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Noor- The flickering light of lost recipes of the Mughals

Noor- The flickering light of lost recipes of the Mughals

                                                                                                            Saira Mujtaba

Baat niklegi toh bahot dur talak jayegi… This couplet from the famous ghazal echoes in my head whenever I have a conversation on Mughlai food with someone. The city which was once an epitome of grandeur and royalty, the remnants of its magnificence are still seen in the astounding monuments dotting the city’s skyline. But Mughlai food being a very important part of the city’s royalty seems to have got influenced over time and one can’t really find the authentic taste and aroma that once emanated from the Royal kitchens of Shahjahanabad. Not only the taste of some popular dishes like qorma and biryani has got influenced by traces of other places (Moradabadi biryani being one such delicacy that has fused in the so-called Mughlai platter of Delhi), some of the dishes that were once served to the Royalty are now probably lost…or so I thought. This was the lament that I was living with until Fate made me acquainted with Mohammed Noor who traces his roots to the Royal chefs of Shah Jahan.

Nestled on the bustling road in front of Gate No. 1 of the grand Jama Masjid, Noor’s kitchen is a meek one room with a tandoor in one corner and 2-3 ‘chulhas’ with copper ‘degs’ sending out wafts of aroma into the air that tingle the tastebuds. The soot covered walls of the kitchen withholding so many secrets of lost Mughal recipes too.

_DSC5276Noor stands out from the rest of the Mughlai cuisine chefs as he’s got the knack and art of preparing Mughlai food in his genes, for his forefathers served the Mughals seven generations ago and passed on this culinary magic to their progeny of which Noor is a flickering lamp in the city of glittery lights and glamour. Noor is the man behind the lost recipes of Mughlai kitchens. But in his own words, “ Mujhe English bolna nahi aati (I don’t know how to speak English language), and hence he feels that some big names who hog the limelight and organise food festivals in snazzy hotels exploit his talent and don’t give him much credit.

Noor considers Haji Kallan as his Ustaad. His ancestors used to work under Haji Kallan while serving the Royals and even today Noor is associated with Haji’s family as a part time cook.

Name any dish of the Mughlai cuisine and Noor knows it on fingertips. Ever heard of ‘gosht ka halwa’? Yes, I couldn’t believe that mutton could be served as a dessert as well, but Noor is adept in preparing all these unique dishes.

Kaancha Kofta, Mutanjan-Utanjan, Tumba Biryani, Mutton Barra, murgh musallam- bakra musallam and the list is endless. But it’s a travesty that people like Noor whose fingers possess the magic of preparing exquisite Mughlai foods, have to strive hard to make their presence felt. “Bade bade hotel mein ladke khaana pakaate hain par unke paas hunar nahi hai, sirf degree hai…mere paas hunar hai par degree nahi hai, isi liye main maat khaata hun (All these big hotels employ young boys who don’t have talent but they have degrees….I’ve got talent but don’t have a degree and that’s where I lag behind.)

Noor plans to pass on all the secrets of these lost recipes of Mughlai cuisine to one of his sons, but only time will tell if he will get his due in a world where degree sans true talent and refined English language overshadows real worth.

Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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Bhaiya Lal’s Pineapple Burfi

Bhaiya Lal’s Pineapple Burfi

By Anubhav Sapra

 Being a self confessed sweets addict, I am constantly looking out for sweet shops. Some of my favorite sweet shops in Chandni Chowk are – Chaina Ram in Fatehpuri Chowk for Karanchi halwa and sev badam, Hajari Lal Jain in Kinari Bazar for rabri and khurchan, Ghantewala near Fountain Chowk for sohan halwa, Tewari brothers near Town Hall for motichur ke laddu, Annapurna Sweets opposite Seeshganj Gurudwara for Bengali sweets and of course, Dariba Kalan’s famous jalebi.

