the disappointment of the goat

Hidden in the alleys of Old Delhi is Karim’s: where every tourist goes to feel like they’ve found something authentic. But within this secret Delhi institution lies an even deeper secret. It’s there on the menu, glistening with the greasy prints of a thousand other patrons who have rested their finger on it in wonder:

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Tandoori Bakra. Twenty-four hours. Ninety US dollars. On a menu where the average dish costs $2 and arrives at your table in five minutes, this item sets your mind salivating: with mutton burra this good, what must their tandoori bakra be like? And what the hell’s a bakra?

My tourist dream came true last Sunday, when me and thirty-five of my closest friends descended on Karim’s with our appetites and our orders placed twenty-four hours in advance. What’s a bakra? It’s a whole goat, stuffed with rice and eggs and almonds, slow cooked and presented on a silver platter.

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In the summer of 2000, my band headlined an outdoor pig roast in the woods of Maine. A hundred people, a warm night, an excess of loud music and cold booze all leading up to the main event: the unveiling of the pig. Buried in a pit of coals since early that afternoon, it was scheduled to rise out of the ground like a delicious zombie around ten PM. But the pig took its time, arriving four beer-soaked hours late to meet a frenzied crowd that became piranhas in a David Attenborough special at the sight of it. We surrounded it, tearing at it with bare hands, stuffing pig flesh into our mouths with one claw while reaching for more with the other. It was a vision of man reduced to his basest state: grunting, eating, swallowing, slobbering, wiping his hands on his shirt and going back for more.

It was the most delicious meat I’ve ever had in my life.

And this is what I was expecting to waft out of Karim’s kitchen: melting off the bone, melting into my mouth. My heart leapt by the sudden appearance of men bearing meat, followed by other men bearing tiny knives for us to carve with. Hungry hands sawed and pulled and jerked the flesh off the bone and onto my eager plate.

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And that was when the dream ended. The juicy piece of midsection looked like heaven; but in my mouth, it was rubber. I chewed it for minutes. The rice was delicious, but the meat itself was tragically disappointing. I was expecting a Maine pig roast. I was expecting a street fair turkey leg. I was expecting Thanksgiving. I was expecting Hooters’ hot wings. What I got… was old, chewy meat.

This is the curse of the tourist who spends too much time in the town he’s touring: eventually he discovers that the secret treasures reserved for the locals are, in fact, just old, chewy meat.

Also, points deducted for the boiled egg stuffed in the goat’s former anus.

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22 responses to “the disappointment of the goat

  1. See and everyone wonders why I am not a foodie, a Subway sandwich will do me fine with my large order of fries.

  2. Pingback: Karim’s « Eating Out in Delhi

  3. I’m so sorry you were disappointed. I think you’ve ruined hard boiled eggs for me.

  4. Boiled egg in the anus? Ha ha ha. Was there a fight to see who got to eat that?

    Cheers,
    Quirky Indian

    http://quirkyindian.wordpress.com

  5. Jenny, I think most people who are not really intimadated by Karim’s fame would agree with your views on the food at Karim’s.

    The comparison with pig roast was a bit unfair though. You need to look at a pig and a goat to know that you are not going to get chunks of meat with a lot of fat (which gives it the ‘melt in your mouth’ quality) with a roasted goat! Goat meat has much more texture, that is why more famous goat preparations are curries/stews; and even kababs which are famous (like the burra) are cooked and then put in the tandoor. The other famous kebabs made of goat meat like the seekh kabab (on a charcoal grill) or galauti kabab (shallow fried on a griddle) are not made in the tandoor either because it is a very hot oven (700-800 deg. F) which would dessicate thin layers of meat very quickly. No surprise that many Indian restaurants in the west use lamb (the cheaper ones for availability but the upmarket ones for the meat).

  6. Well Karim is not exactly the best of the lot… I find it pretty average.

    Pretty good review of Karim’s roast goat… And thanks for the pics!

  7. You cannot seriously think that even an old goat is less appetizing than turkey!

    Turkey is vile, vile I tell you, the most tasteless bird ever incorporated into the human grub pantheon.

    And Hooter’s h0t wings? Sigh, tourists…

  8. The “softness” of a goats meat depends entirely on the age of the goat. If you “select” an old goat for slaughter, the meat will never be tender, no matter how long you cook it or roast it or whatever.

    Trust me on this. I’m an African and I know my goats. Your satisfaction will be determined long before that goat is slaughtered.

    Now, for a really supreme goat, they need to be not only young, but entirely grass fed. Do they have goats that eat only grass in India? A young, grass fed goat will be tender and delicious, regardless of how you cook it.

    Another trick on goats? the more salt they lick from the ground, the tastier they;ll be. Salt tenderizes the meat.

  9. To be fair, the goat was asking for it.

  10. Hahaha! Almost all your posts make me laugh, but this one was the funniest yet! Still laughing!

    xoxo

    Xenia

  11. Goat Meat disappointing ?

    Maybe, the Big Guy in the Sky is telling you to go Vegetarian.

    Live and let live.

    While in India, you may want to try vegetarianism.
    Because, India does vegetarian like no other place in the world.

  12. I feel very happy by knowing that your dream has fulfilled last Sunday. But I am amazing that how you people have eaten that hole Bakra?. I don’t think eating non-veg is good for health. So please to turn into vegetarian.

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  18. Has it occurred to you Indians like their goat meat slightly chewy and spicy?

  19. If you were expecting a pig roast or a turkey leg while eating a tandoori lamb, then you are an Idiot of the tandoori bakra scale.

    Thats like trying pig roast for the first time and expecting it to taste like corn on the cob….

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