For many outsiders, Gujarat is synonymous with vegetarian food. Little is known about the extensive culinary history of the non-vegetarian Khatri TAPELU which is primarily a Surti dish made by the KHATRI community in Surat. There is little doubt then that the eating-out culture of Surat has made this available to others outside the community as well. Not much has been written about the Khatri culture in Surat – we know from hearsay that Khatris are fun loving people who love their TAPELU with something to wash it down with (hic?hic?).
The most incredible TAPELU we are told is made by a popular kiosk called Delhi Darbar. Delhi Darbar serves its snazziest preparation as a part of their Friday special menu, at Lakeview Garden, Piplod. The dish which consists of mutton gravy served with special yeast fermented small puris sounds very humble but hold your horses before you pass a judgement.
In contrast to the name of the place, Delhi Darbar serves ONLY finger-lickingly delicious Surti Khatri delicacies – misnomers galore. Vijaybhai with his brother Ajaybhai has been running this kiosk for the past 23 years now. Initially their father Harshadbhai Ratilal came up with this idea to make famous Khatri dishes available because they are unique in their taste and not commercially available. These are traditional recipes from their home’s kitchen taught to them by their mother Bhanuben, who has crossed 75. All the food is prepared at home by their wives, and its only reheated at the lahri before serving.
Trivia : Tapelu gets its name after the large vessel that it is prepared in. The meat is tender, the bones are loaded with marrow and the gravy is slow cooked, mainly in the fat of the mutton itself, giving it a juicy and tender texture with flavors that resonate long after the meat has flirted with your taste buds. “No special occasion is complete in the core Surti community without this traditional dish. It is okay not to hold a reception, but the wedding is formally acknowledged only after hosting a tapelu feast,” says Vijaybhai with fondness that is only surpassed by the taste of his magic food.
Surtis polish off around 50 kilos of Tapelu in merely three hours every Friday. Many book it in advance, so as to not miss it. Upon asking about the secret to this recipe, Vijaybhai explains that the core of the recipe is special Khatri black garam masala, which is one of the basic ingredients that lends a distinct taste to this community’s food, which for them is sourced from Vesuwala. Not only Tapelu, they have many other varieties made with chicken, mutton and fish, that include bheja fry, kaleji fry, mutton mamnas (Khatri meatballs), along with curried and dry chicken and mutton. These are served with either warm and tender jowar rotlas or bread, along with sliced onions drizzled with a dash of lemon juice. The gravies are rich with minced onions and generous amounts of garlic and ginger.
Delhi Darbar also prepares other exclusive fare to-order such as the seasonal ‘Papdi-ma-mutton’, which is made during the Undhiyu season when fresh and tender papdi is available. Sprinkled with generous portions of green garlic pods and coriander leaves, its a must-have in winters. And as they have been saying……WINTER IS COMING!