The esrtwhile Kingdom of Avadh (or Lucknow, as it is now called), boasts a rich cultural history. The Nawabs, Muslim noblemen who governed the province for the Mughal rulers, were connoisseurs of the arts. Avadh’s history is replete with poetry, literature, art, music… and, of course, good food. In acknowledgement of its opulent past, Lucknow is known as The City of Nawabs. Thanks to its culinary legacy, however, I have come to think of it as The City of Nawabs and Kebabs. And no kababi in Lucknow is more beloved than Tunday Kababi, located amidst the chaos of Chowk, the walled Old City.
Tunday Kababi’s origins
Established over a century ago, Tunday Kababi is probably the best known kebab-maker in the country, specializing in the famous Shahi Gilawat ka Kebab (roughly translating to “Royal Melt-in-the-Mouth Kebab”), which was reportedly created to make it possible for an aging Nawab Wajid Ali Shah to continue to eat meat after he had lost his teeth. Apocryphally, the meat is tenderized with raw papaya, imbued with over 100 aromatic and digestive spices for a minimum of 14 hours, ground over 30 times to a fine pâtée-like consistency, made into patties, and then pan-fried.
A man named Haji Murad Ali founded Tunday Kababi in 1905. “Tunda” is half-pejorative, half-affectionate Urdu slang that’s used to refer to a one-armed man; because Murad Ali’s left arm had been amputated after he fell from a rooftop while flying a kite, he was known as “Tunday Miyan”, or “One-Armed Gentleman” (some say that the galouti was born as a result of his inability to form kebabs on a skewer – he would simply use his one hand drop the minced meat onto the griddle instead). Today, his grandson, current owner Mohammad Usmaan, has transformed his grandfather’s nickname – and his lip-smacking kebabs – into a brand with big plans. Kicking off his strategy to open franchises across India, he recently partnered with Bangalore-based businessman Abdul Rehman Khan to open Tunday Kababi right here in namma Bengaluru. Even better – at least for me – Tunday Kababi is located in Koramangala, where I live.
Tunday in Bangalore
he Bangalore Tunday’s is a no-frills place with laminated tabletops, paper napkins, and no air-conditioning. Photographs of celebrity visitors adorn the walls. Ceiling fans prevent the place from overheating. The “live kitchen” consists of a work counter to the left of the entrance and a fancy tandoor to the right.
This is not a fine dining establishment; if you are looking for what food-maven wannabes fashionably call “great ambience”, you won’t find it here. This, dear reader, is a simple, unpretentious eatery oozing down-home desi character.
I have visited or done takeaway from Tunday’s about a dozen times. The one thing that struck me each time was how proud every employee is to be a part of Tunday Kababi – from the bawarchi who stands at the entrance to the jaunty waiters who serve tables. When I visited shortly after they first opened for business, and asked, as I placed my order, “Yeh Lucknowi Tunday ka branch hai, ya sirf naam aisa rakha hai?” (Is this a branch of the Lucknowi Tunday’s, or have you just named it so?”) The waiter puffed his chest out, and informed me that this was, indeed, “sab kuch original, madam – naam, owner, aur khaana bhi” (“Everything is original, madam – the name, the owner, and the food too.”) On another occasion, when I evinced interest in the galoutis being cooked at the entrance, the bawarchi and his supervisor got quite excited, and told me “Yeh galouti kebab hai – yeh hamara specialty hai, asli ghee mein banaate hain. Bahut achha hai.” (These are galouti kebabs – they are our specialty, we fry them in real ghee. It’s very good.”) In addition to showing an obvious pride in their restaurant, the entire team seems efficient, friendly, and well-trained. They manage to serve with enthusiasm and a smile – despite the often frenetic pace.
