Restaurant Review | Purani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House … from the young and foodish!

“Time spent in India has a extraordinary effect on one. It acts as a barrier that makes the rest of the world seem unreal.”
Tahir Shah

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House You walk into a heady mix of the aroma of fresh kebabs, refreshing earnesty, a set up in the heart of Gurgaon where modern meets traditional and you hit a comfort zone! Varun Veigas puts you at ease instantly. His passion shines through, his brutal honesty surprises you but in a nice sort of way. He appreciates good food, from his competitors too, never one to play anyone down!

Khari Baoli, Old DelhiPurani Dilli or Old Delhi, the walled city, holds eternal charm. The sights, the sounds, the chaos, the mayhem, the colours all characteristic. I’ve gone there often to take in the ambiance, the pick up dry fruits and masalas from Khari Baoli, to shop for props … and of course to savour the cuisine. I love Old Delhi, and it’s wonderful to find at least the food a step closer to home! Purani Dilli, Old DelhiPurani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House offers to recreate the charm of traditional purani dilli cuisine in the heart of bustling Gurgaon. They serve fare from the walled city near Jama Masjid, and do a pretty good job with it! Varun’s partner Umez Bhai has been running a restaurant {Afsar’s Al-Karam} which lies in the shadows on Karims and Al-Jawahar but claims to be only better. Varun invited us for a private tasting a few days ago.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House The USP is fresh, good quality ingredients, honest prices and authentic flavours! Old Delhi or Purani Dilli is dotted with restaurants we’ve visited time and again. Sometimes the ride into the heart of Old Delhi for food you crave can prove cumbersome and out of reach. For times like these, Purani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House is like a breath of fresh air!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House Under the able supervision of Umez Bhai, the team is professional, dedicated and focussed! The quiet and affable Varun joined us at the table. With bits of trivia peppering our conversation, his honesty and passion hit us! Mr PAB couldnt resist asking him if people mistook him for the young Rahul Gandhi. Varun burst into a smile and nodded. The gentle charisma shone through!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House The menu here has over 40 items on offer, all from the heart of Old Delhi. We began the evening with expertly made sutli kebas, where ‘sutli’ refers to string. These are tenderized mutton {or chicken} kebabs that are held together with string on skewers as they are very delicate. Absolutely delicious with a generous side of fresh onions, tomatoes and a green yogurt dip.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House This was the beginning of many kebabs, each characteristically different. The mutton shami kebabs {deep fried} were melt in the mouth good, delicately flavoured and delicious. So was the chicken tikka … simple, mildly spiced and done just right, reflecting the freshness of the produce. The purani dilli chicken tikka followed next, these had a teeny bit of gravy that they were tossed in after being barbequed. Both tikkas had been tossed in a special dry masala mix and melted butter, very different and very delicious. Oh to have a larger appetite!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House What followed was the surprise dish that Varun was really excited to bring to the table, the keema stuffed naan … deep fried Indian puri style bread with a stuffing of delicately spiced mince meat. Mr PAB declared this to be the star of the evening. Despite being off wheat for the past so many weeks, he went on to devour the whole naan without a care in the world! Delicious he declared again, enjoying each morsel. I had a nibble on the side…it was truly good; very different. You must try this if you stop by. It’s a meal in itself, but you could dip it into some curry too!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House The curries were comforting, homey and reminiscent of the old world charm. The haleem was delicious. Gently flavoured, meat just right, slivers of ginger and almonds, this is a meal in itself. If you love haleem, then you’re at the right place! The other haleem I really enjoyed was the one at Dum Affairs. The nihari was yum too, beautifully coloured due to brown onions and minimal spices. The chicken ishtoo dished out for us was brilliant. Of course it was spicy with a liberal dose of red and green chilies, but the flavours were wonderful. If you like a hot curry, this one is for you. Fresh tandoori rotis on the side and you go back singing!

