The legendary tunde ke kebab as served at Chote Nawab — it strives to be the most tender kebab on earth (green and red sauces in background).
It sounds like a Twin Peaks episode: 100 years ago a one-armed chef, to please a toothless old royal family member, invented the tunde ke kebab. It seems the old codger had lost his teeth, and staged a contest to see who could come up with the tenderest lamb kebab, or at least one that could be most successfully gummed.
The inventor, a guy named Haji Murad Ali — said to have had only one arm — created an extensively pounded round flat kebab that was so tender, it won the contest. He set up making them in a shop in the Chowk, the oldest part of Lucknow in northeast India, in 1905, and that kebab shop still exists today.
The secret recipe developed by Ali supposedly used 160 spices and flavorings. While the excellent version at Chote Nawab in Curry Hill doesn’t have quite that many, it certainly contains ginger and cardamom, the flavors of which alternate with smoky charcoal tastes in its tunde ke kebab. And the thing has a delightfully moist, meat-creamy texture.
From Kerala at the southern tip of India, kotayam moilee is fish in a tart coconut gravy shot with curry leaves.
The dum biryani features bone-in goat, and comes with yogurt and peanut pour-over sauces.
Peshwari naan, cooked in the tandoori oven, is loaded with nuts and dried fruits.
“Nothing like a good chicken curry on the bone,” says the menu of dum kokur.
The concrete interior features views of Indian architecture.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 28, 2012