Akbari Gate

In the early days, Mohammad Mubeen set up shop in Nakkhas, selling pasanda, nihari and kulcha. In 1973, they moved to the present premises; and are now famous all over Lucknow. Mubeen’s father Ismael and mother Nadiri learnt to cook under the tutelage of Nadiri’s father, the Major Domo of the then Begum of Bhopal. The begum had granted a shop on the ground floor of a mosque where Mubeen and his brother sold pasanda, kabab, paratha and nihari. In the 1960s, Mubeen and Nadiri moved to Lucknow. When finances improved, they were able to buy farmland for tilling, near Malihabad. Their son Rizwan took up farming. When age caught up with Mubeen, Rizwan began to devote more time to the shop. Rizwan’s own sons, Shuaib and Yahya were involved in the management since boyhood. Even today, the family is deeply involved in running the outlet. Kheer sold here is cooked by Shama, Rizwan’s ageing wife. From 6 AM, Yahya and the employees open shop. He is on duty till 6 PM, after which his elder brother takes over till about 1:30 AM next morning. Yahya says: “I have seen my grandfather at work. Nobody can prepare pasande to measure up to his technique. He used to fix a knife between his toes, and peel out layers of meat in rolls, from a joint he held in both hands. I’ve learnt from him, but I can’t make the kind of wafers of meat that he was able to. Many try to use the same technique today, but the first time I saw it done, it was by my grandfather. The marinade he used was his own ‘secret.’ Papa knows the secret, but we don’t.” Rizwan has not yet disclosed the secret to his sons– he just hands over the marinade to them, although it is they who run the outlet. Yahya is sipping paae ka shorba (soup made from goat’s trotters) as we talk. With the objective of serving customers the best possible, members of the family ensure that they taste and pass the dish before it is sold. He smiles and admits that if something is made well, he is often not above ‘tasting’ quite a large quantity! “There are some hospitals close by. We open till late for the patients and their attendants—of course, connoisseurs know that we are open for business till late hours even today. Apart from that, we are very proud that ladies and girls don’t hesitate to visit us late in the evening, even if they are by themselves. This is a major accomplishment—everybody understands that this locality is safe for women.”