The Midnight Feast in Lucknow
Credits : Deep Saxena
(Holy month of Ramzan in Lucknow is time to explore the areas where street food is at its yummiest best)
It’s that time of the year once again when for the full month the sun dose not the set in Aminabad. With the holy month of Ramzan well into the second week, the market wakes up after the Maghrab Ki Namaz every evening.
And if you are looking for some lip-smacking fare, just wait till the regular market closes. As you head towards Aminabad, be prepared to get caught in traffic jams. .Foodies like you are out to check out sumptuous delicacies being sold on the roadside.
The makeshift stalls that dot the Nazirabad-Naaz Cinema road and its intersection can lure not just ‘rozedaars’ but every passer-by. With big names like Tundey, Wahid and Alamgir all in the area, these small joints appear only after the regular market is closed , and do business till wee hours.
Mohd Aqeel decks-up his open-air shop on Nazirabad road after 9 pm and his business continues till the time of sehri (around 3:30 am). “We prepare out stuff in the ‘karkhana’ nearby and put up this stall with seating arrangement on the footpath. People who are uncomfortable dining in the open, park their big cars near the stall and have food or get it packed. Our customers (a large number of them non-Muslims) come as late as 3 am to relish food,” he says and adds that they don’t serve beef.
Nearby is a beef-kaleji shop that sells one skewer for mere Rs.3 while the adjacent stall sells chicken biryani at Rs.20 (half-plate). If you are particular about where you eat, Wahid’s old biryani shop is just inside the lane.
Move further towards Kaiserbagh and fine a sweets shop with customers queued up in front of Lucknow Chikan Art.
Deftly operated by young Noor-ul-Haq, the makeshift shop sells a host of sweet delicacies – lassi , malai , rabri , kheer , shahi tukra (ordinary and special), gulab-jamun, goond-ka-halwa and doodh-pheni (laccha).
“Lassi sells most followed by shahi-tukra and laccha (pheni). Gond-ka-halwa (Rs.300 a kg) is most ‘takatwar’(very nutritious) for those observing roza,” he says. Nearby is a kulcha-nahari-paya shop on the left. Though they serve only beef, the shop still draws huge crowd.
Aminabad crossing has numerous Kashmiri chai stalls. The pink sweet-and-salty cuppa made with tea leaves, javitri, cashwenuts and almonds sells like hot cake and is priced at Rs.5 a cup. You can make it more filling by topping it with samosa (papri) and malai. Laccha-paratha and kebab roll is a new entry this year.
On the Naaz Road, Wahid and the Tundey restaurants both draw foodies way beyond midnight . One can also pick fresh sheermal and kulchey from Arabia Hotel bang opposite Tundey.
Alamgir Hotel in the by-lane on the same road is the paradise for mutton-only food lovers, especially nahari and roganjosh. “These days we start after ‘maghrab-ki-namaz’ (evening prayers) and are open beyond 1am. After that our staff too needs rest as they have to observe roza,” says Shaqeel Ahemd, who runs the joint with his family members.
Management student, Shuja Raza is completely in awe of the food being offered here. After all it is that lingering taste that matters most.
“I remember coming here with my father for the very first time and having shahi tukda. It was the best sweet dish I ever had. For me the food here is still the best, be it kebabs, biryaani or simple kashmiri chai.”
Dose he come with his friends? “Yeah, once, one of my South Indian friends was visiting me during Ramzan. I took him the narrow lanes and introduced him to the street food in Aminabad. It was such fun to see him hogging on the ‘nihari kulcha’. He ate five kulchas at a time, a record yet to be broken in our friend circle.”
……Continuing the food safari on to the old city
The gastronomical journey continues beyond Aminabad. The holy month of Ramzan is the time to rediscover the Old City where for once, you can ignore the crowded alleys, bustling traffic and jostling masses, and check out the epicurean delights that the area offers.
The Akbari Gate crossing is dotted with numerous makeshift stalls selling laccha (doodh pheni), biryani, rosted kaleji, lassi and kebab parathas unmindful of the hustle-bustle. Step in and get ready to brave traffic jams even at 12 midnight.
The first proper food joint that greets you is the popular Rahim’s restaurant. Better known for the beef kulcha-nahari, it serves a few mutton and chicken items too.
Hardly two shops away is Mubeen’s restaurant, the biggest eating joint in the area. As you maneuver your way through the cluster of two-wheelers parked outside the shop, you find four men sitting on a raised platform on the right. First- timers to the shop get fascinated with the deftness the men prepare the kulchas and sheermaal. The speed with which the bread is prepared and speed with which it vanishes is equally fascinating.
During the Ramzan month, the shop serves food 24×7 managed by 15 staffers in three shifts each. “Allah karam, our bhatti in the master kitchen keeps on burning throughout the month. Even in the day, those who do not observe roza, start flocking the restaurant since 7 am. They include lot of non- Muslim customers too. Post sawan, the number of our Hindu customers will go up three folds,” says Shoeb Qureshi, who runs the restaurant with younger brothers Yahya and Zakaria.
In beef, their most popular items are nahari, pasanda and biryani while in mutton it’s nahari, stew, korma achari-gosht and biryani teamed with kulcha and sheermaal. In fact, Mubeen’s is among very few shops in city that sell mutton nahari. That explains the rush of Hindu customers here.
Bang opposite is the lane that leads to the original Tundey Kebabi, famous all over world for its beef kebabs and parantha. The two-wheelers parked in front of the shop are the testimony to his popularity. But don’t miss the shop in front of Tundey’s where you can gorge on freshly made balushahi.
Back on the Abdul Aziz Road, you find Al Madina Kashmiri Chai shop. Run by Abdul Rashid, it serves freshly made Kashmiri tea besides kheer in earthen bowls. You can relish the tea with malai or samosa (patty). You will find a lot of non-veg eateries nearby but need to check out if you are particular about mutton items. Hygiene too may be an issue.
Now come to Nakkhas road where the famous Idris Biryani shop opposite Pata Nala police station remains packed with customers till late in the night. Space is an issue here and you will find foodies relishing the delicacies on the road side and even in cars packed on the road. Don’t forget to check out his crispy kulcha nahari (beef and mutton both) beside biryani and korma.
“We prepare a variety of dishes as ‘kidhmat-e-khlk’ (serve) for rozedars. Items like phirni, zarda, safeda (white zarda), kheer, mewa-naan, sheermaal and fish fry is made for sehri in limited quantity. They are sold out with an hour or two. Rest of the items are served throughout the night,” says Abu Baker who runs the shop. These days his service time is from 7 pm to 4 am.
For the perfect finish, check out the Haji Sweet shop on the Nakkhas Crossing. Do check out the khoya-boondi ke ladoo (Rs 100 a kg) besides other sweets. They also make sweet khoya samosa during daytime, informs Mahd Faizal. The shop, literally on the road, has a punch line ‘peepal ke ped wali aapki apni purani dukan’. Opposite is another shop with the same name and from the same family. But who cares as they dish out some heavenly good sweets!
Credits : Deep Saxena
Some vernacular terms and phrases have been used in this article, should you have any problem in understanding or would like to have a translation of it, please feel free to mail us…
The writer Deep Saxena is a well-known journalist with Hindustan Times and this article was originally published in The Hindustan Times (HT City- Lucknow). The heading of this article has been modified to suit the requirement of this section of the website and two parts published on two different days have been combined into one to be placed here. We of course do not expect the readers to subscribe to the views and ideas expressed above, as the views and ideas are that of the writer and those contacted for the survey during the compilation of this article. This article is purely meant for leisure purpose and in no manner aims to guide or misguide you.