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I was walking down the Dariba street when I spotted a mithai wala selling varieties of colorful mithais beautifully decorated with chandi vrak in separate trays. These trays were laid on the stairs of one of the Jewellery shops in Dariba Kalan. The owner, Naresh Kumar evenly spread sheets of edible chandi varak over the sweets, sprinkled pistachios burada, and covered the sweets with nets to keep flies away.

Naresh Kumar sells the sweets opposite Gali Kunjas in Dariba Kalan between Ramtaur Jewellers and Swastik Jewellers shop from 5 pm onwards. He learnt the art of making sweets from his father, who is well-known as Bhaiya lal. Bhaiya lal started the sweet shop in his name in 1936 at Shop no. 3459, Hauz Qazi, Subzi Market and Naresh Kumar took over in 1962. He has been selling the same variety of sweets.

IMG_20150530_174602The menu consists of Bengali mithai Rasbhari, Parmal stuffed with khoya, cham cham, lauki burfi, Pineapple burfi, nariyal burfi. All the sweets are prepared in a more or less similar way – with khoya as the main ingredient. All of them costs Rs 400/- kg. The sweets are weighed by using a tarazu (balance scale).

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What intrigued me most was the Pineapple burfi, which I had tasted for the first time at this sweets shop. It turned out to be excellent because it was just the right amount of sweet. It was prepared adding pineapple syrup to roasted khoya.Another Bengali sweet, Rasbhari which are small rasgullas were different from the ones we usually get. Rasbhari was not soaked in sugar syrup, it was dry from the outside and the centre was filled with thickened sugar syrup so that as soon as one bites into it their mouth fills with the sweet syrup. Other sweets, cham cham, lauki burfi, and nariyal burfi were equally amazing.

 I am delighted to add Bhaiya Lal’s sweets to my list of favorite Sweets shops in Chandni Chowk!

Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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Purani Dilli’s Al Karam – Purani Dilli in Gurgaon

Purani Dilli’s Al Karam – Purani Dilli in Gurgaon

By Anubhav Sapra

“Ek seekh kebab, ek nahari, ek korma, ek keema naan, ek shahi tukda…” and the sounds are still echoing in my ears. I visit Bazar Matia Mahal in the lanes of Jama Masjid, situated in Purani Dilli, almost four times in a week and these words echo every night when I go to sleep. For me, it was a bit unusual to hear the same words in the kitchen of a restaurant in Gurgaon. At one point of time, I thought I was again in an eatery in Matia Mahal.

I visited Purani Dilli’s Al Karam restaurant in Gurgaon the previous evening. The complete address is A-133, Supermart 1, DLF Phase 4, Gurgaon.  Another branch of the same restaurant is in Satya Niketan. Even after attending the much hyped launch of Burger King in the morning, I was more excited to visit Al Karam’s to savour its kebabs and biryani. Indeed, the evening turned out to be “foodilicious”. The entrance of the restaurant greets you with a kebab stand, which was indeed very welcoming to a foodie like me. I reached at the very time the kebabchis were setting up the skewers to grill the kebabs. Within minutes, I was overjoyed to see the kebabs rolling.

While most restaurants in Delhi are run by the names of big chefs, Varun, the proud owner of the restaurant graciously introduced to me his kebabchi, Naushad, shagird of Lallu Kebabchi and Kallan Bawarchi in Jama Masjid. Naushad has also briefly worked in a kebab corner in Daryaganj for one and a half years before joining Al Karam’s. I had a short interaction with Naushad as he was leaving for a catering order in Gurgaon, but it still elevated my expectations. The journey of Al Karam’s started from Bazar Matia Mahal in Jama Masjid, where Varun met Umez Khan, the owner of Al Karam’s in Jama Masjid and both of them together set up Purani Dilli’s Al Karam in Gurgaon in November 2013.

