The Lukhnawi cuisine prepared by Sakhawat Mian in his nondescript food joint in Lucknow is as fresh in memory of Bimal Chadha as the flavor of the kababs.
Sakhawat Mian was an old ‘Kababchi’ in Lucknow, famous for mouth melting Galawati (Galauti) Kababs, located in a lane left to Oudh Gymkhana Club, leading to two doctors’ houses there.
Sakhawat Mian was well known to all Lucknowites. Half his clientele was from the Club. He operated out of a garage only in the evenings. It was poorly lit dark walls with centuries of soot and smoke on them. Perhaps from Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s time.
Two naked bulbs darkened with smoke for lighting, changed only when the old one fused. Seating was just 4 wooden tables and 4 chairs each.
After a meal an old wet rag was used to clean table and all the rubbish strewn around the floor.
Mian sat on a high stool to reach the counter, you only saw the top of him. Not a very tall person.
The old man smiled toothlessly. A large incisor hanging lonely as an ancient calcite in the upper gum, reminding you of an Urdu Sher.
‘Khandhar bata rahein hain ki,
Imaraat buland thhee.’
(The ruins remind you the building
was built strong)
Himself he was dark, with a white beard. Wearing a cap, he wore thick glasses, one wondered if he could see or not.
Attired in a tehmat and kurta, a man so perfect in his tehzeeb of Lucknow, he would greet you politely and enquire of your health and well being. If it was someone familiar as a regular, a small personal talk.
As for me, he presumed that I was a high level government official, perhaps from the Income Tax. He took my order himself to the surprise of others.
I was at an advantage always. This was in 60’s. Tunday was lesser known then. First item everyone ordered was Shamis.
Upon asking the menu, he would call out to Kallan. Kallan would rattle off the main course of the day, faster than Toofan Mail.
Mian rotated his main course daily as per the day of the week. It was written on a board on the wall. Illegible and discoloured.
You had to be early to eat by fixed time for the night or else you would have to go hungry. He cooked limited quantities freshly to be sold out by night. Perhaps that was his USP as well.
Oh, the cuisine was outstanding and universally accepted as the best. His Kababs were soft and brittle. If you tried to pick one with your hand to eat, you couldn’t. It broke half way and one had to quickly reach it to the mouth.
’Wah, Ustad,’ was the spontaneous response!
You relished each ingredient and the spices. As a starter you ate with a Rumali Roti or just with a spoon of Hari Chutney and Pyaaz.
It tasted heavenly.
The rest of the menu: Galauti Kabab, Boti Kabab, Pasasanda, Korma, Biryani were popular.
I was posted back again in 80’s to Lucknow. Studying in Delhi, my wife and children visited Lucknow during their vacations.
Lucknow was a foodie’s paradise and all of them ‘Chatooras’. The driver took them to various places to explore during daytime. A few of the places they remembered from earlier visits and were never satiated exploring the variety offered by Lucknow.
Evenings were spent together as a family. Visits to Sakhawat Mian was a must 7-8 times during their stay.
My son still remembers the weekly menu. Thursday was Tamatar Goli he loved. A simple dish made of cherry tomatoes. Mildly spicy and sour.
If we were not eating there, he would take the driver for a take away for him.
Mian passed away while I was posted out of Lucknow. Rest in Peace with Allah! His younger generation runs it now. Never eaten there.
The loss of Sakhawat – old timers like me, feel the void can never be filled.
He went to the Heavens, his memory is still alive like the taste of Shahi Tukda as Meetha post Dinner savouring, lasting and relishing still.
लखनऊ हम पर फिदा और हम फिदा-ए-लखनऊ
We love Lucknow and Lucknow loves us too.
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