[Delhi, India] Dinner at the historic Karim's

Another old Chowhound post (this one from 4 March 2013) which I’m transferring over to Hungry Onion.
Today, Karim’s is still the best-known eatery in Delhi, and a must-visit for any serious foodie to the Indian capital.


If there is one place which every visiting foodie in Delhi must go to, it has to be the century-old Karim’s in Old Delhi. Locals often refer to it as Karim Hotel, as local restaurants are often called “hotels” in India (mind you, there are no actual hotel rooms on the premises).

Founded in 1913, Karim’s was founded by Haji Karimuddin, one of the royal cooks in the durbar of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar.

After the collapse of the Mughal empire, Haji Karimuddin returned Delhi in 1911 and started operating a small eatery in Gali Kababian, opposite the 17th-century Jama Masjid, built by Emperor Shah Jahan, who was better-known for his masterpiece, the Taj Mahal.

That little street-side eatery grew in reputation and size to become the eponymously-named Karim’s today. Haji Karimuddin also made sure his son Haji Nooruddin and grandsons learned the art of Mughlai royal cooking. Even today, most of the recipes are jealously-guarded family secrets, known only to the 4th-generation of Haji Karimuddin’s family that runs the restaurant.

Karim’s has since expanded to become a Delhi-wide chain, with various outlets in the suburbs: Ashok Vihar, Malviya Nagar, and the high-tech satellite towns of Gurgaon and Noida. But its original mothership is definitely the must-visit destination, located off a bustling, often chaotic narrow street of Old Delhi, Gali Kababian, just opposite the 17th-century Jama Masjid, Delhi’s largest mosque.

A narrow little passageway leads off Gali Kababian, into the compound of Karim’s.

There, one sees a collection of cooking and serving stations. Here at the kebab station, long wands of skewered meats were being grilled over open flames:

Professional curry-men sitting cross-legged in front an array of pots of cooked curries with gaping mouths - waiting for him to ladle the meats and gravies onto serving bowls.

What we had this evening:

  • Seekh kebabs: skewers of tender, fragrant minced lamb, expertly spiced, if slightly on the salty side (catering to the local palate/taste preference).

  • Mutton burra: spiced, flame-grilled mutton pieces which packed quite a bite and smokey flavours. Definitely a must-order here.

  • Karahi chicken: an oily, spicy North Indian/Pakistani spiced chicken stew. The flavours from the dried red peppers gave greasy gravy a deep, mellow flavour, with a delayed chili-heat effect. Absolutely delicious with the tandoor-baked rotis.

  • We ordered two types of briyanis: the chicken biryani which came topped with an egg, cut into halves, and a mutton biryani which had a more robust flavour. Both biryanis were served “dry”, with only the seasoned chicken or mutton to provide the flavours, so one should order side-dishes with gravies to complement the rice.

  • Palak paneer: this classic North Indian dish of paneer cheese and chopped spinach was very well-executed here. Good quality paneer, smothered with ghee-rich pureed spinach. Absolutely delicious.

We paid only INR1000 or USD18 for our meal, which worked out to USD4.50 per person! Unbelievably cheap, for a true taste of Delhi’s culinary history.

Karim Hotel
16, Near Jama Masjid (Gate No. 1), Gali Kababian, Old Delhi 110006, India
Tel: +91 11 2326 4981
Opening hours: 9am to 1am daily.


Oh, man, that is just my sort of dinner. Those kebabs look like “the business”.

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Getting there was quite an adventure, too - we were practically accosted at every corner by folks either trying to sell us something, or simply begging for a few rupees. Quite a lively neighbourhood.

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Ooohhh thanks for making me remember my visit to Karim’s!

Funny thing, our chauffeur did not think it appropriate for 2 girls to eat there alone, so he sat at the entrance to chaperone us. (Of course we made sure he ate…)


I just love Karim’s restaurant. I grew up in Delhi, so Karim’s (the Nizamuddin branch) is one of my best food memories of the many outstanding food experiences of that city. I used to eat non-vegetarian food in those days, though IIRC they have great dals and vegetable dishes too. We were not wafted there by a chauffeur :slight_smile: we took DTC buses or autorickshaws (tuktuks).

The Nizamuddin branch is located in a tremendously atmospheric and ancient area of Delhi that houses the dargah (mausoleum complex) of the famous 12th-13th century CE Sufi Saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Each year, his Urs (death anniversary) is celebrated with sessions of music, poetry recitations, etc. That whole area is an amazing experience to visit.

Karim’s food is outstanding. Their family backstory says that they were royal cooks to the Mughal Emperor’s court in (Old) Delhi and when the empire came to a sticky end after the Great Indian Rebellion war against the British East India Company’s armies in 1857 (no, we do not call it the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ for obvious reasons), the cooks survived until some of them had the idea of opening a restaurant in the early 20th C. I haven’t tried the CC branch so cannot give a direct comparison. There are additional branches in other areas of Delhi too. I hope I can visit there again one day …


It’s grown to become a chain now. They plastered the details of their other branches on one wall:

I was on a business trip at the time - in Noida. I remembered our company chauffeur kept wanting to take us to the newer branch in Noida, but we vehemently insisted on going to the original outlet, since we knew there’s no substitute for the atmosphere there. Magical.

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