Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Delhi – Karim

Posted by jwpiper on January 13, 2009

It started as an innocent drive at 20:30 filled with the now usual though comical and scary adventures of driving in Delhi traffic. A few new observations: 1) Green arrow means yield; red light means go. No, I’m not kidding or exaggerating, that is quite literally the rule – at least at this particular intersection. 2) It is perfectly normal for a passenger to get out of a vehicle and cross traffic to walk off the road. First I saw this on city roads – ok, whatever – but then on the highway. 3) If you miss your turn and there isn’t oncoming traffic immediately apparent, it is recommended to drive the wrong way on a road in hope of finding a place you can flip a u-turn. As soon as a wall of oncoming traffic comes racing toward you from around the corner you were blinded to, calmly stop, lay on your horn, open your door, yell to the car(s) who followed you to back up, and backup to make enough room so the angry drivers, presumably in the right of way, can move around you slightly for you to maneuver through the cars to continue on your wrong way. And finally, 4) if you get to your destination unscathed, it was a successful journey – there are no points for finesse.

We exited the car and began walking, guided by our companion who I found out later hadn’t been to this restaurant since 1983. We meandered through the narrow walkways immediately greeted with the smell of stale urine, the sound of beggars and street vendors, and the sight of litter. Soon the smells mixed with varyingly pleasant aromas of street food, though today wouldn’t see me consume the risky morsels.

Finally, we were under the large yellow sign announcing this landmark restaurant, Karim, which has been serving classic Delhi food since 1913. The best restaurant in the worst neighborhood. The decor could be described as classic Hindi movie or straight from an early James Bond scene representing middle eastern establishments. Whatever the surrounds, this restaurant can’t have a more cult following – clearly not a tourist trap, just the best no frills food available in Delhi.

The meal delivered on the promise. We started with minced lamb kebabs, tandoori chicken, and a whole tandoori fish – all brilliantly executed, crispy and succulent with bright and savory flavors. Following was chicken briyani, raan (mutton) in a rich gravy, and pillowy roti. To finish, we each polished off classically subtle firnee presented in an earthen vessel which served to remove some of the moisture from the pudding, giving it an pleasant gelatinous texture.

This was easily the best North Indian meal I can remember ever having and rivaled some of the homemade South Indian meals I savored in my childhood – but with delicious meat. Indeed, the memories flooded back as I finally felt truly comfortable eating Indian cuisine with my hands for the first time since those days. It conjured a warm, homey feeling which undoubtedly contributed to my enjoyment of this meal I won’t soon forget.

See Karim Restaurant on a map.

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2 Responses to “Delhi – Karim”

  1. […] Food, Beer, and Travel a dump from the mind of Jon Piper « Delhi – Karim […]

  2. […] Delhi – Karim […]

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