After savouring the Depaul’s Coffee the other day, I had wanted to round off this Delhi visit with a street food trail, one that I have been doing since childhood – and yes, one that could be a nostalgic trip for Delhites across the globe.
I may yet be back again, in a few months or in a few many more months if you see what I mean, but anytime and every time is a good time to travel back in time, relive memories, and get recharged for the future.
At least, I do get recharged when going past by past – meeting people, going to places that one had grown up with and around. For me, personally, any visit to RK Puram, Sector 1, New Delhi is one such place that takes me back to the age and time when one did kanche (marbles) gulli danda, patang, kirmich baal cricket, and driving a cycle tyre (yes, and not a cycle) made our lives joyful, complete and contended.
So, when I began scouting the colonies I lived in, touched the schools and college I tried to study in and the national stadium I learned and played table tennis and then onto my working life – Parliament Street, Barakhamba Road, and then Connaught Place, it sure brought me to the most iconic (for us Delhiwalahs) street eat joints.
Now living, studying, or working, generations of Delhiwalahs, am sure, are going to agree with me that when it came to Aloo Tikkis and chaats, there is no match for Prabhu Chatwala at UPSC, someone who served almost all the batches of the Indian bureaucracy and Police officers, and sundry other successful people from different walks of life.
Chole Kulche and Chole Bhature at Bhogal’s behind Scindia house are of course the tops, though this might spark off a fierce battle between chole aficionados.
But I doubt there might be anyone who can have any issues, or doubts, over the popularity or quality or taste or tastiness of an assortment of paranthe at the Paranthewali Gali in Chandni Chowk. Dating back to the late 1800, Pandit Babu Ram Devi Dayal Paranthewale dates back to 1889, and the shop has been handed down generations. If not, the offerings at the ever-crowded eatery are seemingly infinite and experimentation is well and truly out of the box – Momos Parantha is the latest one, a variation of the paranthe with imagination and twist. Because Chocolate parantha was done some years ago.
But for the 60 plus me, experimentation was the last thing on my mind – when one asked for all varieties of paranthe on the menu – for tasting at least one missed out. That we were four helped, as we could tuck in a portion each of the assortment of paranthas – aaloo, gobhi, bhindi, nimbu, matar, mooli, gajar, pudina, methi, papad, chini, Besan aloo, paneer, mirchi…and a few others. I suspect the owner goes to the vegetable mandi and then makes paranthe with every available vegetable.
In fact, this gali (street) has history and seen history. It is believed that Pandit Gaya Prasad Paranthewala was the first one to sell paranthas here (dating back to the 1870s), the legacy of which is now being carried on by three shops: Pt. Kanhaiyalal Durgaprasad Dixit, Pt. Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan Paranthewala and Pt. Baburam Devidayal Paranthewala.
There are several me too shops that cash in on the taste, brand, and history of these three pioneers, ringing in customers in thousands to crowd the narrow lane. On any normal day, lunchtime or dinner time, it is an uphill struggle to get a table. One has to be a bit patient and wait for one’s turn. We went on a working day, for a late dinner, and still had to wait a while the other day.
But the wait is well, and truly worth it.
Yes, post-pandemic, prices have gone up and they sure do pinch the pocket with parantha at Rs 80 a piece and the premier one’s costing Rs 100 for one. Assortment of lassis is the usual accompanying drink. Then there are two subjis, two chutneys and salad as complimentary side dishes to go with paranthas. The recipes are self-prepared and a guarded secret of each parantha house, one that differentiates them from the others.
Now in terms of popularity, Bhogal’s in Connaught Place matches the Paranthe wali gali. During lunchtime, it is jam packed with office goers and visitors to the shopping complex.
Whether it is Prabhu chatwala, Bhogal’s chole bature/kulche or Paranthe wali gali, one thing that they guarantee is a taste of history.