We were stuffed despite making sure we were served tiny helpings, maybe half a kebab, or a spoon of curry. Just before dessert was served, we sampled some achari chicken biryani. It was was spot on, each grain of rice separate, pickling spices standing out.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House How could we leave without dessert? The excitement in Varuns voice was palpable. He loves that he can offer patrons ‘meetha‘ or dessert straight from the streets of Old Delhi. Steaming hot little bowls of the famous purani dilli ka habshi halwa were the first to arrive. Rich, warm, gooey and not too sweet, this is a famous part of Old Delhi culinary history. Made from sprouted wheat, loads of dried fruit, reduced milk and more, it is best enjoyed in winter and promises to warm you up! Did I say rich? Clarified butter oozed out of the fudge like halwa, yet the bowls scraped clean! Delicious as can be!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House They also proudly serve the best kulfi in town, straight from Kuremals in Chandni Chowk. Kuremal, a legend in Old Delhi, has over 500 flavours in house, some which are as innovative as custard apple, kala khatta, phalsa and tamarind. The flavours on offer at the Kebab House are rose, paan, anjeer {fig} and kesar pista. I went with anjeer and the hub with paan, while Varun joined us to devour the rose kulfi. The paan one was like eating a meetha paan I heard. I enjoyed the anjeer one immensely.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House While the interiors are very basic and spartan, incidentally like you would find in the heart of Old Delhi, the area is buzzing with activity. A steady stream of patrons flowed in all evening, some purposefully headed this way, some following their noses to the delicious aromas that rose from the barbecue. A word about the team. Very gentle, polite and courteous staff, who let you know in advance to expect upto a 30 minute waiting time. Most folk like to stand around the bbq which has a nice open area around it. Well located, we hear that folk like to drive in and be served in their vehicles, like the good old drive ins!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House So if you are longing for some authentic Purani Dilli grub, would rather just hop across to somewhere closer than a ride into Old Delhi, this is the place to head for. Priced very reasonably {where else would you find a moorish generously stuffed keema naan for Rs 50}, Purani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House offers you good great value for money, and delivers authentic taste too! They do serve a few vegetarian dishes too. As an added advantage, have a chat with the large hearted Umez Bhai who supervises efficiently and knows Old Delhi like the back of his hand!


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Baking | Oatmeal Nutella Whoopie Pies … and a peep into Old Delhi

“But there’s always a first time for everything”
Melissa de la Cruz

Oatmeal Nutella WhoopiesThese were cookies whoopies waiting to happen! One look at the inbox a few weeks ago and the Pioneer Woman had me bookmarking again. There’s loads of make-able stuff that Ree constantly churns out, and oatmeal in whoopies were right up my street. A few days ago we had Oatmeal Nutella Whoopie Pies!Oatmeal Nutella Whoopie Pies Whoopie pies are sweet baked delights that are a cross between a soft cookie and cake or pie, basically a set of cookies whoopies sandwiched together with a frosting. As expected they were a hit with the teens! It’s amazing how comfort food can bring out the kids in young adults. Both the ‘now much taller than me kids’ grabbed a pair each, pulled the cookies apart and proceeded to lick the frosting, savouring every Nutella lick. Then it was time to demolish whatever was left!!Oatmeal Nutella Whoopies PiesI took a small nibble of the unfrosted cookies and they were quite nice. Maybe I’ll skip the cinnamon next time as it reminds me of warm winter days. I think an orange zest kick would make yum summer whoopie pies! Mmmm, maybe that’s an idea since brown sugar, orange and chocolate are a good pairing.Oatmeal Nutella Whoopies PiesThe cookies were a tad on the sweeter side according to Mr PAB, so I’ll cut back the sugar next time. They disappeared really quick as I could see hungry eyes pick out the box from the fridge to devour the pies. I refrigerated them as the Indian summer has really kicked in, 42C and rising! Won’t even begin to tell you about the nonsensical and irrational power cuts…. sigh! Heat & Dust = North Indian Summer!Old Delhi, Purani Dilli It’s the beginning of a tough summer; a long hot month ahead before the monsoons get here. Then it’ll be hot + humid! On my list of things to do was a visit to Old Delhi which I managed a few days ago before the heat became unbearable. My Mum had some work there so I happily tagged along … Brass teapot, Old DelhiOld Delhi, Purani Dilli I bought this charming brass teapot {pictured with the whoopie pies} from a shop near Jama Masjid. I also climbed up rickety old ladders and pulled out vintage handmade copper boxes from a dusty old shop that sold copper by the weight. We had a wonderful local guide who walked us through quaint places, like Mohalla Kabristan which quite literally translates into ‘Graveyard Colony‘.Old Delhi, Purani Dilli It was an uncanny feeling having to walk nonchalantly around graves that lay in your path! This little colony was built ages ago around old graves that dot cemented streets. Goats languish lazily around every possible corner, heat, dust and more dust, shops that sell everything under the sun … beads, incense, bottles, cookware, bangles, buckets, cloth, paper, silver jewelery, fresh juice, food! Old Delhi, Purani DilliOld Delhi, Purani Dilli Old Delhi, Purani DilliA journey into the ‘walled city’ transports you into another world. We got onto rickshaws from the historic Turkman Gate {one of the 14 gateways to the Shahjahanabad of yore} in the heart of New Delhi. The minute we crossed the gate and took a right turn, the road disappeared into a ‘gali or narrow street! No cars, just rickshaws, people on foot, goats galore, mules too …. a different cacophony!Old Delhi, Purani DilliSome of my photographs might have a ‘rickshaw shake’ as we were in a hurry to get around, but I had to share them with you. It’s the essence of Old Delhi, a city I love, which appears rather mystically the minute you cross over into the walled area, or  Purani Dilli. The city  grows on you!Old Delhi, Purani DilliTomorrow I’m off to Goa with the kids for a short break, a revisit after a gap of over 20 years. Whoopie!! Hopefully will have some more pictures of yet another beautiful Indian city to share with you soon! Until then, here are my version of Rees whoopie pies!

