However, the official entry of the kebabs into India and later to the province of Awadh owed it to the first Nawab of Oudh from Persia.

Till the reign of Suja Ud Daulah, kebabs changed very little. The meat was minced by the royal chefs or Rakabdar and cooked on slow fire so that it became soft and juicy. These were actually the incubation days of ‘Galauti Kebab’. By the reign of Suja Ud Daulah, we are also talking about the days of East India Company, when kebabs changed very little. Yes, by that time instead of meat chunks, the meat was minced by the rakabdar (royal chef) and cooked on slow fire to give it that juicy taste, but for culinary world, it was still in the incubation. Sheek and shami kebab did exist then, but were also somewhat same as in the Moughal courts with no twist in the region of Awadh.

The real work on Kebabs began at the time of Nawab Asad Ud Daula who was the first Nawab to have Lucknow as his capital and was known to be very generous too.. It is believed that this Nawab was very fond of Kebabs and he had appointed rakabdars for creating a new type of kebab each day. Like a real food connoisseur he used to taste those kebabs to find out special ingredients used in it. Rakabdars of that time had to experiment with the newer ways like smoke flavouring, slow cooking and the use of exotic ingredients like rose, red ginseng, juniper berries and sandalwood to innovate the dish every day all through the year. It was somewhat a Food Laboratory of sorts that came up in the royal kitchen of Lucknow.

The first successful plating of Galawati Kebab for the Nawab had all the above mentioned exotic and unheard ingredients along with some aphrodisiacs and gold as well. There are though no records available to endorse the fact that kebab contained 160 spices. It was also the time when choice of the meat got shifted from cow meat to buffalo, goat or lamb. The Galuti Kebab made its debut during this time. Nawab was famous for being a couch potato. He had lost his dentures and was looking for something that does not need chewing yet be tasty and flavorsome.

Haji Mohammad Fakr-e-Alam Saheb was the creator of first Galauti kebab. That was a time when the meat became a playing toy for the rakabdars of Awadh and the successive generations went on perfecting the shahi mixture and finally it turned out silkier and creamier. The consistency of that kebab was perfected by Haji Murad Ali. He was also the person who introduced some fat to the kebabs to make them tastier. He made the ghee roast basting popular with these kebabs. Murad unfortunately did not have one arm. When the delicious kebabs made by him were presented to the Nawab he asked who made them. He was told that those were by ‘Tunde’ (one armed man). The kebabs were so tasty and soft that Ali was made the leading man of the kebabs and he started deploying one armed men. This is how the concept of Tundey ke Kebab came into being and how it drew its name that is no less than a legend today.

Son of Ali was more enterprising and because under the patronage of Wajid Ali Shah he set up a shop in old Lucknow the shop came to be known as Tunde Kebabi. The brand became so popular that recently Supreme Court of India in a litigation had to put an end to its unauthorized usage by unrelated shop owners in India and abroad. These kebabs are known to have drawn its inspiration from its elder cousin ‘Kakori Kebab’ which dates back to 1800.

In the late 1800, when Lucknow was still not the capital of Awadh, a famous local aristocrat called Nawab Syed Mohammad Haider Kazmi threw a party in the mango season which was a tradition for his British friends. One of the British officer made a snide remark regarding the coarse texture of Seekh Kebab (kebabs grilled on skewers) being served. It was damn insulting for the Nawab, hence he ordered his rakabdars to come up with a refined version of this Kebab. It took about ten years of experimenting, but finally the chefs came up with the softest version of Sheekh kebab anywhere called ‘Kakori Kebabs’. A variety of mangoes called ‘Maliabali’ were used to tenderize this meat.

Today people all across the world love to devour these kebabs and almost all gastronomes would know it well, though they may not be able to replicate the same softness and taste as available in Lucknow.