Straight outta Awadh 

The ongoing Lucknow food fest at Port Muziris is an explosion of subtle flavours and tenderest meats 
Awadhi gosht yakhni pulao and Nihari gosht. (Photo | T P Sooraj, EPS)
Awadhi gosht yakhni pulao and Nihari gosht. (Photo | T P Sooraj, EPS)

KOCHI:  A few minutes from the Kochi International Airport, Lila’s Kitchen at Port Muziris by Marriott welcomes guests with a curated menu celebrating the rich culinary history of the ancient port city of Muziris. 

While retaining that historic charm, Lila’s Kitchen also brings different flavours of India through occasional food fests. And as I enter the restaurant, housed inside a Dutch-inspired architecture, I’m in awe — the patterned tiles, artefacts and furniture that one would find in any typical ancestral Kerala household are present in every nook and cranny. 

Currently, a Lucknow food fest is organised here. A celebration of delicate Awadhi flavours. 
Curated by Chef Shubham Kumar, Chef de partie at Renaissance Hotel Lucknow by Marriott, the menu boasts of dishes once perfected in the royal kitchens of the Nawabs. 

He hands over a glass of cool spiced ‘sambharam’, before introducing the Nawab khana. Sarson ka phool, dum ka ghosth and murg malai tikka are the starters. The chewy mutton marinated in onion and cashew paste also exudes a roasted saffron taste.

The classic creamy murg malai tikka, mixed in green chilli, cardamom, cheese, and cashew paste is the best choice if the mutton’s chewy texture is not for you. Sarson ka phool, where broccoli is marinated in mustard, cashew nut, and curd is one tangy vegetarian option. 

“Though delicate and nuanced use of spices makes up Awadhi cuisine, the food is rich in flavour thanks to dried fruits, ghee, cashew and almond paste, and more. And Awadhi food has more non-vegetarian options,” says Shubham. 

Mutton galouti kebab
Mutton galouti kebab

Moving on to what has been cited as a must-try, Mutton galouti kebab has minced mutton kheema mixed with spice powders and papaya to tenderise the meat. “There’s a story behind its origin. One of the Nawabs wanted a flavourful dish that can be even eaten by someone who doesn’t have teeth. It’s also called a mouth melting dish,” adds the chef.  Since the tender meat could wither if served on a spoon, it is placed on a mini paratha made of rice flour, saffron, milk and salt. One bite, the meat just melts away. 

What’s an Awadhi cuisine without nihari and the long-grained yakhni pulao? Nihari is a slow-cooked mutton stew which takes around 12 hours to cook. And mutton shanks are mixed with rich spices and herbs like cinnamon, cardamom, chillies, nutmeg, and bay leaf. Here, saffron enhances the flavour. The crispy sheermal flatbread with a tinge of sweetness goes well with the succulent mutton pieces and thick gravy. 

Then the gosht yakhni pulao is an explosion of the tender meat flavour. The aromatic main course with a few spices like cardamom, cinnamon stick and star anise is wholesome despite being subtle.
For a hearty vegetarian experience, the chef suggests dal ki khaas and paneer gulfam. The latter has nuts, cardamom, elaichi, mawa, and mitha attar essence as filling. Dal is made with black urad dal cooked overnight. The curry has tomato puree, ginger garlic paste, kasuri methi, and cream.

The fest will conclude on July 25

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