Online culinary workshop puts old Delhi on a platter

This online culinary workshop will help you recreate Old Delhi’s famous delicacies at home.
Chicken Changezi
Chicken Changezi

What does the mention of Old Delhi bring to your mind? Ghee-laden parathas at Paranthe Wali Gali, the nagori halwa from Shyam Sweets, or Al Jawahar's raan? The narrow, winding lanes of Old Delhi (Purani Dilli for most of us) are home to generations of Delhiites with a rich culinary history.

And the ones who start delving into this history form an everlasting bond with it. Just like city-based Chef Megha Kohli.

The young chef's love for Old Delhi is no secret to those who follow her on social media. Her posts must have motivated many to visit this part of the Capital, which exudes an old-world charm. A conversation with Kohli - who used to head the kitchen at Mehrauli's Lavaash by Saby - and you understand the connection that she feels with Purani Dilli.

This has, perhaps, shaped her personality as a chef too. "I think I have a past life connection with the Mughals," she says, adding, "I am a history student, who is obsessed with reading about the Mughal era. That place is smagical to me."

A taste of nostalgia

Kohli's relationship with Old Delhi began when she was four. Her father would carry her on his shoulders and start walking the lanes. Kohli says her entire palate for Indian food has evolved in Old Delhi.

"We would start with Paranthe Wali Gali and walk to the Jama Masjid lane for the meat. I remember being fascinated by the leg of raan, which would be served on our table and my father would cut it up for me. I remember how my taste evolved - initially, my father would remove the masalas [spices] from the raan. I would also look forward to eating the mango ice cream at Cool Point," says the chef.

A dash of inspiration

It isn’t surprising then that the 31-year-old chef decided to teach recipes borrowed from Old Delhi at her online workshops during the lockdown. Her first workshop saw a whopping 120 participants.

She taught people how to make Aslam Chicken's-style chicken kebab in butter gravy, a whole baked raan similar to Al Jawahar and Karim's, Old Delhi's popular shami kebabs, Chicken Changezi, Al Jawahar’s famous chicken achari biryani and khameeri roti.

It was a eureka moment for her when people got back to her, saying they’ve been able to successfully replicate these recipes thanks to her workshop. "I used to get irritated when my friends would make Asian cusine or pasta easily but were scared of cooking Indian food. They felt it was complicated," Kohli adds.

The popularity of her pilot workshop was such that she is all geared up for another edition - Purani Dilli II workshop - where she'll teach lost recipes including chicken salan, namkeen gosht, a pre-partition dish, pasanda kebab, tangri kebab, achari murg tikka, and Moradabadi biryani.

For students, taking a workshop with Kohli meant a lot. Nupur Brahma says, "The aromas transport one to the by-lanes of Shahjahanabad while eating out of the comfort of your own home. I have cooked numerous dishes from her workshops. Her recipes are spot on, and a crowd pleaser."

With this workshop, the recipes of Purani Dilli have reached every nook and corner. Gurmohan Singh Bedi says, "I am from Chandigarh but, I’ve had the good fortune of tasting the korma at Karim’s with khameeri, and the butter-soaked chicken at Aslam a few years ago. I always longed for that kind of food at home. From Megha's first workshop, I’ve regularly been cooking chicken changezi and khameeri and I think I've been doing it well as my wife makes me do it repeatedly."

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