The land of Nawabs has been known for ages for its rich, tasty non-vegetarian fare that forms the core of Awadhi cuisine - galawati kebabs, boti kebabs, biryani, gosht kofte, nihari-kulche and what not! The legacy of Lucknow's non-vegetarian food is now facing a stiff competition from the vegetarian platter.
With more and more youngsters taking a turn towards fitness, vegetarianism is getting high on the agenda for the people of Lucknow. This has led to mushrooming of hundreds of food outlets and roadside eateries serving some of the finest vegetarian food. Some of the most popular delicacies would certainly include vegetarian kebabs, momos, paneer rolls, soya rolls, soya boti kebab and soya chops.
Mushtaq, owner of Sindh Veg Corner at Aurobindo park, is a happy man. He sells more than 250 veg kebabs from his 'thela' (cart) every day. While some prefer kebabs as takeaways, most munch on them on the roadside - wrapped in fluffy maida parathas made on an 'ulta' (upside down) tawa. The kebab roll costs around Rs.15 a piece and comes with the garnishing of a spicy green chilli-coriander chutney.
Suresh, selling similar kebab rolls at Lalbagh, says he has a daily income of more than Rs 5,000. Other than the kebabs, he also sells veg biryani - soya chunks cooked in rice and served with onion rings and chutney. While at many outlets veg kebabs are made of black gram, chickpeas and shalgam (turnips), many outlets mix lentils and soya granules to make them taste close to their mutton-made cousins.
Momos are also a huge sellout. Filled with onions, shredded cabbage, garlic and ginger, these steamed pockets of delight are a huge hit among students. Dinesh, a resident from Uttarakhand and now selling momos at Gokhale Marg, said his business is doing well largely because of the students and youngsters. Animesh, owner of momos.com at Indiranagar, pointed out that the ratio sale of vegetarian momos to the non-veg ones is close to 100:10. Soya chops, tandoori soya tikka, soya roll, soya keema kulcha and soya boti kebabs have also found favour with the people of Lucknow.
"They taste so much meaty like the non-veg ones but are very healthy and nutritious and are completely vegetarian" school teacher Anamika Singh said, adding that while she cooks non-veg for her husband and in-laws, she prefers the vegetarian options.
Reminiscing the old times when non-veg food was an integral part of the Awadhi cuisine, a veteran of the erstwhile royal family said that earlier fresh meat would be integrated with vegetables - palak gosht, keema matar, soya keema, shalgam-gosht and gobhi-gosht - to provide for a balanced diet.
Now, however, in many Muslim families as well, vegetarian food is gradually assuming dominance. This, he said, is largely because of the younger generation getting more fitness and health conscious. Also, older people, many of whom are down with some ailments, are wary of a rich, high-calorie diet. Anisha Jain, a city nutritionist, also batted for vegetarian fare and said non-veg Awadhi food is loaded with spices and oil and is not the "best of foods for health."
And so, as vegetarianism picks up with new dishes churning out of its armoury, non-veg cuisine certainly has stiff a competition ahead!