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Gole Hatti

CHHOLE-KULCHE

 Akshita Todi

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Gole Hatti ke Chole Kulche

Despite the crude line of political tension that divides the nations of India and Pakistan, it is impossible to negate the centuries-old shared culture that constitutes the throbbing centre of the societies that thrive in both the nations. The chhole-kulche that is served in traditional North-Indian and Pakistani style allows the youth to get a taste of the times when the subcontinent was united. The chhole are cooked in a special mix of spices which are prepared by the chefs in their own kitchens by grinding the raw materials into fine powder. The smell of garlic and onions, while they are sautéed in huge frying pans in liberal quantities, is sure to tease the passerby’s nostrils and invite one to get just a taste of this North-Indian specialty. The chhole are served with slices of carrot and tamarind chutney which has a sweet and sour flavour. The gravy is cooked without any oil, rendering it healthy while being delicious at the same time. It has a subtle taste tinged with the smell of bay leaves, cloves, black pepper, cumin seeds and cinnamon. Unlike the popular renditions of this dish, the chhole are not very spicy and the gravy is delightfully light and flavoursome. The kulche that are served with the chhole are light, fluffy white breads made of flour dough with baking powder. They are baked in large quantities in traditional ovens which are unwieldy in their sizes. A food-lover can well imagine the delight of tearing into the soft pieces of the kulcha and dipping it into the scrumptious gravy of the tender chhole.

Along with chhole-kulche, other popular Lahori-Amritsari dishes include Chhole-palak-chawal, Palak-paneer-chawal and dahi-bhalla. The chawal is not just plain rice. It is an aromatic dish whereby the rice is drenched in pure ghee and then flavoured with bay leaves, cloves, pepper, cinnamon and dry fruits. It is tossed with vegetables like peas and carrots and also with fried cubes of cottage cheese. This pulao is then served with varying combinations of gravy and side-dishes to suit the preferences of the diners. The dahi bhalla is soft and has a perfect blend of tangy and sweet flavours.

That the partition of the nation could never bring about a divide in the lifestyle preferences of those living on either side of the border, is exemplified marvelously by the Lahori-Amritsari dishes that are lovingly prepared in food joints established by Pakistani immigrants in Old Delhi.

Gole Hatti, which was established in 1954 by Shri Nathuram Kamboj, is once such food joint. They pack their dishes in clay containers for home delivery as they believe that the plastic containers are unable to preserve the authentic taste and smell of the food. The shop sticks close to tradition, to the point that the managers continue to use the ancient model of the telephone with the ring-dialer. The menu is small and the chefs prepare the food in an open kitchen. The shop earns its name from the circular shape of its structure due to its location at the turn of the main road. It is currently managed by J.P. Kamboj and Karthik Kamboj.

Address- 2, 3, 4 Church Mission Road, Fatehpuri, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi- 110006

Phone number- 011 2252 0321

Timings- 11:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m.

 

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Delhi 6 se 19

Delhi 6 se 19

Street food festival at Singh Sahib, Eros Hotel

By Anubhav Sapra

Singh Sahib at The Eros Hotel is one of the few five star restaurants in Delhi which has a loyal fan following. I visited the hotel on a weekday and the restaurant  was bustling with patrons. I got to know there that the restaurant is hosting a Street Food Festival by the name of Delhi 6 se Delhi 19. The name signifies the food it intends on celebrating : The old Delhi street food which covers the areas of Delhi 6 (Delhi 6 being the postal code of Old Delhi) and Delhi 19 (Delhi 19 being the postal code of Nehru Place).

To exhibit the flavors unique to the old Delhi street food palate, live counters of the dishes have been put up in the ongoing festival. On offer are the popular street food dishes – golgappe, chaat, desi drinks, sweets, kebabs, omelets, biryani and quintessential chhole bhature. The dishes are being served on disposable plates to provide an authentic experience of eating out in the streets.

I began with aloo tikki and papdi chaat. Both of these dishes were made with the right interplay of spices and served with saunth and dhaniya chutney.  Next from the chaat counter, I had golgappas which were served with pudina ka paani (mint flavoured water) and saunth.

After trying small portions of chole bhature, rajma chawal and kadi chawal, my carnivorous drive got me straight to the kebabs and biryani counter though the first iem I tried was egg bhurji. The biryani looked distinct, different from the regular mirch masala biryani which we get on the streets of Jama Masjid. The other mutton biryani was surpassed by any other that I have had. It had tender pieces of meat, cooked in basmati rice which was mildly flavoured.