Other Pioneer Woman recipes on PAB
Sweet Orange, Roasted Strawberry & Chocolate Buttermilk Rolls
Apple Cranberry Almond Olive Oil Pull-Apart Loaf & Popovers

PAB featured on The Pioneer Woman on Web Deliciousness: Strawberries!
Old Fashioned Eggless Chocolate Cake with Balsamic Strawberry Cream Filling
Whipped Strawberry Curd Cream Tartlets with Walnut Shortbread Crust

This post featured on Huffington Post

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blogiversary, Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib Jama Masjid, India, Indian, Karim’s, Old DelhiA WALK THROUGH THE STREETS OF OLD DELHI…& A 2ND BLOGIVERSARY GIVEAWAY!

“We talk, we bake, we laugh, we are!”
Jamie @ Life’s A Feast via twitter
I love the jingle to that opening quote. It pretty much sums up our foodie lives taken over by blogging, baking, twittering… Comes via twitter from my friend Jamie – a mad-hatter American in Paris!!
Sorry I’ve been a bit slack of late. Time continues to fly by & I’ve been a tad busy of late. Time flies otherwise as well, or maybe it’s just that i’m getting old. After all, my little blog here is turning 2 today! It’s been a long, fun journey, & I can’t believe I’ve come such a long way, baking and blogging through 700+ days! Passionate still, and loving it. Lots has changed! I’ve met a great bunch of friends & we’re virtually in each others homes every other day. I’ve rediscovered that a camera is a fun thing & ‘macro’ rules my world. I’m braver in my use of eggs. I bake to blog, more than the other way around sometimes. Time to ‘fess up … I don’t bake to feed my family, but bake to feed my blog!! There I said it! The family does enjoy the proceeds though, & fortunately for them, I think it’s longhaul!! I have 2 things to share today. The first is a small window to my part of the world in Old Delhi, India. The second is a giveaway for my 2nd blogiversary! It’s a small Arabian Coffee Pot in brass that I picked up here, in the walled city.
The hub thought it was time the kids got a taste of the public transport system/Metro here, & should know how life is out of the car, and in the streets of Old Delhi. Initial protest gave way to intrigue, & we quickly bundled ourselves into the Delhi Metro for our maiden trip onto the train which has become the lifeline of Delhi. Luckily it was a holiday so it wasn’t crowded at all, & the hours ride whizzed by. Thought I’d share some sights and sounds of the walled city with you. Old Delhi, or Purani Dilli, as it is often referred to, is a different world in itself. The comfort was untold. Air conditioned luxury on a hot humid day, no traffic to swerve, no blaring horns & no road racers to watch out for. Yes, that is the normal scene on roads in Delhi, & for that part in most of India. Everyone wants right of way, even if it’s wrong, & they would drive over you to get to where they want to before you. Road rules do not rule here, & the bigger the better wants psychological advantage of the road! In all this mayhem, I love to drive. I find it challenging and spirited too, and I think you might find it both refreshing & nerve wracking, if you are used to the discipline of the West!
The minute we stepped off at the Chandni Chowk Metro station into Old Delhi, we were transported to a different world altogether. The sights, the smells, the chaos, the culture, the architecture, the crowds…everything hits you the minute you step onto the street! A different world, steeped in culture, a myriad of old building jostling for space with new, banks, gurdwaras and mosques rubbing shoulders, a sea of people, rickshaws literally swimming across roads, spice sellers dotting the roadside, wires criss-crossing dizzily overhead, horns blaring…in the midst of this, stood out a beautiful piece of architecture…
…a stunning gurdwara, Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, a place of worship of the Sikh community. The Gurdwara Shish Ganj, located at Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, was built on the place where Mughal Emperor Aurungzeb beheaded the ninth Sikh Guru, Shri Tegh Bahadur in 1675. ‘Shish’ literally means ‘the head’. Shish Ganj is a prominent pilgrim center of the Sikh Community and it is equally revered by the Hindus. As a rule, a gumbad (dome) is the crowning feature of a gurdwara. Sikh architecture reflects a lively blend of Mughal and Rajput styles. Onion-shaped domes, multi-foil arches, paired pilasters, in-lay work frescoes, etc. are doubtless of Mughal extraction, more specifically of Emperor-Architect Shah Jehan’s period, while oriel windows, bracket-supported eaves at the string-course, chhattris, richly-ornamented friezes, etc. are reminiscent of elements of Rajput architecture. We tripped along the street to find ladies draped in sarees, sitting on the roadside selling spices out of small sacks, with tea glasses as measures. I could see pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, white pepper…antiquated old ways to sell spices. The kids couldn’t believe it. They’ve only seen spices coming out of boxes & well packaged….
