new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Moti Mahal: New Delhi

Friday, November 05, 2010

Moti Mahal: New Delhi

Moti Mahal
New Delhi, India
Daryaganj, Chandni Chowk

I had lunch at Moti Mahal. The Moti Mahal. It's an absolutely iconic restaurant, considered to be one of the pioneers of the tandoori cuisine that has so efficiently and quickly swept the entire planet. It's said that the restaurant's founder, a Peshawari by the name of Kundan Lal Gujral, actually invented both tandoori and butter chicken. (Apparently, the tandoor oven was previously reserved only for bread, instead of meats). The restaurant began in Peshawar and was moved to its current Delhi location in 1947, after the Partition - and has been plugging on with shocking success ever since, drawing the affection of Indira Gandhi, Nehru, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon - in other words, everyone vaguely important who was sent to India on official business has eaten here.

There was no one there, which was somewhat curious. The interior of the restaurant is a bit 1960's mental hospital. But at least they have lots of fans operating on high-speed. I ordered my usual - tandoori chicken, tandoori gobi (cauliflower) and sat back. The owner of the place came over to chat, in lieu of anything better to do. "Did you know that Gordan Ramsey came and cooked here?" he asked me. No, I did not. But so The Ramsey did come to Moti Mahal. Engaged in one of those celebrity cookoff things that are so popular on food networks. Naturally, the Moti Mahal boys won hands down. The owner came over with a few photographs after I expressed interest. "That's us. When we won," he said, pointing to an image of both himself and Ramsey looking pleased with the universe.

The food was, as expected, excellent. Moti is also known for its Mughali style curries. Delhi is particularly known for curries made from mutton "variety" meats - you can order up goat brain curry here if so inclined. There are Moti Mahal outlets all over India now, although a family argument means that this Chandi Chowk branch bills itself as the One and Original Moti Mahal, Hands Down. I'm not prepared to argue.

The tandoori gobi had the interesting addition of sesame seeds up top. I think it does add a certain nutty depth to its flavor. A delicate yogurt marinade and a lot of spices, heavy on the aromatics. Really addictive stuff - and a lot of it. I couldn't finish it all.

And excellent chicken. Not too heavy on the yogurt - actually, I kinda like that. But juicy, excellent meat with a lot of complexity of flavor.

They talked me into ordering roti. However, missi roti are superb. It's a thin crunchy roti prepared with besam or gram flour, seasoned with fenugreek, ginger, nigella, chili powder, ajwain, and sesame. And brushed with an inordinate amount of butter. They are very savory, and incredibly delicious.

After lunch, I was going to go to the Red Fort. Which turned out to be closed.

So I didn't. But I did the next day.

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