A lot of effort has gone in to conceptualizing the street food festival; as the presence of a variety of snacks and sweets are ensured. from the Halwai counter. The sweets on offer are balushahi, milk cake, besan laddu, burfi, jalebi, and halwa parantha. I was surprised to see parantha being served with sooji ka halwa. This shows that the Chef has really travelled to the interiors of Old Delhi to bring out the best of the dishes. Halwa and parantha is a popular delicacy in Nizamuddin and Jama Masjid. I have seen evenings in Chitli Qabar, when Halwa Parantha walas on pushcarts cut paranthas into small pieces and serve halwa on them. Although the halwa was a bit sweet for me, I really enjoyed Jalebis which were thin, crisp and slightly flavoured with saffron.

My street food journey ended with a rabri kulfi stick. Indeed, it appeared to be a good attempt to showcase the variety of street delicacies under one roof. The festival is on till 6th August and priced at Rs 1650/- per person without taxes.

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Karim’s

A ROYAL AFFAIR

By Prakriti Bhat

karimsWalking through the serpentine lanes of Old Delhi, one comes across the hustle and bustle of life with people setting up their shops and getting ready for the day. Butchers, hardware shops, stationary stores, etc open their shutters to the world keeping up their promises of quality products at wholesale prices. Cars, rickshaws, autos, scooters, e-rickshaws, all try to squeeze their way through the narrow streets. The shouts of shopkeepers, the jingling of rickshaw bells, the chatter of people; they all have a music of their own and add to the charm of Old Delhi. But a trip to the walled city is simply incomplete without a visit to the famous Karim’s. Known worldwide for its Mughlai food and amiable service, Karim’s boasts of a rich cultural and culinary history.

Rewind to the Mughal era. The Mughal emperors would constantly go out on wars to secure their position in the sultanate. Since years, the royal cook would prepare meals under the aegis of the Mughal queens and kings but with the onset of British rule, the Mughal Empire came to an end. When the last emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled, the royal cook (whose descendants are now running Karim’s) had to leave the durbar and look elsewhere for a job. In 1911, at the time of coronation of King George V, Haji Karimuddin moved to Delhi with an idea to open a small dhaba to cater to the guests coming from all over the world. He set up a little stall outside the towering Jama Masjid and his menu only consisted of a humble combination of aloo ghosht and daal served with roti. In 1913, Haji Karimuddin set up the Karim’s Hotel in Gali Kababian, right opposite to Jama Masjid and today it is a prominent eatery in the capital city.

Bringing royal food to the common man’s plate at a nominal rate has been the main objective of Karim’s. The family continues to conjure up delectable dishes, each with a closely guarded secret. It is a 5 minute rickshaw ride from the Chawri Bazaar Metro Station. The rickshaw drops you right in front of Jama Masjid from where you have to enter one of the many alleyways. Meandering through the narrow lane, a whole new world opens up in the form of Karim’s. It’s hard to imagine how such a big place can exist at the end of such a constricted gali. They have 3-4 sections to serve the heavy crowd that starts pouring in from morning itself. The staff is dedicated and affable and the service is quite efficient. Going against the popular notion of Old Delhi being an unhygienic place, the restaurant also scores high on hygiene.

1395857_546954232055129_791945401_nI went to this place with some NRI relatives who had heard a lot about its culinary delights and rich history. The place works at its own rhythm as the cook stirs the steel pots at a steady pace over burning coal and not fire. We ordered Chicken Burra, Mutton Burrah, Chicken Biryani, Mutton Biryani, Mutton Kebabs, Sheermal and Mutton Korma. The Chicken and Mutton Burrah were well marinated and slightly charred on the surface. The Biryani was cooked in a typical Mughlai manner with less spice which worked well for my relatives. The meat was succulent. Mutton Korma was a dish of mutton served with a red curry which satiated our taste buds. This we ate with a flatbread called Sheermal which is a specialty here. The Mutton Kebabs were my favourites. Juicy and delicious, they took ‘yummy’ to another level altogether. Other popular dishes here are Badam Pasanda, Chicken Mughlai and an exclusive entrée called Tandoori Bakra which has to be ordered 24 hours in advance.

