Infusion and Sherbet in Boipara, Kolkata

The second food trail I would suggest if you are in Kolkata during summers is to hop around Boipara. Boipara is a neighbourhood of books. And Calcutta boasts one such boipara which bears the imprint of the colonial pasts, reform movement as well as the student movement that rocked the 70s. It is the epicentre of some of the finest schools, colleges and needless to say books. M.G. Road named after Mahatma Gandhi connects College Street to Howrah Station and Sealdah station, the two stations that hosts thousands of trains. As you walk by the lanes of College Street / Boipara, you will be welcomed into the world of books by numerous hawkers rattling off latest testpapers for Madhyamik/ Uchhamadhyamik, guidebooks that will help you sail through JEE/ PMT/IIT as well as I.C.S.E., I.S.C test papers. Stalls are painted with white, blue and yellow to announce the latest arrivals and the treasure house of most of these stalls lie in the stack of piled old books. Amidst these book stalls, there are some famous places to eat, chat and debate, perfect adda places.
One of the legendary institutions in College Street is the Coffee House. As one makes way through the stairs, posters of various student organisations lead you to the first floor and no trip to Coffee House is complete without a cup of Infusion. It will take you an entire day to taste what is available on the menu and my favourite picks are Chicken Kobiraji and Chicken Cutlet. In my last visit to Coffee House, I braved the rains and waited for a friend who was visiting the city. Both of us made our way to Coffee House and polished off the Chicken Cutlet and Infusion and after an adda which ranged from Malaysia’s politics to my careers I told A that we are going to Paramount.
interiors paramount

Paramount needs no introduction to my friends and colleagues from Kolkata. This legendary institution by late Nihar Ranjan Majumdar has been selling home-made drinks since 1918. A and I sit occupy one of the benches and we ask for a menu.
menu
The menu arrives and we are spoilt for a choice to have close to special drinks made from pulp of passion fruit, mango, tender coconut, strawberry, pineapple and others. For cream lovers there is cream rose, cream lemon, cream lemon and even cream lassi. Both of us settled for Dab Sarbat( a drink made from tender coconut).

dab serbet
Dab Sarbat reminded me of a custom of buying school text books in summer holidays in College street followed by a stop over at Paramount. I convince A to order Dab Sarbat. As we sip our drinks, an elderly gentleman walks up to us and ask us if we liked the drink. A tells him its her first visit and she really likes it and asks about the recipe. The gentleman sits down with us and shares a fascinating journey of Paramount. The gentleman is none other than Mrigendu Majumdar. He tells us that Tender Coconut Sarbat was created under the guidance of famous scientist Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray. He points to the framed picture of Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray and tells that without his inputs this flavourful sarbat could not be created.
acharya prafulla chandra ray

He sources tender coconut from Basirhat for this special sarbat. Mrigendu Majumdar by training is a lawyer and has been instrumental in introducing a new drink that caught our eyes- Passion Fruit Drink. He recommended us to try out the signature Tamarind Drink to beat the heat. This legendary institution of drinks was also an important meeting point of revolutionaries who gathered here for meetings. Then, ‘it was known as Paradise’, tells Mr Majumdar. By 1937, British came to know of Biplobi Sammilani Samiti and Paradise was renamed as Paramount. Paramount has come a long way and as Mrigendu Majumdar prepares himself to leave for distant shores to take Paramount to non resident fans he shares of plans of celebrating 100 years of Paramount in a big grand way. Paramount will be 100 in 2018 and he plans to introduce new drinks as well as put on various memorabilia at display. A and I promise that we will be back in 2018 and wait for the new surprises.

paramount
Paramount
For bulk orders call Mr. Majumdar @ 9674215355
1/1/1 D Bankim Chatterjee Street, Kolkata 73.
Email : paramountsherbet@gmail.com
Website:www.paramountsherbet.com
Check Menu: http://www.paramountsherbet.com/our-menu.html

