Awadhi Pasanda of the Shaukeens

As the saying goes, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. This is true for all Indians, regardless of gender, class, or age! Don’t you agree? We are often teased for living to eat rather than the other way around. Our keen sense of flavour, aroma, and blend has led to the invention of many dishes and distinctive styles of cuisine, enriching our food heritage, such as the Awadhi Pasanda. You must have heard the common local adage – “Accha khaya nahi toh kya khak jiya?”
Sumptuous Awadhi Pasanda Image Source: Seasoned Pioneers

Sumptuous Awadhi Pasanda Image Source: Seasoned Pioneers

The perception of being rich for the people of this sub-continent is an elaborate multi-course, lavish and delectable spread of dishes displayed or offered on the table. Right? One of the best dishes to bring this richness to any table is the Awadhi Pasanda.

It is one of the must-have dishes created in the 16th century for the Turco-Mongol descendants ruling the sub-continent. Just like the Greeks and Romans who are considered great for conquering entire Europe, Persia, and parts of the Middle East and leaving their imprints everywhere, the Moghuls too, have conquered the hearts with their philanthropy for art, literature, and cuisine.

The descendants of these Royals were the Nawabs or Kayasths who continued the aristocratic shaukeen mijaz in their lifestyle, especially their love to relish the delicacies in food. Cooks and Master chefs were revered personalities in the Gharana of Nawabs. Competitions held among the rakabdars were common and the reason for the invention of many drool-worthy dishes we relish today.

One such resultant dish of the Kayasths is the Awadhi Pasanda. ‘The word ‘Pasanda’ means favourite and the mutton dish owed its name to the exclusive pasandida cuts of strips from the lamb or goat leg or specifically the thigh part, then flattened with a wooden mallet’. It became a mark of privileged status or exclusive for the Kayasths or the rich hard-to-get dishes.

A similar-sounding dish is found in the Encyclopedic book Manasollasa compiled by King Someshvara III in the 12th century. The book mentions a dish made of meat cut and pounded into thin strips and then cooked in yoghurt buji. Pasanda is also made of similar flattened strips marinated for several hours in yoghurt and then cooked with chilli powder, spices and herbs.

The standard cooking of Pasanda is frying the flattened meat strips along with onions, seasoned with chilli powder, coriander leaves, and then garnished with blanched badaam (almonds). In fact, the original recipe is known as Badaam Pasanda. This oldest version of cooking style has dwindled except for a few descendants of the gharana.

The elite finesse of the dish is symbolic of its method of cooking. The original cooking style of Badaam Pasanda is marinating the meat strips and rolling them with fillers of blanched thinly cut almonds(badaam) and pistachios. The rolls are secured with strings and then lowered in the boiling curry of seasoned yoghurt and spices sauce or curry to be cooked at low flame. It is cooked for about thirty minutes to one hour, depending on the tenderness of the meat. Though nowadays the simpler method adopted is to lower the marinated meat strips into a boiling creamy and spiced gravy of yoghurt and almonds.

As it is known, the only constant in this world is Change, the Awadhi Pasanda has also indulged in many variants tried and tasted by dextrous culinary experts and elite shaukeens. The dish is also adapted in versions of chicken and vegetables catering to the different economic classes and food habits.

Some of the variants are the Balti Chicken Pasanda, the Special Spice Blend which is flavoured with roasted cumin seeds, black peppercorns, crushed red chillies, methi(fenugreek) leaves and aromatised with cloves, both green and black cardamom, cinnamon, etc.

Awadhi Pasanda has thus graced the tables of aristocrats, the Kayasths and also the people who can afford and digest the rich zaika of Awadhi cuisine. Many Awadhi Food Festivals are held across the nation to keep the Indian taste buds drooling to the spiced aroma of these Nawabi delicacies.

‘Like the Royal Awadhi Food Festival held at the Ramada Plaza in Chennai from 8th-17th April 2022, creating a Buffet Square which had the Chennaites flock, to indulge in the Awadhi Zaika assembled by Chef Nizam Quraish and Chef Haneef.’

So, the next time there is an Awadhi Food Festival, do not miss the chance to pamper the palate with this Nawabi delight. All in all the Awadhi Pasanda is the iconic representation of the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb or the culture of India.

Awadhi Pasanda to Relish Image Source: Food NDTV

Awadhi Pasanda to Relish Image Source: Food NDTV


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