WP_20141108_18_32_46_ProI left it completely to Varun to introduce me to the menu and my food journey began with gilafi kebab (Rs. 230), minced mutton kebabs in a crisp coating of beans, green chilies, and paneer. The kebabs were tossed with butter and cream and I liked them, however, I must admit I like my kebabs served with green chutney and onions, and nothing else. I have had gilafi kebabs with a coating of capsicum at another place but Al Karam’s has a very different taste altogether. Another type of kebabs I had at Al Karam’s was achari kebab (Rs. 230). This was an interesting mix of the mirch masala of pickles in minced mutton and was full of flavours.

WP_20141108_19_24_02_ProIn curries, I had hakeemi chicken tikka (Rs. 500) and changezi chicken (Rs. 500). Both of them again had an unusual taste. Hakeemi chicken consisted of pieces of roasted chicken mixed with loads of Nutralite butter, cream, crushed brown onions, and topped with slices of ginger. The brown crispy onions added a nice flavour to the chicken. Changezi chicken, in Varun’s words was “daandedar”, in the sense that it had “daanas” of brown onion in the gravy. I also had mutton biryani with the gravy of korma. The rice of the biryani was long and flavourful, and the mutton pieces were soft enough while leaving the bones.

In desserts, shahi tukda made with ghee and topped with cashew nuts is a must try. In Bazar Matia Mahal, shahi tukda has toppings of green and red cherries, which I always remove to get the real taste of shahi tukda. This was my kind of shahi tukda, simple and delicious.

The food journey ended with interesting discussions with Varun about the best places to eat nahari, paaya, korma, and biryani in Old Delhi, Zakir Nagar, and Lucknow, where DFW is next heading to, on the 22nd and the 23rd of November. I could not try one third of the menu but I am going to visit Al Karam’s again to meet the bawarchis and kebabchis, and taste the remaining dishes in the menu, which I am sure would be excellent.

Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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Daulat ki Chaat

Guess what Old Delhi is back with?

By Anubhav Sapra

I am delighted to announce that Babu Ram and his family members are back from the villages of Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh to the by-lanes of Old Delhi- Sitaram Bazar. Guess what he is back with? He is back with the ‘Daulat ki Chaat’, a delicacy of winter. It seems winters are just here!

I spotted Babu Lal, a Daulat ki chaat hawker, at the Chhata Shah ji lane, near Barsha bulla chowk where the famous lotan Chole Kulche sells his scrumptious meal. Till 10 am, you can find Babu Lal at Chhata Shah ji, and from 11 am to 7 pm at Maliwara in Chandni Chowk.

Pamela Timms in her book ‘Korma, Kheer and Kismet’ has beautifully summarized this winter delight. She mentioned,

1012776_558971730853379_1164812161_n“Daulat ki chaat (meaning ‘snack of wealth’) is probably Old Delhi’s most surprising street food. Anyone expecting the punchy, spicy flavours usually suggested by the word ‘chaat’ will be disappointed. It resembles uncooked meringue and the taste is shocking in its subtlety, more molecular gastronomy than raunchy street food, a light foam that disappears instantly on the tongue, leaving behind the merest hint of sweetness, cream, saffron, sugar and nuts; tantalizing, almost not there. I’ve often wondered if daulat ki chaat is a preview of what might be on the menu should we make it as far as the pearly gates. The means by which a pail of milk is transformed into the food of the gods, though, is the stuff of Old Delhi legend rather than of the food lab. First, so the story goes, milk and cream have to be whisked by hand before dawn ( preferably under the light of a full moon) in to a delicate froth, then left out on grass to set by the ‘tears of shabnam’ (morning dew) – but not too many, nor too few. At daybreak, the surface of the froth is touched with saffron and silver leaf and served with nuts and bura (unrefined sugar). Daulat ki chaat is only made in the coolest months because at the first ray of sunshine, it starts to collapse. It doesn’t travel well either- to enjoy this very local specialty, a winter pilgrimage to the shady gullies of Old Delhi has to be made.”(p. 147-148)

A dona of Daulat ki chaat costs Rs 40. Babu Ram’s family members (kinari bazaar- Khemchand, Gali Paranthe Wali- Rakesh, Dariba Kalan- Babu Ram and Maliwara- Babu Lal) are there in the alleys of Old Delhi with their khomchas selling Daulat ki Chaat. The winter delight is available until Holi. So, it is the time for a winter pilgrimage, in the words of Pamela Timms, to the gullies of Old Delhi to savour the delicate dessert.

