“Humari baat maniye Tundey ki nahi, agli gali mein Shakeel ki Biryani khaiyega, pasand na aaye to paise hum denge.” Our rickshaw puller, who has apparently been eavesdropping on our non-stop chatter about food, tells us in his Lucknavi style as we get off his vehicle in the middle of a busy lane in the heat of Old Lucknow.
It is the eve of Holi and the city seems to be enjoying to the fullest. There are loudspeakers with blaring music, men & boys dancing & smearing gulaal on each other, last minute shoppers scurrying around for clothes and sweets and among all this commotion are us – two hungry souls looking for the perfect plate of Biriyani. We have come here for the famous Tundey Kebabi, but decide to give Shakeel a shot; after all he has solid recommendation backing him.
Shakeel turns out to be a hole in the wall in a lane so narrow that two people cannot walk through it together, it is also possible though that the crowd in front of the shop prevents people from passing by. We soon join the crowd.
Bent over an oversized deg, Shakeel, who is dishing out potion after potion, soon hands us a heaped plate of saffron & white rice over which he has carefully placed boneless pieces of chicken. As we settle on a flimsy bench and dig our spoons into the oil-laden rice, we realize the rickshaw puller was right: the Biriyani here can give any other Biriyani in town a run for its money.