The menu is short and sweet: galouti, seekh, or mutton boti kebabs, chicken kebabs, mutton or chicken korma, mutton, chicken or vegetable biriyani, roomalis, paratha, and a couple of rolls (including, in a somewhat cursory nod to the vegetarians, a paneer roll). Tunday’s has recently added kakori kebabs and chicken seekh to the menu, both of which are only available on certain days of the week. (Aside: WTF is a “chicken seekh“? That’s like a “paneer steak”. Oxymoron!) Edited to add: Actually, Tunday’s chicken seekh came as a pleasant surprise, with a hint of mint and green chilli elevating it from WTF to WOW.
I will confess to heedlessly racing my way through most of the menu in a bid to get to the star attraction: Tunday’s signature galouti kebab. Tunday’s excellent biriyani arrested my headlong plunge towards the grand finale. Although I am not a biriyani connoisseur, I can say that the biriyani served here is outstanding. Each grain of rice is separate and fluffy; there’s hardly any oil, and the mutton is tender but not overcooked. Suffused with the intoxicating aroma of Basmati rice, this biriyani has a far gentler flavor than the slap-you-in-the-face Hyderabadi biriyani. (Aside #2: Since the word biriyani is derived from the Farsi “birian“, which means “fry before cooking”, I do not consider the Dakhani biriyanis to be true biriyanis at all. None of the ingredients are “fried before cooking”; they are all steamed together.) My only grouse with Tunday’s biriyani – to be fair, with most restaurant biriyanis – is the fact that the ratio of meat to rice is inadequate (you can request additional pieces of mutton for an extra price).
The kormas are pretty good; no one flavor outshouts another, and both chicken and mutton versions are delicately perfumed with kewra (screw pine). Despite the deceptive appearance (thin, not thick gravy) these kormas are very rich preparations, so be careful not to over-order.
Tunday’s seekh kebab is finely minced, resulting in a pleasing texture. It’s spiced just right, and it’s not cooked until all the juices have evaporated. Ditto the smoky kakori kebabs, which practically dissolve within a minute of being placed in your mouth.
Perhaps my only disappointment with Tunday’s has been the roast barbecued chicken – it’s inconsistent. On some occasions, it’s been succulent, juicy, and smoky; on other occasions, it has been stringy, dry, and charred.
Tunday’s signature: galouti kebabs
Although I have never visited Lucknow, the galouti is a personal favorite of mine. I can tell a wannabe-galouti from The Real Thing the minute I smoosh it across my roti. And Tunday Kababi’s galouti is most definitely The Real Thing. Each has a silken texture – the meat has been ground so fine that you won’t be able to detect a single fibrous strand. Yup, I could definitely still eat this after all my teeth fall out. For all of its complexities, the end effect of the seasoning is tantalizingly subtle, allowing the rich fragrance of the ghee to complement the distinctive flavor of the lamb.
I’ve heard people complain that Tunday’s portion sizes are “too small”. I disagree, and here’s why. You get four galoutis to a plate, and it costs you Rs. 80. A ghee-soaked paratha will set you back by Rs. 20. (Aside #3: Tunday Kababi’s parathas are just the right mix of crisp and buttery, and provide the perfect backdrop to the galoutis. But if you’re counting calories, the roomali does just as well). If you eat all four kebabs and one paratha, you will have ingested over 700 calories for a total of Rs. 100. And the best thing is – this is rich food, so those calories really fill you up. Anyone who thinks this meal is “inadequate” has issues – serious ones.
Savoring galouti kebabs
A few pointers to help you maximize your galouti experience:
- Always eat them piping hot. Takeaway-and-reheat doesn’t work for galoutis. At. All.
- Whether you treat the kebab like a pâtée spread (I do) or not, always eat them with a paratha or a roti. They are not meant to be eaten on their own, and you may find the seasoning too strong without a serving of unleavened bread to tone it down.
- Be sure to squeeze few drops of lemon juice over them, and eat with a liberal helping of raw onion slices. Both help highlight the flavors in the kebab, as will a mint leaf, or a few drops of mint chutney.
- Don’t attempt to count calories. Your inner calculator will malfunction.
479, KHB Colony
5th Block Koramangala