Reference: Timms, P. (2014). Korma, Kheer and Kismet. New Delhi: Aleph

Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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IFTAR FOOD WALK

11th July, 2014

IFTAR FOOD WALK

By Akshita Singh

It felt like just the whole world was out there, on the streets of Chawri Bazaar, cutting through cycles, rickshaws and enthusiastic people. We were no exception. All of us exuberant foodies who had congregated at Gate 3 of the Chawri Bazaar Metro Station were in for loads of culinary surprises in Delhi’s very own Walled City.

When there were stacks of chicken legs, laid beautifully in layers of concentric semicircles on one side, and the scrummy, sizzling Pakodas on the other, then being pushed through the jammed narrow lanes and struggling to move centimeters at a time through the throng of Matia Mahal, was a delight in itself. Soon enough, the magnificent Jama Masjid, with its overpowering domes came into sight. All alleys converged at the grounds of the sublime mosque and there from, the walk turned so much more exhilarating.

Our first stop was Kallan Sweets, where we tried some Paneer ki Jalebis that did appear different from the usual kind we eat, because of a darkish alloy orange outer layer and a thicker line of spiral. Adding Paneer into a dessert, and that too a very familiar one, was sure a refreshing novelty for most of us. As our walk resumed, we came across a plethora of carts stacking feni, a must-have during Sehri. Carts of dry fruits, none without mountains of dates, were put right under “Jeweller’s” and “ Currency Exchange” boards – a conspicuous portrayal of the power food amasses over everything else, during Ramzaan evenings.

479997_443364915747395_1675685616_nOur next stop was the Haji Mohd. Hussain shop that had massive cauldrons of Chicken and Mutton Biryani being cooked away into unsurpassable delectability. Even from a distance, the whiff of the Pandanus flowers (kewra), the dominating flavor in Biriyanis, reached us. Pakwaan, possessing the bread mastery skills, had delicacies like sheermal, bakarkhani, milk roti and rawamaida all set to decorate the counters.  The flies orbiting the cut pineapples and barfis could be a minor deterrence to the otherwise unabating enthusiasm, but at all the places we ate, hygiene was a surety.

Breaking from the tradition, this Iftar Party was celebrated right inside Jama Masjid, amidst innumerable other Muslim families. With that, the Iftar turned so much more authentic. Mats were laid, food baskets were pulled out and lined and we all clustered around the food. Till the time clock didn’t strike 7:25, we had each other and 2 mischievous striped cats for company. All we had to wait for now was the “boom”. Oh, yes, that’s what signals the beginning of Iftar.

Right after the boom, plates found hands, and chicken wings, jalebis, dates, and sheermal found plates. We reversed the usual order of eating and started with the Paneer Jalebis. Even sans any independent taste of paneer, these Paneer ki Jalebis had their distinctly sweet, fascinating flavor. Keema Samosas, amusingly moulded like the half-moon Gujjia, were crunchy and spicy with just the right thickness of the outside, and the stuffing.

Chicken thighs,inside a besan paste, were moderately crisp and tasted great when taken with Rumali rotis. Rotis were equally scrumptious when taken with Chicken Changhezi or Nahari. The pandanus fragrance re-emerged once the Chicken Biriyani baskets were opened. You’d crave to keep each bite in your mouth and savor it forever but within minutes of their being opened, not one grain of rice or a chicken crumb could be found in any of the baskets.

Sheermal was the most singular bread one could ever eat. The succulent, soft, milky and rarely-found bread is one of the few that complemented any sort of dish and yet, needed no dish at all to accompany it. The rows of tiny holes all over the sheermal are in fact perforations that are layered with oil to let it seep further into the sheermal.

