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Dilip Kumar’s chicken soup for the soul

Dilip Kumar is 97 years old now. Not many are aware of the living legend’s culinary skills. But it just wasn’t food. It was chicken soup for the soul. Politician Priya Dutt also reveals that her actor-director father Sunil Dutt often visited Dilip Kumar’s house to open his heart and rekindle the spirit.

“Dad had a very special relationship with Dilip Uncle. Dilip uncle was always an elder brother and advisor to dad. Whenever father had problems in his life and was going through any kind of an upheaval, he would directly walk all the way up to Dilip uncle’s house. He would go up to him and say that I want to eat with you. Dilipsaab himself used to cook a dish then – Chicken Soup. They used to sit over dinner and discuss. They were very important moments to my father. Dad was always giving advice to others as an elder, but he never had someone older than him to handhold him when he needed,” says Priya.
He-Man Dharmendra too was a regular visitor. “I used to go and meet him and at times I would want to leave early because I wanted to have my regular (alcohol). Dilipsaab would understand and would ask for alcohol to be served too. But I loved his Chicken soup and what Narmada (his cook) cooked and he would give me advice on my career as well,” says the actor.

Actress Saira Banu, Kumar’s wife and soulmate for many years says, “Dilip Sahab enjoyed cooking largely because he liked to innovate and create recipes that were simple yet unusual. Yes, the chicken soup that Sunil Dutt Sahab liked very much was one of them. There were several other soups, stir fried vegetables and salads that he conjured up along with my mother Naseem Banu ji. Like the clear chicken and bhindi soup for instance. He came up with it one evening as our cook Narmada was wondering how to make the dinner interesting with something new. Her eyebrow went up when Dilip Sahab told her how to prepare it because bhindi was the last thing she could think of in a chicken soup. There was also the unheard of green coriander leaf soup.

He likes stir fried vegetables and it had to be prepared when we heard the honk of his car at the gate. He would come up the staircase and Narmada would toss the vegetables with a mild dash of masala and very little oil in the kadai. He liked it that way and it was made as per his recipe. During Ramzan he made sure fresh green spinach leaves were brought from the market for bhajiyas. Very little besan was used and yet the bhajiya would be crisp and delicious. It was his own innovation. As everybody knows he loved omelettes and was delighted in making them himself.”