Home Sweet Home – Mehvash Sattar’s Kitchen, Pahari Imli
Cooking in the Old Quarter.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A mobile phone lying forgotten beside a spice box. Oil leaking out from a pickle bottle and staining the transparent plastic jar filled with masoor dal. And a tea strainer dumped in the sink.
This might be a kitchen anywhere in the city.
But it’s not. More than 100 years old, this pint-sized kitchen caters to an entire household in Old Delhi.
“No, it’s not that tiny!” retorts Mehvash Sattar, who’s been doing the cooking for her elderly father for years. “I can even squeeze three people into it, if I have to, and it’s been retiled as well… just some years ago!”
Many citizens flock to this historic part of the city to dine at legendary eateries. Such as Kale Baba of Galli Sooiwallan, known for its excellent sole. Or Al Jawahar, famous for oily nihari.
But only a few lucky visitors get to inspect an Old Delhi home kitchen like this one where Ms Sattar whips up traditional dishes effortlessly. And perhaps even more authentically since she doesn’t have to humor the dietary vulnerabilities of travelers and tourists. “I do nihari, koftas, biryanis, all of them right here in this kitchen,” she says.
Last night she served bhindi-gosht for dinner.
Even so. Doesn’t the kitchen get piping-hot come summertime?
“Not at all, not at all, it’s well ventilated,” says the young woman. “You get a very nice breeze, but it does get very cold in winter when nothing’s being cooked.”
One of the kitchen windows look to the roofs of Pahari Imli neighbourhood (there’s no imli tree to be seen however); the other facing the terrace is covered with green vine.
Sometime later the young woman decides to rustle out mutter pulao for her beloved Abbu.
Heart of a homestead