Going further, walking into narrow streets, we saw an old hand pump for drawing water, a letter-box that had seen better days, shops with shutters down as it was a holiday, doors dating back to more than a 100 years ago, 1912, with rusty padlocks that looked like they hadn’t been touched for years. With the tummys now rumbling, we decided to take rickshaws from the Town hall & headed for Karim’s to have a bite. Turned a corner enroute, loaded in rickshaws… and saw the Jama Masjid. The Masjid-i Jahān-Numā, commonly known as the Jama Masjid of Delhi, is the principal mosque of Old Delhi in India. Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, and completed in the year 1656 AD, it is the largest and best-known mosque in India. It lies at the origin of a very busy central street of Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk. We didn’t step into the compound, but the little we saw left us amazed. A lot of North India, especially Delhi & Agra is scattered with beautiful architecture like this that dates back to the Mughal era.
Karim Hotel is just a stones throw from gate number 1 of Jama Masjid. Of course we didn’t tell the kids it was a roadside eatery of sorts, or an Indian dhaba, as there was no way they’d agree to go in. The minute they saw the place, both declared in unison that they weren’t eating anything there. I firmly told them to sit & watch as we ate. To Karim’s credit, the minute the food appeared, the kids were the first to jump to it!
To quote from the Time Magazine, Travelers in Delhi have a lot on their plate. Mughal monuments like the hulking Red Fort and the elegant Jamma Masjid, India’s largest mosque, loom above the city’s myriad bazaars and the dusty homes of forgotten poets. But no matter how much there is to explore, locals and visitors alike always return to Delhi’s most beloved haunt: Karim’s. A cycle-rickshaw ride from the Chandni Chowk Metro stop, Karim’s is neither soaring fortress nor ancient temple, yet it is an unmissable landmark nonetheless, often filled to capacity with the faithful. This drab roadside dhaba (or eatery) serves up the most authentic Mughlai fare in the city—which is what you might expect considering who runs the place. Haji Zahuruddin comes from a family whose bloodline extends back centuries to the chefs who conjured elaborate feasts in the courts of Mughal emperors. Generations of chefs honed their culinary wizardry in the nearby Red Fort until the last Mughal ruler was toppled by the British in 1857. Returning to Delhi in 1911 after his family spent decades in exile, Haji Karimuddin, the grandfather of the present owner, set up shop in the same alleyway where his descendants now prepare their family recipes, each one a closely guarded secret. They are certainly secrets worth keeping. Best of all, these regal delights still come at dhaba prices. In this imperial city, even paupers can eat like kings.
BBC WORLD GUIDE, March 1994″…….recommend meat eaters to try Karim’s……for a traditional breakfast of spice goats’ totters….. better than the bacons & eggs and more delicious…” We had a ‘tandoori raan‘ or leg of mutton, ‘mutton burrah kebab’, ‘mutton stew’ and karim rolls. The raan could have been better, but the burrah & the stew were over the top GOOD! Didn’t get pictures too many pictures of the food because the kids were suddenly famished. Besides there were too many people, & all enjoying the food. I was amazed to see the number of foreign tourists enjoying a meal there!

While we were in Old Delhi, we chanced upon a small unassuming shop as we were approaching the Jama Masjid. Luckily for us, it was the only shop open that day… we shopped till the husband dropped.

The daughter went ballistic & almost had to be tranquilized! She wanted everything. The son was finally calmed down with a magic lamp! He’s still waiting for the genie to appear! The little shop had hardly any standing space & had very interesting stuff.

There were boxes, kettles, fruit bowls, prayer wheels, wall plaques, bells, metal handbags, little pieces of jewellery, Tibetan handicrafts … the list was endless! I bought a selection of stuff from there, and my fave was a small Arabian Coffee Pot in brass. I really fell in love with it, so I went ahead and bought another one as my blogiversary giveaway … got to share the good things in life!!
One lucky winner will get this beautiful Arabian Coffee Pot made of brass with an antique finish. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post. Comments are open until the 19th of August 2009, wherever in the world, and a winner will be announced thereafter. Do leave an email contact if you wish to be considered for the draw.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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