In the land of rolls and cutlets

I apologise to itiriti’s readers for staying away from blogging. Deadlines kept me away from blogging for few months. As I revive my plan to blog once again, I bring to you a series of food walks that you could undertake if you are planning to visit City of Joy. Let me confess that it is not the best time to be visiting Kolkata due to the increasing mercury levels as well the humidity. Still, the city’s lifeline lies in the evening strolls along the ghats of Hooghly river.
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On one such evening DP, SM and I ventured out to Bagbazar Ferry Ghat. The ghat is well connected to Sovabazar, Howrah Railway station through the ferry service. As we waited at the jetty enjoying the cool breeze, we tried out one of the wonderful street food that you can enjoy along the ghats- Ghotigaram.
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Ghotigaram takes its name from the heap of coal cakes that keeps the bhujia mix warm as the hawker carries it around in a recycled oil tin with several aluminium cups with chopped onions, cucumber, amra, chat masala, salt, chopped chillies and a bottle of oil. Ghotigorom is available for Rs 5 and Rs 10. Newest addition to add a crunchy flavour is chopped carrots.
Take a stroll, work on your appetite and head off to Allen Kitchen on 40/1 Jatindra Mohan Avenue. If you are a non-user of google maps and rely on landmarks I suggest that you use Sovabazar metro station as a landmark to reach this legendary place. If you plan to take a walk along Bagbazar ghat and walk down to Allen you have to cross metro station and keep on walking towards Girish Park Metro station. Another legendary place of cutlets (Mitra Café is on the opposite lane of Allen Kitchen). After you take a nice walk from Sovabazar metro station (towards Girish Park) you shall spot the blue board welcoming you.
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Allen Kitchen is known for its Prawn Cutlet. You should trek down to Allen to soak up nostalgia, skip the coolness of your air conditioner and dig into one of the many versions of cutlets the city has to offer. Cutlets are part of the colonial legacy and the city’s obsession with cutlets, steak and kabiraji have gave birth to many a legendary institution. Allen’s Prawn Cutlet is fried in a brand of ghee that many of us might be familiar with. Lakshmi Ghee is a well-known brand of clarified butter made from cow milk.
prawn cutlet edit
Usually synonymous with luchi this cutlet smells divine and we could not wait to dig into the juicy prawn coated in a nicely salted coating. This simple coating enhances the prawn and smell of Lakshmi ghee lingers on. Served with salad (chopped onions, cucumber and green chillies), kashundi ( mustard sauce indigenous to Bengal) prawn cutlet remains a stealer because of its simplicity.

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We also ordered steak (mutton) which comes with an interesting sauce high on ginger paste. While I leave to your imagination why and how this steak came to be served in Allen Kitchen, its time to get back to work.

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©itiriti

Mapping street food of Delhi with Anubhav Sapra

Today afternoon I met somebody whose job is envy to many of us who are in love with the city’s street food.  As promised we meet near Gate No 5 Chandni chowk Metro station. He orders five bottles of water puts them in the jute bags for the leg of customised food walk kick starting from 5pm and shares with me his thoughts on JFC , Natraj ki aloo tikka, best nahari, paya and much more.

Anubhav Sapra, the man behind Delhi Food Walks very graciously agreed for a conversation over his journey of Delhi Food Walks which has been in news  for the street food tours across Delhi and beyond Delhi as well. His transition from working for Centre for Equity Studies to being his own boss, bringing street food to the forefront and his journey from being blogger in 2010 to owning and running Delhi Food Walks, is a wonderful inspiration and I thought it would be great to wrap up 2014 for itiriti readers.

The anecdotes he shares is meaty and juicy for a small budget film if not a blockbuster. He began organising food tours for his foodie friends on Sundays along with a day job in Centre for Equity Studies. Slowly those food tours metamorphosed into Sunday walking tours as the numbers increased. And facebook played a revolutionary role here. Way back in 2010 Anubhav posted an event that he was going to organise a food walk in Paharganj. Thirty odd people showed up. It was a huge success. This response encouraged him to organise more such tours on Sundays mainly around Old Delhi.

Slowly by 2011 Delhi Food Walks was conceptualised and recently he has quit his day job and he works seven days a week from 8am to 9pm for Delhi Food Walks. Though he organises food walks around various nook and corner of Delhi, he loves to talk about the street food cultures of Old Delhi which as he endearingly puts it represents our syncretism. ‘Which place under the sun will have the best dishes made from vegetables, pulses and no onion and garlic and moment you walk over to another lane you can have the choicest pieces of lamb, goat and chicken?’ As I remind him of the best fried chicken, he remarks ‘oh yes, JFC you mean’. For all fried chicken lovers, it is a treat to get the best fried cuts from the shops right across Jamma Masjid and JFC rules!

He tells me that  old Delhi’s by lanes have a story to tell through food. I agree. He adds that each lane is a telling tale about food proscriptions practiced by community. One example he cites is the absence of onion and garlic in the condiments or stuffing of parathawallas of parathewalli galli. The owners, practicing Jains refrain from using onion or garlic and this is only paratha which is deep fried in ghee and I add, served with pumpkin curry and banana tamarind chutney. Nestled few yards away are the bakeries – a telling representation of cultures of bread making in India. As he recounts to me the bakeries in the by-lanes of Delhi he also recalls that in his childhood his mother used to knead the dough and send it off to local dhaba for rotis to be made. Our conversation moves to communal nature of making breads with the series of bakeries in Old Delhi still surviving by making rotis. No conversation of breads is complete without the famous kebabs and for kebab lovers Delhi Food Walks will soon announce a kebab and biryani trail in Old Delhi in January 2015.

As time runs out and he welcomes me to join him for aloo tikki at Nataraj (Chandni Chowk) he also shares a passionate project geared to make use of left over food from city’s professional kitchens.  Anubhav and his volunteers have done a survey regarding the  management of excess food across city’s restaurant counter-tops. In this project called Save food foundation, their aim is to collect the food and redistribute it to the homeless in the city.

