Kebab shootout at Kakori House
At Kakori House, the idea is to bring Awadhi food out of the confines of five star environments and into the mainstream, without compromising on the quality and authenticity of the cuisine. And Ishtiyaque Qureshi, chef-owner with an impressive lineage, does a good job with this new brainchild of his.
The Mahim outlet in Mumbai is his first ‘sit-down’ offering, the other at Bandra is a take-away. Ignore the size (it’s small) and interiors (I’m not a great fan of it), but focus on the food, that’s where he excels.
But before I get into the kebab shootout, a word on the Awadhi style of cooking, just so that you know what to expect. Here’s a quote, straight from Wikipedia:
As opposed to conventional thought, Awadhi food does not make use of hundred-odd spices to produce each dish but a blend of handful but not so common spices. The truth lies in the manner in which the food is cooked on a slow fire. This process allows the juices to be absorbed well into the solid parts. All nutrients are retained in the food through this process. In addition to the major process of cooking food in Awadhi style, there are also other important processes such as marinating meats in order to produce a delightful taste. This is especially the case with barbecued food that might be cooked in a clay oven or over an open fire.
Sweet, rich and full of flavour, Awadhi cuisine is ‘shahi’, or made for royalty. The use of saffron, cardamom, jawetri (nutmeg flour) and nuts is common. But back to the shootout.
I wanted to pit two of the signature Awadhi kebabs against each other. One created by an ‘insulted’ Nawab, the other by a ‘toothless’ one. The kakori kebab vs. the galawati. Here’s how they fared at Kakori House.
The galawati or galouti
Legend has it that the galawati kebab was created for an aging Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow who lost his teeth, but not his passion for meat dishes.
‘Galawati’ means “melt in your mouth” and was perfect for the toothless Nawab who continued savouring this until his last days.
Traditionally, green papaya is used to make it tender. After being mixed with a few select herbs and spices (great chefs rarely reveal what they are exactly), the very finely ground meat is shaped into patties and fried in pure ghee until they are browned.
The original recipe that brought many a smile on the Nawab’s face, albeit toothless, and many a sigh of satisfaction, is supposed to have more than 100 aromatic spices.
The galawatis served at Kakori House are soft, flavourful and delicate. You feel you are eating meat yet it yields in the mouth, which is a wonderful thing. You can eat it all by itself and let the rich taste engulf you or use a roti.
And that’s my biggest grouse at Kakori House. They don’t get it that I’m not toothless. I don’t want to have soft rotis, however refined they may be, with soft meat. Give me a crisp roti any day. That would, for me, make it perfect.
There is much folklore about this famous kebab that takes its name from a small hamlet called Kakori on the outskirts of Lucknow.
One such story says that the kakori kebab was created by the Nawab of Kakori, Syed Mohammad Haider Kazmi, who, stung by the remark of a British officer about the coarse texture of the kebabs served at dinner, ordered his rakabdars (gourmet cooks) to evolve a more refined seekh kebab.
After ten days of research, they came up with a kebab so soft and so juicy it won the praise of the very British officer who had scorned the Nawab.
The winning formula his rakabdars came upon included mince obtained from no other part but the raan ki machhli (tendon of the leg of mutton), khoya, white pepper and a mix of powdered spices.
I didn’t get to find out the exact recipe Kakori House uses, but the kakori kebabs were so soft that, and being used to firmer seekh kebabs, it was difficult to pick them off the plate. They are very aromatic and have a strong saffron note to them.
I would prefer to eat it with a crisp roti, but none is available here, and that is indeed tragic.
The ‘toothless’ Nawab prevails
Far away from Lucknow, the Nawabs creations live on in splendid form at Kakori House. But my personal favourite remains the ‘toothless’ Nawab’s galawati, the meatier tasting one. However, the rotis is where they go completely wrong at Kakori House. And that is a big let down because rotis are an intrinsic part of the kebab experience. Ishtiyaque Qureshi, I hope you are listening.
Kakori House, Shiv Sagar Society, Opp. Paradise Cinema, Lady Jamshedjee Road, Mahim. Tel: +91 (22) 65229211. Open daily Noon – Midnight. Takeaway at Bandra. Tel: +91 (22) 65109211.