A WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS NO PICTURES. IT DOES CONTAIN SOME SADNESS
A little over two years ago I met the wonderful Eating Out In Delhi gang and it is no exaggeration to say that they altered my food horizons forever. Through them came my life-changing introduction to Indian street food and a lifelong addiction to Chhole Bhature.
At EOID’s helm was Hemanshu Kumar who organised regular jaunts to obscure eateries – we even had a couple of out of town gorging sessions – our trips to Amritsar and Lucknow will stay with me forever. Eating street food became less of a priority for Hemanshu, though, when he got married recently. Several other founder members have also moved onto pastures new. We meet sporadically now but it’s always the highlight of my week – eating and laughing, laughing and eating, then a bit more eating.
Last night we met to say goodbye to our friends Sachin and Prajakta who, sadly for us, are moving back to their beloved Bombay. So that’s the sadness. Happily the food was exceptionally good and Prajakta kept us all entertained with hilarious impersonations of Kiran Rao.
Sachin had chosen Purani Dilli in Zakir Nagar for his last supper and what a treat it turned out to be. Zakir Nagar is a Muslim area near New Friends Colony positively overflowing with good things to eat. The main street of Zakir Nagar has the party feel of Matia Mahal in Old Delhi, with the added chaos of people trying to drive 4x4s down it. Purani Dilli is at the far end of the street so it can take a while to get there and for me it was an anxious rickshaw ride as Sachin had warned us that the Haleem for which the restaurant is famous would be finished by 8.15. By the time we arrived there was only a spoonful of Haleem left and it looked a little forlorn - hence no pictures.
The taste, though, was divine. I don’t exactly know how haleem is made (and I’ve spent way too much time on Twitter this morning trying to find out!) but I do know it’s a dish that originates in Hyderabad, a divine marriage of mutton, ghee, wheat, lentils and spices.
Bizarrely, the thing it most reminds me of is French ‘rillettes’ – meat, usually pork, slow cooked in fat then shredded and served as an extremely rich paté. When I lived in Paris rillettes were my passion (and downfall in the dress size department) and I think Haleem might be about to become my Indian equivalent. Both dishes have a soft, soothing yet incredibly rich texture (that’s the beauty of ghee and pork fat!), set off perfectly by good bread. In Paris that meant baguette, at Purani Dilli a perfect naan.
The Haleem was so good I couldn’t focus on anything else although the mutton stew alone would be worth a return trip. And there will be a return trip – but next time I’ll be setting out earlier.
Thank you to Sachin for choosing Purani Dilli and thank you to both he and Prajakta for sharing some of my best times in India – eating! All the best to them and their gorgeous little girl Aanya – we’ll be down to sample some Bombay street food very soon.