Sunday, July 13, 2008

A taste of Mughlai Cuisine at Delhi

I recently had a taste of authentic Mughlai cuisine at Delhi. I've been to Delhi two times earlier (once during college days and once a couple of years back) but never got a taste of the Mughlai food that it's well known for. We had stayed in RBI guest house in the earlier instances and had opted for Punjabi vegetarian food only. This time though, I'd been there with my brother and decided to stay in a Muslim locality and have a taste of the local food.

My friend and colleague from Delhi was partly our guide (on our earlier trips, we had no local to help us). We stayed at Hazrat Nizamuddin. And we were told by my friend that the best place to eat nearby was Karim's. I had never heard of it before. But my bro and me decided to give it a try as it was close by. It was near the dargah main entrance. The approach road was not so exciting. But since the place was recommended, we decided to go and check it out anyways. And then we saw a traditional place with the signboard DASTARKHWAN-E-KARIM. We didn't know much about this place until we went inside. It was a cozy and traditional place. It was Friday afternoon and the Jumma prayers were just over. It was empty as we entered. The menu arrived. It had a long story and history to tell.

The place was established in 1913 by Haji Karimuddin. His ancestor was a cook in the court of Bahadurshah Zafar, the last Mughal king. The fine art of mughlai cuisine has passed on in their family since then. KARIM'S is now a chain of restaurants and the first one was started as a Dhaba at Jama Masjid and is now famous there. There are a few more branches. The one at Nizamuddin is known as - Dastarkhwane Karim. The menu had published reviews of KARIM'S restaurants. The place has won rave reviews from TIME magazine, BBC, National Geographic to name a few.

I clicked a couple of snaps of the interiors before people started pouring in after the friday prayers. We proceeded to order Murgh Do Pyaza, tandoori roti and biryani. The Murgh-Do-Pyaza had a unique flavour never tasted of before. The tandoori roti was fuller than the ones we get in Mumbai. The ones I've been eating in Mumbai have been thinner and half burnt and somewhat 'rubbery when not hot'. But in Karim's case, just one roti was quite filling. The biryani was good. But not great. We came the next time around and had seekh kabab and Afghani Murgh masala and loved both the items yet again. Every item on the menu is a unique preparation and tastes great. The muslim non vegetarian restaurants I've tried in Mumbai have mostly the same base and something additional added to change the flavour a bit. And thankfully at Karim's the base was not 'besan'. We are from south and besan is not something I'd like to have in my curries and gravies. That's why I mostly prefer home-made non-veg food when in Mumbai (Mom's a great cook). The price at Karim's is little on the higher side, but it is worth the taste.

We also had a chance to dine at Saleem's Restaurant. This one's situated near Kailash Colony market. The place started off as a small roadside stall (dhaba) selling Chicken Malai Tikka and Malai Tikka rolls. And after becoming popular, it was turned into a restaurant. Even now the place is especially famous for them. This is what my friend told us. We took two plates of Malai Tikka. And the taste was heavenly. The pieces were bigger than we get in Mumbai and too soft and yummy. Something like I'd never tasted before. The place is also known for Butter chicken. So we tried that alongwith tandoori and rumali rotis. Here again the rotis were filling and good. Overall a good place.

I wanted to try out nargisi koftas and kababs while in Delhi coz never tasted good ones in Mumbai. Never ever tried anything at Mohammed Ali Road too as I am skeptical about eating from the roadside and also fear being served beef. My friend was to take us to a place serving good kababs, but somehow the plan didn't materialise. And kababs remained a dream on my tongue. Maybe on my next trip to Delhi, inshallah.