Hidden Treasures of Jama Masjid

It had been more than a decade since I last visited Delhi and when the opportunity arose, I was elated. After having heard boatloads about the delectable street food on offer in Delhi from a lot of friends, extended my stay solely to experience Delhi in all my senses which sadly included the pollution 😛 , that goes hand in hand with this iconic city.

Having done my bit of food-work beforehand , Jama Masjid is easily the most mentioned place for street food in Delhi. It seemed only proper that we start our quest for delicious food here. There definitely is no place more apt for a meat lover. Located in the old part of town, you have crowd bustling in, at any given time.

Besides the food, it is the Metro that is much talked about in Delhi. The best moments of fun and nostalgia come alive when the modernity shakes hand with the ancient modes of transportation. On our trail to Jama Masjid, we traveled to Chawri Bazar by Metro and then took a rickshaw to Jama Masjid. To have a grin from ear to ear, you have to take in all the advice from ear to ear 😉 One such wise advice was to plan accordingly , as the food scene here comes alive in the night. So, we got there around 7 in the evening and I had a set plan of what I wanted to check out. With hundreds of stalls dishing out a great number of items in this place, wanted to try as many as possible in the short span of time.

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Seekh and Shami Kebab
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Chicken Seekh

Opposite Gate 1 is the Matia Mahal lane which houses the very famous Karim’s among numerous other eateries. We started off with the first place I recognized ,which was Al Jawahar. We had their Seekh Kebab, Shami Kebab and my friend who doesn’t eat beef opted for the Chicken seekh. Seekh Kebab was very good. Shami just passed muster while Chicken Seekh was also pretty decent. The mint chutney which accompanied this was watery unlike what we are usually used to. A thicker mint chutney might have made it a tad better, I reckon. Costed us close to 170 bucks inclusive of tax.


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Don’t be fooled by the various copycats


On the same road as Gate 1 of Jama Masjid, we have Urdu Bazar. If you are in search of Qureshi Kebabs , one needs to be very careful as there are quite many rows of Kebabs shops, with many named Qureshi or something similar to it. Proving once again that Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. A simple way to figure them out is to look for the shop with a lot of crowds waiting. If not, the easier ploy is to search for the name board where the name and number match from the picture above.


As we paid up and waited for our order, we saw how the kebabs which were getting done on the grill , were gone in a jiffy, once done. A single buffalo kebab cost 20 bucks. I freaking kid you not. Served on a big plate with a generous amount of mint chutney and onions, it was sooo tender that a bite takes you to heaven. For 20 bucks I doubt if you will ever find a kebab better than this. We could not stop ourselves from eating one more. As our hands extended to grab one more, the stomach stopped us to control, for there are lots to explore ahead. Also, the chicken kebab which was also a part of our order was 50 bucks a piece, was decent but nothing great. Totally it cost us around 130 bucks.

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Chicken Sheek
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Delicious Buffalo Kebabs

For the very fear of missing out on the Century old famous Karim’s , we headed back to Matia Mahal. Located in a small alley, one can easily spot the marker for Karim’s. As we strolled down the place, we happened to have a glimpse of pictures near the entrance with clippings from various new outlets, the best being the clipping of BBC which was singing their praise.

With so much History in place , we decided to treat our gustatory cells with their royal delicacies. We ordered for Mutton Qorma along with few tandoori rotis. Roti seemed huge as compared to what we are used to having, and was very definitely an uphill task to finish in the end. One glance at the gravy , you know you could light a candle for weeks. Once we spooned out the excess oil, we knew we had the best thing waiting for us to delve into. Qorma which was loaded with spices was a treat. The meat was as succulent as it could be.

Just when we thought we were done, the overflowing curiosity within us inquired them about when Nihari would be available. Usually places serve Nihari only for breakfast but apparently, Karim’s make Nihari throughout the day. We were desperate to try them, so regretted not asking earlier. As the saying goes, “ And when you want something, all the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it ” , thankfully we still had two more days in Delhi, so made the decision to come back the next morning for breakfast. Bill was around 400 for a light dinner.


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Obviously, the next day began with a trip to the old city for perfect breakfast at Karim’s. Ordered Nihari and roti. Nihari, a signature Mughal dish, which is said to have originated in the Jama Masjid area during the 18th century , is lamb slow cooked for many hours and garnished with green chili, ginger and onion. Quite a bit of history behind it. Nihari was spicy and contained for most parts, boneless meat. We were so engrossed with the dish, that we discarded plans to try other outlets for breakfast and ended up ordering more of this delicacy. Breakfast cost us 380 bucks.

This was the extent of our foray into the old city’s non-vegetarian fare. We missed out on quite a few places. Realized that more time and a few more able mouths will help cover the eateries we missed out. Lots more for the next visit.

P.S – Shoutout to my dear friend Sabyasachi whose inputs on where to eat what in Delhi was immensely helpful. Check out his blog Foodaholix which has a lot more on Delhi.


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