History and kebabs, served hot

The aroma of roasting meat whets the appetite as one passes by spotless takeaway counters manned by alert, uniformed attendants outside the Horniman Circle branch of Bademiya — a massive, two-floor, 2,300-square-feet diner, whose origins, incredibly, can be traced back to a tiny roadside stall in a Colaba bylane: Bademiya. If one grew up in this city, it’s possible that the name rung a bell even before you learnt how to write it.

The Kebab platter is a definite winner

Cooking up history
The menu is a far cry from the simple plastic card that is passed around the Colaba alley, which houses the original kebab counter, but the fare remains the main attraction. Four collegians devouring assorted kebabs at a table don’t read the legend on the first page of the new menu. There’s no need to scan the menu. They order their favourites, possibly the same dishes their parents favoured as collegians. The menu has changed since the days when Zahir Ul Haq Shaikh (now 53) would wash plates and wait tables at his father’s kebab stall.

Chicken Baida is an iconic dish

“When my father started this stall, he would serve only Mutton Kebabs,” Shaikh tells us, recounting how his father’s religious guide Hazrat Fida Mohammed Adam Chisti gave his follower Rs 20 to set up a stall at that precise location on Colaba’s Tulloch Road. “My father had his doubts. After all, at that time Colaba wasn’t the bustling area it is today. But he also had great faith in his guide and teacher,” shares Shaikh, inviting Salman, his oldest son to join us in case translation’s required. “Sometimes, days would pass without a single sale,” Shaikh recalls, “But my father kept the faith.”

Zahir (right) shows son Salman Shaikh a few tricks in the Bademiya kitchen. Pics/ Suresh KK

Food for all
Finally, a chance catering assignment aboard a navy ship achieved a miraculous turnabout. Chicken Kebabs, prepared for the first time for that party, gained favour; occasional customers became regulars and the kebab salesman from Bijnor made his first extension to the menu. “We included Paneer Kebabs when we noticed that vegetarians accompanying their friends would eat chutney-filled Roomali Rotis.” Later, a Punjabi lady’s outburst led Bademiya, as he was addressed, on account of his seniority, to create vegetarian and non-vegetarian counters.

Today, the vegetarian menu includes Baby Corn and Mushroom Tikka Rolls (Rs 130), and a delicious paneer version of Bademiya’s iconic Baida Roti. Non-vegetarian diners are spoiled for choice to select from the succulent Reshmi Chicken Roll (Rs 145), Boti Kebab Roll (Rs 170) or one of the generous Kebab Platters. Dessert choices are limited, but the Phirni (our favourite), Shahi Tukda and Pineapple Halwa are excellent preparations, so one doesn’t mind the limited fare.

Only for Ramzan
Hardcore foodies should sample the Bademiya Ramzan Special, Chicken or Mutton Soup, available at their 4x12 eatery near Minara Masjid on Mohammed Ali Road, only through the holy month.

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