As his guests arrive I join them for a piping hot aloo tikka chat at Nataraj and resist the temptation of joining them for the walk. On weekdays, he organises customised food walks across the city. Customised walks are tailor-made for your tastebuds and it can be a combination of Old Delhi, Majnu ka Tila and Kamala Nagar. Some of the food enthusiasts across the world and India also join his specialised by-lane walks (available on requests) which lasts for three to four hours in Old Delhi. Apart from food, there is a lot of food talk about the spices, the process, and the people involved in making the food.

On weekends, he organises community walks. These walks are listed  in facebook and anybody can sign the walk. Of late he is organising walks around specific food items. For instance in December 2014 he organised a chat trail in Old Delhi which I hear was a huge success. What is best about Delhi Food Walks is that they do not outsource the walks. So, Anubhav is here to guide you to have a taste of Delhi’s street food from 8 am to 9pm through city’s best kept secrets, and well known ones.

As I leave him with the guests and make my way through the metro station I add the kebab and biryani trail to my wish list  for January 2015 and head back home with food for thought.

Coordinates

Email : anubhavsapra@gmail.com/ delhifoodwalks@gmail.com

Webpage:  http://www.delhifoodwalks.com

To more food talk in 2015!

©itiriti

NASVI’s third edition of street food festival brings dhuska, puttu, chicken pitha and much more…

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National Street Food Festival has stepped into its third year. From its modest beginnings in Press Club in 2012, National street food festival is the most awaited event for Delhi’s food lovers.For the past two years, NASVI’s food fest has given us the best of the littis, puttus as well as award winning Chicken 65. With litti mutton, litti chokha, and litti chicken and taas kebab winning the hearts of food lovers over the past two years, this year’s pleasant discovery was Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh.

But we started our trail with our first love… Litti-Mutton.

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For all of you who are planning to hit the street food festival in Jawaharlal Nehru stadium during weekend I would suggest you to try out Dhuska. Dhuska are crisp fried discs made from rice and gram flour, with a hint of saunf and bay leaf.Perfectly seasoned this crisp discs are served with potato and green peas curry and bamboo shoot pickle.

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The bamboo shoot pickle is spicy and is a perfect accompaniment with another fried snack called gullele. Round in shape, this fried snack is prepared from wheat flour, salt, green chillies, crushed fennel seeds, bay leaf and a pinch of baking soda. A perfect snack in a winter evening.

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Next on my card was chicken pitha. Pitha as all of us know are  rice cake(steamed and fried). There are various versions of rice cake across Assam, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar but chicken pitha was a pleasant surprise.  I waited for the other foods to settle down so that I could dig into chicken pitha.  If you are a vegetarian you can settle for mushroom pitha as well. Prepared from a mix of boneless chicken and rice flour the chef behind the oven, explained to me the recipe as she dished out one pitha after another with utmost care, and passion.

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As I watched her in rapt attention, my partner in crime already decided to settle for another snack from Jharkhand. Mutton liver fried with chana! Delicious! Must try.

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My final recommendation would be Sepu badi with rice from Himachal Pradesh.

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The grandeur of the festival has clearly caught up with the festive season. As it has stepped into its third year, it would  have been wonderful to have street foods from Kashmir,  Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur. I really missed the luscious crab curry from Orissa and wish the taas kebab was served with chura instead of roti. NASVI’s street food festival continues to be one of the most awaited events and incase you are planning your weekend lunch, head to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium tomorrow and day after. The festival comes to an end on 28 December.

Time to grab my packed dinner of litti-chokha from street food festival.

Good night, gorge on street food and stay warm.

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Logistics

Entry fees: Rs 50

Venue: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Gate No 14.

Date :25-28 December

Nearest Metro Station : Jor bagh(yellow line) and Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium ( violet line)

Check NASVI’s facebook page for more details

https://www.facebook.com/events/609438772515333/?sid_reminder=1939903377458593792

©itiriti

Holy Food Trail: Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, New Delhi

My association with religious places begins and ends with food. Every religious faith has its own way of feeding the hungry but langar – a practice common to Sufi Chisthi and Sikh traditions remains special for several reasons. People across faiths, and backgrounds are invited to sit and eat a hot piping vegetarian meal in regular intervals. The hot piping meal comes from a community run free kitchen housed in Gurudwaras. Sikh-langar, or free community kitchen draws upon earlier Sufi Chisthi practices where people across faiths could eat hot cooked meals in Dargahs. Harsh Mander in an article “From langar, with love” ( The Hindu, 12 January 2013) draws our attention to etymology of the word ‘langar’ which in Persian means a feeding centre and a resting place for travellers. He mentions of the round the clock kitchens run by Nizamuddin Auliya Chisti – a sufi saint.

