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The hype over Tundey kebabs

Tundey Kebab

Tundey Kebab   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

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Are Tundey's kebabs all they're made out to be and have they improved over the years?

It’s rather nice when the mountain comes to Mohammed. Last week, I was to have gone to Lucknow for a niece’s wedding, and was looking forward to it for two good reasons: one, I hadn’t visited Lucknow for four decades or so; and two, I needed to bite into some of Tunday’s scrumptious kebabs.

If you like your kebabs, you would know all about Tunday, the legendary kebab maker whose spiced meat was so delicious that his fame (along with his kebabs) spread far and wide.

I was looking forward to Lucknow, even though I am not into wedding festivities. Unfortunately, a medical procedure meant that I had to cancel my plans. That was when the mountain came calling — my brother-in-law, who attended the wedding, spent some quality time in Aminabad, where Tunday’s shop is located. He carried back for us a large box of kebabs and a small hillock of sheermals.

We have all heard stories about Tunday. Legend has it that the melt-in-the-mouth shamis was first cooked with some 160 masalas by a one-armed kababchi called Haji Murad Ali, and that’s how it got its name. Over the years, a great many wannabe Tunday shops have opened and shut, not just in Lucknow, but also in other parts of the country. One came up in my East Delhi neighbourhood a couple of years ago which, the owners said, was a branch of the great Lucknow shop. The kebab wasn’t bad at all, but the shop closed before you could say pyaaz aur pudina chutney dena, Bhai.

I remember how I relished the kebabs when a friend brought some for us many years ago from Lucknow. Though I have always held that the Shami Kebabs of Meerut are better than their counterparts elsewhere, Tunday’s fare had its own magic. So I opened the box that the BIL had carried with a great deal of excitement. It had two kinds of kebabs — of goat meat and buff. We heated them at home, and waited for some friends to come over. One busy friend said he’d visit us in the evening, and two not-so-busy friends said they’d be over for dinner. The kebabs with the sheermal were served to them all, and we reached a few conclusions:

For one, Tunday’s kebab is not what it used to be. Earlier, I thought the kebabs were to die for. Now I feel that you don’t really have to give your life up for them. Second, they have to be eaten with rotis, preferably ultey tawa ke parathey — parathas cooked on an upturned vessel. Without them, they are a bit too salty. But wrapped in a piece of roti, the salt seems fine.

I asked my friends what they thought about it. One of them said while the texture was fine, the flavour of nutmeg was too strong. Another felt that there was a sharp edge to the kebab that took away from its taste. A case of too many spices spoiling the broth? I thought the kebab was fine, but not outstanding.

It goes without saying that having the kebab hot off the tawa, on top of a piece of crispy roti, makes all the difference. Eating it at home, as we know, is never the same. But I am convinced, more than ever, that Meerut is still number one. Tunday, perhaps, is not even a poor second. Either the kebabs have changed, or I have. I think it’s a bit of both.

The writer is a seasoned food critic

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 5:46:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/the-hype-over-tundey-kebabs/article30359155.ece

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