In 1856, when King Wajid Ali Shah — the last nawab of Lucknow — was exiled by the British, he came to Metiabruz, a suburb of Kolkata, and established ‘Chota Lucknow’ to keep the memories of his city alive.

This move influenced Kolkata’s local culture and food. Surprisingly, what is embraced today as Kolkata biryani has its roots in Lucknow.

Manzilat Fatima, the great-great-granddaughter of the king, says, “You have the characteristic of Awadh biryani in the Kolkata one. They are like cousins of one family.”

She says that the king introduced potatoes — considered a royal delicacy back then — in Awadh biryani and it then became what we today relish as Kolkata biryani.

For the last five years, the 55-year-old has been running a home diner called Manzilat’s to celebrate the legacy of royal delicacies.

“People even in Lucknow and Metiabruz do not know the history associated with the food. I wanted to contribute towards carrying the legacy of my family before the world forgets our lineage and the relevance of food,” she says.

Talking about the unique cooking methods she uses to cook Kolkata biryani, Manzilat says, “First I prepare korma, which I add as a layer in the utensil.”

“After this, I add a layer of boiled potatoes savoured with ghee, salt, and spices. Lastly, I add a layer of boiled rice and add the flavouring of ghee and saffron. When you cook in logs and matkas (clay utensils), it gives a smoky flavour.”

“I cook biryani with regular spices like kebab chini, mace, cardamom, and clove. In some Awadhi delicacies, I use specialised spices and herbs like paan ki jad, khas ki jad, patthar ke phool (herbs),” she says.

“They are more aromatic. The only secret I have is the proportion of spices to be used, it makes a lot of difference,” she adds.

Every day, Manzilat caters to foodies from across the world — including Japan, China, Abu Dhabi, Toronto, New Jersey, and Singapore.

She says her mission is not to earn from a commercial setup but to spread awareness of the history of Awadh, its last King Wajid Ali Shah, and freedom fighter Begum Hazrat Mahal.

“For this, I get immense love, honour, and respect, which is priceless. That is my real earning,” says Manzilat.