City Diaries: Lucknow's best chaats and snacks
I once read somewhere, “The secret of good Lucknowi food is not in the recipe but in the hand that makes it” … how absolutely true. And hence, there is always a specific eatery which has to be visited for a specific dish, ensuring that all of us who stay outside Lucknow, have a food trail that we must follow every time we get back here. In my last blog, I could only briefly touch upon the snacks of Lucknow, what I lovingly call the "fillers”. However, they deserve their own detailed post given the history of some of the eateries that serve them and for their incomparable taste. So, here’s a list of the top few must-try snacks in Lucknow.
Chaat-Batasha at Shukla Chaat House This crowded, little eatery, which could appear slightly uninviting at time, serves the most ‘crunchylicious’ lip-smacking chaat items. One of the oldest chaat outlets in Lucknow, it is known for serving authentic, pure-desi-ghee stuff! The papri-chaat, aloo tikki & even the sweet & simple dahi-batashe are highly recommended here.
The aloo tikki is a beautiful medley of tangy curd, sweet tamarind chutney and a crisp, deep-fried potato croquette (tikki). It is a synthesis of diverse tastes which in India is possible only in chaats perhaps.
The Matar chaat is a specialty of Lucknow. The dried white peas are boiled, mashed and mixed with just the right spices before they are drenched in lime juice and garnished with coriander and crushed batashe. The final outcome, served in a leaf bowl is a dense, spicy and tangy dish, quite unlike a typical chaat item.
Details: Shukla Chaat House is located near Bank of India, Shahnajaf Road (Hazratganj). The average cost per person at this simple outlet could be as low as 50 bucks. No seating is available, only take-away.
Chedi Lal – The king of shakes The undisputed king of milkshakes, Chedi Lal, is among the must-visit eateries in the city for the vast variety of flavored milk shakes it serves. One of the oldest shops in Hazratganj (or, just ganj as it is called), it started in 1922! For the 94 years that it has been in existence, the number of shakes served has gone up from two to more than a dozen now. Thick, rich milk and cream are blended with fresh fruits to result in delightfully flavoured and filling milk shakes. It offers flavors like Lichi, Strawberry, Cold Coffee, Mango etc. Details: Chedi Lal is located near Sahu Cinema (Hazratganj) & serves a variety of juices and shakes. Timings: 11 AM – 11 PM.
Chats at Capoors, and a new Cafe too! Capoors started as a chaat-wala and over the years has graduated to a ‘Café’! But it’s the chaat that still draws huge crowds from all across the town. Basket chaat, Raj Kachori and Pani-puri (or Pani-Batasha) are what it is most well-known for! Details: Capoor’s is located in the heart of the city, Hazratganj (11 LGF). Its menu is an amalgamation of tradition and modernity … serving chaat to coffee. Seating is available in the cafe section.
Sweets at Ram Asrey Everybody in Lucknow knows Ram Asrey! A household name that needs no introduction, this eatery was established in 1805 in a narrow lane in Lucknow’s Chowk area. They serve the most mouthwatering and divine sweets ever! Some of their most well-known specialties are Malai Paan, Pista barfi, Dudhia. Their Boondi-Laddoo is an all-time favourite too. Details: Ram Asrey’s oldest branch is located at Ban Wali Gali, Chowk.
Dahi bada at Ram Narayan Tiwari, Ganeshganj Established sometime in the 1930’s this eatery is the stuff that legends are made of. It still commands its prime position in Lucknow’s world of chaats! It’s a good idea to start with pani ke batashe (UP’s version of paani puri / gol gappe / puchkas), then move on to their palaki (chaat made of spinach leaves or palak patta, in which palak is coated in thin besan batter, deep fried and topped with dahi-chutney) and finally wrap up with 'the' dahi bada, which has a thick, slightly sweet dahi and the softest badas in Lucknow!
The pani ke batashe at Ram Narayan Tiwari are served with different types of sweet and spicy pani. The batashe themselves are light & crispy shells, made of flour and potatoes (unlike Delhi where semolina or sooji is also used for the shells) and the stuffing is usually mildly-spiced mashed potatoes & boiled chickpeas. These would be closer to the ‘puchkas’ of Kolkata. Details: Pt. Ramnarayan Tiwari Chaatwala is located in Ganeshganj. It is one of the oldest chaat shops in Lucknow.