Wednesday, June 23

Delhi vs Kolkata: The city with the better Mughlai food

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Food feuds — like family vendettas — carry on. An enduring one is the war between food lovers of Delhi and Kolkata. ‘Where is the Mughlai — as Muslim food is called — better?’ I am often asked. With some regret I must say that it is Kolkata. Delhi has a few old and iconic restaurants that offer everything from biryani and korma to kababs and ishtus, no doubt, but Kolkata has many more eateries where you get the best of dishes. I still dream of the chaap that I ate at Royal, a bustling restaurant in the heart of the city. There are also a host of small and big restaurants which serve the most delicious Kolkata biryani that you can ever imagine.

Last week I was in Kolkata for a food sojourn with my friends. One of the first places they took me to was a new restaurant called Elahi in the Park Circus area (85, Fazlul Haque Sarani). It is quite a nicely done up restaurant with bright lights and comfortable chairs. We — a group of six — occupied our corner, and with the help of the young owner — partner, Asif Iqbal, decided on the order. Soon, our table was groaning with dishes — burrah kabab, galouti with parathas, mutton nihari with kulchey, keema-gurda and saag dal.

I must start with what I enjoyed the most: the nihari and kulcha. I love nihari, and it’s a dish that doesn’t always work out well. The consistency of the gravy is what makes or breaks the nihari. The gravy should be neither too thick, nor too runny. Elahi’s gravy is thinner than the ones you get in Delhi, but it was superb. It was deliciously light, but had soaked in the flavours of the spices without being overwhelmed by any. The meat on the shanks was delightfully tender, and literally fell off the bones. The soft, somewhat spongy kulchas went well with the nihari, and I would have been happy to have called it a day with the nihari-kulcha.

But then the galoutis were very good, too, and I enjoyed wrapping them in a quarter piece of the ultey-tawey ke parathey. The meat had been ground and spiced well, and the end result was this tasty kabab that was soft within and well-browned on the surface. Surprisingly, it wasn’t oily.

I had nothing to do with the dal-saag that someone with a blinding halo had ordered. But I must admit I tried it out and rather liked it. The burrah was a bit of a disappointment. I think the Delhi burrah beats the Kolkata one. The meat in this one was a bit too tender, and it didn’t have the over-grilled, somewhat charred edges that a good burrah demands. The keema-gurda would have been nice but for the fact that it was a bit too salty.

Our dessert — the Shahi Tukda – was a good way to end the meal, though again I must say I prefer the Dilli version, where the bread is crisp. Elahi — which means elaborate or ornate — was a good way to start the Kolkata sojourn. And to keep the Kolkata-Delhi food battle alive.


Source: The Hindu

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