(A monthly column first published in Car N Style magazine).
Spicy curry and juicy rolls in a hurry!
By Ravi V. Chhabra
Two of my favourite places in Delhi for ‘food-in-automobile’ that I have been courting much before the arrival of KFC are: Nizam’s Kathi Kabab in Connaught Place and Gullu’s Meat Wala (GMW) at Malka Ganj in Delhi University. Both are over 40-years old and have conserved quality of cooking and upped the hygiene.
The inventor of kathi rolls was the Nizam restaurant of Kolkata in 1932 and since then, the kathi roll has become one of Kolkata’s most famous roadside snacks and is also known as the Kolkata roll. The kathi roll has since grown in terms of the wraps and the myriad fillings. In a way, I should say, it is a cross between the north Indian parantha and the Chinese spring roll – all rolled into one! The Nizam’s Kathi Kabab was started by Rajesh Chugh, a foodie, way back in 1970 in Delhi. It is famously placed in the H-Block in Connaught Place between restaurants, movie theatres, and shops. The restaurant chain has now mushroomed with eight outlets in and around Delhi.
The self-service restaurant at Connaught Place has evolved with a blend of Mughlai and Indian taste that compliment its variety of kathi rolls and tandoori platter with good quality of food. The delight in Nizam’s Kathi Kabab comes with no exaggeration but with simple style and good taste. Make sure you have enough patience for your turn to come as the restaurant is always busy in dishing out its orders. Nizam's Kathi Kabab offers a range of kathi rolls, kebabs, tikkas, korma, Kashmiri dishes, biryanis and fish and chips. Though all of these are worth trying, my favourite are the single-egg chicken tikka roll and chicken biryani which I love to wash down with a fresh-lime soda.
Placing the order reminds you of the college canteen counter as you need to walk up to the cashier and pay in advance then as your ticket number is displayed, you go to the kitchen window and take the food tray. In case you want to get it packed then just instruct when you hand them the ticket. I wondered what the waiters were doing but for cleaning the few tables.
The kathi rolls have gained immense popularity within and out of India as they are now popularly called ‘Kati rolls’ in the US. Though the Nizam’s kathi rolls are mighty juicy and come with all kinds of fillings, they are quite oily and nothing compared to the Kolkata ones. But this is still a great place for a quick bite, especially if you want to have it packed in the car. The figure-conscious could instead order the low calorie rolls as well. The list of the kathi rolls is not as elaborate as that in the Park Street roll corner. But surely, the single and double seekh kebabs with eggs makes quite a filling for dinner. The chicken biryani is excellent, comes with raita or you can even pay extra and have the korma gravy with it (Rs 40). Do not a give miss to the Ambarsari keema gosht and roomali rotis. A range of soups, soft beverages and tea/coffee are available too. The air-conditioned restaurant is fully packed during mealtime, so you may be pleased to carry along your order for eating in the car. It makes good sense, if you want to avoid the hassles of waiting endlessly for a seat.
If you like spicy curries then don’t miss out on Gullu’s Meat Wala (GMW). The joint was once near the north Delhi’s transport authority building in Civil Lines and moved almost two decades ago to Malka Ganj. It is famous for the keema-meat – the spicy red curry with minced goat meat (Rs. 350 full plate and Rs. 180 small plate). Way back in the 1980s, those waiting to get their plate had to buy a token and stand in a queue patiently for their turn but now the crowds are gone, so you can be prepared to get your packed box of stuff quickly.
In the 1980s, one was entitled to unlimited gravy and rotis with a plate of meat-keema. The dhaba was in the open then and so was its kitchen with the cookware and manual meat-mince machine in public view. Its clientele has grown with passing of generations and the takeaway restaurant has, with changing times, opted for better cooking medium and cold storage equipment that is ostensibly hygienic. Its staff, now in uniform, however, needs to be more courteous. Gullu’s second outlet is in Pitampura. In 1961, Gulshan Kumar Arora had started the open-air outlet at Civil Lines adjoining the Transport Authority and after his death in 1999, his sons Sulabh and Garnesh took over the business.
The takeaway restaurant has expanded its repertoire to over two-dozen dishes and various rotis and refrigerated soft drinks. The keema-meat I had recently (I went to the counter and brought it in the car) looked and tasted almost the same after all those years, except the gravy was a wee bit less thick. The price for a small plate that was then at Rs. 30 is now Rs. 190 (enough for a single person) with rotis charged for extra and no extra gravy. It is still reasonable compared to most takeaway outlets in Delhi. The non-vegetarian menu comprises: meat-keema, keema kaleji, chicken keema, mutton barra (Rs. 440 full plate / Rs. 225 half plate) and meat pulao. For the vegetarians, there is veg biryani, makhni daal and mutter paneer. The vegetarian thali is for Rs. 170 and the non-vegetarian thali is for Rs. 185 but I recommend ordering independent dishes. It is open from 12 noon to 4 pm and from 7pm to 10pm.
Those with a craving for Punjabi-style spicy meat curry must try Gullu’s keema-meat at least once. As compared with the Ambarsari keema gosht at Nizam’s Kathi Kabab to keema-meat at GMW, Nizam’s keema-gosht is a clear winner. If you want to have a quick bite and can tolerate some oil then go for the kathi roll at Nizam’s Kathi Kabab. Though slightly more costly than the ones available at the kiosks in CR Park, these are hygienic and luscious.