Wah Karim Gastronomically The Best
Even the Mughal emperors will start gloating over in their graves when the aroma wafts in the air and curls down the place where they are laid at rest. The cooks straight from the Royal Kitchen with a recipe still shrouded in mystery serve you with all Mughlai delicacies you just cannot resist.
This almost a century-old eatery in the walled city of Delhi has been serving with its luscious grub that not only tickles your taste buds but also leaves you licking your fingers. If you are a foodie I bet you have this joint topping the itinerary of your culinary cruise. The fourth generation has a long history behind this mammoth kitchen of this vast empire, the roots of Karim’s are so deep as from the times of Babur.
The Mughals took along with them these cooks specialised in Mughlai food. But the blow that ended this prestigious royal employment came at the time of mutiny in 1857, when the last Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zafar was dethroned and the Karim’s ancestors had to flee the Red Fort to Faruqha Nagar Ghaziabad for cover and went underground. They for years lived under the guise of plebs and waited for the dust to settle down.
In 1911, when Delhi Durbar was held for the coronation of the King George V, Haji Karimuddin moved back to Delhi with an innovative idea of opening a dhaba to cater to the culinary need of the people coming from all over India to join the coronation of the king. Haji Karimuddin started this tiny outlet with just two items of aalu gosht and daal served with rumali roti. In 1913, Haji Karimuddin established Karim Hotel in Gali Kababian, Jama Masjid, Delhi with an eye to earning both fame and money by serving this royal food to the common man.
Today, the fourth generation is running the show with Karim Hotels Pvt. Ltd. at Jama Masjid, and the grub served at another restaurant called Dastar Khwan-E-Karim at Nizamuddin West, New Delhi, is deliciously yummy.
When time has undergone a sea change so has this eating joint. Now Karim has become a landmark as it has made its place on the itinerary of many foreigners and NRIs. When in India they never give it a miss to hit the joint and relish the bite of palatable food. Walking along the road of Urdu Bazaar towards Matia Mahal right in front of the southern gate of the historical Jama Masjid, you get to Hotel Karim. If you are a real food connoisseur, your nose with olfactory senses will guide you all through the cheek by jowl cluster of the area to the alley where this eatery has stood the test of time since the colonial era.
‘This is the fourth generation. My great grandfather was a great chef, I picked up the secret to this wonderful cuisine from him. We started with aloo gosht and yellow dal, now we have everything to tempt the most jaded palate, under one roof. There’s nothing as a USP but mutton burra is the best starter you cannot find anywhere else in India. Besides, everyone likes badam pasanda and mutton stew most at Karim’s,” Zanuabedin, the owner, expounded hospitably.
Karim starts its day at 9, you can breakfast on mutton nihari with piping hot khamiri (steamed) roti. The joint goes abuzz all throughout the day till midnight. This part of the calendar has NRI groups making a beeline for the restaurant. Karim has no outlet franchise. They are just two and the rest are family members.
“On average, we have as many as 2000 to 2500 footfalls every day, mostly non-Muslims. Those who once happened to live here in the surrounding and moved to some other place also turn up to refresh the sepia memory and slip into a nostalgic moment. Saturday and Sunday remain packed to the rafters, and one has to hang on for 10 to 15 minute,” the humble Zanuabedin tells gushingly.
Karim is known for serving the most exquisite and palatable starters like mutton burra, chiken tikka and succulent chicken steaks and melt-in-your-mouth kebabs and the main course dishes you out with aaloo gosht, korma, chicken biryani, badam pasanda, chicken mughlai and lots more on its a la carte and finally has filling firni to pack the day. Above all, the waiter makes you feel comfortable with a prompt service.
Karim, though a family restaurant, has big bunches of friends hitting the joint and backpackers also sauntering around for a delicious platter that serves the authentic flavours of Indian food. “I have been coming here for decades; my loyalty to Karim drags me here every weekend. Its preparation is just unique. I really miss when I’m not in Delhi,” Gulshan Sethi, a real estate developer, said. “ The flavor remains very much the same, I relish kebab steaks with biryani, each time this culinary cruise leaves me stumped and I pencil my next visit,” Geeta Singh, manager of D Dreamerz, an event management company, said.
Karim also renders services to outdoor catering, but everything is prepared in-house then carried home in cauldrons. It’s open 365 days. During the month of Ramadan, it remains closed in the morning but runs through the whole night. Eid is a holiday.
By Syed Wazid Ali