A bit of History of this delicious sheermal from Lucknow
Photographs courtesy Saad Ahmad Rizvi
Abdul Haleem Sharar in Guzishta lucknow writes: ‘In Lucknow, Mahumdu [a bread cook] made great improvements on the baqar khani [a type of bread] by producing the shir mal which in taste, scent, lightness and delicacy was very much better.’ Mahumdu, at its invention, dashed to the nawab, who tore off a small bite, which is immortalized in the shape of the round shir mal lacking a half-moon bite, signifying Nawabi approval.
Photo Via Saad Ahmad Rizvi
Sharar continues, ‘In a very short time the shir mal gained such popularity in Lucknow that any celebration at which it was not served could not be considered perfect… [it] so increased the esteem in which Mahumdu was held that on the occasion of royal majlises and celebrations he sometimes received orders for a hundred thousand shir mals.’
The shir mal, because of its nature as an easily mass-produced bread that keeps, travels well, can be used to roll up kebabs, and is both a luxury item (of the Nawabs) as well as an economically feasible one (because it is bread after all) was handed out as tabaruk specifically during Muhurrum, the mourning period for Shias – in fact we see paintings and references to shir mals being handed out from atop the elephant that ends the procession during Muhurrum.9 This does not mean that either the method of cooking or the bread is religious in nature; simply that certain aspects of Shi’ism in Lucknow allowed for the distribution and popularity of certain items. The shir mal, like dum pukht, also indicates that a food of the street can enter into the kitchen of the palace – that chefs, themselves divided into specific trades or specialists in dishes, cooking for large or small numbers, were richly rewarded for their inventions.
(Write up and history courtesy Mohammad Haider)
Note Goes well with Galavati kabab
Photograph courtesy Saad Ahmad Rizvi
Saad Ahmad Rizvi runs Nawabeen Catering Service, which serves authentic Lukhnavi food.
Hall A, Sana Palace-2,
Opp. Sahara ganj mall, lko-226018
For anyone interested