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The feast that wasn’t

Delicacy at the end of the fast

Delicacy at the end of the fast   | Photo Credit: 09dmc Rahul1

Reflections on pre-Eid blues and Kallu’s biryani

Kallu –– who made the best nihari –– was no more. I read about that some weeks ago, and decided that I would have to go to his shop and pay homage to his sublime nihari the next time I was in the Walled City. Then, earlier this week, I landed up there, hoping to be there in time for the roza break.

It just wasn’t my day. The sky was overcast, so I had rushed there, not paying much heed to the time. As it turned out, the Ramzan fast was still on. People were out on the streets, buying food for the evening’s iftaar, but many of the small eateries were shut. I had wanted to try out Anmol’s fried chicken, about which I had heard lots, in Urdu Bazaar, but Anmol was nowhere to be found. So I walked to Chhatta Lal Mian in search of Kallu’s shop.

Normally, I would have parked somewhere near Delhi Gate and walked down to Kallu’s from the Asaf Ali Road end. But that day I decided to take a cab. I got dropped off near Jama Masjid, so it was a very, very long walk to Chhatta Lal Mian. It was cloudy, but one of the muggiest days I had ever seen. I reached Kallu’s, panting and sweating, and found a huge crowd there. Kallu’s sons were at the helm, and the nihari was almost over. The ones with the loudest voices in the crowd were being served before the others. I tried to outshout the rest, but they were old hands, and knew just how to shout and plead at the same time. I finally got less than a plate of nihari (for Rs.50) and started walking back towards Jama Masjid.

I like the sights and sounds of Ramzan evenings. The fairy lights were flickering brightly, and many of the shop had put their stalls outside and were doing brisk business. Someone was selling keemey ke goli –– small minced meat balls –– and many had fried chicken hanging from hooks. There were mounds of sev in front of several shops.

Eid, most of us thought, would fall the next day (the moon eventually played truant and it came a day later), so there was frenzy on the streets, with shopkeepers loudly urging passersby to try their fare. I looked around, and went towards another old favourite, Jawahar.

I bought dinner for folks back home –– a plate of biryani, murgh kali mirch, mutton korma and sheermal. I paid Rs.740 for this, and with my food packets hailed an auto rickshaw and went back home. I discovered that I had asked for a plate of achari mutton biryani, which I don’t really like. It had chilli and lemon pickle in it, was rather spicy and didn’t taste much like biryani. The mutton korma was all right, and I enjoyed the black pepper flavoured chicken curry. The gravy had all the aroma of kali mirch, but was also mildly sweet, which was nice. I loved the sheermal, which I dipped into the gravy and ate.

The nihari, I am happy to say, is the way Kallu used to cook it –– thick and jellylike. But since I had got the bottom of the barrel – literally –– there was not much of it left.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of my pre-Eid outings. But a very nice Eid meal at friend Rakshanda’s place –– with mutton shami kababs, chicken biryani, chicken shorba and three types of sewaiyyan –– gladdened my heart. And I quite forgot the feast that wasn’t.

The writer is a seasoned street food connoisseur

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 12:06:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/The-feast-that-wasn%E2%80%99t/article14477948.ece

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