The kebab has various historical stories. Wikipedia, one of the popular sites to search for quick facts says “According to Sevan Nişanyan, an etymologist of the Turkish language, the word kebab is derived from the Persian word “kabap” meaning “fry”. The word was first mentioned in a Turkish script of Kyssa-i Yusuf in 1377, which is the oldest known source where kebab is mentioned as a food. However, he emphasizes that the word has the equivalent meaning of “frying/burning” with “kabābu” in the old Akkadian language, and “kbabā” in Syriac language. Tradition has it that the dish was invented by medieval Persian soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires. Kebab was served in the royal houses during various Islamic Empires and even commoners would enjoy it for breakfast with naan or pita” bread. There are many other stories similar to these which are said to originate from countries like Greece, Armenia, India etc.
In India, different parts of the country boast about the various types of meats they have skewered and put on top of (around, under etc) charred coal to serve the population a dish which they relish and go back more for. The tandoori chicken of the north, the various types of meat tikkas made in various parts of the country depending on the local tastes, the invasion of the Lebanese shawarma at the local streets and various types of roast meats in the fancy restaurants and street corners.
It’s that time of the year when I venture out to explore the meat on the street. Why? The nip in the air is pleasant. The smoke from a nearby tandoor stall warms me up as I click a few shots after taking permission of the person working the tandoor. I navigate along the crowded footpaths of Bhindi Bazar, Mumbai, with an old friend to our usual place and beloved restaurant at that part of the town, ‘Noor Mohammadi Hotel’. My friend and I have visited the place often, when the craving for meat usurps our skills to think straight! I will not say it is a medical condition but for a meat lover it’s a grave situation to be in. Noor Mohammadi has stood its ground since 1923, the owner tells me with great pride while I inquire about his business.
The restaurant like many others does not boast on its aesthetics of ambience or food presentation. It is no fluff. You come, you eat, and you leave. The restaurant, just adjacent to the more well-known Hotel Shalimar, has a limited menu. You might not get many dishes on the menu as items vanish off post lunch hours. In all our visits there we have tried a fair variations of choices.
The two things which I always go back for is the sheek kabab and the shaami kabab. These are one of the best I have had over my existence of a quarter century. The kebabs are served with thick hot tandoori rotis with mint leaves and coriander chutney. In a different bowl comes thin slivers of ginger and green chillies which compliment the bread and meat amazingly.
Another concoction of the chef is the Chicken Hakimi, tandoori chicken in hot flowing butter. It might sound like a heart clogging dish but is different than just the tandoori chicken thousands of restaurants serve across the country.
The restaurant, even though might not part of the ‘hip’ new age and the new food culture but it definitely is part defining a sub-set of the food culture in the country. There are many dishes in the restaurant which I will not recommend but one should definitely make a visit to the Noor Mohammadi Hotel, if you are craving good chunks of soft, succulent and delicious meat.