Pata Nala, Raja Bazar
Abu Baqr states: “I cook with good indent and have always kept to the path shown by Allah and his Prophets. I cook the food, Allah adds taste to it. This business earned its fame because of my father Mohammad Idrees and Allah’s will. I am but a seeker of skill, and as I learn something new every day, I am a student as well; but after all I am only human and not an infallible angel. I am but dust and will return to Lucknow’s dust. My father started this business in 1968. Our family is not from Lucknow originally; it is from the Qasba called Mohaan. Haji Abdul Raheem was also related to him and was his mentor. My father worked at his place for 25 years before he sought his permission to start his own business. I have been in charge for the past 35-40 years. Many people now say Lucknow biryani means Idrees Biryani! Actually, what we make here is yakhni pulav. Allah’s bounty remains the same—the same rice, the same mutton, the four limbs of the goat. The difference lies in the way you cook rice: plain boiled rice, rice tempered with cumin seeds, khicdi, tahiri, pulav with green peas, pulav in broth, haleem and biryani are all different. In my father’s time, we used to eat rotis made from diverse kinds of flour: bajra, jowar (millets), maize. Qorma and murgh musallam would be prepared. These are hard times. I have myself observed that one person is enjoying the food in the shop while another can only look at the food longingly. In my father’s time, I used to buy tender mutton for ₹ 17 a kilo, Basmati rice from Haldwani at ₹ 3 a kilo and spices and condiments for ₹ 10-20. Mutton of the same quality costs ₹500-600 a kilo. Even online orders prefer ‘low fat’ food. I sometimes feel I should tell them that a person who eats fat-free food will not have a charming face! My son Hammad manages the business now.