City Food – Mutton Burra, Jama Masjid’s Karim
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Probably the most iconic and long-lasting (and clichéd) culinary landmark of Delhi is Karim’s restaurant, originally set up in the Walled City, but now with several franchises all over.
The most necessary dish to order here is the mutton burra kebab.
Gently roasted in a tandoor, the spiced mutton pieces on bones are served straight out of the smouldering coals, infused with their smoking aroma. The outer surface is dry and crisp; blackened in patches.
As you try to cut into the large kebab, its top layer resists the intrusion into its inner secrets. The only way to make it succumb is to treat it the way the Asiatic barbarians of oriental myths dealt with the women of foreign lands. Tear the piece apart with your teeth and get into its soft, meaty core.
The burra celebrates the raw essence of the flesh.
Unlike most Indian meat dishes, the flavours are not enhanced by over-cooking or drowning the meat in multi-spiced gravies. In fact, burra is perhaps the least spiced dish at Karim’s and also the most naturally flavoursome.
Opened in 1913 by a cook who traced his ancestry to the royal kitchen of the Mughals, the original Karim’s is tucked away in a congested lane, close to Jama Masjid in Shahjahanabad. Although it has three dining areas, it is always crowded with enthusiastic meat-eaters — the area’s locals as well as loyalists who travel miles for the ‘authntic Karim’s experience’.
There is a quieter and more spacious outlet in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, a 14th century village in central Delhi, where the ambiance and service is more polished. The red-liveried doorman directs you into a red-carpeted air-conditioned hall where the tables have plastic roses. Quranic inscriptions hang on the wall, the stewards wear skull caps, and the menu has no alcohol. It does not matter — the meat is enough to make you tipsy.
But if you want to experience the burra in its truly authentic settling, you must come to Jama Masjid’s Karim.
Where Near Jama Masjid, Matia Mahal Bazaar Nearest Metro Station Chawri Bazaar Time 8 am to 1 am
Raw and smoky