City Food – Bhaijaan Chicken Shami Kebab, Chitli Qabar Bazar
Beloved brother’s offering.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
“Why did you fall in love? Why did you go away, away, away?”
These words are pouring out like pangs of everlasting sadness from Mr Javed’s lips. The young man’s dulcet voice is masterfully summoning a Kumar Shanu song from the 1990s.
Mr Javed works in a takeaway joint of super svadisht shami kebabs. The establishment’s name is as affable as Mr Javed’s rendition. Bhaijaan in Chitli Qabar Bazar was founded by a bhaijaan, or beloved brother, called Muhammad Shamim. He is not to be seen in the shop, which specialises exclusively in chicken kebab. The boiled keema, or paste, for the kebab (minced chicken+channa dal+spices) is personally prepared by bhaijaan every morning afresh, at his home in Lal Kuan’s Katra Sheikh Chand. “We sell ready-to-eat fried kebabs, and also the raw keema on a kilogram rate,” says Mr Javed in his non-singing voice. “So you may keep the keema in your fridge, and make the kebab whenever you wish.”
The takeaway commands respect in the surrounding gallis and kuchas. Take the difficult-to-please Sabiha Jhinjhianvi, who resides in nearby Gosht Wali Pahari. The woman thinks lowly of bazar kebabs. “Most shops add too much channa dal in their keema, which makes the kebabs too heavy (on the palate).” But, she confesses, “Bhaijaan’s kebabs are moderate on dal, and thus light.” Rolling her eyes, the discerning gourmand gushes that “their keema is so much in demand that you rarely find any by the time the dupahar (afternoon) ends!”
This afternoon, Mr Javed, the singer, and his colleague, the silent Haider Ali, are doing what they do every afternoon—churning out patties from the keema. The dough-like paste is piled up in huge mounds on one of the tables. Both hands of both men are moving as fast as those of musician Zakir Husain beating the tabla. The third colleague, the friendly Mr Ameeruddin in white topi, is standing by the counter, frying the kebabs.
And now, on request, the obliging Mr Javed starts to sing a Kishore Kumar ditty. Indeed, while purchasing the kebabs (or the raw keema), do not hesitate to call out to Javed for your manchaha gaana — although the shop is open daily from 2pm to about 8pm, he stays in the shop only for four hours, from noon onwards. Make sure to get the pre-packed peeli mirchi chutney with your kebabs. It is very tasty.
Kebab with everlasting love songs