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Home-style Old Delhi food like you’ve never tasted pops up at The Lodhi

Food historian and chef Osama Jalali is doing a home-style Old Delhi pop-up at The Lodhi, New Delhi till August 29. Not to be missed

It’s quintessential Old Delhi fare at The Lodhi, New Delhi’s Elan restaurant till August 29 and we’d suggest you make a reservation while you still can. Don’t expect the run-of-the-mill stuff you’ll get in cookie-cutter Mughlai restaurants from Patparganj to Powai. This is Muslim food as it is cooked in the fine homes of Old Delhi, the recipes collected lovingly by food writer, historian and chef Osama Jalali and his family and executed with passion and perfection by them. The flavours are subtle and bold by turns and the dishes interesting.

The open-air courtyard at Elan, The Lodhi, New Delhi
The open-air courtyard at Elan, The Lodhi, New Delhi

Chef Jalali’s story is no less interesting. Born and brought up in Old Delhi, his love affair with food dates back to his childhood, most of which he spent amid the royal cooks of Delhi and Rampur. His mother, Nazish Jalali, who hails from the princely state of Rampur, collected rare recipes during the years she spent in the Walled City, and Osama has been the natural heir of this culinary legacy. He has carried out extensive research on lost Indian cuisines, meticulously recreating and perfecting age-old recipes. His quest to bring back these forgotten flavours has taken him across the country and he also runs a Facebook group called the ‘Lost Recipes of India’.

Chef Osama Jalali with his Shahi Chawal Ka Zarda, a dessert that is a must at Old Delhi Muslim weddings
Chef Osama Jalali with his Shahi Chawal Ka Zarda, a dessert that is a must at Old Delhi Muslim weddings

Chef Jalali’s menus typically fall into three categories: Old Delhi home food, the Nawabi food of Rampur and dishes from the kitchens of the Mughal emperors. At The Lodhi, the focus is on Muslim food from the home kitchens of Old Delhi, made with heirloom recipes.

All the food at The Lodhi pop-up is being cooked by Jalali, his wife and his mother. In the vegetarian starters, you can expect such stunners as Mushroom Galouti and Anjeer Mewe Ke Kabab. While the former has a soft, buttery texture, the latter consists of patties of mixed vegetables, assorted nuts and fig stuffing. The highlights of the non-vegetarian starters are Lagan Ki Boti, chunks of mutton marinated in house spices and cooked in a lagan, a heavy bottomed copper pan, and the Dujana House Fish Fry, inspired by a classic Old Delhi street-style fish fry.

The mains include a Makhmali Sabut Urad, which is kaali dal like you’ve never tasted before. There’s a generous dose of turmeric and the ubiquitous tomato paste is absent. The Mughlai Gobi Korma is a revelation, tooth-tender florets of cauliflower afloat in a tangy gravy of golden-brown onion and yoghurt. There’s Murgh Kofte, fine-minced chicken meatballs in a smooth and light sauce. And how can you have an Old Delhi feast and not invite Dilli Nihari or, indeed, Dilli Ka Haleem, which is nothing like its Hyderabadi cousin? Then, of course, there’s biryani, in this case the Degh Murgh Biryani, dum cooked to perfection with delicate flavours.

Other highlights of the exquisite menu are Kulliya Chaat, Chitta Murgh Tikka Makhni and Ghilafi Seekh  as well as Hari Mirch Qeema and Ballimaran Chana Dal. No, we’ve not exhausted the menu. There are many more dishes on offer, so you might have to go back more than once.

Shahi Chawal Ka Zarda is a dessert made with rice and sugar syrup
Shahi Chawal Ka Zarda is a dessert made with rice and sugar syrup

The desserts, we are happy to report, go easy on the sugar, which probably means you can eat more. They include a Shahi Chawal Ka Zarda, a rice and sugar syrup preparation that is a must at Old Delhi weddings. There’s also a delicately flavoured Shahi Tukda, where the ‘double’ is doused in a not over-sweet rabri, which is kept exceptionally white by being produced only in small batches.

Commenting on this collaboration, Mr. Rajesh Namby, General Manager, The Lodhi said, “We’re thrilled to have the Jalalis at The Lodhi and for the Daawat they have curated for our valued patrons. We have always strived to offer the best of culinary experiences to our guests and we’re privileged to have someone of Mr Jalali’s stature bring in his expertise and passion for food to the heart of the city.”

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