A THOUSAND PLATES AND MORE…

 IMG_1016                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Some people say it is my quest for the hunt; I say it is my ‘kismet'(destiny) that I come across these places whose food speaks volumes about the ‘barkat’ (blessings) that they hold. It is only divine and unadulterated love for feeding people and watching them enjoy a meal that can bring a food joint to such a pedestal.

 Creative that my mindset is having dabbled with art and music I decided to dabble with yet another exciting venture-pottery though food remains my all time consistent companion in my search for bliss. The impulsive madness to design pottery using tribal motifs took me to Khurja in UP on the Aligarh highway famous all over for its pottery. En route to Khurja it was imperative (of course) that I stumble upon one such street corner in Sikandarabad. Thank God my Sweet Lord for exposing me to such interesting gastronomical temples which add the fire to my palate; Aas  Mohammad Ki Sikanderbadi Biryani is one such example. Delicious, delectable, to die for. Light on the belly, even flavours, good grains of rice and an uncompromised recipe-love, of course.

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The first time I chanced upon this place, I barely managed to get a few plates of chicken biryani, and it was 9:30 in the morning. Then on it was beef biryani that was to be served, and according to them till 10:30-11.00 am, all of it would be polished off. So I asked the fellow at the stall the schedule. He starts setting up his stall at around 7.00 in the morning. The morning quota of chicken and beef finishes by 11.00 am. The next phase starts at 01:00 pm and lasts till 2:30 pm. Lunch times barely passes when Aas Mohammed’s helpers start their evening arrangements. By 4:00 pm the biryani stall reopens and by 6.00 pm, shop shuts. This is a routine which has been persistent since 14 years now.  Biryani freshly cooked on charcoal fire.

IMG_1066When I had reached this crowded place next to a busy street in Sikandarabad, I wondered who would come and visit this place early in the morning for a plate of biryani. I got my answer in less than five minutes. Within no time, the place was filled with people, all standing next to the stall waiting for their first meal of the day. People had come in cycles, cars, motorbikes-all clumsily parked next to the stall. There were buses, and trucks honking on the street, worse still a horrible traffic jam. But nevertheless, there was an extreme sense of peace in the place. Nobody was yelling at the person serving at the stall. Nobody was actually yelling at nobody. It is strange to observe people sitting peacefully, waiting for their turn for the biryani. An apologetic driver who had just splashed some mud while reversing his car on a person standing next to stall eating his biryani, came for his share of food. No, there was no animosity, but gentle glances of ‘it happens’, and both continued to savour the flavour of the biryani. I was wondering what blessing this place has, that has tamed an unusually angry race of humans.

IMG_1072IMG_1055IMG_1068After having savoured the magical flavour of Aas Mohammed’s biryani-I felt an inane desire to meet him in person-I asked for him and I was ushered into a big base kitchen where I encounter the man himself working with a fellow worker in draining out the water from the soaked rice. He looks at me with a smile and I reciprocate and we knew there was an instant connect.

 

IMG_1060 “As-salaam-wale-kum” , I say

“Waale-kum-as-salaam”, he replies.

“Aap kaise hein (How are you?)”, I ask.

“Allah ki rehmat hai (I am fine by the grace of Allah)” , he replies.

Before I could speak any further, he promptly offered me a plate of freshly prepared biryani as a welcome gesture. Never did it occur to either of us that he was actually offering me beef biryani. He could probably instantaneously connect with my foodiness than my religion.  I’d like to believe, Aas Mohammed is always careful before offering biryani to non Muslim people. Indeed I was immensely happy when I saw his inhibition disintegrating amidst the aroma and transcending to the delight of serving his food to people who genuinely loved it. I gobbled up my third plate of biryani (had two plates earlier in the pre-introduction stage) and rose from my seat satiated and emotional. The experience was no less sufiana.

Apart from the biryani, the stall also served some rustic seekh kebabs. The juicy meat carried a distinct flavour of green chilies and aromatic spices. The rough rustic texture of the meat gave me immense delight.and they were hand pounded, though I did not bother cross check as I was too engrossed relishing them and packing almost half a dozen plates for friends back home.

 

IMG_1053Spoons are readily available, but Aas Mohammed insists we have the biryani with our bare hands. He sells over a thousand plates a day at the rate of Rs. 25 for 250 gms, and employs around 7 people. Blessed by Almighty, as he puts it, he has been able to invest in property and has been able to buy cars. But he also understands that his ‘barkat’ is this place, and hence refuses to move out and start a bigger entity. We parted company with a promise to meet again; this time, at my place. I told him, I’d prepare some korma for him. He heartily accepted my invitation with a condition that he brings the biryani.

