Food is my first love and I sometimes wonder if acting is truly my calling. My life revolves around eating or thinking about what to eat. In my opinion, there are essentially four kinds of activities that consume a regular person's day - eating, talking about food, eating out or thinking about food.
When I started shooting for Victoria and Abdul, my film with Dame Judi Dench, I had to gain 12 kilos and I just ate to my heart's content. So, when I read Amir Khan’s interview for Dangal, I could totally empathise with him. Let me tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed every 'inch' of gaining weight. But, the sad part is that I am still struggling to lose all that extra baggage.
My earliest food memory
I was born in Delhi and grew up in Lucknow. I distinctly remember Eid at home when my mom would lay the table with all my favourites – kebab, biryani, sevaiya and every single kind of mouth-watering dish that she especially made with love for the festival. The house would be filled with the appetising aroma of raan, yakhni pulao, bharwa mirchi, mutappak (roti stuffed with minced meat), aam ki meethi chutney and mutton do-pyaza.
But the one dish that was a stood out for its exquisite taste which made it a favourite in my family was - my nani's melt-in-the-mouth galawati kababs. I bet no one has ever had kebabs that are as delicious with the perfect balance of spices. The secret was in the tenderisers that were used like raw papaya and homemade dahi. Ajwain, cloves and other spices were roasted and hand pounded which added to the rustic taste. I tried making them here in Mumbai, but they didn’t turn out as well as nani’s.
I spent most of my early childhood at our ancestral home in Lucknow, which was called the Bhopal House. I would help my great grandmother make this yummy mutton curry on mitti ka chula. In return as a reward, she would sneak me into the kothri, open a cupboard with a huge lock and slyly hand me a Hajmola. It was like a precious treasure for me. She would gift me ₹5 on Eid which is such a special memory. The taste of Tundey Kabab at Aminabad and the Jalebi heaped with fresh malai at Civil Lines, Allahabad are still fresh and makes my mouth water. Weddings involved gorging on Bakharkhani (a thick, sweet roti, almost like the sheermal) with galaouti kebab.
Also Read: How Well Do You Know Your Jalebis?
Here are some of Ali Fazal's favourite food haunts:
Nihari Kulcha at Raheem’s, Lucknow
My fondest memories of Lucknow is being driven by my nana in the wee hours of the morning to pack some nihari and kulcha from Raheem’s in Chowk (the famous market place in Lucknow). The place would shut down by 9:00 am, so we had to be wake up really early and reach before they run out of their food. It used to be my favourite breakfast.
Yakhni Pulao at Tundey, Aminabad, Lucknow
These guys make the best Yakhni pulao. The marrow seeps all the way into the rice which makes it nice and smoky. It is not very spicy.
Imarti and Kali Gajar ka Halwa at Qadir Halwai, Allahabad
This is one of the oldest shops in Allahabad located near Parade Ground. It’s very popular for the pure desi ghee sweets. But, the crispy and juicy Imarti and Kali gajar ka halwa are out of the world. They are not overly sweet and just right.
Halwa Puri at Parathawali Gali, Delhi
I love how they serve the puri with a spicy vegetable and slap a spoonful of suji halwa over it. You are supposed to mix the sabzi with the halwa and have it with the puri. The puris are not the regular puri, but are made of lentils. It’s simply divined and we literally survived on this while shooting for Fukrey.
Kerala Food at Fountain Plaza, Mumbai
The Surmai fry here is doused in fiery red masala and served with Malabari paratha. This small run-down place has the freshest fish and the parathas are soft and flaky; just as they should be. The chicken sukka is pretty good too. We used to order in a lot from this place while shooting Fukrey in Mumbai.
Saag and Makki di roti at Urban Tadka, Mumbai
I frequent this place because they serve the best saag and roti; even better than the ones I have had in Amritsar. Their tender chicken tikka also deserves repeat visits.
As told to Nivedita Jayaram Pawar
Lead image conceptualised by Vartika Pahuja
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