Discover the captivating origin of Lucknow's renowned Tunday Kababi, named number 11 on the 2023's list of World's Most Legendary Restaurants. Dating back to the 17th century, this iconic restaurant's story begins with a toothless Nawab and a contest to create the softest kebabs.
When it comes to legendary food, nobody does it quite as well as India. With our centuries of history and diversity in cuisine, it’s no wonder that Indian restaurants took up 7 of the 150 spots on the list of The World’s Most Legendary restaurants, Coming in at number 12, Tunday Kababi, is truly a deserving contender, known best for their soft kebabs, but looking back into their history, that wasn’t always the case.
Lucknow, the city known for its rich history and culinary delights, holds a special place in the hearts of poets, connoisseurs, and food enthusiasts. While vegetarian dishes are abundant in Awadhi cuisine, it's the meaty delights, especially the succulent kebabs, that have captured the essence of Lucknow's culinary heritage. The love affair between Lucknow and kebabs dates back centuries, and it was during the 17th century that a toothless king played a significant role in revolutionising the kebabs of Awadh.
Before the 17th century, kebabs were known for their chewy and coarse texture. However, Nawab Asa-ud-Daula, a ruler who valued both food and court affairs, desired a softer version of this delicacy. Despite his old age and dental challenges, the nawab refused to let anything come between him and his love for good food. Determined to enjoy his favourite kebabs without compromising on flavour, he initiated a contest among his khansamas, the royal chefs.
The contest challenged the khansamas to create the softest and most succulent kebabs that would require no chewing. The winner would earn royal patronage and be recognized for their culinary mastery. Rising to the challenge, the khansamas crafted a tender and melt-in-your-mouth kebab known as the Galouti kebab. This kebab, born out of the contest, marked a turning point in the evolution of kebabs in Awadh.
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The kebabs continued to grow softer and more refined through the generations, eventually leading to the creation of the famous Tundey Kebabs that Lucknow is renowned for today. It is said that the kebab shop established by Haji Murad Ali around the end of the 17th century played a pivotal role in preserving this culinary tradition. The kebabs made here are prepared using a closely guarded secret family recipe, with the women of the family crafting a special masala that incorporates an astonishing 160 different spices.
The name "Tunday Kebabi" itself carries an intriguing story behind it. Legend has it that Haji Murad Ali, the kebab maker and the founder of the shop, had only one working arm. It is believed that while perfecting the mixture for the shahi galawat, he fell off the roof and broke his arm. However, this disability did not hinder his passion for cooking. He employed individuals who could skillfully pound the meat with just one hand, transforming it into a fine paste that would effortlessly melt in one's mouth, releasing the flavors of the intricate masalas. The name "Tunday" is derived from the Urdu word meaning "without an arm," honouring Haji Murad Ali's determination and his culinary legacy.
Originally situated in the bustling streets of Gol Darwaza in the Chowk area of Lucknow, Tunday Kababi gained immense popularity. For 90 years, Haji Murad Ali, fondly known as 'Tunday Kababi,' captured the gastronomic attention of the entire city. In 1996, Haji Murad Ali's third-generation family members, Usman Ali and Rizwan Ali, inaugurated another branch in the Aminabad area of Lucknow to cater to a wider audience.
Over the years, Tunday Kababi has become a beloved establishment, attracting not only locals but also numerous celebrities such as Dilip Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, and Anupam Kher, who have savored the delectable kebabs. The shop stands as a testament to Lucknow's culinary heritage, and its enduring popularity is a testament to the skill, passion, and secret recipes passed down through generations.
When visiting Lucknow, one should not miss the opportunity to indulge in the melt-in-your-mouth wonders of Tunday Kababi. The legacy of Haji Murad Ali and his extraordinary kebabs continue to delight taste buds and capture the essence of Lucknow's rich culinary history.