1011450_518987261506509_237276233_nAfter the dinner was over and when most people around us left for their namaaz, we resumed our walk and stopped for some extremely invigorating watermelon and apple milk shakes. They won us over, both for their lusciousness and for their uniqueness, for, how often do we get to drink watermelon milk shakes?

The hot and syrupy Shahitukda with bread soaked in milk and the cold, creamy phirni both served in little earthen pots, were the ideal desserts after the appetizing meal and energizing drinks. So did that conclude the walk? No, not before one last, most essential gesture: Delhi Food Walks served chicken and naans to poor, hungry and homeless people lined outside kiosks, to bring a perfect closure to a wonderful walk on the auspicious occasion of Iftar.

The next walk is scheduled for the 13th July, 2014 at 6.00pm from Chawri Bazaar metro station, Old Delhi. If you want to get a guided culinary tour, you could always book a space for yourselves, contact Anubhav from Delhi Food Walks at #9891121333.

Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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“Purani Dilli”

Nahari - Delhi Food Walks

For a long time, I have been discussing with my friends about the mouth watering food at Zakhir Nagar. Today, I satisfied my hungry soul after visiting Zakhir Nagar.

I visited “Purani Dilli restaurant” with one of my German friend who is a great foodie. He is studying medicine in Munich but loves oily and spicy food without caring about his arteries. The best way to be at Zakhir Nagar is by rickshaw from Jamia University or Maharani Bagh. The lanes of Zakhir Nagar are engulfed with famous Non- vegetarian eateries.

Nahari - Delhi Food Walks

Purani Dilli has entered into its sixth glorious year in serving mughlai food. The menu starts with “cooking is an art”……and we possess the instinctive art of cooking. Our delicious and mouth watering recipes will bring back the memories of “shahjahanabad”to you. Carefully prepared using original recipes and authentic spices, food at “Purani Dilli” Restaurant is an exquisite treat for a person of refined taste like you.

It indeed was delightful to taste the food of “Purani Dilli”.It was also a pleasant surprise to see the son of the owner of this restaurant , who studies in a school,gracefully eating chicken fry with rumali roti.

Haleem - Delhi Food Walks

We asked for half plates of nahari,haleem and chicken achari. Haleem and Nahari were of Rs 135 each..Haleem was topped with green coriander leaves, crisp onion strips and ginger pieces. They served a plate full of crisp onion strips,gingerpieces,green chillies,lemon and masala, which you can add to Haleem according to your taste. The nahari and Haleem is truly delectable. The spices were up to the mark and one can digest it comfortably without causing harm to the stomach and intestines. Moreover, the meat served over there is soft and it melts inthe mouth like anything.

Kheer - Delhi Food Walks

We rounded up our meal with one of my favourite dessert (Kheer),which was again great in taste.

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Ramzan Food Walk @ Delhi 6

Ramzan Food Walk @ Delhi 6

RAMZAN FOOD WALK

Sudipto Das

The cacophony of sounds and a myriad collection of colours is what surround you when you enter the walled city. Come the holy month of Ramzan and the streets seem drunk with religious fervour.
Pretty eyes looking behind veils, there is a certain mysticism and charm that this place holds on to me. Whether it is the old havelis or the narrow lanes or the enormous number of shops selling food, there is something here for everyone.

Any visit to Ballimaran is incomplete without a visit to the haveli of Urdu poet Mirza ghalib, arguably one of the finest poets to have ever roamed the streets of Delhi. The old haveli has been renovated housing some of the replicas of Ustad’s old belongings as well as a few verses from his shayaris reminding me of a simpler yet bygone era which still feels as if alive in the small rooms.

Stepping out of the haveli and the maddening crowd and the incessant honking of the two wheelers whizzes me back to reality. Walking on in Ballimaran we reach Sapna restaurant, plonking on the seats was a huge relief from the humid weather. We ordered some fried chicken, crispy sesame crusted chicken pieces with green chutney tingled the taste buds. We helped ourselves to some hot taftaan from the shop opposite to Sapna, hot, fluffy, sweet and doused with ghee these were the perfect accompaniment.

