Thele Wali Biryani

Pulao wali gali, Near Sayyad-ji ki mazaar, Opposite Naintal Bank, Nakhas

It was around 1950 that Imtiaz’s grandfather, Abdul Majeed left the services of an impoverished Taluqedaar of Barabanki and came to Lucknow. Confident of his craft, he set up shop near Naaz Cinema. Loading a huge pot of biryani, another of raita and the requisite crockery and cutlery in a large iron basket, he would lug it to and fro every day. When Imtiaaz was a child, he thought his grandfather looked like a professional wrestler. “If you meet him now, you would end up thinking that Imtiaaz is a bigger wrestler,” says Imtiaz with a smile. Years of hard labour resulted in the family’s finances improving. An old girls’ school in Nakhas was shutting down. Abdul Majeed bought the building and moved his entire clan into the premises. The entire lane is now known as the ‘street of pulaav’ now. In time, Imtiaz’s unle Wahid set up shop in Nazirabad, close to where his father started out. Wahid Biryani ranks among the most famous outlets in Lucknow by now. Imtiaz’s father Mohammad Chand took up the responsibility in the street of pulaav. The only change that this establishment underwent over time is that—“My grandfather used to sell biryani out of a basket, and I sell biryani off a hand cart. But it is also true that in all of Lucknow, you will find that paye ki biryani (biryani made with buffalo beef trotters) can be had only from our cart. We serve paye ki biryani only on Sundays. Our style of preparing bade ki (buffalo beef) biryani is also unique. Actually, the dish sssssshould be called a yakhni pulaav, but very few understand the distinction between a pulaav and a biryani these days. Biryani and pulaav are made to order as well. “Sometimes we get an order for a custom-made biryani late in the evening. But we know that the honour of our customer is at stake, and we ourselves will lose face if we can’t deliver. We get to work and deliver the order in an hour or two. Imtiaaz is celebrated for this approach to his customers throughout the town. “Just don’t ask us for paye ki biryani at two hour’s notice—for that, you must give us the time that the dish requires!”