In the busy streets of Chandani Chowk, stands Karim’s, one of Delhi’s oldest restaurants. Started as a small kiosk in front of Jama Masjid, Karim’s legacy dates back to the 1800s when Md. Evaz was the chef of the royal court of Red Fort’s kitchen. During the 1857 revolt, he taught his son, Karim Uddin all his recipes to ensure that the food stays alive even if he perishes. The food at Uddin’s kiosk was an instant hit that led him to set up a shop in Gali Kababiyan in 1913. The restaurant only grew after that point, establishing several branches across Delhi-NCR.
The legacy of Karim’s is unmatched as people have grown up eating the food. From eating at the restaurants with their grandfather to eating at the restaurant with their grandson, in a way the food has marked the trajectory of many people’s lives. A thing to go back to and something to remind you of a time that seems forgotten, many Delhites find a sweet familiarity in the food. Along with being a staple for many locals, Karim’s is a tourist favourite. On a normal weekend or even a weekday, you’d find many faces from the western side of the globe visiting Karim’s to have a taste of the famous Chicken Burra. Karim’s oldest branch is still situated in front of Jama Masjid and retains its crowded and congested nature. Despite this, people make great efforts to eat at the original branch itself. Several famous chefs have paid a visit to Karim’s to take in the aura of a legacy restaurant and to taste the food that hasn't changed its standard of deliciousness in decades.
Karim’s menu is wide and mouth-watering, with 50 to 60 items available for grabs. The signature dishes are the most ordered which include Mutton Seekh Kabab, Chicken Burra, Mutton Burra, Badam Pasanda, Chicken Jahangiri, Rumali and Khameeri Roti and the desserts, Sheer Mal and Kheer. The waiters at the Jama Masjid branch are extremely experienced and know the menu by heart. In fact, they do not note down your order but listen to it verbally and mentally remember it (they never get it wrong as well!). The food at Karim’s seems to be heavy and overfilling due to the cuisine it belongs to. However, its magic is that you don’t ever feel like you overate or the food isn’t going down well. You finish your meal satisfied and somehow feel very light as you walk out. Sitting down at Karim’s to eat, you find diverse faces and backgrounds. You get to notice what the locals are ordering and you get to see what the tourists are ordering. Often, the tourists learn from the locals and often the locals strike up a conversation with the tourists.
Being someone whose familial roots stem from Chandani Chowk, I’ve been visiting Karim’s since I was a little girl. A ritual of sorts, my family and I visit Karim’s every few months to go back to a place that feels like a second home. My father often recognises the waiters and the people who run the branch because they’ve been there for years. Often, I seem to recognise the waiters from when I was a child as well. The people who’ve been coming here for years have their favourite seats, their favourite dishes and a very nostalgic attachment to Karim’s. The food and the people have made it more than just a mere restaurant but a box full of memories and a homage to authentic food and happy times.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Brief Bulletin.