Zaeemuddin Ahmed is the restaurant’s director and a representative of the family to have worked here. Numerous generations have come and gone but the standard of their food remains unchanged. Karim’s may have opened numerous branches all over Delhi like Gurgaon, Noida, Nizamuddin and Saket, placed in swanky malls and modern markets. But for the most genuine, best and truest experience one must visit its original branch near Jama Masjid, where the saga began. It has definitely put Old Delhi on the world map by offering a satisfying meal to people from all across the globe. People can experience the richness of Mughal Durbar by digging into their food. At the end of Gali Kababian awaits a magical world of gastronomic delights.

Location- 16, Gali Kababian, Jama Masjid

Cost for two- 850 (approx)

Contact no. – 01123264981

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Bhaijaan Kebabs

Bhaijaan Kebabs

By Anubhav Sapra

Last Sunday, Delhi Food Walks conducted its first community food walk of 2015 – the Kebab and Biryani Trail in Old Delhi. The food walk started with galouti kebabs and ended with the famous sutli kebabs of Bazar Matia Mahal. The highlight of the kebab trail was Bhaijaan Kebabs. The name of the shop itself will arouse the curiosity of anyone visiting the shop. When I first visited the shop, I was expecting a well-built, husky fan of the Bollywood star Salman Khan. However, I met the rather gracious owner, Mohd. Shamim, who started selling kebabs three years back just out of his passion and love for kebabs. The shop is run by his son, Ubaid, and his cousins, Javed and Ameen.

WP_20150110_18_43_17_ProLet me tell you the location and directions to reach his shop. Keep walking straight in Bazar Matia Mahal until you reach Chitli Qabar Chowk, then take a right turn from there, and ask anyone the directions to the famous Flora Bakery. Bhaijaan Kebabs are right opposite Flora Bakery. The complete address is shop no. 2202, Bazar Chitli Qabar, Opp. Flora Bakery, Delhi-6. The shop is closed on Tuesdays. You can contact Bhaijaan Kebabs on the following numbers – 9811020272, 9899145777.

The shop is named Bhaijaan (literally, brother) Kebabs because the age difference among the siblings in Mohd. Shamim’s family was not much and everyone in the family started calling him “bhaijaan”. Bhaijaan, originally a contractor for painting work, used to invite his family and friends for daawat back at home. His kebabs were so delectable that the guests who tasted his kebabs in dawaats convinced him to take his passion of cooking to the next level and open a kebab shop. He opened a small shop selling chicken shami kebabs in a narrow alley in Chitli Qabar.

WP_20150110_18_31_22_ProAn interesting part of the most of food joints in Old Delhi is that they specialize in a particular dish and pass the recipes from one generation to the next without tweaking the recipes. Keeping alive the Old Delhi tradition, Bhaijaan Kebabs sells only one kind of kebabs – shami kebabs. The keema of shami kebabs are made with chane ki daal, dried red chillies, green chillies, and Bhaijaan’s secret spices. A piece of kebab costs Rs. 10 and a kg of keema for shami kebabs is Rs. 200. The kebabs are half fried and kept in a glass box. On order, the shami kebabs are deep fried, chaat masala is sprinkled over it, and is served with green chutney and onion in a dona. The kebabs are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The uniqueness of his kebabs are the fibres which one can experience in the first bite. The taste of the kebabs was delicious, and the spices and whole red chillies added to the interesting mix of flavours.

The kebab lovers moved in to another lane of Chitli Qabar for sutli kebabs after relishing the taste of Bhaijaan’s fibrous shami kebabs.

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Mohd. Sageer Nahari Wale

                                                   Mohd. Sageer Nahari Wale

By Anubhav Sapra

The temperature of Delhi has further plummeted to a five year low at 4.2 degrees. There are expectations that the record of coldest December in 50 years might broke soon. Sometimes I wonder that the current generation is going to witness all the records. To keep warm, some prefer sipping a hot cup of tea with Samosa and few like me find solace in a plate of hot Nehari or haleem.

Although Nehari is traditionally cooked overnight and eaten as a breakfast, it is now easily available in the evenings as well. Infact, both the famous Nahari walas in Ballimaran – Manzoor Hotel and Mohd. Sageer Nahari wale sells the delicacy in the evenings.