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Langar’ or any communal eating practices are particularly relevant in India as several registers of taboo prohibited people across caste groups to consume food together. Under such proscriptions, ‘langar’ as a free community kitchen challenges that social order. Though there have been reports of segregated spaces for homeless  in Gurudwaras across Delhi, the spirit of ‘langar’ needs to be uphold in the right spirit. With shrinking public spaces which are accessible to all, the idea of a free community kitchen accessible to all remains special.  My initiation to langar meal began in an all girls trip to Golden Temple of Amritsar and to this date I remember the fast pace and grace with which thousands of us consumed meal. The synchronised service between the kitchen staff and volunteers distributing food in the dining hall left me awestruck. A trip to Golden Temple of Amritsar will remain incomplete without an experience of langar. Closer home, Delhi, a langar at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Connaught Place runs a langar at regular intervals.

Easily accessible via Patel Chowk Metro Station on Yellow line, the Gurudwara is teaming with devotees on a Sunday afternoon. As you make your way through the entrance you will be asked to leave your shoes at the shoe counter.

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A visit to Bangla Sahib as it is popularly addressed remains incomplete without the karah prasad. Walk up to the counter on the left buy your coupons starting from Rs 11 to whatever you wish to offer and walk up to the counter to offer some and relish the karah prasad. The generous dollops of ghee holds the whole wheat flour, sugar and ghee together. Check a fellow blogger’s link for the recipe.

After a tour of holy shrine, sarovar head to the langar to not only have a lovely vegetarian meal of piping hot rotis, parathas, dal, vegetable curry and lovely kheer ( rice pudding) but also to offer voluntary service at the community kitchen.

people eating

People across age groups ( from old and young ) make rotis and serve the devotees across faith who walk in queues for langar meals. As the devotees return their steel plates and another batch of people wait near the door to walk in, volunteers sweep the floor and welcome people in. Every partake of langar be it in Amritsar or here is an experience to be cherished.

If you are in Delhi or planning your next weekend halt, drop by at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib for a meal at langar, and karah prasad.

Check out the following link on karah prasad

http://a-hint-of-spice.blogspot.in/2010/03/karah-prashad.html; Accessed on 23 November 2014.

Other links and references on Langar and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

For Harsh Mander’s article please click on http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Harsh_Mander/from-langar-with-love/article4294049.ece; Accessed on 23 November 2014.

And of course, The Delhiwalla for all matters related to the city…

http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2012/02/01/city-monument-gurudwara-bangla-sahib-central-delhi/; Accessed on 23 November 2014

©itiriti

Unwind over Rampuri delicacies @ Rampur Kitchen, New Friends Colony.

After a hiatus, I present itiriti readers a place tucked away on the first floor of the India Mall, New Friends Colony Community Centre which I want to rename as a paradise of kebabs. For all those in Delhi, and for all of us who love kebabs, our share of  succulent mutton pieces in an aromatic gravy, time to settle for Rampur Kitchen, New Friends Colony community Centre. Last year, I was introduced to this place by Vi and Sa. Four of us trekked down to New Friend’s Colony, a place etched in my memory since college days for serving the best Shawarma (Al Bake) for Rs 20. The place has a neat, comfortable seating arrangement for a leisurely meal for family dinners, and quiet lunch and dinners as well.

“Rampur kitchen”, true to its name offers some of the prized dishes from Rampur. Where is Rampur? Not far away from Delhi it boasts of a royal past which cascades into its cuisine and it is a place known for the knives, as a centre for arts and academics, distilleries and much more. Anoothi Vishal in a piece “Royal Rampuri cuisine, a blend of Delhi’s Mughlai tradition and Avadhi food” (The Economic Times, 3 November 2013)1  points out that this court cuisine is a melting pot of Mughlai, Afghani, Avadhi and Rajput influence after it became a stable princely state when the Nawab sided with the British following the revolt of 1857. Rampuri cuisine, Anoothi Vishal points out is known for taar qorma, shambhal ke sheekh, home style urad gosht and lauki gosht.

In my introductory visit to Rampur kitchen Sa convinced me to order qorma. Dreading the overpowering smell of spices and the rich thick gravy that one associates with qorma, I decided to skip it. Sa ordered the qorma and when it arrived I polished it almost half of the qorma. Taar qorma a speciality of the region can be eaten when the weatherboards read 48 degree Celsius. The succulent mutton chunks in a nice rich gravy with a right amount of bite and balance of texture without an overpowering smell of the garam masala has become rare even in specialty restaurants. Taar qorma remains a favourite from the first visit and I never get tired of eating this dish. I would recommend you to order half a plate of taar qorma and I assure you will fall in love with it as much as I have.

What about starters? Hang on! There are ample choices. For kebab fanatics there is a wonderful chapli kebab. You can get an imagined sensual treat from Anoothi’s article, but you have to taste the chapli kebab with the slightly spiced mint dip. Kakori kebab tastes heavenly and galauti melts in your mouth. My favourites and recommendations for starters would remain galauti kebab rolls. The star of this roll/ wrap is the ulte tawa ki paratha which is sweet in texture and complements the mildly spiced galauti kebab which true to its fame melts in your mouth. The wrap is a mouthful of spices and the creamy light green dip adds the perfect kick start to your meal. The best part of the Rampuri food is the right balance of spices and the treatment of the spices and Rampuri kitchen lives up to that in its treatment of spices and texture.

