At night, people in Old Delhi eat heavy dishes such as kebabs and biryanis. In the morning, they have the equally heavy paya and nihari. Between waking up and breakfast, they also have sweet milky tea and fenn, the stacks of which lie on the bread counters creating a perfect backdrop to the morning scene of children going to school or beggars sleeping on the pavements.
Flaky and crisp, fenn is one of Delhi’s most democratic bakery products. Priced at 1 each, it is a teatime companion for the homeless as well as the wealthy. The rickshaw-wallas mull over the pointlessness of the new day by soaking fenn in their tea. The newspaper readers do the same while pouring over the state of the world.
Not bigger than your palm, fenn’s crumbly facade is streaked with shades of brown. Made of maida flour, it is so flaky that when you take it in your hand, slivers of its skin peel off the surface. Some stay, some fall down.
On its own, fenn is very dry and it snaps in the mouth making crunchy sounds. Light and with no distinct flavour, it is deliciously addictive. In the arguments over how this city (or this country) is going to the dogs, it is easy to lose the count of fenns you have eaten.
Many find it an ideal complement to tea. The classic way is to dip fenn in the tea glass and raise it to your lips. When your mouth feels the outer moistness of the morsel melting into its inner crustiness, the moment is exquisite. Now take a sip of tea.
The warm liquid rushes in along with the few crumbs that the fenn had left behind. This too is joy. Where Fenn is sold at roadside tea stalls Price 1 for one piece