The man thing.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Can Old Delhi be tasted? Set up by the Mughals, this crammed quarter of filthy lanes and improvised housing remains elusive to all but the most persistent explorers. A touristy pilgrimage to its famous monuments (think Jama Masjid) and eateries (think Karim’s) are, of course, necessary–but they are situated at the periphery of the Walled City and are just the starters. The main course is inside.
While the rest of Delhi is fattened on chicken tikkas and mutton shami kebabs, Purani Dehli chiefly relies on deliciously chewy and cheap kebabs made of bada (beef from buffalo).
One of the best destinations is Kaley Baba Kebab Waley’s stall on Gali Suiwallan, a street that was traditionally home to artisans who made their living from sui ka kaam, or needlework. Almost a hole-in-the-wall shack, it is a night-time phenomenon and serves two types of kebabs – tikka and seekh. The latter is more popular.
One helper skewers the meat on the iron rod, the other roasts it in the flames and serve it to the restless crowd. Onion rings are passed from a large pan and green chilly chutney is ladled out of a plastic jug. The takeaway packets are tied with yarn hanging from the roof. The kebabs are served on plates made of newspapers.
The eatery itself gives masculine vibes. The customers, standing on the chock-a-block street, are always men. The area’s sweaty muscled boys arrive on motor bikes (merely for Kale Baba’s sake); they talk loudly about cars, mobile phones and girls.
Soft, oily and smoky in flavour, the seekh kebab’s spiciness sits at the edge of acceptability. So does the excellently-roasted tikka kebab, the crust of which breaks open to reveal tender meat.
In both, you taste Old Delhi on its own terms.
The beef country