WP_20141117_112Mohd. Sageer Nahari Wale, a 67 years old shop, located in Baradari, Ballimaran, shop number 2461 and 2462. A half plate buff nahari costs Rs 60. A plate of Bheja is Rs 50 and Nalli is Rs 30. Typically Nahari is made of trotters or knuckles or goat’s head, and known as Paye ki Nehari. However, to cater to the modern taste, different varieties are available. Many still prefer mixing a proportionate quantity of Nalli and bheja in Nahari.

The preparations for Nahari at Mohd Sageer’s shop starts everyday at 8 am in the morning and by 6 pm , Nahari is ready to be served. In the day time, between 12 noon to 3 pm, korma and kofta is available at Rs 20 a plate. I straightaway ordered a half plate of Nahari. I got it fried in yellow Amul butter, garnished it with finely cut ginger slices and green chillies. And on the top of thick gravy, evenly squeezed the lemon juice. The meat was tender after hours of cooking and the aroma of spices was intact. The yellow butter with a tinge of lemon mellowed down the spices but added a nice flavor to the nahari and made it simply delicious.

I cleaned up the plate of Sageer’s Nahari without worrying about the forecast made by IMD about the cold spell that is likely to continue over the week as it is believed the remedy for cold.

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Yahya Tea Stall

Yahya Tea Stall

Everyone always ignores the small tea stall on the side of the road or at the corner of a street. No one knows the history behind a small tea stall. Even Shah Rukh Khan’s father had a tea stall and served tea at a very well known drama company in Delhi, and if it was not for the star, we would probably never have known that such a tea stall existed.

WP_20141117_037Likewise, there is an old tea stall in the lane of Gali Qasmijan, right at the entrance of Phatak Luharu in Ballimaran. This tea stall was started by the late Haji Mohammed Farooq in 1969, carried on by his son the late Mohammed Yahya. It has been forty-five years since the pouring and serving of tea has been going on here. Now, the grandchildren, Mr. Farhan and Mr. Faizan, who are reporters with a newspaper, are still taking care of their family business. Their father, the late Mohammed Yahya, also owned a dairy shop named after his wife, Sabra and a hotel where the tea famously known as “Haji ki Chai” was served. Since the grandchildren did not have the same aspirations as their father, they gave up the place for rent and but have still kept the touch and name of their father through the tea stall.

When I looked at the boys preparing the tea, I was completely amazed at how it was being prepared. It was nothing like the way we prepare it at home.

WP_20141117_049The tea leaves are boiled in water in an aluminum kettle for a long time and on the other side, the milk is kept boiling, letting it form a layer of cream, commonly known as malai. The first step is to put a spoonful of sugar, a teaspoon of milk and boiled tea, and a spoon of malai. It is then stirred well and served hot. If you desire for a strong cup of tea, they add a spoon of fresh tea leaves, while pouring the boiled tea, in the strainer to give it that dark look and a strong kick. Mostly it would look like filtered tea that is served at a fancy tea shop.

There is a lively history behind this tea stall. Believe it or not a hundred and fifty cups of tea were made and served at a time which impressed me so much since there are so many different steps to get a perfect cup of tea. It definitely did not taste like the regular tea that one drinks every morning.

Nearby the tea stall, there was once a college named Tibbia College which has been shifted to Karol Bagh. This college offers education in medicine, and therefore, numerous and frequent doctors, professors, and students would be attending this college. Now a morning without a tea would not be complete and Yahya Tea Stall completed the mornings of a lot of people in the college and around. Tibbia College ordered six hundred teas almost every day, and without fail they were served with the same quality and standard.

WP_20141117_041For a couple of days, the tea stall had been shut down but by popular demand of the people living there and expressing their love for the tea and the family, the stall was back with a bang, serving tea with as much as dedication as it did when it first started.

The grandchildren besides being modernized and familiar with the media profession did not leave their ancestral house and believed that living there would keep the culture and history of the place alive. Surprisingly, the haveli that they reside in was once the haveli of Ghalib Mirza’s second wife. It definitely must be exciting to live in a house with intricate Mughal style designed pillars, doors, windows, and houses. Farhan Yahya said that the love and the respect of the people could not make him leave the place where he spent his childhood.

A must visit if you want to have a perfectly made hot cup of tea.

