Uttar Pradesh, situated in North India, is among the largest states in the country. The cuisine of the state is a veritable smorgasbord of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies. The food in Uttar Pradesh draws heavy influence from Mughlai and Awadhi cuisines that make the food of the region a melting pot of delectable tastes and luscious textures. While everyday food includes roti, sabjis and dal with some meat on the side, Uttar Pradesh is more popular for its princely spread of Nawabi delights like the kebabs, biryani and koftas. The food of the state is as diverse as its geography. Come and join us as we introduce you to the food of Uttar Pradesh – it is going to be a gastronomic journey that will leave you wanting more!
Mughlai preparations form the core of the food of Uttar Pradesh. Inspired by the royal kitchens of the Mughal Empire, these delicacies are rich in taste, textures and ingredients. No preparation is complete without a generous dollop of desi ghee or clarified butter. Meaty kebabs, koftas and biryanis are the most popular Mughlai preparations in Uttar Pradesh. Kebabs are made by grilling skewers of juicy meat marinated in a spicy coating and are served as starters.
Reshmi kebab,made by marinating chicken with yoghurt and Boti Kebab which is a scrumptious meat preparation are the most popular kebabs of the region. Koftas are deep fried dumplings of mashed vegetables or meat that are served with a creamy gravy that derive a kick of taste from robust spices. Almost all the side dishes are peppered with shavings of almonds, pistachios and cashews, adding to the richness of the dish - the hallmark of this cuisine.
The koftas and curries are served with flatbreads like the roti, naan or kulchas. Main course also comprises of pulao or pilaf – a rice preparation made with aromatic basmati rice in a tempering of sizzling spices or the biryani, where rice, meat and spices are slow-cooked to perfection.
When it comes to desserts, the most famous Mughlai dessert is the shahi tukda, meaning royal slice– a pudding made of bread and dry fruits.
Sheer Korma is another lipsmacking dessert made from milk, vermicelli and dried fruits.
Awadhi food is a lot like Mughlai food, differing in only a few aspects. The cuisine is not as rich as Mughlai cuisine due to the absence of cream and dry fruits in gravies and side dishes. Awadhi cuisine also sets itself apart with the use of some rare combination of spices to create delectable dishes with a unique taste that you cannot find elsewhere. The dishes are slow cooked so that the vegetables and meats absorb all the spices and produce a delightful end product.
The one item that comes to mind when you say Awadhi cuisine is Kebab. Kakori Kebab, tundey kebab, seekh kebab and shammi kebab are a few of the kebabs that you must sample in Lucknow if you are a meat lover. Minced meat, marinated in aromatic spices are wrapped on skewers and cooked on charcoal to produce delicious kebabs that have now put Lucknow on the world map as a gastronomic destination. The outlets that churn these delicacies have recipes passed on from one generation to another that are a well guarded secret. It is said that to prepare the perfect tundey kebab, you’d need close to 160 ingredients – no wonder it is impossible to recreate the taste of Uttar Pradesh’s food elsewhere!
Awadhi side dishes mainly comprise of kormas - meat or vegetables cooked in a velvety gravy. They are milder than Mughlai preparations, choosing to replace the heat from chillies with aroma from rare spices.
Main courses are more or less similar to Mughlai food with roti, naan, kulchas and parathas making an appearance on the table. They are eaten with the koftas and kormas. Pulao and biryani are also served as a part of an Awadhi meal along with a raita, a side dish made of seasoned yogurt.
Halwa is the most popular dessert in the Awadhi cuisine of Uttar Pradesh. When in Uttar Pradesh, do not forget to sample the rich and luscious halwas made of seasonal vegetables – carrots and bottle gourd. Halwas are also made of semolina, wheat flour, gram flour and eggs. Another speciality of this cuisine is the Jauzi Halwa Sohan, made of germinated wheat, milk and nuts. The art of making this delicacy is however dying a slow death in Uttar Pradesh.
Aside from these two scrumptious cuisines, Uttar Pradesh is also famous for its chaat. If you are in Lucknow, you will see its bylanes buzzing with activity till late in the night, with stalls serving kebabs and biryanis. Competing for space beside these popular food items are chaats – lip smacking snacks that originated in Uttar Pradesh and are now popular worldwide as Indian street food! On the streets in all the major towns of Uttar Pradesh, one can find rows and rows of stalls selling samosas, kachoris, aloo tikkis, aloo chaat, golgapppa and papdi chaat that are laced with tangy and spicy chutneys.
The state of Uttar Pradesh is truly a food lover’s heaven, especially if you are a meat lover. Vegetarians also have a fair share of great food, but certainly not as much as their non-vegetarian counterparts. The state will not disappoint the foodie in you, be it any meal. Be sure to pause and enjoy your food at leisure to appreciate the way it is cooked – slowly, with patience and lots of love.
Image credit: Mazaa Grill, Zee Khana Khazana, Ayesha Cookery