In the by-lanes of Mumbai's Byculla suburb lies a time-tested eatery known for its non-vegetarian specialties. Noor Mohammadi Hotel doesn't boast of fancy seating areas or rich people's music but it counts mega celebrities like Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt among its die-hard patrons.
The food is the only draw here, and it is known to be legendary. While their nalli nihari, mutton paaya and shami kababs draw hungry diners by the dozens, there is one dish that catapults the restaurant into newspaper headlines time and again - the famous Chicken Sanju Baba.
The story goes that Sanjay Dutt used to eat at Noor Mohammadi with his cousins regularly since the 1980s. The actor would also often order from the restaurant and have the food delivered to his home or film set. He obviously knew the owner Khalid Hakimi and his brother Rashid quite well.
In 2005 (or around that time), Dutt and Rashid got talking about food and the actor revealed his pet recipe for chicken, featuring whole spices instead of ground ones and a gravy that was neither too sweet nor too spicy. Rashid decided to try and prepare the dish and after a few trials, Sanjay Dutt agreed to let them have Chicken Sanju Baba on the restaurant menu. He never even charged them anything for the privilege.
Fun fact: When Sanjay Dutt was released from jail, Hakimi served Chicken Sanju Baba free of cost to all his customers!
Who knew that Dutt, along with being an actor and gourmand, enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen as well? Chicken Sanju Baba soon found favour among numerous diners at Noor Mohammadi Hotel, including actor Salman Khan. And if you visit the city of dreams, you can't leave without tasting this dish at least once.
While we are not in possession of the recipe, the restaurant lists the ingredients for all to see: curd, ginger, Kashmiri mirch, almond, jeera, dhaniya, chopped onions, tej patta, big elaichi, saffron juice, lime juice, green onion, oil or ghee and salt to taste. If you do experiment with these ingredients, send us the final results on Facebook or Twitter!
Psst..: Years ago, when I was a college student, we interviewed Khalid Hakimi on camera for a BMM project. Not only did he answer all our questions graciously, he also insisted on serving us some chicken and roti free of cost! Although heavy in oil and spices, it was undoubtedly delicious.