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Manzoor Hotel

Manzoor Hotel

WP_20141117_029As I strolled around the streets of Ballimaran, relishing the delicious taste of Habshi Halwa, I came across an old restaurant by the name Manzoor Hotel, giving us the feel of a dhabha. This hotel was established by a man named Zahoor Ahmed, who like us fancied about food to such an extreme that he made it his passion to start his own hotel sixty-seven years back. He was a cook by profession before, and his love for food made him start his own little restaurant which is very famous in Ballimaran.

The initial years of Manzoor Hotel saw them serving only nahari, nali and bheja (all buff dishes), but in the last ten years, there has been an assortment in the menu by including chicken, fish, and vegetarian options as well.

The Hotel has opened a branch in the same lane, in fact very much opposite to the main restaurant, serving a range of delectable and appetizing lunch and dinner to the people around.

Manzoor Hotel is now managed by Zahoor Ahmed’s two sons, Saim and Sarim. Sarim has been helping his father and elder brother in the business for the past three years. The restaurant is famously known for all its dishes which are served with khamiri roti, which is made with white flour mixed with yeast and baking soda.

During the day, you will get a wide variety of dishes to choose from, which include: buff korma, chhole keema, bheja, dal fry, egg curry, chicken stew, aloo matar paneer, chicken keema, fish curry, chicken kofta, chicken korma, and chicken rizala (cooked in milk and cream). These are mouth-watering and exquisite dishes that one can order and treat and savor their palate with piquancy, all ranging from Rs. 25 to Rs. 40 per quarter plate. You can easily have a meal within Rs.250.

In the evenings, they serve the most famous dish – nahari, nali, and bheja which can be mixed and fried together in Amul butter on demand. The shop timings are from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Located at the entrance of Gali Qasim Jan, opposite Hamdard Gali, Manzoor hotel is a must-visit place for nahari, nali and bheja.

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Asli Habshi Halwa

Asli Habshi Halwa

By Anubhav Sapra

WP_20141117_016I came across something very interesting when I recently roamed around in the streets of Ballimaran. The entrance of Punjabi Phatak in Ballimaran greeted me with a sweetmeat, “Asli habshi halwa”. This sweet is made up with many nutritious ingredients put together such as milk, desi ghee, cashew, nuts, almonds, clove, kewda, wheat flour, and only during winters, saffron. It is recommended in the cold weather as it is a good source of energy and gives strength to our body to prevent weakness.

The name in itself is very intriguing, which got me thinking why a sweet should be named “habshi”. Habshi is the Urdu word for the colour black and also a name commonly used by many Delhiites for people of African descent because of their color and strength. Isn’t that a bit harsh?

Firoz Ahmed, the proud owner of the shop, shared the journey of the sweetmeat since the time of undivided India. The original shop of habshi halwa was in Chandni Chowk, located somewhere in between Kucha Rehman and Kucha Ustad Daag. Abdul Khaliq was the owner of the shop, famously known as Ghantaghar Habshi Halwa Wale. During the Partition, Abdul Khaliq migrated to Pakistan, leaving his shop in the hands of his workers.

After the Partition, Firoz’s father started with a small granary shop, and sold paan and bidi to earn a living. He met a worker from Abdul Khaliq Habshi Halwa Wale and learned the art of making habshi halwa from him. The recipes were passed down from that worker of Abdul Khaliq’s shop to Haneef to Firoz and till date, Firoz Ahmed makes this delicacy at his home.

WP_20141118_038The shop is now looked after by his son, Firoz Ahmed in Punjabi Phatak, Ballimaran. Mohammed Hanif’s brothers have also continued the business of selling habshi halwa but have opened their own stores named after their brother, namely, Hanif Dairy in Gali Qasimjan, near Hamdard Dawakhana, which has been doing brisk business there for more than ten years now. A few shops after that, I found another shop selling the same sweet by the name Ahmed Dairy, which was started by Taqi Ahmed. To differentiate from the others and retain the original identity of Abdul Khaliq’s shop, a picture of Ghanta Ghar (the clock tower in Town Hall) is printed on the box of Firoz Ahmed’s Habshi Halwa.

Habshi halwa is one of Old Delhi’s famous delicacies and is rich in flavour and aroma. It takes nine hours to cook this sweet and it is sold throughout the year, but mostly in the winters from October to March. It is priced at Rs. 430 per kilogram. The shelf life of the sweetmeat is one month. It may become dry after one month but the taste remains the same.

