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Sadar's very own

Want to bite into some real good meat dishes? Walk up to Ashok & Ashok Dhaba at Sadar Bazar in Old Delhi.



Simple joys of roadside meal at the ever-popular A& A joint at Sadar Bazar in Delhi. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt.

IN THE labyrinths of Old Delhi, there are some well-kept secrets that only the city's gourmets know of. Ashok and Ashok is one such secret that has become a part of the epicurean's food-lore. Those who have been there keep going back for more, convinced that A & A is one of the best mutton and chicken curry outlets in the city.

The dhaba has an interesting story to tell. Several years ago, the Sadar Bazar area had two prominent toughies, both known as Ashok. All the money that they collected was spent on the good

things of life. And to unwind in the evenings, they cooked and ate a meat curry made with desi ghee and the best ingredients in town. The meat curry was so delicious that whoever had it urged Ashok and Ashok to market it. The two friends finally started a little hole-in-the-wall place at

42, Subhas Chowk, Basti Harphool Singh, Sadar Thana Road. And the rest, as they say, is history.

To reach this high temple of carnivorous joy, you have to go down the Sadar Thana Road from the Paharganj police station. After crossing the Sadar Thana, you will find on your left a huge signboard for Madan Lal Halwai - another famous institution, by the way. Take the by-lane just before the sweet shop. A & A is about 70 yards down the lane.

A & A's chicken and meat curry is, however, so popular with those who know about it that you'd have to time yourself well if you are planning to check it out. The place is open only from 1 to 3 pm. If you reach there after that, you'll only find empty cauldrons and a group of satiated people burping their way home.

Small restaurant

It is a small place, with tables for those in a hurry and a few benches for those who wish to linger over their meal. It is two-dish joint, where a meal costs Rs.75 per person. For that amount, you get an endless supply of rotis and a good helping of either the chicken or the mutton curry. The appetiser - the heady and rich aroma of cooked meat, desi ghee and fragrant spices that you inhale while you wait for your turn at the table - comes for free.

That A & A's regulars mean business is apparent when you see them demolish a dish of mutton or chicken with small, tandoori rotis garnished with coriander leaves. The meat comes in a thick gravy with a thin layer of asli ghee floating on top. The meat is perfectly cooked and the gravy, though rich, is something to die for. The gravy gets its thickness from a dry-fruit paste that goes into it. The curry is a bit like the korma that you get in some areas of the Walled City, yet somewhat different. Juliennes of ginger enhance the taste of the dish.

Natural ambience

Perhaps, one of the nicest things about A & A is its natural ambience. Somehow, food always tastes better on the roadside, as you watch people, goats and hand-pulled carts move leisurely by. The resonance of the street mingles happily with the sound of chomping jaws. This, indeed, is bliss.

One of the Ashoks passed away a few years ago, and the place is now managed by the other Ashok. What lives on is the matchless curry and roti of Ashok and Ashok. There are some things that never die.

RAHUL VERMA

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