Adding to the food lover’s delight, The Hyatt Place Kathmandu celebrates its Lucknowi Food Festival with renowned Chef Meraj Ul Haque. A third generation chef from the acclaimed Qureshi family, Chef Meraj walked us down a culinary tale, sharing with us what makes Lucknowi food special and how Awadhi food is different.
Lucknow’s Awadhi food is replete with meat dishes, rich gravies, aromatic spices and of course, its own version of the biryani. Chef Meraj Ul Haq says that usually Awadhi food is compared with Hyderabadi food but the two are fundamentally very different. “With Awadhi food, there is aroma. You cannot see or taste the masala as you can with the food of the Nizams,” he says. “It is about balancing the spices to bring out the flavours of the meat.”
Chef Meraj comes from a family that has spent their lives cooking; he grew up in an Awadhi kitchen. “My father was also a chef and he taught me a lot. This is why, today, every dish I make has a signature touch,” he says.
“When I left Awadh for Delhi, my specialties were biryani, galouti kebab and kakori kebab but once I got to Delhi I began to pick up so much more,” says the Chef who has been cooking for over 37 years.
“I learnt marinating and spicing from my father and this foundation has helped me through the years. Now, I also make Punjabi and Rajasthani food,” he adds.
His love for cooking has taken him across the country and overseas to places like Japan, South Africa and the United States. His skills are multidimensional. Chef Meraj quips, “If I make dosas, you will forget I was born and brought up in Lucknow”.
He is currently working on a book which chronicles food of the Muslim community in India. He also takes into account the fact that the same dish may be prepared differently depending on your socio-economic standing.
“The biryani made in a ricksha wallah’s kitchen may not be the same as the one made in a businessman’s. An affluent household may prepare their korma with ground cashew gravy while others may make do with onion and yoghurt,” he points out.
The Lucknow food festival features signature dishes such as Murgh Kesari Biryani, Burani Raita, Mughlai Paratha, Gosht Taar Korma, and so much more. The festival ended on May 6.