Ghanta Ghar Wala supplies this halwa all around India, mostly to Kanpur and abroad in Pakistan. During the month of December season, they offer yellow carrot halwa which is supposed to be eaten cold and is made without ghee. I found this extremely new and fascinating. I am eagerly waiting for the December to savour this carrot halwa. I wonder how it will taste – halwa without ghee and served cold.

If you have a sweet tooth and ever find yourself in Old Delhi, you must visit these shops located at the following addresses and try the extremely famous and delicious habshi halwa:

1.     Ghanta Ghar Wala – 1368, Punjabi Phatak, Ballimaran.

2.     Hanif Dairy – 1532, Gali Qasimjan, Near Hamdard Dawakhana, Lal Kuan.

3.     Ahmed Dairy – 1538, Gali Qasimjan, Lal Kuan.

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Daulat ki Chaat

Guess what Old Delhi is back with?

By Anubhav Sapra

I am delighted to announce that Babu Ram and his family members are back from the villages of Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh to the by-lanes of Old Delhi- Sitaram Bazar. Guess what he is back with? He is back with the ‘Daulat ki Chaat’, a delicacy of winter. It seems winters are just here!

I spotted Babu Lal, a Daulat ki chaat hawker, at the Chhata Shah ji lane, near Barsha bulla chowk where the famous lotan Chole Kulche sells his scrumptious meal. Till 10 am, you can find Babu Lal at Chhata Shah ji, and from 11 am to 7 pm at Maliwara in Chandni Chowk.

Pamela Timms in her book ‘Korma, Kheer and Kismet’ has beautifully summarized this winter delight. She mentioned,

1012776_558971730853379_1164812161_n“Daulat ki chaat (meaning ‘snack of wealth’) is probably Old Delhi’s most surprising street food. Anyone expecting the punchy, spicy flavours usually suggested by the word ‘chaat’ will be disappointed. It resembles uncooked meringue and the taste is shocking in its subtlety, more molecular gastronomy than raunchy street food, a light foam that disappears instantly on the tongue, leaving behind the merest hint of sweetness, cream, saffron, sugar and nuts; tantalizing, almost not there. I’ve often wondered if daulat ki chaat is a preview of what might be on the menu should we make it as far as the pearly gates. The means by which a pail of milk is transformed into the food of the gods, though, is the stuff of Old Delhi legend rather than of the food lab. First, so the story goes, milk and cream have to be whisked by hand before dawn ( preferably under the light of a full moon) in to a delicate froth, then left out on grass to set by the ‘tears of shabnam’ (morning dew) – but not too many, nor too few. At daybreak, the surface of the froth is touched with saffron and silver leaf and served with nuts and bura (unrefined sugar). Daulat ki chaat is only made in the coolest months because at the first ray of sunshine, it starts to collapse. It doesn’t travel well either- to enjoy this very local specialty, a winter pilgrimage to the shady gullies of Old Delhi has to be made.”(p. 147-148)

A dona of Daulat ki chaat costs Rs 40. Babu Ram’s family members (kinari bazaar- Khemchand, Gali Paranthe Wali- Rakesh, Dariba Kalan- Babu Ram and Maliwara- Babu Lal) are there in the alleys of Old Delhi with their khomchas selling Daulat ki Chaat. The winter delight is available until Holi. So, it is the time for a winter pilgrimage, in the words of Pamela Timms, to the gullies of Old Delhi to savour the delicate dessert.

Reference: Timms, P. (2014). Korma, Kheer and Kismet. New Delhi: Aleph

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Ramzan Food Walk @ Delhi 6

Ramzan Food Walk @ Delhi 6

RAMZAN FOOD WALK

Sudipto Das

The cacophony of sounds and a myriad collection of colours is what surround you when you enter the walled city. Come the holy month of Ramzan and the streets seem drunk with religious fervour.
Pretty eyes looking behind veils, there is a certain mysticism and charm that this place holds on to me. Whether it is the old havelis or the narrow lanes or the enormous number of shops selling food, there is something here for everyone.

Any visit to Ballimaran is incomplete without a visit to the haveli of Urdu poet Mirza ghalib, arguably one of the finest poets to have ever roamed the streets of Delhi. The old haveli has been renovated housing some of the replicas of Ustad’s old belongings as well as a few verses from his shayaris reminding me of a simpler yet bygone era which still feels as if alive in the small rooms.

