In order to satiate her craving for chatpata food, ANUPAMA CHANDRA stops at Delhi Highway to relish the good ol’ deliciousness of the city
The trek to Delhi Highway at Times Square, Saki Naka is made cumbersome with the roads under repair for the monsoons, but they have a new breakfast menu for the weekends that needs to be tasted. Anyone with any number of years in Delhi under their belt will tell you about hot-off-the-tawa parathas from the parathe wali galli and the chatpati chaat from the neigbourhood thelewalas that are supposed to be better than anything in the world, even arguably butter chicken. So if you want to relocate some of these treasures to Saki Naka, we want to come tasting.
Dilwalon ki Delhi
The restaurant is already a brand with a following for its vegetarian Delhi-type food thalis, dal fry, biryanis, etc. When we check the reason for this menu shuffle with Monali at the establishment, she tells us it is by the demand of their clientele. With Purani Dilli ka Zayka, the establishment seeks to offer the halwa-puris and chole bhatures that form the staple of the morning, and evening, meals at homes in the old part of the capital for breakfasts over the weekend. If it takes off well, this menu will be merged with the main menu.
When we finally walked into the restaurant the ambiance caught our attention. In keeping with the carved facades and bright highlights of the Mughal period, even the furniture was of the heavy wooden variety that one has probably seen at an uncle’s place from Hauz Khas.
All that matters is food
We are soon served Aam panna that is meant to aid as a balm after the afternoon heat, but it fails to make the cut. The toasted jeera in the drink is burnt and that ruins the already over-sweet flavour of the welcome drink. We wash it down with water and are soon served a Dahi Bhalla Papdi Chaat. One thing you have to remember when you feed me chaat is, one, that I love chats and, two, I like my chaats very chatpata. Even when making dahi wadas, the green chutney at my home is quite tangy and we make our own chaat masala to garnish it with.
Given my taste, I liked the Dahi Bhalla in the chaat, but found the chaat too sweet, and the table had no masala to add to liven it up. That said, my partner-in-crime, a proper Dilli-wallah, quite enjoyed it. In the next course, came a thali with Bedmi Puri with Aloo Ki sabzi and Pumpkin Sabzi accompanied by slices of onion and a homemade mixed achaar. The puris were hot and paired well with the spicy aloo and the sweet and spicy pumpkin sabzi.
My standard for a pumpkin sabzi is high; I hold Pancham Puri Wala’s as the golden standard and this star dish of the day almost reached its height. The only drawback on this thali was the achaar; it was so recently made that no masala had seeped into the veggies and it lacked the punch.
We were simultaneously served the Chole Kulche. These kulche are very different from what you are served elsewhere in Mumbai and is quite a tasty delight. The medium-sized dough cakes are soft and pillowy, and can be had on their own. The chole is okay, with the seasoning off-the-mark on the lower side. We adjusted the salt to our taste and all was good.
Next, Monali wanted us to try the Chur chur naan, a bread that is soon to debut on their menu. We loved the flavours of this crisp naan endowed with nuggets of garlic at the time of the tasting. Later, however, the raw garlic played havoc with our systems given the unforgiving summers we endure. Believe me though, when this naan is paired with Dal Makhani, it would be tough to say no to this
The proof of lassi is in the in the mooch
We were stuffed to the gills, but soon found another tray headed our way. Halwa Nagori and Jalebi were the desserts of the day. The halwa was pleasant with visible strands of saffron peppering the dish, and we loved the jalebi — crisp, lightly sweet and totally devoid of any artificial colouring.
We were trying hard to rise and leave when we were served tiny earthen goblets of lassi. Taken in by the size of it, my friend convinced me to have a go. Obviously, he had, after years in Mumbai, forgotten what lassi is to Delhites — thick, beaten curd sweetened with sugar and garnished with powdered pista. For once, I ate my lassi over good part of a half hour and relished it completely. It helped my stomach settle down completely and was a lovely end to a gregarious meal.
Purani Dilli is not without its charms with the antique architecture and storytelling culture. But its best exports remains its food. There is a lot for me to still sample such as Bhalla Kalmi Wada Chaat and Kachaloo Ki Chaat, so I will be back soon. How about you? After all, it is the perfect breakfast place for a weekend if your plan is to have a siesta right after.