Breaking fast: The fight for the best Mughlai in Delhi

In this week’s This Versus That, two people who aren’t keeping Ramzan fast, but love the feast after, dole out advice on which Mughlai place is better

May 17, 2019 03:27 pm | Updated 03:27 pm IST



The case for Karim’s

Mohammad Awaiz, a chef in the Royal Court of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, would never have imagined that 150 years later, his descendants would become the Dons of Mughlai food in Delhi.

After the mutiny in 1857, Awaiz fled Delhi and settled in Ghaziabad. He picked up odd jobs, but taught his son, Haji Karimuddin, the tricks of Mughal cuisine.

During the Darbar (coronation) of King George V in Delhi in 1911, Karimuddin was back in Delhi and set up a food stall. In two years, he had his own restaurant. Today, situated near the Gate No. 1 of Delhi’s famous Jama Masjid, the same restaurant is named after him – Karim’s.

The place has seen four generations now, but something that’s remained on-brand is its recipes and the masala , still guarded as a family secret that makes the food laziz (tasty).

Today, Karim’s menu of about 30 mutton and chicken dishes and eight varieties of succulent kebab and roll preparations is unmatched. You are called by the aroma emanating out of the giant copper vessels.

You can order the tender tandoori raanand chicken tikka as you wait for a table. But what has stood the test of many palates is the mutton burra and mutton qorma. Even the waiters there swear by these heritage dishes.

There are several wannabe Mughlai food (Nizam’s and Khan Chacha), but the “drab roadside dhaba” as the owners describe their own restaurant, is the best by far.

Norris Pritam is a journalist who is usually caught eating

The case for Nizam’s Kathi Kabab

Amidst the mushrooming of cafes and bars in Connaught Place, good old Nizam's Kathi Kebab has not only survived the onslaught of Continental, Chinese, Italian, Lebanese cuisines but has also retained its loyal customer-class that does not find it through Lonely Planet guide books. It’s the place where seasoned Delhi-ites go, to the lane next to the iconic Plaza Cinema to savour some of the best kebabs in the Capital. The kebabs are roasted using specially-cured wooden skewers, which gives them their distinct flavour that the mass-market Karim’s just can’t do.

You wait to bite into a roll, the crunch from the onions and the juices from the chutneys oozing out. You can choose to stuff it with eggs or kebabs, chicken, or mutton. The restaurant, established in 1975, derives its name from Mohammad Nizam, the first khansama (chef). It offers comfortable seating and there is take-away too, because you can grab a bite and wander around CP.

But it’s not just the rolls — biryanis, kormas and curries abound, with the Bombaiya Keema Pao as popular as the double-chicken single-egg roll. Two rolls can make for a decent meal with a pitcher of fresh lime with soda, to sign off the treat.

The place is hygienic and the staff polite.In contrast is the over-rated Karim’s near Jama Masjid, living on old glory. Plus, who goes to Old Delhi, really?

Vijay Lokapally is a journalist who yearns for his pre-diabetes eating days

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