 

 

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15 Responses to “A THOUSAND PLATES AND MORE…”

  1. Avantika Bhuyan Says:

    Sometimes the element of surprise when you just stumble upon a jewel of a place also adds to the taste of the food. A fabulous write up….there are such fine eateries tucked away in the nooks and crannies of India…surely it would take a lifetime to experience all of them. And untouched from commercialisation, in places like these food is part of a holistic spiritual experience. Great great post! Look forward to many more of these.

  2. Aah.. my intrepid friend. Your gastronomical adventures never fail to instigate a torrent of digestive juices in the deep underbelly of my inner space. While I stand here salivating over the evident ecstasy of biryani freshly prepared and lvingly served, the entire scene unfolds before my eyes. The environment, the characters, the spirit of the quest and the joyous blessings are as real as life experienced first hand. I have only your mastery with words to thank for re-living the experience for those who weren’t there. I’m always looking forward to reading more from your desk or should I say kitchen? Keep serving these verbal delicacies over the internet to the starved and suffering who await your every tid-bit with baited breadth and drooling mouths.

  3. yummy ! Sounds delicious. This is somewhere in the outskirts of Delhi? Or does the Sikandarabad mean Secundrabad?

  4. yes it on the way to bulandshar enroute to Aligarh say about 40 kms from noida and about 60 kms from delhi

  5. Hi Ash, this article brings back fond memories of my school days in Calcutta when I used to gorge on 2-3 plates of Shiraz’s Biryani and then gulp half a litre of Thums Up! 2 years in Europe has all but blunted my taste buds – but articles like this bring back the tastes and smells I have not been able to enjoy for so long! I cannot thank you enough for sharing your gastronomical discoveries with us!

  6. Sanjay Kashyap Says:

    Its places such as these that make travelling in India such a gastronomical delight. The biryanis of Aminabad Lucknow, the kathi kababs at New Market Calcutta, the parathas and lassi on the highway route from Amritsar to Ludhiana, the missal paos and wada paos enroute bombay to goa, the beef fry and parotas on the road from calicut to cochin, the dosais at udipi, enroute from mangalore to manipal..much unlike the dosas available at the standard udipi bombay restaurants, I could go on and on. Please Ashish, would love to read more such stories.

  7. Bhagyajeet Says:

    Dada,you have fantastically elaborated! superb!! Aas Mohammed’s biryani is simplyy delectable,lucky to have tasted all thanks to u!!

  8. Loved the post as ever.. especially the blog’s header pic this time 😉 Now the blog looks to be ‘truly owned’ 🙂

  9. Aashish it’s not just about the food for you, it’s about everything that comes with it, the people, the places..and the best part is that you take away more than what’s just offered on the plate..I say that because I’m a non-foodie, and yet your post tastes so good..

    here’s the link to the site: http://www.metagood.org/

  10. I wish I could taste this celebrity Biryani

  11. hi
    how are you i am mona from iraN .nice photo .
    i like indian food . u from india?

  12. Cyril Towle Says:

    Iv read this piece on Aas Mohammed’s Biryani more than once and still i guess i might come back to read it again. Wonder if its the writing or the food or the passion. The other aspect of your writing Doc ( if i may call you that) is that your knowledge about the said subjects and related issues is such that it invariably makes the read a very infomative one ( and throughly engrossing of course). Especially so when you add tit bits on history, religion, politics and legends. Please continue writing for people like us, cause what we get to read and glean over here is not something we can get anywhere else.

  13. yes abosoultely..these ppl r carrying on our old food tradition..the real aroma of “briyani” is no doubt exists there.
    i had “street bryani” and in “air-cooled” reataurant. i can vouch for it taht have briyani from the realy person which u can find ppl like “Aas Mohmmed”..
    thanks for your brautiful writing…waiting to know more…Kindly mention their address as wel when u write next time

  14. Amit Dahiyabadshah Says:

    Ashish Sahib a fine ‘Ambient ‘article with a nice description of the ambience of Aas Sahibs outlet made more interesting by your curiosity and probing talent. I would however have liked alittle more description of the Biryani itself. This is not to diminish the literary effort or this cilinary experience but at the risk of earning your many fans displeasure to humbly suggest that the serious gastronomes amongst us would enjoy alittle more detailof the dish itself. I dare suggest this only because you set a high bar even for yourself dear friend.

  15. bawa sidhu Says:

    mouth watering thing mr qureshi salute to your biryani

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