Delhi is not just the gateway to India, but also its gastronomic capital where you will find some of the most divine kebabs in the country. From tiny hole-in-the-wall eateries in Chandni Chowk to plush high-end restaurants, the Delhi kebab trail leads to a sheer explosion of flavours.
Karim’s at Jama Masjid is an institution and its Mutton Burra kebab is crisp and smoky on the outside, deceptive of its tender core. While in Old Delhi, head to Moti Mahal in Daryaganj, one of the city’s oldest restaurants founded shortly after Indian independence in 1947. Visited by politicians and heads of state from India and around the world, their speciality is the Kalmi kebab (marinated in yoghurt). For vegetarians, they also do an excellent Tandoori Bharwaan Aloo (potato kebab).
Khan Chacha in Khan market is another iconic eatery with modest beginnings. Try the delicious mutton rolls – meat pieces wrapped in a roomali roti and served with onions and green chutney. Their Mutton Tikka and the Kakori Kebabs are also highly recommended. Nearby in Khan market, you will also find the best fish tikkas at Salim Kebabs.
The Kakori kebab is an old recipe from the royal kitchens of the Nawabs of Lucknow, where the minced lamb is marinated with raw papaya. Al Kauser in Safdarjung and the five-decade old Gulati at Pandara Road are the best places to try the Kakori on the Delhi kebab trail.
If you want to watch a maestro at work, head to where the Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib once lived – three hundred metres from Chawri Bazaar metro station towards Lal Kuan Bazaar in Old Delhi, where you’ll find Ustad Moinuddin, who dishes up the best beef sheekh kebabs in Delhi.
If meals at chaotic, bustling bazaars make you wonder about the dreaded Delhi belly, try some of the more upmarket joints in the city. At Bukhara at the ITC Maurya Hotel in Chanakyapuri (South Delhi), the Murgh Malai Kebab is a perennial favourite. The creamy kebab has boneless chicken blended with cream cheese, malt vinegar, green chilli and coriander, and is grilled in the tandoor. Another Bukhara signature dish is the Sikandari Raan – a tender lamb mince, mixed with ginger, green chillies and coriander, spiced with royal cumin and saffron, skewered and grilled over a charcoal fire.
To try the famous Dora kebab (an 18th century recipe), head to Made in India at Radisson Blu in Noida. The Dora kebab is a complicated concoction involving minced lamb, a silk thread (dora), rare spices and a sandalwood stick, cooked over charcoal. The trick is to prevent the silk thread from burning so that it can be unravelled with a single pull to give up its treasure – the steaming Dora kebab.
Whether it’s the old recipes practised to perfection or innovative marinades that appeal to a global palate, it’s not hard to see why Delhi loves its kebabs.
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Have you been on a Delhi kebab trail? Tell us about your favourite spots in the comments below.
Written by Namrata Bhawnani