Thankfully, neither the gravies nor the dips look or taste the same. Each of the dishes evokes a confluence of cultures and synthesis of varied culinary traditions which is a product of people’s mobility. The best food emerges as a confluence of traditions and Rampuri cuisine’s attraction lies in its ability to embrace varied traditions. This, in a way urges us to rethink of culinary traditions as torchbearers of our identity politics and instead treat it as a melting pot of varied cultures.

  1. For details visit Vishal, Anoothi.2013. “Royal Rampuri cuisine, a blend of Delhi’s Mughlai tradition and Avadhi food” The Economic Times, 3 November 2013. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-11-03/news/43611823_1_cuisine-taar-qorma; Accessed on 9 June 2014.

Cost for two: 2 starters, one main course and rotis ( 900 INR)

For address and menu visit

http://www.zomato.com/ncr/rampur-kitchen-new-friends-colony-delhi; Accessed on 9 June 2014.

 

©itiriti

Notes from a mid-week lazy lunch

Who does not enjoy a lazy lunch at a cosy café with a lovely company to lift your spirits?  Taking a break from blogging to concentrate on finishing chapters, and draft has hit a standstill. Self-confinement, not buying myself a new dress to celebrate New Year has proved to be futile.  None of these not to do lists include anything related to eating out.  It is that time of the year in the capital when you cannot think of venturing out in the afternoon. So if you wake up to a cloudy day, and if you are a fan of the song “Ei meghla dine ekla ghare thakenato mon” (song  from Film : Shesh Porjonto) you might want to get dressed and venture out to Café Lota.

Café Lota has been the talk of the town ever since it opened up in the National Crafts Museum, Delhi in Pragati Maidan. As you walk down the passage you will spot this wonderful outdoor café, neatly tucked away from the hustle bustle of the city- a perfect dining retreat.  Hang on! For all of us who love outdoors and are thinking of the summer heat; the café’s bamboo slatted roof is neatly arranged for the right amount of light and perfect canopy to beat the heat.  The seating arrangement is nice, cosy and unlike other outdoor café/s there is enough room and space between tables.  Simple and cosily done up interiors compliment the menu which arrives in clipboards- the boards I associate with my drawing classes.

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The menu has something to offer from some of the states across India and not too overpriced.  We skipped the “smaller plates”  and settled for two non-vegetarian items from “larger plates”. The café is no overpriced.  The smaller plates ( vegetarian and non-vegetarian ) has nine options ( with six vegetarian items) and three non-vegetarian items. What is interesting is the pricing! All the items under vegetarian and non-vegetarian items are priced the same across smaller plates and larger plates.  The larger plates has ample choices starting from sarson da saag ( mustard leaf preparation from Punjab) , to the staple kadhi (yoghurt and gramflour based gravy from Sindh) to Kerala veg stew and even the wonderful khichdi  from Gujarat and the non-vegetarian larger plates brings to us a taste from Konkan, Goa, Kerala and Parsi food.  The non-vegetarian dishes come for Rs 375 each and we settled for Goan Galinha Cafreal and Parsi Salli Boti.

The Goan Galinha Cafreal looked exactly what I expected from its description on the menu card. I enjoyed the crisp spinach pao with dollops of coriander chutney that came an accompaniment. The chilly coriander rub on the soft chicken pieces complimented the perfectly done sprout salad.

My friend ordered Parsi Salli Boti. Before I go on to describing the mutton based dish something must be said about the parathas. They were flaky and the ajwain seeds and coriander gave it a nice bite. A perfect accompaniment to the soft succulent mutton pieces that melted in your mouth.

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We polished off the meal with sips from Nimbu Pani. Refreshing with a hint of mint was the perfect cooler on a hot day.

Finally, the Bhapa Doi Cheesecake (Rs 125) – an interesting twist with Bengal’s bhapa doi (steamed curd) and cheese… Must try !

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After our lazy meal, C and I took a stroll around the Crafts Musuem . As I prepare my checklist for the next visit I would recommend Café Lota to all those who want to sample menu from some of the Indian states. I wish the owners are able to incorporate some more regional items which do not feature right now.

The place offers balanced vegetarian and non-vegetarian items from some of the states across India and is a welcome break in terms of an outdoor dining experience in the heart of Delhi.  For all those who want to sample regional specialties within India, make a stopover here before you explore the wonderful craft museum. Plan a day at the craft museum with a  lazy lunch break at Cafe Lota. And for all those romantic souls it is the perfect place to unwind as well for a silent cosy lunch or dinner.

To lazy lunches and cloudy days !

Name : Cafe Lota

Address: National Crafts Museum, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi.

