Sheermal: Royal Flatbread Relished All Over India During Ramzan

The refined sensibilities of nawabs of Awadh led to the evolution of art, music and of course, food. It gave rise to the Awadhi cuisine which, at present, is relished all over the world with great charm. The cuisine is believed to have originated in the royal kitchen of Lucknow and is a perfect blend of Mughal, Persian and small local influences. Lucknow is a place famous for serving some delectable Awadhi curries, but these curries would not be this popular if would not have been served with royal Sheermal. Sheermal is a mildly sweet, tandoori and saffron laced flatbread which makes up for a crucial Ramadan meal. 

Rectangular and circular in shape, this flatbread has soft texture and primarily dunked in mutton niharis rich in flavour, salans and other curries. Though it has a subtle flavour of its own, it works as a great carrier of taste. If some legends are to be believed, the first sheermal was prepared as a part of an experiment during the regime of Ghaziuddin Haider, the first king of Awadh. This experiment was probably done after the nawab wished to have a different and new type of bread. Not just the royal chefs but local cooks too, started experimenting to make a bread that would be loved and appreciated by the nawab. During the results, a yellow bread lined on the dastarkhwan caught the nawab’s attention. The yellow bread was sheermal prepared by a local baker Mahmood, owner of a small restaurant in Firangi Mahal. As per some food experts, Mahmood is also believed to be the creator of Lucknow Nihari which was popular then and today. 

                             Image credits: Instagram/iamrashidkhan7

Mahmood had cooked sheermal in a tandoor using milk, saffron and desi ghee. The nawab loved the sheermal and made it a specialty in his menu. Even after decades, sheermal has never lost its charm and equally enjoyed by the people even today. Some cooks, even till date, cut off a corner of the sheermal before cooking it, to remember the nawab who had broken off a piece from the Sheermal and started loving it unconditionally.  

Mahmood restaurant’s head chef Ali Hussain later opened his own bread shop at the historic Akbari Gate in the middle of popular ‘Sheermali wali gali’ and it does a whooping business even now. Not just one, there are so many bread shops in the lane serving not just sheermal but so many other varieties of flatbread too. As the time passed, sheermal has evolved and being made using different ingredients and types. Usually served along nihari, galawati kebabs or korma, sheermal is a commonly eaten delight during Ramadan month across India. But not just Ramadan, this flatbread is also a breakfast staple in many parts of India like Kashmir. 

So,when are you heading to Lucknow to taste this royal flatbread?