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The proof of a kabab is in its bite

Shaami kabab from Arq in Gurugram   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

There’s so much food talk on social media it’s driving me crazy. Not because I am weary of conversations revolving around food, but because the more I read, the more I want to eat. Take, for instance, this thread on Awadhi food that had me drooling. This page was brought to my notice by a foodie friend who lives in Gurugram. She sent me a message about Arq that had been delivering the most delicious kababs and pulaos, and promised to get me some one day.

That one day arrived last week, and what a pleasant day it was. One, we were meeting two of our dearest friends after eons (with our masks and social distancing in place). And, two, what a delicious hamper they carried for us! The food — yakhni meat pulao, shaami kabab and Ghar Ka Salan — was from Arq. Somehow, our friends thought that we had a wedding at home, for they’d got food for a full baraat. Not that we complained: instead, we dug into the food with relish (and continued to do so for a couple of days after).

Arq is run by a food lover called Anamika Bajpai, who is from Lucknow, and grew up in a largely vegetarian home. But Anamika’s interest in various kinds of cuisines — including good old Awadhi non-vegetarian fare — prompted her to throw up her corporate job during the pandemic, and start a food delivery service. She is based in Gurugram, and most of her clientele is there. But food is delivered across Delhi-NCR through a service at an extra cost (9315480032; menu at: Facebook.com/arq.online.ggn/menu).

I enjoyed the shaami kabab the most. The kababs that we generally get are of minced meat, but I really love the ones that are a bit stringy, prepared with beaten meat. That gives an added texture, a chewiness that is surprisingly tasty. Arq’s kabab was like that, and not crumbly as kababs can be. The menu card describes it as “Reshe Waaley Shaami — gloriously meaty and reshe-daar”. I must say that’s true.

The delicious yakhni pulao, cooked in meat stock with saffron and milk, had the robust flavours of whole spices such as black cardamom and mace. The gravy in the meat curry — called Ghar Ka Salan — was light and not thick or heavy like a korma. It reminded me of all those home-cooked mutton curries, prepared for Sunday lunches.

Anamika tells me that she was always interested in food, but picked up the finer nuances of Laknavi cuisine from a host of books that she pored over to gather just the right recipes.

The rates are a bit high, perhaps, but good mutton is expensive, and Anamika gets most of her fragrant spices from Kerala. The Arq Special Mutton Boti costs ₹1,100 for half a kilo. All mutton dishes (500g) are priced at ₹900, and chicken based dishes (500g) at ₹750. Vegetarian dishes cost ₹650 for half a kilo. The vegetarian fare includes Shaadi Waley Dum Aloo, Kaju Muttar Makhana and my all-time favourite (and full of childhood memories), U.P. ki Tehri. The non-veg fare includes keema kaleji, Khadey Masala Ka Meat and Awadhi dum biryani. The chef is adding new dishes to the menu: Chandni Quorma (a kind of safed korma), Dum Ka Keema (keema cooked on steam) and Kimami Sewaiyan (a sweet dish).

Arq, I am told, means essence. I get the whiff, I really do.

The writer is a seasoned food critic

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 4:49:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/arq-delivers-awadhi-food-in-delhi-ncr/article32472562.ece

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