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The best melt-in-mouth kebabs in Delhi

Buff and lamb varieties from Lucknowi Galawati Kabab in Zakir Nagar, Delhi

Buff and lamb varieties from Lucknowi Galawati Kabab in Zakir Nagar, Delhi   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Where to gorge on galawati kebabs in Zakir Nagar, Delhi

A foodie’s favourite pastime, I have often said, is pulling memories out from a cloud called nostalgia. I do that often. I recall old places and bawarchis who are no more, and whose food is still talked about in hushed whispers. When I first encountered some of these masters, they were known only in intimate circles of food lovers. And I watched as their name and fame spread over time.

That’s how I remember Tundey, the legendary kebab-maker of Lucknow. He was called Tundey — a colloquial term for a man with one arm — as he didn’t have an arm. My friends from Lucknow would bring over some of the most delicious kebabs every time they visited us.

Tundey those days was in an obscure little lane and made only grilled kebabs out of buffalo meat. The kebabs came to us in those small cardboard boxes that sweets are still packed in. Later, of course, he moved to a more prominent spot in the city, and started selling kebabs made out of lamb meat. He was known for his galawati kebabs. Galawati gets its name from the Urdu word gala, or melted. The kebabs actually melted in the mouth, and thus the name. Later, we started getting this kebab elsewhere in North India. Now, there are places all over Delhi where you get galawati kebabs: some good, some indifferent, and some delicious.

One nice place that I discovered some weeks ago is in Zakir Nagar. I had gone there for an Iftaar meal, and found the shop — Lucknowi Galawati Kebab — in the main market (8, House No. 57, Lane 12, Main Road, Zakir Nagar; 9911080787). They sell three kinds of galawati kebabs: buffalo meat (₹40 for four pieces), chicken (₹80 for four) or lamb (₹120 for four). I asked for the buffalo and lamb kebabs, and a few parathas (₹10 each), had it packed, and took all of it home.

Galawati kebabs, as most of us know, are prepared with finely-minced meat, which is marinated with spices and sometimes with tenderisers such as papayas. Then, on a flat, well-oiled, hot paraat, small balls of the minced meat mix are placed, flattened and then flipped over. In minutes, the kebab is done. The trick is the marinade, of course. Some kebabchis insist that they put 100 different spices in their mince, but I seriously doubt that. Just a few basic masalas — cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace — can give you some delightful, mouth-watering kebabs.

The shop has a small enclosure where you can sit and eat. It has other items on the menu: keema, koftas and rolls. For vegetarians, there is dal and a potato sabzi, and for eggetarians, egg curry.

The kebabs were soft, well flavoured, and not in the least bit chewy. I liked both the buff and the lamb one, but enjoyed the former just a bit more than the latter. I had it with their parathas, which, however, were a bit too oily for me. The next time I am there, I am going to have the kebabs with a roomali roti (₹ 5).

My friend Amar Farooqui, who is quite a connoisseur of good food, says that when it comes to kebabs, biryanis and kormas, Old Delhi still rules. But I am beginning to think that Zakir Nagar is soon going to overtake the Walled City. Good for us, for it means a bigger table. And, of course, many, many more delightful food memories.

The writer is a seasoned food critic

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 10:47:20 AM |

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