Of Kismet Curry and Karma Cola
A food walk through Old Delhi with author Pamela Timms turns out to be a sumptuous experience. Manjula Narayan writes.travel Updated: Aug 16, 2014 17:28 IST
Our cycle rickshaw creaks down crowded galis and past a medieval mosque before halting at the Old Kheer Shop. “The Kismet in the title is from something Jamaluddin said,” Timms says handing a copy of the book to the smiling bespectacled man at the shop, who serves us bowls of the most satisfying kheer I have ever eaten in my life. “He hasn't told me the recipe but I know they make it on a wood fire,” Timms says. Jamaluddin, who speaks solely in Urdu couplets, looks mighty pleased and another bowl of kheer appears with cups of sweet desi chai.
Next, we head to Sadar Bazaar. It’s a long way off, past shops selling spices, kites, kulfi moulds, nan khatais and, since this is a couple of days before Raksha Bandhan, thousands of rakhis that look a trifle deracinated for being manufactured in China. 33,000 deities ensure that my arm narrowly escapes being severed in a rickshaw collision and I arrive intact at Ashok and Ashok, the korma place, the descriptions of whose founders provides much of the drama in the book. “The korma here is very different from what you get near Jama Masjid. Maybe because this is a Hindu place,” Timms says as we devour the grainy dark brown chicken curry with biryani and ghee-lashed naans and wash it all down with Thums Up, that thunderous pre-Liberalisation beverage that refuses to die. Being a confirmed sickular type — surely, that word is a legitimate part of our lexicon now — I hadn't ever thought about the religious affiliations of korma but Timms has a point. Different Indian communities do favour different ingredients — a fact that's celebrated by gluttons of every community.
Dessert is crisp golden jalebis with rabri at the Old and Famous Jalebi Wala at the mouth of Dariba Kalan. Next, Timms drags me to one of the last sweet shops that makes khurchan in Old Delhi. But by now I'm so stuffed, I'm done with being educated and I'm done with the frenetic activity and exotic cacophony of Old Delhi. As I run away, Timms slips back into the crowd, intent on discovering yet another eating place. Someone give the woman a medal. Better still, buy her wonderful book and gift friends copies too. Just the recipe for daulat ki chaat makes it utterly worth it.