Modernization is overshadowing the charm of the old cities in this fast-changing world, . But Lucknow continues to hold on to the silky thread of a bygone era, which is dyed in the golden hue of Awadh history. It has maintained the legacy not only in its culture, but in its food as well. That’s why, the city is also best known for its food. You will find a range of tastes that too at such low price that you are unlikely to find in any other city. Lucknow believes that there’s no food better than theirs in the world, let alone India, which to an extend is true. All possible qualities in a dish subtlety, tenderness and texture are available in their kitchen. Among many, today I will tell you about the Dum Pukht Biryani, as it’s a journey worth sharing.
The world first food for work program
It is said that the Nawabs came out with an idea to fight with the hunger. They started building the Bada Imambara in 1784. As per popular belief, it was built in the day and demolished again at night, only to be built again in the next day. That’s how they used to provide food to the workers and their families in such big famine. It was possibly world’s first food for work program. Meat, rice, vegetables and spices were cooked in large pots over a low flame. That’s how a great intention gave birth to a great taste, which got known as DUM PUKHT BIRIYANI.
One day Nawab Asaf-Ud-Doula was so impressed by the aroma of this dish so similar to Biriyani that he ordered his Royal Chefs to prepare this dish in the royal kitchen. This brought about the “Dum Pukht” style of cooking and gave the dish a place in royal history.
Dum means to ‘breathe in’ and pukht to ‘cook’. Dum Pukht cooking uses a round, heavy-bottomed pot, preferably a clay pot handi, in which food tightly sealed and cooked over a slow fire. There are two main aspects to this style of cooking; “bhuna aur dum”, means ‘roasting’ and ‘maturing’ of a prepared dish. In this style of cuisine, herbs and spices play an important role. The process of slow roasting gently persuades each to release maximum flavour. The sealing of the lid of the handi with dough achieves maturing. In some cases, the cooking dough is spread over the container, like a lid, to seal the foods. This is known as purdah (veil), but on cooking it becomes bread which has absorbed the flavours of the food.
The symbol of Awadhi and Nizami Cuisine:
This food is all about aroma, when the seal broken on the table and the fragrance of a Persian repast floats in the air. The food retains all its natural aromas while cooking slowly in its juices, and becomes imbued with the richness of flavours that distinguishes the dish. In the end, with the Dum Pukht technique, it has become the symbol of Awadhi and Nizami Cuisine.
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