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Kababs and rose-tinted glasses

Moinuddin, Kebab specialist, in Old Delhi.Photo: S. Subramanium

Moinuddin, Kebab specialist, in Old Delhi.Photo: S. Subramanium  

The New Year is a time for remembrance. So let me welcome 2015 by recalling an old friend who has given me and many, many others – much joy over the years. I am talking about Moinuddin, the famed kabab-maker of Old Delhi. For long years, he has been sitting in front of a butcher’s shop at the mouth of Gali Qasim Jan, opposite the Hamdard Building in Lal Kuan. I first tried out his kababs when my friend, Saleembhai, took me there many years ago.

I have often said that the people of Old Delhi are die-hard loyalists of the food that is to be found in their own immediate neighbourhoods. So if you tell someone from Chitli Kabar that the biryani in Ballimaran is better, be ready to add some colourful new words to your vocabulary. But Saleembhai – though from Churi Walan — had no qualms in admitting that Moinuddin’s kababs are the best in the area. And when I went with him to Moiunddin’s and had my first kabab there I reached the happy conclusion that they are not just the best kababs that you can get in Old Delhi, they are the best in all of Delhi.

Moinuddin prepares buff seekh kababs, grilled over hot charcoal, and served with onion rings and green chutney. He still sits where he used to in the evenings, though if you found him missing in recent times, it was because he had to take a short break to recuperate after having fallen ill. Actually, I must admit that I go there reluctantly, despite his kababs, because he doesn’t allow me to pay for them. This time when I went back (a few days ago, after a very long time) I created such a scene that he finally allowed me to pay.

Haji Sa’ab has aged a bit, but he is amiable as ever. I think he was happy to see me too – and kept pressing me to eat this and that. The only change since I last saw him is the fact that he now has an assistant who also grills kababs in a shop right there, where the Ustad’s son has a biryani counter called Sangam Biryani.

What makes his kababs so mouth-watering is the fact that he knows exactly what to do with the meat. He adds some spices to the buff. The spice quantity is just right — neither too strong, nor too mild.

Then the fat to the meat ratio is perfect, too. A little too much fat can ruin the taste of your kabab, and less fat can make it very dry. Then he grills it just the way it should be grilled – neither is it overdone, nor underdone.

His kababs are also among the most affordable in the city. In 2004, he sold four kababs for Rs 15. Now you’ll get one for Rs 10, which is real value for money. Moinuddin’s kababs make you feel that all is right with the world.

I ate my first mouthful after a long time, and looked at the future with rose-tinted glasses. Let there be peace in 2015, I said.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 4:55:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/kababs-and-rosetinted-glasses/article6748613.ece

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