Nearest Metro : Pragati Maidan Metro Station

Photo : Chayanika

©itiriti

Spring feast over Qawali and Kebabs

As we approach the end of Winter Chill in Delhi it’s time to indulge amidst all the impending deadlines. As I write this post, the calendar and the deadlines that I have marked in bold stares at me with a mocking grin. Writing wishes feed into birthday wishes and much more. If you want to take a break from writing woes, take a break.  Such re-assurances are rare, and to steal a bright sunny MONDAY afternoon for such plans are some luxuries of being a student.

Last Monday afternoon, some of us decided to visit the newly renovated Humayun’s Tomb. Various sections of the historic Humayun’s Tomb have been renovated, restored in patches, blocks and columns. Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s team took six years to restore the complex and for more details on restoration work please read http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2013/09/16/city-monument-restored-ruin-humayuns-tomb/. After a tour of the historic Humayun’s Tomb, we decided to walk down to the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah (the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, 14th C Sufi Saint). We had heard and read about the Basant celebrations at the Dargah. As we reached the Dargah dressed in our yellow clothes we realised that the celebrations have been shifted to the day of Basant Panchami.

Nevertheless, we were treated to wonderful qawali renditions by the qawals of the Dargah. Basant Panchami at the Dargah is a synthesthetic treat.  Poet Amir Khusro, whose grave lies at the complex had worn yellow to bring a smile to his beloved Hazrat Nizamuddin who was grieving after his nephew’s death. The tradition has continued and on this day, the qawals sing poems of Khusro. The spring festival of the Dargah is a visual treat as people are dressed in yellow and the mustard flowers and marigold flowers are offered at the shrine. For more details on Basant festivities at the Dargah visit http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2011/02/08/city-season-%E2%80%93-the-basant-people-hazrat-nizamuddin-dargah/.  Do not miss the newly restored Mirza Ghalib’s Tomb on your way into the Dargah.

After the qawali, some of us headed back and some of swarmed through the serpentine lane and made our way to Ghalib Kebab Corner. Do not be misled with the poetic connection in the signboard.  It is named after Ghalib road that connects to the poet’s tomb.

The Signboard Photo : Hoda Bandeh- Ahmadi

The Signboard
Photo : Hoda Bandeh- Ahmadi

The signboard of the Ghalib Kebab Corner read that it had won the best kebab in the kebab festival hosted by Hotel Maurya Sheraton. Established in 1971, this place is a kebab lover’s delight. Apart from Paneer tikka and Paneer Tikka Roll, there are no vegetarian options here. The shop has a modest seating arrangement with six tables and benches and as soon as you enter you will be spoiled for choices with the cook spreading out mincemeat mix along the skewers… It is an appetizing scene in chilly winter evening.

The man behind the scenes Photo: Siddhi Bhandari

The man behind the scenes
Photo: Siddhi Bhandari

We settled for Beef Kebab Rolls, mutton shammi kebab, beef kebab and Sheer Mal.

Beef Kebab Rolls  Photo : Hoda Bandeh-Ahmadi

Beef Kebab Rolls
Photo : Hoda Bandeh-Ahmadi

The juicy kebabs rolled like a wrap in romali roti melted in our mouth, the mutton shammi kebab had a lovely spicy touch to the mincemeat and the sheer mal added the perfect sweet touch to every bite of spicy shammi kebab… A treat and must visit!!!!

Sheermal and Beef Kebab Photo: Siddhi Bhandari

Sheermal and Beef Kebab
Photo: Siddhi Bhandari

The kebabs are priced between Rs 50 to Rs 100. Some of our friends recommended Mutton Qurma  but itiriti recommends you to try out their Beef Kebab Roll, Mutton Shammi Kebab and Sheermal. I am definitely going back for a lunch / dinner treat after I finish my chapter. So in case you are yet to plan your weekend stopover at Ghalib Kebab Corner for kebab treats!

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Address: Ghalib Kebab Corner

Shop No : 57, Near Lal Mahal, Ghalib Road, Hazrat Nizamuddin, New Delhi-110013. Phone: 9810786479.

Nearest Metro Station to Nizamuddin: Jungpura ( on violet Line)

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©itiriti

Unwinding with litti, taas kebab and more @ Street Food Festival organised by NASVI

Do you want to unwind a busy day with piping hot crab curry with steamed rice in a chilly winter evening in Delhi without leaving a hole in your pocket? If you like to savour street food and looking for some delectable items from across India head to National Association of Street Vendors of India’s (NASVI) Street Food Festival which has opened yesterday in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Premises.

NASVI has been championing the rights of street food vendors and has been instrumental in campaigning for the Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012 which was recently passed in parliament.  (http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/a-historic-day-for-street-vendors/article5103508.ece) NASVI has been instrumental in bringing to the capital’s food lovers street food across India for the second consecutive year. The street food festival has brought together street foods from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Punjab and Rajasthan for a three day extravaganza – a treat to city’s food lovers.

Last afternoon J, C, M and I trekked down to the street food festival.  We started our food trail with ghee pulao and chicken curry from the Kerala stall. The long grains of rice coated with ghee and the tender succulent chicken cooked neatly wrapped with spices to beat off Delhi chill was a perfect start to the street food trail.  The creamy raita (beaten and seasoned yoghurt) with a mix of  onion, cucumber and green chillies blended well with the ghee soaked rice and spicy chicken.  And all for RS 100/-A perfect start for the hungry souls!

