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Meat-eaters are divided into two camps all over the world: those who eat offal and those who don’t. Broadly, one can divide organ meats into two: those from the head of the animal and those from the digestive tract. In Delhi, brain or maghaz is a feature of all restaurants of a certain kind. You would expect to find it at Pindi in Pandara Road and at some of the Jama Masjid eateries like Karim’s, but seldom at upmarket restaurants, a notable exception being In the Punjab. In Chennai, thala curry is the best-known dish in Nair Mess, a landmark eatery famous for its no-frills interiors. The small, sharp skull bones are part of the curry but the customers don’t seem to mind. In Kashmir, even the membrane of the sheep is eaten, albeit after hours of laborious preparation.
Kashmir’s gradual gentrification has meant that there are fewer and fewer takers for such delights as sheep’s lungs, though stomach and intestine are still made into a dish fit for kings during the wazwan banquet. All organ meats are a fraction of the price of regular lamb. Which is why the Hyderabadi Chakna – a curry of chopped stomach and intestine, strongly flavoured with patthar ka phool usually makes its appearance at bars frequented by blue collar workers. On the outskirts of Hyderabad, the Banjara tribals prepare a hot, spicy, sour curry whose chief ingredient is intestines. Called phere pulusu, takers for organ meats rate it highly.
Far more respectable are liver and kidneys: you never have to speak of them using innuendo and nudges and winks. The preparation that gets our vote is Liver Dana in Delhi’s New Khalsa Restaurant. Chunks of liver are tied with lamb fat and then fried, so that the lean liver imbibes some fat. Inventive indeed!