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What: The ishtu (also spelled ishtoo, ishtew) of Delhi has a mild onion-based, stewlike sauce, dotted with plenty of khada masala, or whole spices—cloves, cardamom pods, and more—plus a healthy pooling of oil on top. (In the south, it’s different, prepared with coconut milk). The texture is of minced onion and garlic; the flavor nutty, slightly tangy, and aromatic. Both mutton and chicken are common meats, usually served on the bone. Etymology note: According to Delhi food blog Eat and Dust, it’s quite likely that “ishtew” evolved from the Hindi pronunciation of “stew”—in fact, sometimes you’ll see it on menus as “stew”—and possible that the dish itself is derived from the Brits’ own brown stew.
Where: Our tasty chicken ishtu came from Purani Dilli (2698-3371; 371 Main Rd., Zakir Nagar, Okhla, Jamia Nagar, map), a wonderful nondescript Mughlai restaurant tucked within the mazelike market-lined lanes of Zakir Nagar, a Muslim enclave not far from New Friends Colony in South Delhi. To get there, park or get dropped off at the mouth of Zakir Nagar, then take a rickshaw—the crowded interior streets are difficult for a car to maneuver in (to say the least).
When: Daily, 11am-11pm
Order: The chicken ishtu, or “stew” on this menu (115/230 rupees for half/full portion), is only one of several excellent dishes here. Also don’t miss the spectacular mutton haleem, spicy chicken changezi, maybe a mutton nihari or korma, the creamy phirni for dessert. In other words, go with a small group! Be sure to get some fluffy tandoori roti (also pictured) to scoop it all up with.
Alternatively: Most Mughlai restaurants will carry chicken ishtu, including Al-Jawahar (2327-5987; Bazaar Matia Mahal, opposite Gate 1, Jama Masjid, map) in Old Delhi.
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