While the Paranthe Wali Gali caters to your vegetarian tastes, right opposite Jama Masjid is the original Karim’s-a gastronomic delight for non-vegetarians. Well, vegetarians are welcome too, but at their own risk! If you love Mughlai food then this place would surely be your Mecca in Delhi. Located close to a market known as Darya Ganj, the restaurant itself is really nothing to look at. The royal cuisine so revered by generations of Delhiites and international epicures is served in a shabby setting that belies the delicacies on offer. But once you go inside the restaurant, it’s pure indulgence of your taste buds. The aroma of freshly roasted mutton seekh kebab will greet you even before you have taken a seat.
To make your mouth water even more, here is a list of some of the fare that you must not give a miss:
- As appetizers, go for Mutton Burra (succulent pieces of mutton cooked in an oven); Mutton Raan (part of the thigh) or you can even select from an impressive range of kebabs- including Seekh Kebabs, Shammi Kebabs and Mutton Tikka. Their chicken versions, too, are delicious.
- Follow this up with main courses like Mutton Korma, Mutton Stew and Badam Pasanda (boneless mutton cooked with yoghurt, almonds and spices) or the awesome Chicken Noor Jehan and Chicken Jahangiri.
- Couple these gravy dishes with delicious breads: Khamiri Roti (prepared with wheat flour and yeast) or Keema Parantha (parantha stuffed with minced mutton).
- The most exclusive dish at Karim’s however, is the Tandoori Bakra — a full goat stuffed with dry fruits, basmati rice, minced meat and spices. This one, of course, needs to be pre-ordered, and a whole team of hungry people to finish!
- Wait, we are not done yet. No meal is complete without dessert, right? So we have Kheer Benazir (the justly famed rice pudding scented with cardamom and topped with chopped pistachio) and Shahi Tukda (fried bread soaked in condensed milk) which would surely serve as a fitting end to a sumptuous meal fit for the royals.
The famed eatery was established in 1913 by Haji Karimuddin with just two items on the menu- Alu Gosht and Daal which were served with Rumali Roti. But how this restaurant came into being is a different story altogether. Karim’s ancestors were essentially cooks who served the royal household of the Mughals. The Mughals would not even have dreamed that their cooks, in the coming ages, would be making history of their own! Right from the times of the first Mughal Emperor Babur, the Mughals took Karim’s ancestors along wherever they went. When the last Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was dethroned, the ancestors of Karim, in order to save themselves from the fury of the British, fled from the Lal Qila (Red Fort) and took shelter in Ghaziabad, a suburb on the outskirts of Delhi. They lived there in disguise, but the father never forgot to bestow the fine art of cooking the “Royal Food” to his son.
Thus, when the Delhi Durbaar was held for the coronation of the King George V in 1911, Haji Karimuddin moved back to Delhi with the innovative idea of opening a Dhaba (small roadside restaurant) to cater the people coming from all over India to join the coronation ceremony. And in this way, in 1913 the foundation of Karim’s was laid.
Karim’s has been serving peerless curries, kebabs, and breads for almost 100 years and has opened several branches within and outside Delhi with its fourth generation now running the show. Until the 1990s, Karim’s did not have any branches, but they are now spread across Nizamuddin, Kailash Colony, Noida, Gurgaon with the latest in Kamla Nagar.
However, while you are busy deciding upon your date with Karim’s, what I personally feel is that going to Karim’s is really not as much about the delicious food, as it is about tasting a little part of India’s culinary history and experiencing the true essence of the country. With the melodious sound of evening prayers (namaz) echoing over loudspeakers from the nearby Jama Masjid, you are bound to have a great time.
(This piece has been researched and contributed by Sanchita Srivastava, a history student at Delhi University and an avid writer)