It is a funny sort of childhood memory. In the early Seventies, when I came back to Bombay from boarding school, one of my favourite takeout meals was packed keema-mutter from the Kwality’s on Kemps Corner (now defunct, I suspect).
The gravy was oily and I doubt if the dish would win any culinary competitions. But at that time, I loved it. I ate it with slices of white Britannia bread (which I don’t eat any longer) and chunks of the vinegared onion that restaurants like Kwality’s specialised in. If I wanted it spicier, then the Gujarati in me came to the fore, and I ate it with homemade mango pickle.
Would I still like the dish? The gastronomically sound answer is no, of course not. But, to be entirely honest, my guess is that I would. I still find all kinds of keema curries irresistible. I like them when they are greasy, dhaba-style versions. I like the more refined Punjabi home-style curries with aloo.
I love the Bombay roadside keema pav and the ghotala (the same basic keema with egg added). Hell, I’m even a fan of foreign keema dishes. I like chili con carne (about the only Tex-Mex dish I can actually cook) and I’m happy to eat Cottage Pie (beef keema) or its cousin Shepherd’s Pie (lamb keema).
But here’s my problem: keema is the one dish you rarely see on restaurant menus. And when you do find it, you can be disappointed. A month ago I had a truly disgusting keema at a hotel in Chandigarh, believing mistakenly that I couldn’t possibly go wrong ordering such a basic dish in Punjab. (My fault. Chandigarh has none of the culinary sophistication of Amritsar.)
From HT Brunch, October 26
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