Jama Masjid Food
I love Jama Masjid in Old Delhi for its food. For me, it’s Delhi at its unpretentious best. Karim’s and Al-Jawahar are institutions and one must give them credit for being the face of Jama Masjid food for many years. But they’re now past their prime. It’s not a bad experience but they somehow don’t live up to the hype. Jama Masjid has three main areas for food – Matia Mahal, Urdu Bazaar and Chitli Kabar. The row of kebab shops in front of Gate No.1 of the Masjid is part of Urdu Bazaar. The original market was destroyed during the 1857 rebellion and was the main book publishing and selling centre for books in Urdu. Today’s it’s a curious mix of Kebab Shops, Book Stores and some other stuff.
Matia Mahal is where most of the restaurants are located. Including Karim’s and Al-Jawahar. Some Kebab Shops. A couple of Bakeries. The Garib Nawaz Hotels, which are restaurants where you purchase coupons and this money goes to feeding the poor and needy who line up to eat here. The origin of Chitli Qabar is mired in controversy. One theory says that the name comes from the shops in this area doing Chittai work, which’s a type of hand carving done on metal. The other theory says that during the revolution of 1857. The British massacred the leaders of the revolution and buried them here.
The Mughlai-fication of Butter Chicken
I’m not sure if there’s been a name given to the study of street food, but I find it a fascinating subject. Most restaurant trends change fairly quickly, but that isn’t the case for street food stalls. They evolve over a much longer period of time. And the successful ones stay put for a longer time. But the street is a cruel and unforgiving place. Restaurants have access to marketing tools which they utilise to draw clientele from outside their local sphere of influence. Street food on the other hand is extremely localised and the competition’s usually quite fierce.
The Punjabis might have conquered the whole of Delhi with Butter Chicken. But small pockets like Jama Masjid hold on with fierce resistance. Somewhat like the village of Asterix and Obelix in the face of the Roman conquest of entire Gaul. And they now developed their own version of the Butter Cream Chicken.
Butter Cream Chicken at Aslam
The Butter Cream Chicken is nowhere close in taste or texture to the Punjabi Butter chicken. But definitely looks like it’s been inspired by it. Aslam Chicken Corner in Jama Masjid started this sometime in the mid 2000’s. The Butter Cream Chicken’s a very clever dish. It’s taken the best of the Punjabi Butter Chicken. The Butter, Cream and Chicken. And leaves out the Tomato. Giving the dish a spin of its own.
The Butter Cream Chicken at Aslam is nothing short of stunning. The chicken’s marinated in a white pepper driven subtle spice mix and then cooked on a charcoal grill. It’s then tossed in an sauce that’s made from Yoghurt, Cream, a Ton-of-Butter, White Pepper and is mildly spiced. The Yoghurt cuts through the fat and doesn’t let it overpower the palate. The result is one of the best Chicken dishes that I’ve tasted off the street. If you’re the calorie-counting types, then give this a miss. This’s pure Butter-Cream. There’s no way one can do a diet version of this one. But then, it’s not as if you’re gonna have it everyday.
Here’s another classic Jama Masjid food story – The Chicken Changezi https://chowdersingh.com/chicken-changezi/
Happy hunting and Chowder-on!