Gone are the days when you had to request for a vegetarian meal to subsist on your travel journey. Sometimes you come across a destination where you don’t have to hunt for veg fare and can eat plenty of all that is in sight. The City of Nawabs takes vegetarian food very seriously, serving up a melee of lipsmacking options at every nook and corner to woo your palate. Lucknow has always been touted for its kebabs and biryani, but the mouthwatering vegetarian alternatives leave you lusting for more, making you want to take a food trip to the city of Awadh, again and again.
What makes access simpler is the arrival of delivery majors in Lucknow, who swish up the goods to your doorstep in minutes. Glug down bel ka sherbet, ganne ka juice, and shikanji that is easily available to stay hydrated, as you savour the specials.
Gupta ji ke thandey dahiwade
Fat and fluffy, these sweet dahi vadas are an absolute treat. Thickly coated with dahi, they come as a couple in a packet for Rs 110 only. The iconic fried dal dumplings used to be sold by the genial vendor, Gupta ji, outside the General Post Office in Hazratganj. This cool, delicious street food fills up your tummy in a jiffy. As Gupta ji grew toothless, his buggy trundled to his home, a stone’s throw away, outside the Prince of Wales Zoo. With your purchase, you get a small docket of special masala with roasted, pounded jeera, laal mirch and amchur to sprinkle on the dahi vadas, along with the tangy imli chutney. A must have!
Rattilal ke khasta kachori
If you haven’t tasted the khasta kachori at Rattilal’s in Aminabad, you haven’t done justice to the food in Lucknow. Serving up garam kachoris and meethi lassi for breakfast has been Rattilal’s forte since 1937. The crisp kachoris get sold out in a couple of hours, so make sure you net in a few before that. Half the magic lies in the accompanying spicy, deep fried aloo ki sabzi and sukha matar. Complete with sliced onions, chillies, and aam ka achar—this one sets the tang for your day
Netram ki sabzi puri
This is the typical UP ka nashta. The teeming Gadbadjhala area in Lucknow’s busiest shopping areas, Aminabad, brags of the yummiest aloo puri you can get in the city. Make the most of this feast for a Sunday brunch. The hot, fluffy puris come hissing with the spicy sabzi that makes the chillies simply hum on your lips. Glug the meethi lassi along with the feast, as you bite into the accompanying garam kachoris. The chutney dip needs a fire extinguisher though. Savour the crunchy, and beautiful cousin of the humble jalebi, in the orange imarti as it preens prettily on your plate, thick with syrupy goodness. Remember, getting a four-wheeler here is impossible in the crowded lanes.
Sharma ji ki chai
There is something about this chai that hooks you completely. No one can have just one cup. Served in the kullads (you get these even when you order on Swiggy or Zomato) the hot slurp comes complete with sugar. If you choose to have it at the 70-year-old tea stall—lining Lalbagh area, behind Janpath market—remember there are only tables on the pavement, and no seats where you can dilly dally. Sip and swish out seems to be the motto here. Try the bun makhan (the white smear makes you lick your fingers) along with the khasta, plump, and gol samosas—this is the only place where you get these globular goodies in the city.
Royal Café ki chaat
They do it differently in Lucknow—no aloo or sprouts in golgappas, but only matar or vatana, overboiled and tangibly spiced, with Bisleri powered paani. For the best chaat in the city, come to Royal Café in Hazratganj. The generous pavement brings in ample seating to park yourself here and chomp at leisure. The showstopper is the basket chat, with cracking crisp deep fried aloo crisps forming the basket. The fat aloo tikkis hissing in ghee on the supersized tawa swirl and sizzle into golden brown goodness. Ladles of thick dahi and imli chutney, topped off with a fiery masala and a smattering of crunched up golgappas complete the chaat experience here. Shukla ji, Jain ji, and Sharma ji ki chat come a distant second
Moti Mahal ki pista kulfi & patisa
If you eat kulfi here, you will never spare a glance for this thanda dessert anywhere in the world. Mumbai kulfi merits a snicker in front of this malai packed, pista-laden saffron slab that arrives muffled with tons of white and orange falooda. This is it—heaven on earth! The challenge is that you cannot eat more than half a kulfi, it is so rich and wholesome. The second iconic sweet pick at Moti Mahal in Hazratganj is the Swiss roll style cut patisa. Forget that antique soan papadi that gets passed around for years as the same gift. This is the real thing. Ghee clad, preening with silver warq, and caressed lovingly in besan. Pakka mithai, long lasting, perfect for gifting too
Hanuman Mandir ke besan laddoo
Cross the road from Moti Mahal to offer prayers at the tiny landmark, the famous Hanuman mandir. This is the beginning of Jyestha in the Hindu calendar, and the time of the year when every Tuesday is celebrated as Bada Mangal. Legend goes that Ram, Laxman, and Sita when on their way back to Ayodhya from Lanka, after defeating Ravana, chose to rest awhile in Laxmanpur aka Lakhanpur aka Lucknow. Stalls doling out thandai, ice cream, puri chole, mithai… gratis are set up all over. But what is available all year round, only on Tuesdays, are the special besan ka laddoos, rolled in ghee. Bite sized, granular and sweet, they are the preferred prasad of the deity. Tuck in.
Cheddilal ke juice
The best, freshest, seasonal juices (sugar free) ranging from watermelon to sweet lime to cold coffee, cheeku milkshake, and hand-made ice creams in thick, creamy, mega sized scoops on a cone form the thirst busters outside Janpath market, on the pavement at the iconic Chhedilal. Try the Duessehri milkshake during the summer. The best to tank up on to combat the heat wave, and your perfect hydrator midst your manic chikankari shopping spree.
Malihabad ke Dussehri
Of course, the Alphonso or the Afoos is over rated. Once you sink your molars into the honeyed sweetness and golden trickle of the duessehri aam plucked fresh off the trees in the famous orchards of Malihabad lining Lucknow, you will owe your allegiance to this variety of the king of fruits. They arrive in May and their sliced, cold versions are the best heat busters up North too. For the premium pick, only two pieces go up in a kilo of the fruit by weight. Devour at ease
Makhan malai at Akbari Gate
This is a winter dessert that you can tuck in by the bucketfull. It was made initially by the khansamas for the toothless nawabs of Awadh to seal their meals with a touch of sweetness. The ‘maliayye’ simply melts like the taste of the monsoon clouds on your tongue when you stand atop hills. Light, frothy, creamy and airy, it comes packed with saffron, pistachio flecks, and a hint of cardamom. Milk is churned to make butter and then worked on further to create the wispy froth, hugged overnight in earthen pots wrapped in damp cloth to let the morning dew settle which brings its moistness to the goodness of makhan malai.