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

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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.

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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

Indulgences in the time of mourning (with apologies to Marquez)

 ( Sumbul Farah is a comrade in arms in many a meals, coffee-breaks in DSE canteen where we shared anecdotes about Elmas (a tea room in HKV) to Prabasi( a Bengali restaurant in Dwarka) . In this guest-post, Sumbul brings to you her memories around Moharram. Sumbul Farah works on Sociology of Religion. Her areas of interests are Islam, the idea of ethics in everyday life and a new-found enthusiasm for photography!)

Some of my most enduring memories of the month of Moharram1 have as much to do with the sombre and subdued atmosphere of mourning as with the delights of the niyaz(ritual aimed at transfer of merit) of khichda (a variety of meat porridge). Niyaz refers to the ritual of consecration of food in the name of a saint through the recitation of Quranic verses over it.2 The blessings of Allah are invoked by doing so and it is believed that merit is transferred both to the saint for whom the niyaz is offered as well as the believer who offers it. Niyaz is usually a community event where relatives, neighbours and acquaintances are invited to partake of the niyaz food although sometimes the hosts send out portions of the niyaz food to everybody instead of inviting them over.

As a child, I remember the niyaz of Moharram being particularly welcome because of the preparation of khichda. Khichda is not a dish that is prepared frequently in most houses because of the cumbersome process of cooking it. Composed of various cereals, grains and mutton/beef cooked over a long period of time the khichda requires both patience and skill and is therefore considered a speciality. For the niyaz of Moharram, however, it is prepared in almost every household at least once in the entire month. Although niyaz can be offered on any food item for the invocation of blessings, as per tradition the niyaz of certain saints has come to be associated with specific food items and the custom is widely followed. In accordance with such a tradition it is almost mandatory to offer niyaz on khichda during Moharram.

In Bareilly, almost everyone is familiar with the most commonly cited rationale for the preparation of khichda on Moharram even though the version is often contested by ulema (religious scholars). It is believed that after the battle of Karbala, the women and children who were left behind when the men departed for battle were driven to desperation by hunger. Therefore, they brought together all the varieties of grains and meat that was left in their houses and mixed them all before cooking. This dish, many claim, became what is called khichda today. Apart from the khichda numerous sweetened beverages (sharbat) and maleeda3 are almost exclusively associated with Moharram. Stalls dispensing sweet milky drinks or sharbat of different varieties are ubiquitous in Moharram because they symbolize an abundance of water, which is particularly poignant because the family of the Prophet was deprived of water in the Battle of Karbala.

I remember that apart from the invitations to numerous niyaz around the neighbourhood, very often generously laden containers would arrive from relatives and neighbours. The arrival of khichda caused much excitement because it served to spice up (sometimes literally so!) the regular fare that would otherwise constitute lunch or dinner. It was then devoured with much debate over the flavour, texture and quality of meat. Apart from the flavour, the most striking as well as the most closely examined aspect of khichda is the level of spiciness. There is huge variation in the hotness of khichda in different households, ranging from the intensely fiery kind that brings tears to the eyes to the comparatively milder versions. For the most part, it is widely agreed upon that the khichda tastes better when the spice is on the higher side. The consumption of khichda, therefore, is almost inevitably accompanied by involuntary gasping and wheezing sounds that serve to point out the level of its hotness to the others! The more faint-hearted ones relish it with curd, which serves to offset the spiciness the khichda.

Haleem and shola are variations of the same dish with some differences that imparts to them a substantially different character. In the preparation of khichda the cereals are cooked till they are completely softened. It is possible that the word khichda is a derivative of the term khichdi that refers to lentil-rice porridge. While khichda has porridge like consistency it is ensured that the pieces of meat in it retain their shape and stay soft but whole. In haleem, on the other hand, the meat is cooked under pressure so that it softens and shreds throughout the body of the dish. The consistency of khichda and haleem is, therefore, markedly different from each other.

As with all elaborate culinary items, the khichda fell off my mental map after I started college in Delhi and moved out of Bareilly. The Autumn and Winter breaks scheduled by the University never really coincided with Moharram and Delhi never had the khichda on its menu anyway. The khichda and my fondness for it was thus consigned to memory until my PhD work brought me back to the city specially in the month of Moharram. During my fieldwork in Moharram I was invariably offered a bowl of khichda in the houses I visited and I saw families exchanging huge pots of khichda just as I remembered. Sure enough, one day I came back to my house in Bareilly to find a huge tub of khichda sent by a relative.

However, this time around when I came back to Delhi, I had a way out. ‘Shan Masala’ of Pakistan has started to package what they call ‘Haleem Mix’ that has a packet of the cereals pre-mixed in the appropriate proportion and a packet of the spices that go into it. Whether it replicates the ‘authentic’ flavour of the khichda will always be open to debate because there are many who believe that pressure cookers and gas burners had already robbed the khichda of the flavour that was imparted by slow-cooking over wood-fired chulhas. I, for one, am not bothered as long as I have my reasonably good substitute in Shan’s Haleem Mix. The recipe can be tweaked in order to ensure that the dish is closer to the Bareilly khichda and it works perfectly for me. Garnished with caramelized onions and served with wedges of lemon, chopped green chillies and fresh coriander the khichda is a reminder of Moharram, of childhood, of sobriety and of pleasure – all at once. By the spoonful!

