Old Delhi


Old Delhi has always held a majestic charm because of its unique food culture, which dates back centuries. In this article, we magnify Mughlai cuisine lovers’ favourite destination, Karim’s.

In 1857, when the British won over the Indian mutiny and ended the Mughal rule of Bahadur Shah Zafar in India, several royal cooks from the Mughal kitchen became unemployed. To sustain themselves, they set up food stalls around the streets of Old Delhi, bringing the dishes of the royal kitchen to the streets and consequentially giving birth to the famous Matia Mahal food street of Jama Masjid. At the heart of this lies Delhi’s beloved Mughal cuisine outlet, one that remains of choice even today, Karim’s.

A paradise for non-veg lovers, Mughal cuisine runs deep through the walls and stairs of Karim’s, with extravaganzas from Mutton Korma to Fish Tikka Biriyani. Situated within a humble atmosphere, the restaurant poses no frills, with cooks stirring huge stainless-steel pots and grilling kebabs on sizzling skewers. Moreover, Karim’s’ popularity runs throughout the city of Delhi. One might have to wait for hours to get a seat at the restaurant on a Sunday evening!

Three years back, my first visit to Old Delhi all the way from Gurgaon took me to Karim’s where I had the best flavours of Mughlai chicken and naan with my uncle! Not only that, Karim’s presents a humble ambience with people huddled together enjoying their meals within a century-old little shop that is unlike most contemporary restaurants.

– Raghav Rohilla, a student at the University of Delhi.

Visiting Karim’s on a Monday morning presented quite an enthralling experience. Besides the hubbub of Mondays, the restaurant was moderately crowded, with waiters tallying orders and the delicious smell of Seekh Kebabs and Mutton Biriyani wafting through the air. Ordering a plate of the same Mughlai Chicken with Rumali Roti, it took only a few minutes for the plates to arrive. The juicy chicken bathed in spices, wrapped with the paper-thin roti, melts in one’s mouth, presenting a beautiful confluence of spicy, tangy, and divine flavours, as if connecting one to the eighteenth-century Mughal age. But what’s noteworthy here is that, despite being established more than a century ago in 1913, the restaurant preserves the same recipe passed down by the founding chef, Haji Karimuddin.

Nargisi Kofta and Mutton Biriyani are a must-try at Karim’s. In Nargisi Kofta, Mutton Keema is coated on the outside of a whole egg and both are then fried and put in a curry and it is a mouth-watering dish! Coupled with Kheer and Sharbat-e-Mohabbat makes it the most wholesome meal one can ever have!”

– Shayan Basu Roy, another DU Student.

Not to be confused with the popularised food chain Kareem’s, the Karim’s of Jama Masjid prides itself upon its legacy of preserving the ancient recipes straight from the Mughal kitchens, while Kareem’s is a Mughal eatery belonging to the Mumbai-based businessman Kareem Dhanani, established much later than the legacy shop. However, trademark disputes have arisen between the two since 2022, with the intervention of the Delhi High Court. But let’s not loiter and come back to the delicious food, which forms the subject of discussion here.

Located in a little corner of Old Delhi, the restaurant draws people from all around the city and beyond. There is something special about Karim’s besides its heavenly flavours of food and its ‘Purani-Dilli’ glamour and charm.

I once visited Karim’s during Eid and it was really crowded but so lively. In Muslim households, you usually have this concept of Wazwaan, with one big plate of food and everybody eating together out of it. I think Karim’s also reflects this similar concept where complete strangers may be seated opposite to you on the same table enjoying their individual plate of food but you can always reach out and start a casual, friendly conversation with them. This makes for a very harmonic atmosphere.”

– Adds Shayan to his experience with the charm of Karim’s.

Worshipped for its divine delicacies, its homely ambience, and its vintage charm, Karim’s serves as a magnet for all, irrespective of whether you are a foodie or not. A visit to Purani Dilli is incomplete without a pilgrimage to Karim’s, embracing the feeling of being gradually transported to the royal Mughal era, savouring the tastes that some royal princes did too, sitting on the same steps of this little humble shop, nearly hundreds of years ago!

Read Also: Ten Food Joints that DU Freshers Must Visit

Featured Image Credits: Youth Ki Awaaz (Google Images)

Priyanka Mukherjee
[email protected] 

In Delhi, the arrival of 15th August brings with it a spectacular array of granduer and splendour. The streets are filled with festivities and the bright Indian sky is speckled with multicoloured kites. Young and old unite as one while each family tries to prove its mettle to their neighbours by taking them down in a fun-filled yet competitive ‘kite fight’. Big or small, cheap or costly, monochromatic or brightly coloured, these stringed machines reign the skies of our capital on the day we won our Independence.

Historically speaking, the relationship between Delhi and Kite flying goes back to the Mahabharata, where it is mentioned that Krishna spent his leisure time flying kites with the Gopikas. Kites have also played a significant role in the freedom struggle as they were used by the common people as a symbol of their unity against the oppressive Simon Commission, in 1928. The Indian skyline was filled with an army of paper birds, with the slogan ‘Go Back’ plastered over their bodies. Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that these kites are used, till date, to signify the freedom and Independence we have rightfully earned from our oppressors.

Kite Flying is more than just a yearly festival for people living in Old Delhi. Lal Kuan market, known for its large number of kite manufacturers and sellers, has seen families in which successive generations dedicate their life to a practice they consider a Kala-an art form. Delhi also boasts of close to 150 kite clubs, such as Evergreen Kite Flying Club and Galaxy Kite Flying Club to name a few. Members of such clubs often come together every Sunday, with bright kites and manjhas (Thread), all set to watch them soar into the sky. On some days, intense kite-matches are also held where groups are made and everyone comes together to enjoy a morning full of passionate team spirit and camaraderie.

Despite the existence of Kite clubs and enthusiasts, the unfortunate truth is that kite flying is now a dying sport due to ignorance and lack of cultural enthusiasm by the younger generations. Many attempts have been made in the recent past to revive the significance of this age-old game. 2011 saw the introduction of a kite-cutting competition organised at India Gate to encourage its revival. Many of the kite enthusiasts are now trying to promote their passion though the marketing of the already existing Kite clubs. Some blame the exorbitant price hikes as the main cause of this fading art, but a lot is left unsaid when today’s generation turns towards their computer and Play Stations instead of choosing to pursue something traditional and timeless.

No matter how disconnected we might be from this ancient sport, today on 15th August, a majority of people living in Delhi will bring out some thread and a colourful paper kite, ready to spray paint the blue canvas above with a splash of vibrant hues.