Stepping out of the haveli and the maddening crowd and the incessant honking of the two wheelers whizzes me back to reality. Walking on in Ballimaran we reach Sapna restaurant, plonking on the seats was a huge relief from the humid weather. We ordered some fried chicken, crispy sesame crusted chicken pieces with green chutney tingled the taste buds. We helped ourselves to some hot taftaan from the shop opposite to Sapna, hot, fluffy, sweet and doused with ghee these were the perfect accompaniment.

On we went to Kabul Zaiqa restaurant, walking down the long narrow passageway, I stop in front of a small room with a wood fired oven and trays of hot bread, upon asking I’m told these are paape, accompaniment to teas. Just out of the oven these are golden brown, fluffy, mildly sweet a perfect teatime essential, which can be the Delhi’s equivalent of Mumbai’s bun. At Kabul Zaiqa there is a sit-down meal in a traditional manner and the menu as to what is prepared for the day. The chicken curry and mutton curry are ordinary at best but what they pride over is the Afghani pulao, flavoursome, not at all spicy and the swollen raisins popping in the mouth with a delicious sweetness. But, the tender meat from the lamb shanks were just melt in the mouth, soft and juicy and truly was a highlight to the meal.

Now was the long walk to Lal kuan for a visit to the famous Ustad moinuddin, famous in the foodie circles and the ustad title given as a mark of reverence to the kebabchi. But en route we stopped to have besan pakode dipped in tamarind chilli chutney titillating the senses. With pakode the older members of the groups longed for their evening cup of chai. And everyone munched on bakery biscuits with their frothy cuppas.

Ustad moinuddin, sells buff kebab opposite to the Hamdard dawakhana. Even after buying a shop he prefers to sit by the sidewalk and sell his kebabs. Succulent, spicy kebabs with the grizzled fat are topped with sliced onions and ginger slivers with a fiery chutney, jumpstarts the palate. Come 7:30 pm, Ustad moinuddin is a must visit for a taste of the old world.

One of the disappointments of the evening was to find Bade miyan kheer shop closed. So twisting and turning our way through the maddening crowd and stopping along to keep count of the people with us and mppve along as a group, we made our way to Aslam’s in matia mahal. With half of the eatery being under renovation, there was a maddening rush at the counter, with orders being shouted by the hungry horde at the top of their voice. We managed to get our order but with lack of seating decided to eat in front of the shop, with grilled chicken in a yoghurt and masala, topped with a generous helping of golden melted butter. The buttery, tangy, spicy goodness just hits the spot. This butter chicken is bound to put a smile across anyone’s face.

Travelling back towards Jama masjid, we stopped for shahi tukda and kheer. The sweet burnt caramel crusty tukda delicious in its entirety, made me go on for more bites giving me asbestos tongue for the remaining evening. The kheer mildly sweet and cold was a saviour for the warrior tongue.

Walking towards chawri bazar crossing and squeezing between cars and trucks. We stopped for kuliya ki chaat, assorted fruits and vegetables hollowed out and filled with spices, boiled chickpea and pomegranate. One bite and what hits you is the sour salty lime and the sweetness coming through later. Having tried earlier the novelty of eating kulle has died down for me and I don’t find them extra ordinary but, for the uninitiated it is a welcome surprise.

On we went to kucha pati ram, and finding the Kuremal shop closed, anubhav called on one of the numbers on the billboard hanging over the shop, and the store owner opened up the shop for us, to smaple all that he had to offer. We tried akmost all they had to offer aam panna, mango, jamun, imli, litchi, chickoo , pachranga. With the kulfis brimming with the freshness of the fruits, Kuremal is an institution when it comes to savour some cold desserts in Delhi, holding on to their own against the onslaught of frozen mass produced ice cream brands. My personal favourite was the Paan with betel leaves and refreshing paan flavour. It was the proverbial end of a meal stretching across the breadth of chandni chowk.

All in all going during ramzan to chandni chowk is an altogether different experience than any other day. Whether it be the call of the muezzin or the Gareeb Niwaz restaurant serving the poor and the needy or a tired lonely figure trying to sort out a bottleneck jam, or the humongous mounds of sevaiya. A walk in the chandni chowk is always a unique experience. So after 6 hours, with a walk started with strangers we part as friends.