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Tried and Tasted: The best place for non-veg tikkas in Delhi revealed

Craving for some juicy, spicy tikkas in the neighbourhood? Look no further because we have just the right place for you. Do check out Talib’s Kebab Corner in Zakir Nagar Market in south Delhi and Babloo kabab shop, close to Ghantaghar or Amba Cinema.

tried and tasted Updated: May 21, 2017 23:16 IST
Rahul Verma
Zakir Nagar is the place to be.
Zakir Nagar is the place to be.(HT Photo)

A revolution knocks on the door – and it comes with a fork and knife. The world of food is more exciting than ever before. New restaurants are coming up offering novel cuisines or digging out old ones. Chefs are looking at unusual ingredients and dramatic ways of presenting food. Meanwhile, some wizened old experts continue to wield magic with their skewers and ladles in remote parts of the city. There is a world waiting to be discovered or re-embraced– new cooking styles, world food, sub-regional cuisine and tiny holes in the wall which produce the most delightful dishes. Here’s a guided tour.

I think one of the most satisfying food experiences is to have a guest at home who enjoys a good dish. I remember the happy sounds that a friend made one evening when he had come over for a meal. He was from Mumbai and hadn’t eaten Delhi’s street food for long years. So I thought I would get him some tikkas that he would remember for life.

I am pretty certain that he still remembers them. The appreciative sounds that he made when he ate the tikkas were like music to my ears. And when he upended the bowl in which the tikkas were being served and drank up the masala-laden juice that had oozed, I knew I had found a kindred soul.

The tikkas were from a small eatery called Talib’s Kebab Corner in Zakir Nagar Market in south Delhi. I was taken there a few years ago by an enterprising young friend who goes looking for good food when he should ideally be working on his PhD thesis. But I owe him one -- I had my first plate of Talib’s tikkas, and thought they were easily the best I had eaten in Delhi.

The tikkas are prepared with buffalo meat. Talib marinates them with some spices and masalas and then grills them in an angeethi placed in front of him. There are two reasons why his tikkas are so special. One, they are not overly spiced. Two, they are grilled just right – a little less of heat, and the meat will be rubbery; a little too much, and it will be dry.

Talib tikkas are special as they are not over spiced and are grilled just right.

The place, which opens at six in the evening, is also known for its seekh kababs, but I think its tikkas are truly outstanding. Not surprisingly, I find that people come from across the city to try out his fare. There is always a huge crowd there, young and old people biding their time while they watch Talib supervise the men at work. And every time a skewer comes out of the grill, I can feel the excitement building up among the salivating tikka lovers.

You have to stand there and eat your tikkas, which are served with onions and chutney. I often pack some to take back home, and I find that they are nice and moist even when eaten a few hours after they have been grilled.

Have your tikka with sliced onions and chutney.

My chef friends tell me that for a good tikka, the marinade is very important. The yoghurt should ideally be hung before it is mixed with the meat, and the masalas must be thick and not runny. And, of course, heat is crucial – not just how long you put the skewers on the burning coal, but how hot the coal should be.

Sadly, Delhi’s tikkas are not what they used to be. They are served everywhere, of course, but I find that they are often a bit too red and spicy, and occasionally even charred on the sides.

For a good tikka, ensure the marination should be good.

One place where you get excellent chicken and lamb tikkas is an eatery near Delhi University called Babloo kabab shop, close to Ghantaghar or Amba Cinema. The tikkas there have a special flavour because he bastes them with a bit of desi ghee.

But the real test of a good tikka is how long it has to be grilled. The ustads know the trick, but they are all slowly disappearing. So it’s especially heartening to know that Talib is doing brisk business. I hope he continues to give us tikkas – and a whole lot of appreciative slurps and sounds --- in the years to come.

(Rahul Verma has been writing on food for over 25 years now. And, after all these years, he has come to the conclusion that the more he writes, the more there is left to be written)

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