When it comes to kebabs, Tunday Kababi needs no introduction. The glory of the 116-year-old galawati kebab of Tunday has risen from the narrow lanes of old Lucknow to other cities, and then to the world. From everyday food lovers to chefs, celebrities, bloggers, and actors, all can vouch for the sublime quality and smoky aftertaste of the kebabs that melt in the mouth.
Adding to this distinct charm, the recipe of the kebab which is believed to have a blend of 116 spices, runs only in the family. But who created it and how is a story worth knowing!
If you know anyone from old Lucknow, you would know how people are particular about their food. Thus, the colour of the salan (Urdu word for curry) and the zafran (saffron) of the biryani are not ordinary matters. The tradition of food as emotions in Lucknow dates back to the 17th century, where Awadh was ruled by Nawabs.
When Nawab Asa-ud-Daula started losing his teeth, the chewy and coarse kebabs that were prevalent at the time suddenly became redundant. Asking the nawab to resort to bland food suited to old age was out of the question, thus starting a quest to prepare the softest kebabs among the most seasoned khansamas of the city, without compromising on the flavour.
After a fierce fight of flavours, it was chef Haji Murad Ali who won the contest, and declared “the shahi khansama.” It is also a fact that he lost one of his arms as he fell from a roof. However, the disability did not keep him away from making a kebab that would become a global sensation in the following years.
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He later became famous as Tunday Kababi, an Urdu word that translates as 'the kebab maker without an arm'. The first establishment of Tunday Kababi was founded in 1905 in the bustling streets of Chowk area of Lucknow, where Haji Murad sold his delicacy for 96 years. The kebabs quickly melted into the mouth and into people's hearts. In 1996, third-generation family members Usman Ali and Rizwan Ali inaugurated another branch in the Aminabad area of Lucknow to widen the reach.
One of the Tunday kebabs' loyal patrons was late legendary actor Dilip Kumar. According to Mohammad Usman, the owner of a branch, although Dilip Sahab himself could never visit, he used to order Tunday's kebabs every time he came to the city and even had them delivered to Delhi and Mumbai. Most evenings at the Tunday Kababi resemble a festival of sorts, with men, women, and families swarming in to treat their palate with their exquisite range of kebabs and Mughlai paratha.
Another fact is that Tunday is just one of the delicacies of old Lucknow, a place abound in palatable recipes, each with an interesting story of its own.
This story is a replug on the occassion of World Kebab Day