I love food at Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. It’s Delhi at its unpretentious best. Karim’s and Al-Jawahar are the face of Jama Masjid food and are popular both with tourists and locals. But the area has a lot more to offer than just these two. There are four main areas around Jama Masjid for food – Matia Mahal, Urdu Bazaar, Chitli Kabar and Gali Chooriwallan.
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. 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.
Matia Mahal is where most of the restaurants are located. Including the popular Karim’s and Al-Jawahar. Both these places are popular both with tourists and the locals. Aslam Chicken is a relatively new entrant compared to the others but now has become the big daddy of Mama Masjid. Haji Mohammad Hussain is an old shop famous for their fried chicken. Cool Point now has multiple branches and is famous for shahi tukda and ice cream. Rehmatullah Hotel for their mawa jalebi. And the Garib Nawaz Hotel , which is an interesting concept. One can eat here or purchase coupons for hungry people to eat from the restaurant. Muslim culture is big on charity and you’ll find a Garib Nawaz hotel in many major muslim areas.
Urdu Bazaar is famous for kebabs. Qureshi is a popular joint for people coming from outside. Lalu Kababee is probably one of the older kebab shops in Urdu Bazaar and well known among locals. Quality-wise seems to have dipped over the years. But still decent. Haji Shabrati Nihari is one of the standout Nihari shops in Chitli Qabar. And my favourite winter experience in Chitli Qabar is a white gajjar (carrot) halwa at Sheeren Bhawan. They use some sort of desi parsnip to make the white gajjar halwa. It’s unique and at the same time, delicious. Galli Chooriwallan is off the touristy areas of Jama Masjid. Doesn’t have too many food options but is famous as the birthplace of Chicken Changezi.
Aslam Chicken is now the big daddy of Jama Masjid food. Their top seller is what they call Butter Chicken, but it’s more like Butter Yoghurt Chicken. It’s very different in taste or texture to the Punjabi Butter chicken, made famous by Moti Mahal in Daryaganj. Aslam Chicken started selling this dish sometime in the mid 2000’s.
The Butter (Yoghurt) Chicken at Aslam is both delicious and decadent. The chicken’s marinated in a white pepper driven subtle spice mix. Cooked on a charcoal grill. Then tossed in a sauce that’s made from yoghurt, cream, lot’s of butter, white pepper and some whole spices. The sourness in the yoghurt does an amazing job of cutting through the butter and cream and doesn’t let them overpower the palate.
But there also a running debate in Jama Masjid, on who invented this dish. Yes! Aslam is now the big daddy, but there’s another claimant to the title – Anmol. Still a small street food joint in Urdu Bazaar. It’s in a blink-and-a-miss location. And you need to ask them to serve the original recipe. They might charge more. But that’s ok. You atleast get a chunk of nostalgia.
Here’s the link to Aslam Chicken’s location on Google Maps.
Happy hunting and Chowder-on!