Delhi’s Original Chinatown – The New Indian Express

Express news service

One of my earliest childhood memories of dining was at Ichiban, the Chinese restaurant on Pandara Road, hunched over their placemats, which included the 12 Chinese zodiacs, with the years and characteristics of each sign inscribed on each piece of paper. (I suspect this is because I discovered that I am a dragon; I doubt I would have had such a vivid memory if I had been a rat or a pig).

“The Chinese zodiac thing was entirely his Mr. Phuntsok’s innovation, Ichiban’s menu was mostly ours,” muses Hem Godayal, as much an institution as the restaurant he runs. House of Ming at the Taj Mahal Hotel on Mansingh Road opened in 1978, becoming one of Delhi’s first Chinese restaurants. Godayal joined in 1982 as an intern. The owner of Ichiban also worked there. And over the course of Maison Ming and its director’s tenure, Delhi has developed the taste for Chinese cuisine that it has today, knowingly but subconsciously influencing the Chinese cuisine palate in the National Capital Region.

dim sum on the menu

“According to the taste buds of the Indians, it was decided at the time to focus the menu on Sichuan Chinese, balanced by Cantonese cuisine. There was a dish here and there from other parts of China, but the menu mostly focused on those two, ”says Godayal, referring to the different styles of Chinese cuisine and cuisines (6-9 depending on your source). With the space that houses the restaurant closed for renovation on July 14 through 2022, we look back on its legacy, carefully encapsulated in a limited edition menu, available until next week.

And given that the people who worked at House of Ming were going to open Chinese restaurants defining Delhi as Golden Dragon, the aforementioned Ichiban and so many others, it is almost impossible not to see the influence that most August restaurants had. on the menu readings of any Chinese restaurant today. But aside from the inspiring food for the hoi polloi, House of Ming has always been a destination. The space where the small table at which I am sitting today, as Godayal pointed out, was, for a meal, occupied by a long table on which Raj Kapoor celebrated his Dada Saheb Phalke award with the Kapoor clan, many of whom would go on to chart their own illustrious careers.

And it’s not just the Kapoors. Godayal and his team have seen generations of the same family return to their favorite tables for their favorite meals. “Many of our regulars don’t even bother to ask for the menu and just cook all the dishes they want. In case they forgot a particular favorite, we include it in the order and then they go, ah, yes yes, we wanted that too, ”Godayal smiles. Anyone who comes to Delhi passes its doors, including former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Our last great statesman, Vajpayee, who loved his prawns, left an indelible mark on the restaurant, and even Godayal, who still cherishes the thank you note and special menu signed by the Indian political laureate. As our table begins to fill with fodder, we understand why the restaurant is so popular. As the currently available legacy menu indicates, there are dishes that have stuck around for decades to the present day, reassuring generations of Indians who have seen their country go through rapid change since the 90s.

The traditional menu includes dishes dating back to the 1980s, elements that Godayal assures us have never really disappeared from the pages. These include golden shrimp, salt and chili chicken pepper, and even scallion pancakes. Even though the last one is off the menu today, the staff are happy enough to prepare it for those who remember and still want it. Today the kitchen is led by chef Salem Lepcha, and still remains a powerful force. It’s not for nothing that, while the hotel was closed and only delivered food through Taj’s Qmin app, House of Ming got ahead of all the other restaurants it shares space with.

Our meal begins with dim sum, something that didn’t even exist in Indian mentality until the 1982 Asiad Games, held in the capital, which introduced Delhi to the variety of meat and / or meat ingredients. of vegetables, all related to the dough, but universally acceptable. And they are not even beginners. It’s just a dim sum. Starters on the Legacy menu include chicken-mint-stuffed eggplant, crispy duck, and other favorites from the restaurant’s past and present, a theme that continues through main courses and desserts.

Just like Pokemon, you have to catch them all! As we finish our meal, we remember so many more, and as a result grateful. Likewise, dear reader, the next time you dig into your chili and garlic noodles, from some well-known place or your own secret, don’t forget to thank Maison Ming.


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Linda Jennings

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