Julia Child in Delhi – Poet Mateen Amrohvi Serves Up Poet Ghalib’s Favroite Daal, Central Delhi
The great chef’s life in Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s no child’s play to crack Ghalib. Even high-brow Urdu literates find his poetry formidable—Ghalib is all allusions and metaphors, or so The Delhi Walla has heard.
And to make life more difficult, Delhi’s great 19th century poet also wrote extensively in Persian, and that part of his oeuvre is considered challenging by serious Ghalib scholars, too.
Of course, some of his verses are also so simple and romantic that even roadside Romeos swing to them.
Since it seems impossible for non-Urdu readers to become a true Ghalibite in this lifetime, at least, I’m always looking for an easy shortcut to get intimate with the legend. Why not, for instance, endear myself to Ghalib by feasting upon dishes he loved.
According to references in his collected letters, I know for a fact that Ghalib had a passion for maash ki daal. So, after picking it as the chosen dish, my next task was to find somebody who could rustle it out for me. And who better than Mateen Amrohvi?
A Ghalib devotee, this Urdu poet impersonates his hero’s world to such an extent that.. well, he wears the traditional sherwani everyday.
“I have six sets of sherwanis and I never wear anything else,” the gentle-voiced Mr Amrohvi says while hosting me at his home in central Delhi. In Ghalib’s era, many men wore this costume but today Mr Amrohvi stands out in the shirt-pant crowd as he walks the streets of his neighbourhood.
Wearing a white pajama, a long black sherwani and a karakul cap, the elderly gentleman says, “Friends relate me so strongly with sherwani that they look agitated when they see me on a rare day wearing some other dress… then they tell me, “Go home and come back in your sherwani!”
The most defining work of Mr Amrohvi’s life is his poetry collection. It has his ghazals published parallelly with Ghalib’s verses. In fact, Gul Hai Sukhand Bar Zameen e Ghalib shows both him and Ghalib on its cover.
Today Mr Amrohvi kindly treats me to Ghalib’s beloved daal, which “my deendar (religious) daughter Rehaan Tabassum has made just the way it would have been made in Ghalib’s rasoi.”
Mr Amrohvi’s daughter requests me not to photograph her but she generously shares the recipe. “It’s not difficult to make,” she says encouragingly while serving the daal with kebabs and rotis.
1/4 cup Urad dal (soaked for 4 hrs)
1 glass water
3 green chillies, chopped
some salt, some cumin seeds
3 tbsp oil
Half onion, sliced
1 tsp fresh ginger-garlic paste
1 whole red chilly, coarsely chopped
Coriander leaves, fried browned onions and green chilly for garnish
PLace a bhagona on moderate fire and pour water into it; add soaked daal, some of the green chillies and salt.
Boil till the daal is three-fourth cooked; it shouldn’t get mushy.
While on the boil, keep removing the jhaag coming up on the top.
Once done, drain the daal and keep it aside. Save the water too.
For the masala, heat oil in a karahi. Add cumin seeds. When they start crackling, add onion and fry them till soft.
Add ginger-garlic paste, followed by red chillies.
Fry until oil separates.
Add in the drained daal, along with water.
Now cook on high flame till everything is nicely mixed.
Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves, browned onions and green chillies.
Serve with khameeri roti.
The taste of Ghalib’s daal