Biryani, curries, rajma chawal, you name it and I can cook it. That’s one upside of being a foodie from Delhi. The downside, not being able to cook all those things every day and then not being able to find stuff as good as one is used to, in restaurants either. Even though I am a good cook, the problem with living alone and having a dog is that I don’t really get that much time to treat myself or others around me to all the awesome food I can cook. By now, all readers would be well aware of the fact that modesty is a virtue I’m unfamiliar with. But let’s not get carried away.
So, Copper Chimney was having a food festival, bringing the tastes of Delhi to the uninitiated, simple folks of Mumbai (I can be a little mean too sometimes). But you can’t blame me for that, really. You can’t feed me, an uber Delhi boy who believes he is the direct descendant of the Mughals, chhole chawal laced with garlic, tomatoes, turmeric and a spoonful of sugar and then expect me to go easy on you. Okay, that Delhi vs. Mumbai fight can wait for now, let’s talk about good food.
The email said “Purani Dilli Ka Zaika” and I could not dissuade the sinister smile on my face. “Food from the home town in Mumbai? This should be nice.” And nice it was. In fact, it came pretty close to being a perfect experience.
The carefully selected menu reflects the best of what the streets of Old Delhi have to offer. From Raj Kachori which reminds one of the oasis of Chandni Chowk called Haldiram’s to the Pista Malai Kulfi Falooda which brings you back to Dulli Chand Naresh Gupta Kulfi Wale and everything in between, it was a perfect recipe for a perfect evening.
We started off with Aloo Tikki Chhole, another staple Delhi street food. Nicely grilled tikkis with perfect chhole, not sweet, no tomatoes, no turmeric, just the right amount and the right kind of spices. It could’ve used a little bit more imli chutney though, just a teaspoonful more.
Next on order were the Seekh Kebabs and Kathi Kebabs. The Seekh Kebabs were made from fresh ground spices and herbs with a generous sprinkling of dry fruits like cashews and almonds. A bit heavy on the palate (it really fills you up), but who’s complaining. The flavors were perfect to the T, the kind you find in the lanes around Jama Masjid. However, the Kebabs had gone a bit dryish, maybe a minute too long in the tandoor. The chef had done perfectly well with the Kathi Kebabs which were just excellent on the flavors. Juicy and delectable filling inside a perfect Roomali Roti.
For the main course, we had Chandni Murg and Chowk Ke Chhole with Khameeri Roti and Dum Ke Chawal. Chandni Murg, oh boy. Rich, mild gravy with saffron and almonds, now that’s how a chicken dish is supposed to be prepared. The meat was cooked really well, neither over cooked, nor under. You could tear the flesh off the bone with a spoon. Although, that’s not how you are supposed to eat chicken, that too in Old Delhi, but considering my Delhi-Punjabi genes are a bit confused with the continental cuisine craving genes in my DNA, I prefer to stick to the ‘ol spoon and fork.
Chhole with that perfect mix of heat and flavor is another thing I miss, almost just as much as my Rajma Chawal. Now, if you say chhole is chhole is chhole, you are wrong. Even if you were to prepare chhole using the packaged spice mix you get from any shop close to your home, you are doing it wrong. The hand made, traditional spice mix one finds in the streets of Old Delhi is something that cannot be compared to anything else. It is eons ahead of any competition. I know it because that’s what we used to get even if it meant braving the Delhi heat and going all the way to the walled city on a scooter.
Dum ke Chawal was another preparation done to perfection with lots of aromatics, saffron and dry fruits and proved to be an excellent companion to the flavors of Chowk ke Chhole and Chandni Murg. For dessert, we ordered Kesar Phirni, another classic from the lanes of Jama Masjid. Perfectly sweetened and flavored with the right amount of saffron, this dessert marked the end of a beautiful evening with friends at Copper Chimney, Goregaon.
All this, however, comes at a slight premium. It would, we’re not on the streets of Chandni Chowk.
So, the food was great, the flavors were perfect and the presentation was excellent. But then, that is something you would expect when you celebrate food from a place that celebrates its history and its cuisine with every breath and every passing moment.