It could be that graveyard shift, a booze session with friends that lasted longer than anticipated. Imagine then being out on a street, with not a soul around for a few hundred metres, at 4 am –– with hunger pangs gnawing at you.
How about digging into steaming, hot and crisp aloo parantha, or anda parantha?
You might especially like a parantha with spicy boondi raita, fresh curd, and homemade mango-carrot-radish pickles.
If you are game, just head to a popular parantha joint, from the dozen-odd such eateries spread across the city that stay open through the night barring a few hours after midnight.
A plate of parantha would not drill a hole in your pocket, priced as they are between Rs. Eight to 20 each.
It is easy to sight a parantha joint. They usually work out of a small kiosk, with a few table-tops/stools or even collapsible wooden tops and plastic chairs.
Here, you will find heads bent over tabletops, fingers shuffling between parantha plates and raita bowls.
The silence that prevails there would be broken intermittently by a few brief instructions –– “parantha de, ek aur la, raita do bhai” (Give a parantha, bring one more, give the raita) ...While the owner sits by his cash issuing orders, a few of his men would be furiously working the dough, rolling pins and large frying pans.
These eateries usually open at 7 pm and shut by 11.30 pm, owing to “police’s deadline and menace of the biker gangs” as one of the owners put it. They open up again by 3.30 am.
Their patrons: employees of multinational corporations, call centres, and business enterprises with late working hours. Locals, with taste buds, give them company often.
At 4 am, we hop across to four ‘hot’ parantha joints to savour their fares.
Vermaji paranthewalle, Green Park
This one, like most of its peers, is known merely by its owner’s surname and does not have any signboard or specific name.
It offers you 17 types of parantha delicacies and is housed inside a rectangle- shaped shop opposite the local gurudwara at Yusuf Sarai.
At 4 am, the aroma of the fare being cooked is wafting in on to the footpath that works as the temporary seating place.
Off it, Maruti Esteems and Toyota Innovas are parked in a zigzag manner.
Cars zip by, their occupants shout angrily, protesting the parking chaos that exists here. A few parantha lovers just wave them off, sometimes with apologetic smile, and invariably with witty retorts. “Oye, nikal le yaar, parantha toh khane de.” (Move along, let me have my parantha in peace.)
Owner, Bhagwat Singh Verma says aloo pyaz parantha with curd is favoured the most here, anda parantha comes only second.
The paranthas here are crunchier and the filling is of just the right mix. Verma’s cooks, Hari Singh and Raju, are specialists who would not make anything else.
Verma gets a few high-profile patrons as well –– “like former India cricket captain Ajay Jadeja (and his wife) and bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor”. When Kapoor came a few months ago, Verma had not paid him much attention. Verma, as he now recounts matter-of-factly, was too absorbed in admiring his “gleaming black Sonata”.
Verma set up his eatery around 20 years ago at a time when he wanted to get immediate returns from his investment. Now his gross sale is worth around “Rs 1.5 lakh” and has just set up another outlet in Noida.
Jain paranthewalla, CP
This is the Big Daddy of other such eateries, with its record of 20-hour-long service a day and a clientele that includes those pulling in their swish Mercedes/Buicks and two-stroke, 100 cc bikes.
Owner Pavan Jain (50) got into the business around 25 years ago and has since opened another outlet in Noida.
His eatery’s specialties are aloo pyaz and paneer parantha, while for the more adventurous, there is non-stop supply of kadhi-rice and rajma-rice as well.
“My patrons are from all over the city and come to Connaught Place to work, see movies or just shop around. If you come here once, you will keep coming,” he offers.
The place works out of a cramped cluster or rooms built at Khadak Singh Road, opposite Rivoli multiplex. Jain would not like to reveal his earnings from his business though he says, “it is good enough”.
He does not want to rattle off names of the biggies since “a lot of them are millionaires who might get embarrassed”. You get the drift.
Sardarji paranthewalle, ITO
Forty-year-old Balraj Singh’s eatery has no signboard or any specific name but is merely known as the Sardarji paranthewalle.
It boasts of “the best anda paranthas” in the city. The fare is a killer along with fresh curd raita and pickles, said a patron, doctor Kartik Jain (29) who was accompanied by his wife, Dr Anjali.
The couple have come here after undertaking nearly an hour’s journey from their Hari Nagar residence.
“I come here once a week to have at least to have pyaaz parantha,” said Jain who works with Deen Dayal Upadhyay hospital.
The paranthas here are crisp, with only minimal fillings. It only leaves you tempted for more. Singh is in business since “20 years” and would not trade it for the option of getting to open a hotel even, he says. His patrons are not exactly complaining.
Yadav paranthewalla, GK - II
Located near the now closed Savitri theatre building, its specialty is anda-aloo parantha that is apparently a hot favourite among its patrons. Owner Ganesh Yadav took over from his father nearly 15 years ago and plans to ‘expand’ his business.