On we went to Kabul Zaiqa restaurant, walking down the long narrow passageway, I stop in front of a small room with a wood fired oven and trays of hot bread, upon asking I’m told these are paape, accompaniment to teas. Just out of the oven these are golden brown, fluffy, mildly sweet a perfect teatime essential, which can be the Delhi’s equivalent of Mumbai’s bun. At Kabul Zaiqa there is a sit-down meal in a traditional manner and the menu as to what is prepared for the day. The chicken curry and mutton curry are ordinary at best but what they pride over is the Afghani pulao, flavoursome, not at all spicy and the swollen raisins popping in the mouth with a delicious sweetness. But, the tender meat from the lamb shanks were just melt in the mouth, soft and juicy and truly was a highlight to the meal.

Now was the long walk to Lal kuan for a visit to the famous Ustad moinuddin, famous in the foodie circles and the ustad title given as a mark of reverence to the kebabchi. But en route we stopped to have besan pakode dipped in tamarind chilli chutney titillating the senses. With pakode the older members of the groups longed for their evening cup of chai. And everyone munched on bakery biscuits with their frothy cuppas.

Ustad moinuddin, sells buff kebab opposite to the Hamdard dawakhana. Even after buying a shop he prefers to sit by the sidewalk and sell his kebabs. Succulent, spicy kebabs with the grizzled fat are topped with sliced onions and ginger slivers with a fiery chutney, jumpstarts the palate. Come 7:30 pm, Ustad moinuddin is a must visit for a taste of the old world.

One of the disappointments of the evening was to find Bade miyan kheer shop closed. So twisting and turning our way through the maddening crowd and stopping along to keep count of the people with us and mppve along as a group, we made our way to Aslam’s in matia mahal. With half of the eatery being under renovation, there was a maddening rush at the counter, with orders being shouted by the hungry horde at the top of their voice. We managed to get our order but with lack of seating decided to eat in front of the shop, with grilled chicken in a yoghurt and masala, topped with a generous helping of golden melted butter. The buttery, tangy, spicy goodness just hits the spot. This butter chicken is bound to put a smile across anyone’s face.

Travelling back towards Jama masjid, we stopped for shahi tukda and kheer. The sweet burnt caramel crusty tukda delicious in its entirety, made me go on for more bites giving me asbestos tongue for the remaining evening. The kheer mildly sweet and cold was a saviour for the warrior tongue.

Walking towards chawri bazar crossing and squeezing between cars and trucks. We stopped for kuliya ki chaat, assorted fruits and vegetables hollowed out and filled with spices, boiled chickpea and pomegranate. One bite and what hits you is the sour salty lime and the sweetness coming through later. Having tried earlier the novelty of eating kulle has died down for me and I don’t find them extra ordinary but, for the uninitiated it is a welcome surprise.

On we went to kucha pati ram, and finding the Kuremal shop closed, anubhav called on one of the numbers on the billboard hanging over the shop, and the store owner opened up the shop for us, to smaple all that he had to offer. We tried akmost all they had to offer aam panna, mango, jamun, imli, litchi, chickoo , pachranga. With the kulfis brimming with the freshness of the fruits, Kuremal is an institution when it comes to savour some cold desserts in Delhi, holding on to their own against the onslaught of frozen mass produced ice cream brands. My personal favourite was the Paan with betel leaves and refreshing paan flavour. It was the proverbial end of a meal stretching across the breadth of chandni chowk.

All in all going during ramzan to chandni chowk is an altogether different experience than any other day. Whether it be the call of the muezzin or the Gareeb Niwaz restaurant serving the poor and the needy or a tired lonely figure trying to sort out a bottleneck jam, or the humongous mounds of sevaiya. A walk in the chandni chowk is always a unique experience. So after 6 hours, with a walk started with strangers we part as friends.