Saturday, May 31, 2008

Photo Essay: A Dastarkhan in Lucknow

A Dastarkhan is the name of the white sheet which is spread out on the floor of a room and then food served on top of it. You can find the usage of this word from Iran to Afghanistan to Pakistan to India, and I bumped into this in Lucknow. So it can be called as a the place where very fragrant food dishes are served and so it turned out in Lucknow.

Lucknow is famous for its cuisine. Specially its kebabs which are so soft that they melt in your mouth and there are a variety of Kebabs in Lucknow. Kakori Kebabs, Tunde Kebabs, Skek Kebabs, Hariyali Kebabs, Galawat Kebabs etc. etc. (also try Shreemal) (Also see here for a good overview of Kebabs in India). There are two reasons why they are so soft that they would melt in their mouth.

The first is that the Nawabs of Lucknow were so indolent that they did not want to even chew. The second reason given is that because they were so spoilt, by the time they hit their twenties, their teeth had rotted away due to drug usage and over-indulgence in the Lucknow desserts and sweets.

Be that as it may, I have all my teeth and boyo, the kebabs were brilliant. But I do not like the food served in the big restaurants and given that my-laws are vegetarian, it means that we have to order in. So I decided to go buy some good meat stuff and what I wanted was from the road-side stalls.

And my father-in-law pointed me into this direction. It was a short street, hardly 50 meters long, with about 6 shops on the left and 2 on the right.


We went to dastarkhan which was the second shop on the right.

And the cooks were busy cooking. Notice the sign in the background, only refined oil is used. What is India coming to???? refined oil? what happened to engine oil?

It was quite crowded with people queued out outside

people eating inside quickly, this was in December, it was cold, but still was heaving outside

There were people wanting take away as well.

Here's your menu. I personally thought it was a bit expensive. Compared to other places that I have eaten, that is. A full chicken for 150 rupees? That's expensive. But then, the aroma was brilliant.

The order for the kebabs and biryani was taking some time, so I went walkabout. This was the shop opposite Dastarkhan

Famous Fish Fry. It wont be India without spelling mistakes on shop front. Would Sir like to have some Chiken Rosted?

This place was also heaving.

Some of the other shops were a bit emptier.

Quite a crowd, eh? including the doggie!

the making of a rumali roti

the first shop on the right which makes fried stuff, you can see chicken and fish pieces hanging up around the thela.

And the crowd around the thela. Can you see the building behind the shops? the tall one? That's Gemini Intercontinental Hotel and we got a biryani from there as well.

I am not sure that the Biryani corner was that good, so I avoided it as well. Needless to say, the food was brilliant. I did a blind comparison test of the biryani from Gemini Intercontinental Hotel and from Dastarkhan. I am afraid Dastarkhan won hands down! (my daughter preferred the other one, but I pulled rank and weight and overruled her for the next time, she WILL learn who's the daddy!)

But again, if you are ever in Lucknow, do make it a point to visit Dastarkhan and enjoy!

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