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Tried and Tasted: Here’s where to have the best chicken tikka and kebabs in Delhi

M.I. Food Center in the capital’s Meherchand Market offers excellent non-vegetarian fare such as seekh kebabs, keema kaleji and chicken malai tikka.

more lifestyle Updated: Dec 03, 2017 09:33 IST
Rahul Verma
M.I  Food Center serves a delicious chicken malai tikka.
M.I Food Center serves a delicious chicken malai tikka. (HT Photo)

You know you are at the right spot when a heady aroma of barbecued meat envelopes you. Well before you spot the crowd, you know you have reached central Delhi’s most popular kebab and tikka centre. The fragrance works like a tonic – and you head straight for M.I. Food Center in Meherchand Market.

Many years ago, when Delhi was still a hick town, this was a butcher’s shop. Meherchand Market itself was known more for a row of tailors who could turn your school jacket into a blazer, and granddad’s old coat into a bandhgala. Then the market started changing, as more and more brands opened shop in the area. And before you knew it, M.I. Food Center had turned a part of the butcher’s shop into a busy food corner, grilling kebabs, frying tikkas, ladling gravies and thickening kormas.

If you are in the heart of town and the soul and stomach are crying out for some good meaty stuff, M.I. Food Center is the place you must visit. I like it for several reasons: One, it’s easily accessible; Two, parking is not a problem here; And three, the food is excellent.

The last time I was there, I had packed some kebabs for friends whose house I was visiting. The kebabs disappeared before I could even say, “Here, have some…”. Another time, I had taken some kebabs and biryani home, and recall having a most satisfying meal.

The nihari gravy was excellent – thick with the flavours of meat and spices, and the kebabs were juicy and had a nice after-taste of garlic. (HT Photo)

This time, though, I was planning to eat right there, and have a full meal. A lot of regulars do that. M.I. has a standing area for those who want to eat there, and I find the place always full of eager diners. You place your order and someone with a mike bellows it out to the kitchen behind. And then, soon enough, a server comes with plates filled with the good stuff, sending out some more whiffs of burning coal and spices in the air.

The place is run by Mohammed Ilyas and his younger brother, Mohammed Zuhaib. It bustles with activity and is open through the week from noon to 10.30 pm barring Tuesdays, when it opens only at 5 pm. Someone is skewering kebabs, someone frying chicken on a tawa in the kitchen, and someone else rolling out roomali rotis.

I asked for a plate of nihari, some brain masala, seekh kebabs and keema kaleji. The nihari gravy was excellent – thick with the flavours of meat and spices, and the kebabs were juicy and had a nice after-taste of garlic. I am greatly fond of brain masala, which was grainy and spicy, and went well with the mildly sweet khamiri roti.

I am also a great votary of keema, and I enjoyed it immensely, especially the little pieces of green chillies that burst into my mouth. The kaleji was finely chopped, so it came as a surprise every time I bit into one little piece, because it didn’t look very different from the thick chunks of minced meat. So what really worked well was the different taste and texture of the liver, which gave a new dimension to the keema curry.

I used to always think that I was not greatly fond of chicken, but I think I am slowly changing my mind. M.I. does a delicious chicken malai tikka. The tikkas come in a delectable sauce of – hold your breath – butter, cream and malai, the thick skin that forms on top of creamy milk. It is absolutely superb.

I have just coined a new slogan: I’M for MI.

M.I. Food Center is run by Mohammed Ilyas and his younger brother, Mohammed Zuhaib. It is open through the week from noon to 10.30 pm barring Tuesdays, when it opens only at 5 pm. (HT Photo)

RECIPE: Saleem-bhai’s simple keema recipe

Ingredients: ½ kg hand chopped keema, 100g chopped onion, 1tbsp ginger paste, 1tbsp garlic paste, ½tsp turmeric powder, 1tsp red chilli powder, 1tbsp coriander powder, 100g yoghurt, oil as required, salt to taste, chopped coriander leaves and green chillies for garnishing

Method: Wash and drain the keema. Mix everything together and pressure cook for 10 minutes or so. Once the lid opens up, start frying the keema in the cooker. When it is well fried, you’ll get an aroma that smells a bit like ghee. This means the keema is done. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and green chillies, and serve with rotis or parathas.

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