Lajpat Nagar has always been a favorite for fabric, jewelry, shoes and everything colorful and sequined. However, what’s interesting about this area is that a few streets in the neighborhood are the epicenter of Afghan life in Delhi.Through the years made strangers feel at home whether it may be starting off as a refugee colony or turning to a melting pot of Afghans, Turks, Italians, French, Swiss and Russians. For most expatriates, Lajpat Nagar’s attractions are the affordable rents whereas for others, its just a neighborhood where they feel the closest to home.
Years of war and instability in Afghanistan have forced many of its citizens to migrate to other countries. In India, many Afghans live as refugees and are registered with the UNHCR (United Nation High Commission of Refugees). Since 2005, India offers special medical visas to Afghans for free and do not require applicants to provide financial statements or proof of medical insurance. Lajpat Nagar is interspersed with numerous pharmacies, travel agents, barbershops and moneychangers and of course restaurants all advertising in Dari, Afghanistan’s lingua franca.
Whenever I visit the Lajpat Nagar Central Market, I usually stick to Chaat , Momos or sometimes enjoy a quick meal at Beliram Degchiwala during the brief shopping breaks. This time, as I headed towards E block in Lajpat Nagar 2 to find these Afgani Restaurants that I had heard so much about- Kabul Delhi and Aghan Darbar Restaurant.
We decided to eat at the Kabul Delhi Restaurant which rests on two levels (Ground floor and basement). The ground floor has a simple yet modern seating style where as the basement comprises of carpeted raised platforms with numerous cushions where the regular restaurant patrons enjoy the dastar-khwan.
When we sat for the meal in the basement to truly enjoy the traditional meal and ordered Qabuli Uzbegi, Mutton Qorma and Ghost tikka kababs. Along with all of this, the restaurant also served unlimited portions of wheat naans– free of cost. The Qabuli Uzbeki is an extremely light pulao with minimal spices, raisins, and skewered lamb that is so soft and succulent that it melts away. Personally, my palate yearns for something more spicy and so the Qabuli Uzbeki, being a little sweet was not on top of my ‘ will eat again’ list. However, I would recommend it for how the rice grains are so soft and perfectly separated and for its signature sweetness cause of the raisins. The Kababs on the other hand were really well prepared and were very tender. The Mutton Qorma was a really good accompaniment for the rice. It had really understated spices and the mutton was well cooked and wasn’t chewy at all. The meal was also served with a portion of Rajma which was yummy and a cucumber and tomato salad.
My overall verdict would be that the food was extremely light as compared to other Mughlai food. It was not too oily and is low on spices. It’s definitely worth trying for the experience itself. Another interesting thing I noticed was that both the restaurants were entirely dominated by men whether it may be at the billing desk or the servers. The men were extremely polite and inspite of the language barrier were very helpful when it come to explaining us each of dishes.
Note: Majority of the dishes are non vegetarian and there are barely any options for vegetarians. Also, f you aren’t a fan of Aghani cuisine, then this place is not for you!
Restaurant: Kabul Delhi | Price: Rs.300/head
E 104, Ground Floor, Near Central Market, Lajpat Nagar 2, New Delhi
For me, more than the food, what I really enjoyed was how this little restaurant made me feel like I’m transported to Kabul itself. I felt like an outsider in my own city, and thats what added to the interesting experience. Parts of Lajpat Nagar, along with areas such as Jangpura Bhogal are truly dynamic spaces where students, businessmen, expats and patients from Afghanistan and all across the world have found themselves homes away from home.