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Kebabs: mutton seekh, chicken tikka

Mutton burra grilling over charcoal from Karim Hotel in Delhi, India.

What: Delhi loves its kebabs. In fact, it’s not really an exaggeration to say that a whole website might be dedicated to the many varieties of ground and rolled, grilled and skewered meats found in this city—a relatively young phenomenon, really, that perhaps represents Delhi embracing its Mughlai roots (or, more specifically, the Persian roots of those Mughals).

For carnivores, of course, this is all great news, but even vegetarians can find good grilled paneer or potato kebabs around here. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to focus on two of the more common variations you’ll find in Delhi, on a stick or otherwise: mutton seekh, or spiced minced mutton on a skewer, and chicken tikka, or grilled marinated chicken. You’ll see these and other meats straight-up grilled, usually over a low charcoal flame, as well as wrapped into a paper-thin roomali roti or thicker kathi roll, thus becoming “kebab rolls.” (See our primer on Indian breads, including roti.) Appetizer, lunch, dinner, late-night snack: It’s always kebab time.

Where: There may be better whispered-about kebabs nestled deeper into harder-to-find Islamic enclaves, but it’s difficult to discuss kebabs in this town without mentioning Old Delhi’s Karim Hotel (Gali Kababian, Jama Masjid, map), whose owners’ ancestors allegedly cooked for the Mughal emperors before they were driven away. We’d also like to give shoutouts to Aap Ki Khatir (93500-92604; CS-91/782 Lodhi Rd, H. Nizamuddin West, map), a small outdoor stall near Humayan’s Tomb, and Khan Chacha (50, middle lane, Khan Market, map), a former hole-in-the-wall in Khan Market renovated into a two-story cafe with seating.

 

 

When: Karim’s: Daily, 9am-12:30am. Aap Ki Khatir: Daily, 6pm-11pm. Khan Chacha: Daily, noon-11pm.

 

Order: Karim’s strong suit, besides the excellent tandoor-cooked mutton burra kebabs, is the super soft and flavorful mutton seekh kebab (115 rupees for two; chicken also available), for which the fragrant minced meat is spread around thick metal rods and grilled over charcoal (pictured above). Also try the spicy round shami kebab here, a fried mutton patty made with lots of green chilies and other spices.

At Aap Ki Khatir, go for the decadent chicken malai tikka (150 rupees for eight pieces)—marinated in malai, or cream, for extra softness—and the creamy mutton kakori kebab (105 rupees for two), both mouth-meltingly delicious.

Try the roomali rolls at Khan Chacha: We liked the mutton seekh and chicken tikka rolls (150 rupees each), both wrapped into thin rotis with a green chutney and red onions. They’re great for a more portable and filling meal.

Note for vegetarians: Both Aap Ki Khatir and Khan Chacha have a few veg-kebab options, mostly paneer or fish tikka and rolls. The latter also has aloo roomali rolls.

Alternatively: We've heard raves about the mutton seekh kebabs at the South Delhi Colonel’s Kababz (91-11-2462-4384; multiple locations including 29, Defence Colony Market, map), nestled among the shops, cafes, and terrific South Indian restaurants of Defence Colony Market—just know that you have to order a whole platter of four there. Another popular, if frighteningly pricey, venue for kebabs is the celeb-endorsed Bukhara (Sardar Patel Marg, Chanakyapuri, map), inside the posh ITC Maurya hotel in South Delhi, where the seekh and chicken malai kebabs go for a whopping 1,550 rupees. Corporate credit cards are more than welcome.  

 

 

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