City Food – COVID-Era Imarti, Mehboob-e-Ilahi Mithai Shop, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
Finding old taste.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It has finally reopened.
Mehboob-e-Ilahi mithai shop (open from 6 am to 10 pm) is to be found again in central Delhi’s historic 14th century Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. Adjacent to Zuberi Hotel eatery, it is the first stall on the narrow lane going towards the famous Kareem’s restaurant. The coronavirus pandemic forced the shop to close early this year but it rolled up its shutters late last month.
This ought to be happy news for people with a sweet tooth. The place serves one of the best imartis in town.
Thick and sticky, the circular imarti is as decadent as the Mughal court of Emperor Muhammed Shah Rangila. Its deep-fried shell shelters a great amount of sugary sap. Made from urad-daal batter, the imarti is the bulkier cousin of jalebi, which is slimmer, crisper, and uses maida flour—explains the gentleman at the counter.
Founded by Hussain Ahmad, the 50-year-old shop is run by his sons Mohammed Ayaz and Mohamed Azim. “Until the pandemic, we had about half a dozen workers, for we make not only imartis, but also samosas, khastas, ladoos, and gulab jamuns.,” says Mr Azim. All those cooks returned to their villages in UP and Bihar during the lockdown, except for Riyaz.
Merely to witness the making of imartis at Mehboob is enough to give a high. The batter is squeezed into the bubbling-hot refined oil through a tiny cotton sack. Soon, the entire cauldron is filled up with these loopy disks. When puffed into a golden brown shade, they are transferred into the cardamom-flavored sugar syrup. A few moments later, the delicacy is ready to be indulged.
What follows is the usual fairy tale: the customer takes a bite, the crisp surface explodes, and the sweet juice fills up the mouth.
To enjoy fresh production, come either at 11 am or at 6 pm.
Imarti, these days