Autumn 2015 – The Art of Eating
The New Afghan Hotel, owned by Karim Khan, lies hidden down a blind alley in the bazaars of old Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. From the bylane that passes for a main road, the restaurant is completely invisible, blocked by a second restaurant, which is confusingly, and inaccurately, called simply the Afghan Hotel and is owned by Jameel Khan, one of Karim’s ten brothers. The front of that second “hotel,” a word that in India often means a simple, canteen-like restaurant, opens directly onto the street. Bright lights from inside shine on skewers of mutton and chicken that dangle over a row of grills sending banks of smoke like ghosts into the night. The pungent smells of meat, charcoal, and oil from deep-frying would be familiar to anyone who has spent time in the historic Muslim quarters of Old Delhi or Hyderabad, cities celebrated for their rich courtly cuisines. The specialty at Khan’s restaurant, a dish simply known as Afghan machli, or Afghan fish, would almost certainly come as a surprise.
The full essay appears in issue 95 of The Art of Eating.