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Our next stop was Moong Dal Chilha with a filling of spicy potato and paneer (Rs 50). Personally I am not a paneer fan but the Moong Dal wrap seemed like the perfect snack, lunch item.

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Served with mint and coriander chutney and tangy sauce this truly took me by surprise. I strongly recommend you to try this!

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We thought of taking a break and stopped by to see a roller ice-cream machine at work. Though the texture of the ice-cream was nice, the rose essence put me off. If you like rose essence and want some fresh ice-cream (Rs 50) being churned out you can give it a try.

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Then we headed to the award winning team of Chicken 65 to spice up our taste buds. If you are a fan of fried chicken with no frills, you are bound to fall in love with this layered dish of crispness at the first bite, juicy spices at the second and then it melts into your mouth.  Chicken 65 is a perfect accompaniment with a steaming cup of chai or “spirits” as well. So if you are planning to throw a pre-Christmas  party tomorrow, pack some Chicken 65 from this stall or pack yourself a treat to unwind a weekend evening.

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Next stop was Litti- Mutton. To my mind, NASVI’s street food festival has brought out the best of Bihar’s street food to the capital’s food lovers.

litti

This time, street food festival has three stalls from Bihar, one serving Litti- Mutton and Litti- Chokha and the second serving Litti –Chicken and Litti-Chokha. We treated ourselves into piping hot littis with dollops of ghee from both these stalls. And even got it packed. If you are a garlic fan try Litti Mutton. The mutton curry has a fainting fragrance of mustard cooked with whole garlic soft with the spices … it leaves you yearning for more. Must Try !

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The sattu mix of the Litti –Mutton was a little bland compared to Litti-Chokha we had from the stall serving Litti- Chicken.  The mix had the perfect blend of mustard oil and pickles. My  mouth waters as I recall the taste…  Pack yourself a box of  Litti – Chokha if you are full with Litti- Mutton. After our litti trail we decided to take a break.

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We thought  of taking a break and headed for our evening chai ( tea). After a chai– break we headed for Chura with Taas Kebab from Motihari ( East Champaran) which reminded me of  buff kebab, spiced chana served with chura in streets of Kathmandu.

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The tender, soft pieces of chicken kebab served with crisp chura brought me back memories of my lunch on Kathmandu streets and unveil a completely different side of Bihari street food. I don’t recall tasting Chura with Taas Kebab in last year’s food festival so this was a welcome surprise.

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Finally we waited for half an hour chatting away to wait for our friends from Odisha to dish out a crab curry and rice (Rs 180).  If you are self-proclaimed crab lover you have to use your hands to scoop out the crab meat from the claws which carried a faint heat of the spices in the light gravy. Though the seasoning could have been a little better, we loved it…

I was a little disappointed with my home turf – West Bengal which is known for its street food starting from rolls, chop to rice meals.  The West Bengal stall had varieties of fish and rice. I wish winter varieties of ghugni and peas kachori with alur dom was there. For sweet lovers there is a stall fom West Bengal serving date palm jaggery sweets and Assam stall serving pithas.

Other than these, there there is a grand spread from Maharastra, Bhopal, Tamil Nadu which we failed to explore.  Starting from Makki Roti to mirchi pakora, there are ample choices for lunch, evening snack or dinner. So beat the winter chill with street food festival.

Till then happy eating !

Photo : Jyoti Gupta

Important tips

How to reach : Nearest Metro Station – JLN Stadium on Violet Line ( Central Secretariat-Badarpur). Get out from Gate No.3 (Exit) and JLN stadium is round the corner.

Entry Fee: Rs 30. You can even buy coupons online else from the ticket counters at the entrance of JLN stadium.

Payment by coupons:  Stock yourself with cash as they do not accept cards. There are lots of coupon counters so buy coupons when you need them.

Date : 20-22 December 2013

Check NASVI’s fb page https://www.facebook.com/Nasviindia?fref=ts.

©itiriti

Thursday afternoon with City’s Jinns and Afghani Mantoo

For a long time Si has been suggesting us to visit Feroz Shah Kotla Mosque for a rendezvous with  the city’s jinns.  Si and Sa sent out an email regarding this and the mail said “Carry Sheets of paper to write your Arzi”.  Some of us struggling with writing, in search of a job, or in the finishing line of thesis submission took this task seriously and geared up for a rendezvous with city’s jinns with our arzis.

Who is a Jinn?

“The majority of Muslims believe jinn to be a species of spiritual beings created by God out of smokeless fire long before he created humans out of mud and to whom he gave the earth to inhabit. They are drawn to both good and evil. In this regard they are different from angels who were created out of pure light and are incapable of evil and are, therefore, given the heavens to inhabit” .

