Bhopal had a very distinct connection to Afghanistan from the time of Dost Mohammad Khan, founder of Mirazi-khel dynasty in Bhopal, who migrated from Afghanistan. Dost Mohammad Khan went back to Afghanistan during a period of crisis and brought back his trusted clan of friends and relatives, who were called Barru-cut Pathans.
In the uninhabited areas of Bhopal, grows a wild bamboo variant called Barru. The early settlers from Afghanistan cut these Barru, and used them to make their houses and clear the ground for settlements. These pathans were called the Barru cut pathans by the locals. The name is worn as a batch of honor till date by many old muslim families of Bhopal. One such family runs a legendary hotel in Bhopal, called the Afghan hotel.
Afghan Hotel of Bhopal is one of the last existing connections of Bhopal with the present day troubled land of Afghanistan. The hotel was established in the year 1964 by Maulana Bairullah Khan, at their home in Ibrahimpura, Bhopal. One of the oldest running hotels in the city, the Afghan Hotel serves several delicious dishes like Mutton Afghani Tikka, Mutton Korma etc.
“Pathan woh jo Pashto bole” (Pathans should be able to speak Pashto) says the proud third generation descendant of this Pathan family, Saifullah Khan (Contact: 9755929461), the present owner of the eatery. The family proudly maintains it’s connections with Afghanistan, so much so that young Saifullah went all the way to Afghanistan to get married.
Saifullah shows his Grand father’s photographs with former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with equal pride. Apparently when Indira Gandhi came to Bhopal after her defeat in the 1977 elections, very unpopular due to emergency, Maulana Bairullah was the only supporter she found among Bhopal Muslims.
This relation continued till the time of Saifullah’s father, who was close to Rajiv Gandhi, and consequently, Digvijay Singh.
However, Afghan Hotel is famous for a different reason altogether. The fish curry served at Afghan Hotel is stuff of legends in Bhopal.
This slightly tangy fish (Rohu) curry is basic but brilliant. Fresh fish is bought in every day at about 5’o clock in the evening. What if you don’t get fresh fish? We wont sell that day, declares Saifullah. This fish, cleaned for about half an hour and marinated for two hours is served in a curry containing salt, ginger-garlic paste, onions and fresh sweet curd (kunda dahi from chowk area of Bhopal, declares Saifullah). Cooked over a slow fire, the subtle curry never overshadows the freshness of the fish. The taste is further enhanced by a dash of lime juice added at the time of serving.
Served with either a rumali, or tandoori roti, the Afghan Hotel’s fish curry is usually sold out within hours of going to sale.
If you are planning to try it out, better make sure that you are there by 8 PM to avoid disappointment.
How to reach : As you turn right from the big Durga Mandir (known as Curfew wali mata) while coming down the one way road from Gandhi Medical College, keep your eye towards the left side of the road. Just next to the gazak shops, is the Afghan Hotel. Fish is available from 7 PM onwards.