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