(Hughes n.d.; entry under Djinn in Encyclopedia of Islam 2003 in N. Khan. 2006. “Of Children and Jinn: An Inquiry into an Unexpected Friendship during Uncertain Times”. Cultural Anthropology  21(2): 234-264.

The city’s jinns are invoked, and called upon to help people across faiths on thursday (after 2pm) in Feroz Shah Kotla . Emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq built this citadel in the fifth city- Firozabad in 1354.  Jinns are believed to reside in the ruins of this fort and. Every thursday thousands of people gather in the city’s ruins to offer their prayers. As you enter Feroz Shah Kotla you will be greeted with people selling incense  sticks, candles, sugar candies, flowers, etc to offer to the jinns. The city’s jinns love sweets so people carry sweets and offer and distribute jalebis as well.

 

What was most interesting are the letters or arzis people write and paste it on walls. This practice as one of the bloggers reveal is not that old. It came into practice in 1970 with a “fakir named Laddoo Shah came and started living in these ruins at the end of the Emergency of 1975-77, a year after the demolitions at the nearby Turkman Gate locality, which had once been part of Firozabad” 1. Every nook and corners of the ruins and particularly cave like structures are  filled with the smoke of incense stick, candle light and  letters written to city’s jinns. Unlike other days, a Thursday visit to these ruins is recommended as the jinns bring back this 14th C place back to life with people fighting over food being distributed, an absolute stranger sharing a jalebi with one of our friends and handis of biryani being distributed. Jamie Masjid, Baoli and the cave like structures along the staircase to the Ashokan Pillar that was brought to this place along with the structure in Northern Ridge area are taken over by people offering their prayers. Several dos and don’ts apply.

After the afternoon walk you will feel hungry so  get an auto/ bus to take you to Old Delhi and this time Sa had promised to take us to an Afghan eating joint in Ballimaran. As we made our way through the by-lanes of Chawri Bazaar, and made our way to Ballimaran we were tired. We were a group of 11 souls, so we got into two e-rickshaws for our trek to this Afghan food joint. Some of us reached a little early and I vaguely recalled Rahul Verma’s article on this Afghani place. And to my relief I was not wrong. He did write about this place!2  Though prices have increased  from what he mentions in the article we did miss out on a spinach dish he had recommended.  This place tucked away in the maze of staircases and series of workshops ranging from embroidery to laces and even jewellery was a pleasant surprise.

The place is a regular for Afghan traders and when we entered it was empty except the man behind the cash counter and a waiter whom we bothered a lot! It is indeed difficult to deal with 11 hungry souls. Sa in anticipation of our appetite had ordered a plat of mutton and chicken kebabs. The mutton kebabs were excellent as it not coated in spices and yet tenderly cooked. We ordered some rotis to enjoy with our kebabs. The Chicken kebabs coated in some red spice were a let-down. It was time to take a brief tour of the Menu and there was Mantoo peeping from the list of the delicacies. When we asked the waiter he suggested we try it because “ it is different from what you get in the market”.  And indeed I fell in love with Mantu.

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It does not take much of a coaxing when it comes to ordering a plate of dumplings and each region across Asia has their own version of dumplings. Afghan Manto/ Mantu “dates back to the time of Turkic and Mongol horsemen of Central Asia. It is believed that the horseman carried frozen mantu during the cold winters while traveling long distances and boiled them over camp fires for supper”3. Mantu is the perfect example of how foods acquire new names when it comes into contact with new culture. Various versions of Mantoo/ Manti/ Mantu exist across Turkish, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Afghan cuisine as well.

The Afghani version of Mantu is a steamed dumpling with a filling of minced beef/ lamb cooked in spices and onions and served yoghut and topped with yellow split peas based sauce cooked with onions and tomatoes and finally finished with some dried crushed mint. Apart from Mantoo, you can try out Shurba and Paloo ( a rice based dish served with lentil cooked with mutton chunks).

Paloo

I am definintely gearing up to go back to have a plateful of Mantu !

For all those who want to explore this place here’s the address

Afghani Restaurant

2nd Floor Sharif Manzil, Dil Araam Market, Ballimaran, Delhi-6.

Please call 9999228938, 9958822659 for directions

P.S. After my trail I found this video on Making Mantoo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlOY71lgJms

Another  interesting blog post on the vegetarian version Aushak. Check this post http://morethanjustcurry.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/aushak-afghan-leek-dumplings-with-yogurt-sauce/

Notes and References

1 Kunika. 2011. “Djinns of Feroz Shah Kotla: Discovering Kotla” in http://nomadicrider.com/2011/01/djinns-of-feroz-shah-kotla-discovering-delhi/; Accessed on 22 November 2013.

2 Rahul Verma. 2008. “Kabuliwallah! Once more”. The Hindu 7 January 2008.http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/kabuliwallah-once-more/article1405768.ece; Accessed on 22 November 2013.

3 For details see http://travelafghanistan.hubpages.com/hub/Mantu-Recipe-Afghan-Beef-Dumplings; Accessed on 22 November 2013.

Happy cooking and happy eating !

©itiriti