The first time I had Kut Kofta was around four years ago, at a friend’s house during an Iftar party in Bengaluru. It tasted like nothing I had ever had before; the mutton keema balls (kofta) and boiled eggs were cooked to perfection in thick, dark brown colored gravy. The rich and tangy gravy made for a perfect accompaniment with rotis. I remember wolfing them down and thinking to myself that I need to eat this again soon but little did I know then that it would be a while till I would get to do so.
Kut, Cutt or Katt Kofta is a popular dish prepared in Bengalurean Muslim households, especially during the holy month of Ramzan. It is a ridiculously simple recipe but is notoriously difficult to get right. The gravy essentially consists of horse gram and water and has to be cooked for a really long time, ideally on a slow flame; and then the horse gram is strained out multiple times and the water boiled further to get the correct consistency. Then, a mix of spices and meat balls and/or eggs are added into the gravy and garnished with onions and curry leaves. Sounds easy enough but it is a dish which requires a lot of patience and commitment, two qualities I lack sorely in my arsenal.
The memory and the taste of it lingered long after that day, lost somewhere in the recesses of my mind.
Years went by and I kept promising myself that I would make it a point to have Kut Kofta again but I never really got around to doing it because laziness and procrastination are two qualities readily available in my arsenal.
But this Ramzan, I decided to make it happen and so I started asking around about where I could find Kut Kofta and I realised many Bangaloreans are not even aware of the existence of such a dish. I tried my luck in many restaurants but was mostly met with quizzical looks and a lot of rejection. Bengaluru is a food lover’s paradise, to say the least, but I was flummoxed by the absence of this amazing dish on most menus serving non–vegetarian Bengaluru fare.
So, I finally decided to go to Mosque Road. After all, it is the month of Ramzan and I was pretty confident about my chances.
Mosque Road, during the month of Ramzan, is a sight to behold in itself. All the meat lovers of Bengaluru descend on this tiny street to experience various culinary delights. I scourged Mosque Road in the evening and the place was brimming with people, both the devout and the foodies, hopping from one stall to another sampling the various delicacies that were on offer. Some of the sign boards looked exotic. Skewered camel, grilled quail and goat brain puffs were just some of the options.
The sights, the sounds and smells were heady and I was tempted to just give up and eat the first thing I saw but the memory of that tangy gravy kept me going.
The food stalls didn’t have it but they all knew where I could find it
“Chichabas Taj, wahan milega aapko (you will find it there)”, said one helpful soul.
I wasted no time and headed over to Frazer Town where the restaurant is located. The place was jam-packed and I had to wait for a bit before I could get a place to sit
Chichabas Taj is a restaurant that is a branch of the iconic Taj Hotel in Shivaji Nagar, which has been in existence since 1935. It has attained cult status in the city for serving amazing food made in Muslim households. It was started by a spice trader named Abdur Rahman who was endearingly referred to as Chichaba; and hence the name Chichabas Taj to differentiate it from the numerous copycats that have cropped up over the years.
The ambience of the restaurant is simple and clean with no frills attached. It is the food which does all the talking.
I ordered what I had come for, “Kut Kofta Anda Ka Salan” said the menu, along with some tandoori rotis. The way the waiters were shuffling around serving up the orders was quite impressive. Orders were taken thick and fast and the air was filled with calls for “Biriyani, Paaya, Sheekh Kabab and Barrah chops”. It gave me an idea of what the crowd favourites were.
Amongst all this noise and crowd, arrived my humble Kut Kofta.
The service was quick but to me it felt like I had been waiting ages.
I sat there for a second savouring the moment.
As soon as I took the first bite of the roti with the Kut Kofta, I was taken back to the first time I had eaten it. If absolute bliss had a taste, this would be it. I left Chichabas Taj a happy man with a stomach full of food and a heart full of memories.
Food and memories have a very strong connection. Food evokes all kind of emotions. There are certain dishes that remind you of home, some that transport you to your childhood and some that remind you of love. Every dish has a story behind it and every flavour, a memory .