Notes

1 Moharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar and is significant for Muslims because the Battle of Karbala was fought in this month. The first ten days are spent in mourning for the family of the Prophet who were martyred and those who suffered great hardships in the battle.

2 Anybody familiar with sectarian and denominational differences within Islam in the subcontinent would immediately identify the term ‘niyaz’ with the Barelwi (or Ahl-e-Sunnat or Sunni) form of practice.

3 Maleeda refers to a sweet dish made of crumbled dough, ghee and sugar. It is ritually prepared during Moharram.

©itiriti

Unwinding @ Three Windows @ Khoj

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True to its name this cafe is a welcome break if you want to have a quiet breakfast reading your newspaper or favourite book, work on your pending deadlines over a bowl of cold spinach soup and quiche and finally in the evening take a coffee break with some freshly baked cakes. The place is much more than food and literally so… You have to experience Three Windows @ KHOJ…

You can also place customised order for group lunches, birthday parties or business lunches as well. As you enter Khirki Extension, you have to park near Sai Baba Temple and walk down to KHOJ office.  The cafe’s  brunch has become a hit with the regulars.

You can check their facebook page for previous brunches. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Three-Windows-at-Khoj/242313559247463

The white decor of the cafe complements the no fussy food it serves. With a long table of 9-10 covers and two tables of four covers each, it is the perfect location to hold a one day discussion for reading groups, business lunches and blogger’s meet.  For group meetings you can order from their regular menu which includes a veg/non-veg soup, quiche and sandwiches, and desserts. The all day breakfast menu is quite tempting as well. It includes an interesting combination of nice pancakes, paranthas, and fruit salad with Yoghurt and Honey.  For egg- lovers there is a nice range as well.

The items are moderately priced between Rs 100-200 and the servings are quite generous. I tried their Quiche with Salad. The onion pickle on the side was a welcome change along with Garden Green Soup. I am a self- proclaimed Spinach fan and I am in love with their Spinach Cold Soup. A nice filling lunch ( like mine) will cost you Rs 290.  With Free Wi-Fi, this is a perfect place to unwind and work. I am all set to go there and work on a section of an essay. What about you?

If you are still wondering where to step out in the coming weekend or a quite place to getaway to work in the weekdays drop by @ Three Windows @ KHOJ.

The cafe is open from 9am-7pm.

Location: S-17 Khirki Extension, New Delhi-110017.

For customised parties and meetings contact Arti @ 9871309111. Please make reservations during weekends.

©itiriti

Gastronomic delights from across India- Street Food Festival 2012

The past few days have a gastronomic delight.  While I was walking down from Campus and complaining about the cancelled music class, A called. A asked me to join her at Patel Chowk, Metro Station as she was going down to Street Food Festival 2012 with two of her other friends.  National Association of Street Vendors of India has organised a three day street food festival in the Constitution Club. It is located at a 5 min walking distance from Patel Chowk Metro Station on the Yellow Line ( Jahangir Puri- HUDA City Centre) .

As you enter the constitution club you have to buy Rs 20 pass to enter and then buy food coupons. Well, we had gone on 14 December 2012 around 6.30pm. Remember to pick up the list of food stalls with food items on offer before you head towards the food pavilion. We decided to check out the  food stalls( 44 ) offering street food delicacies from Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Odisha.  The prices of food items were between Rs 10-50. We started off our leg of street food tour with Jhal Muri(a Mixture of puffed rice with onions, chillies, mustard oil  and special spices) and pakoras  (Mocha Chop and Dim Chop). Well that was just the starter. Following our leg of research we settled to buy food coupons worth Rs 120 and settled to buy Mutton makhan Wala with Roti from Karnataka (Stall No 34) all for RS 40.  While we were having mutton a friend bought himself Litti with meat (Rs 30) which was splendid.  Needless to say it was from Bihar’s food stall which had the following delicacies to offer : Meat ( Mutton of course! )Rice @ Rs 35, Litti chokha for Rs 20. There was another stall by Bihar selling piping hot Jalebi and Rabri and Raspua for RS 30.  All four of us decided to vote for Bihar ( Stall No 36). We loved the plain and simple Pongal with Adirasam from Tamil Nadu (Stall No 38)and Dal Baffle from Madhya Pradesh ( Stall No. 28).  A must try for all the vegetarians!!!

In case you want to opt for takeaway you can pay them Rs 5 extra and they will pack it for you. Incase you are planning to indulge on a nice spread of street food from few states across India here is an opportunity to indulge in the vegetarian and non vegetarian delicacies on offer. The street food festival comes to an end on 16 December 2012; 10pm. There is still time to head to Rafi Marg.

We should have such events more often … Ah what a gastronomic delight!!!!

Venue : Street food Festival 2012, Main Lawns, VP House, Rafi Marg, New Delhi.

Nearest Metro Station: Patel Chowk.

For more details regarding National Association of Street Food Vendors visit http://www.nasvinet.org.

©itiriti