Uttar Pradesh considered as the melting pot of cultures, has its own set of cuisines too that it boasts of. People say that the cuisine of Uttar Pradesh is as diverse as its geography. Ranging from simple every day food to rich, elaborate banquets, the cuisine of Uttar Pradesh has absorbed and adapted a variety of food cultures to create an entire range of wonderful dishes. The people of Uttar Pradesh love to cook, to eat and to feed! Difference in communities notwithstanding, as a people, they are very warm and hospitable. For most of them, the ultimate in hospitality means you feed your guests till they beg for mercy.
The cuisine of Uttar Pradesh is mainly of two types-Awadhi and Mughlai. The cuisine consists of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
The cuisine of Uttar Pradesh is also famous for its kebabs, biryani and different mutton recipes. The Mughlai cuisine is influenced by the Mughal era while the Awadhi cuisine is influenced by Punjabi and Kashmiri food.
Many of the Hindu communities here are staunch vegetarians and have created a vast variety of vegetarian dishes ranging from the all-time favourite ‘puri-aloo’ or potatoes and fried wheat bread to savouries and divine desserts and sweetmeats. Kalmi Bade, Dahi Bade, moong ki daal ki pakodi, mooli ki sabzi, moong dal cheela, dahi-pakodi, and moong-moth are the most prominent vegetarian street foods. In Uttar Pradesh, lentils or daals feature prominently in meals. Due to the large number of pure vegetarians – the Jains, Brahmins, baniyas and other communities that originally hailed from this region of India, vegetarian cuisine here, much like fine art, is highly evolved and boasts myriad nuances and flavours. Its lentils, spices, vegetables, sauces, and condiments, flavourful gravies, luxuriant desserts like rabdi, kheer and phirni made exquisite with the addition of saffron and cardamom speaks of the varied vegetarian food varieties. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that most of the dishes here tend to be labour-intensive, and involve a fair bit of soaking, grinding, and simmering. Their mastery requires huge patience and practice.
Every day classics like sabziyon ki tehari to a princely lakhnavi spread, this diverse state nestles the most exotic recipes in its kitty. Delectable delicacies like chaat, samosa and pakora, that top the most popular street food charts in all of India, are native to this state. State cuisines from Uttar Pradesh have absorbed and adapted a variety of dishes to create an entire range of authentic recipes. Allahabad ki Tehri is also a simple and speedy one pot meal for a lazy day. With the goodness of Basmati rice and a melange of veggies, this recipe makes for a satisfying meal.
Different cities of Uttar Pradesh have their own styles of preparing the strong flavoured food items with exotic gravies. The base for most authentic dishes is prepared by a mixture of onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and a number of spices. Uttar Pradesh cuisine is categorised into six groups- sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent. The Muslim cuisine, of northern Uttar Pradesh is very different from the Mughlai food of Delhi. The state is famous for its Nawabi foods (of Lucknow and environs) and use of mutton, paneer, and rich spices including cardamom and saffron.
The Nawabs of Awadh encouraged their master chefs to create new styles of cooking like the famous ‘Dum Pukht’ of Lucknow where the food is sealed in large pots called ‘handis’, placed over a slow fire and left to cook in its own juices. When opened, these dishes release the most fragrant and delicious aromas. Lucknow and its neighbouring towns were put on the culinary map of India thanks to these rich curries and Kebabs. Galauti Kebab is a special delicacy which was once made exclusively for a Nawab in Lucknow. Galawati means melt in your mouth, and the dish does exactly that. The one item that comes to mind when you say Awadhi cuisine is Kebab. Kakori Kebab, tundey kebab, seekh kebab and shammi kebab are a few of the kebabs that you must sample in Lucknow if you are a meat lover. Minced meat, marinated in aromatic spices are wrapped on skewers and cooked on charcoal to produce delicious kebabs that have now put Lucknow on the world map as a gastronomic destination. The outlets that churn these delicacies have recipes passed on from one generation to another that are a well-guarded secret. It is said that to prepare the perfect tundey kebab, you’d need close to 160 ingredients – no wonder it is impossible to recreate the taste of Uttar Pradesh’s food elsewhere!
The fragrance of Kanpur’s Kakori and Boti kebabs remains suspended like a blanket of festivities, lending a considerable degree of romanticism to its atmosphere. The Biryani served at Baba’s in Swaroop Nagar is something which is hard to resist. Then there is the famous ‘Thaggu ke Laddu’ which has earned a reputation for itself by serving a kulfi under the rather coquettish name of ‘Badnam Kulfi’. Uttar Pradesh Food, like the inherent humour in the state, is a force to reckon with!
Rampur, for all the fish-lovers out there, Rampur offers two of the best dishes made using fish: Rampuri Rohu and Zamindoz which are by all means a veritable culinary delight. With the aroma of fried fish coated with a thick paste of exotic spices pervading the air, it is hard to resist the temptation even if you are a professed vegetarian.
On the brighter side, there is no need to resist the temptation, as Paneer Pasanda, not of the ordinary kind which is served across the multitude of Indian restaurants, but a class in itself; is there at the service of your taste buds. So now everybody knows where that awesome dish came from – it’s Uttar Pradesh.
Varanasi, the place that comes to our mind when anybody mentions Eastern Uttar Pradesh. It is the holy city which epitomizes the richly diverse food culture of this region.
Not for nothing this city is dubbed as the city of alleys, and in every neighbouring alley you might discover a hitherto unheard of shop which might have a culinary surprise reserved for you up in its kitty. Talk about the specialities of Uttar Pradesh food, and Varanasi is irrefutably a part of it. You can begin with a light breakfast of ‘Puri-sabzi‘(fried in clarified butter and vegetable stew) along with a mouthful of Jalebis (coiled fritters doused in a sugary syrup) to start your day. And it’d be relatively pointless to mention the Lassi served in earthen vessels called Kulhads. The famous Chaat Bhandars in the old city must not be missed at any possible chance. Chaat is a favourite part of the cuisine of Uttar Pradesh, and it is one of the most amazing kinds of chaat that you’ll ever have in the country.
For those who have an irresistible appetite for non-vegetarian delights, Hotels at Madanpura is the Holy Grail. Just when you thought that the armory up Varanasi’s kitty had run out, the not-so-ordinary Banarasi paan which has this sublime attribute of dissolving in your mouth as soon as you put it in your mouth. No wonder they say that you need not possess teeth in order to savor a Banarasi paan. As Eastern Uttar Pradesh closely straddles the border of Bihar, a Bihari touch to the local culinary delights can never be ruled out. Take for example the delicious Bati-Chokha, which is a staple Uttar Pradesh food dish for a number of local folks.
Some traditional sweets of Uttar Pradesh for sugary appetite and for the purpose of desserts are Gajar ka Halwa, Chandra Kala, Kaju Katli, Kalakand, Balushahi, Barfi, Chhena, Kheer, Qulfi, Laddu, Ghewar, Gond ke Laddu, Gujia, Gulab Jamun, Halwa, Imarti, Jalebi,LattaMaalpua, Peda, Motichoor Laddu, Laung Petha Rabarri, Raj Bhog, Ras Malai, Sheer Qorma, Taasmai and many more.
Considering these entire range and variety of it’s cuisines, we can say if food is the reason to travel, Uttar Pradesh is a total foodie’s paradise.