Tried and Tasted: Try the jewel in the crown in the world of meat curries this weekend
This time, we take you to Ashok & Ashok in Basti Harphool, to try their best meat curries.tried and tasted Updated: Aug 01, 2017 15:15 IST
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.
Gurgaon to Sadar Bazar is quite a distance. But not for the five enthusiasts who had planned their visit with care. It had to be Sadar, where a small eatery has been selling what’s arguably the best meat curries in Delhi. And it had to be a Wednesday, for that is when lamb figures on the menu.
I saw the five youngsters at Ashok & Ashok, and was happy to find that it is still considered by food lovers as the jewel in the crown in the world of meat curries. Some people had even come from Rohtak to have the food there.
Some things have changed since I first went there several moons ago. The old stringed cots, on which people sat and ate their meals, have gone; instead people stand and eat. The tandoor, in which rotis were baked right in front of you, has been sealed by civic authorities. Now they are prepared in a kitchen in a building next to the eatery, and slid down from there with the help of ropes and baskets.
Food lovers agree that there is nothing quite like the meat that you get at Ashok & Ashok in Basti Harphool. I first went there with a friend some 25 years ago, and have been a die-hard fan since then. The story behind the eatery, often told, is worth repeating.
There were two friends, both called Ashok, who lived and worked in Delhi’s Sadar Bazar area. Legend has it that in the evenings, they together cooked a meat dish for themselves and their family. And it was so delicious that the family, left licking their fingers, prodded them into starting a commercial venture. Which they did – and it became an instant success.
The two Ashoks have departed, but their eatery is still going strong. I am happy to say that their meat curry is as good as ever. As always, they serve only meat and rotis. Except on Tuesdays when they are shut, they serve chicken curry (on all other days) and meat curry (only on Wednesdays and Saturdays). The curries – where the base is minced meat -- are served with tiny coriander-flavoured rotis, which keep coming to your table as you stand and eat. If you are a vegetarian, you may like to steer clear of this place. But if you love your meat, this is the go-to place.
One ingredient makes all the difference to the dish – and that is desi ghee. The chicken and lamb curries are cooked with ghee. But that can’t be the only reason why the curries are so delectable. I think the food is special also because the meat – chicken or lamb – is really fried well with the masalas. The gravy of minced meat is thick and oily, and smells heavenly, thanks to the spices and the ghee. The rotis are free, and you find yourself demolishing a small hillock without a pause. There is also a plate of chaat masala-sprinkled onion rings on the table, and you keep digging into that as you dip your roti into the gravy and pop it into your mouth.
Ashok & Ashok is such a legend that Ashoklets have spawned all over town, though the people helming the place stress that they have no branches. What’s heart-warming – and mouth-watering - is that the friends may be gone, but their curries are as delicious as ever. Thank you, Ashoks, wherever you may be.
(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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