Some of our friends were coming home for dinner, with their relatives. The relatives who live in Mumbai are great foodies — they travel across the country in search of beautiful spots and interesting dishes. So I was in a bit of a quandary. What could I serve them which they’d find a little different?

So I went towards Zakir Nagar, to get some haleem from Purani Dilli, which I believe is one of the best restaurants for Muslim food in Delhi, far better than the tourist traps of Old Delhi. I packed some mutton haleem from there, and then went out in search of Javed nihariwallah.

I had been hearing a lot about Javed from my companion on this sojourn, a young man called Amol. Now Amol is the kind who wakes up with the thought of nihari, then, while studying, imagines a few meaty-eggy rolls, at tea time he thinks of brain curry and at night, he dreams of biryanis and qormas (and on lean days, Maggi noodles). Amol was with me because for some days he had been talking about a man who cooked the most delicious nihari in desi ghee and had offered to take me there.

We found Javed in the main market. There’s a Jama Masjid there, and if you are facing it, Javed is on your right, about 50 yards down the road. He opens his shop at 6 in the evening. You enter the shop and see a big degh in which nihari has been cooking for hours. When you place your order, he takes a big piece in a bowl and breaks it. Then he adds some gravy over it and then some rogan – which is the reddish oil that gives a dish its taste. And then adds ginger slivers, chopped chillies and some lime juice over it.

In one corner of Javed’s shop, you can see hot rotis coming off the tandoor. I bought some khameeri rotis – three per roti. The nihari, prepared with buffalo meat, is reasonably priced too. A quarter plate costs Rs.50, a half plate Rs 100 and a full plate Rs 200. A full plate is enough for four or five people.

Then I went across the road to Talib’s — from whom we bought some buff tikkas and seekh kababs. (Watch this space for more on Talib.)

The journey back home was torturous — the heavenly smell of the food packed inside the car was enough to make me go berserk. But I controlled myself (as did Amol) and reached home just before the friends landed up.

The mutton haleem was delicious, as it always is. I sprinkled ginger slivers, fried onions and chopped chillies over it, and ate it with a lot of pleasure. The tikkas were out of the world. And the nihari, I must say, was excellent. You could get the flavour of the desi ghee, but it didn’t overwhelm the subtle taste of good nihari. The shanks had melted with the spices and become a delectable, meaty mesh. I had this with the khameeri rotis, and thought it was out of this world. Our Mumbai friends thought so too. Last seen, one of them was licking his plate clean!

Rahul Verma is a seasoned street food connoisseur

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