If the aroma of hot paranthas draws you while walking down a narrow, crowded lane in Chandni Chowk in Delhi's old quarter, you must have ventured into Paranthe Wali Gali. Some of the shops came up more than 100 years ago, but even today the crispy, spicy and even sweet fare on offer seldom disappoints.
India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter and late prime minister Indira Gandhi have been patrons of the shops that sell paranthas with a variety of fillings - as their photographs hanging on the shop walls testify.
Down the years, Paranthe Wali Gali has added Bollywood actor Salman Khan to its list of clients. "Various celebrities have tasted my paranthas," says Rajiv Sharma, the owner of one shop, pointing to the photographs of Nehru and Indira Gandhi eating paranthas there.
There is a lot of talk that the lane is not what it used to be - there are only four shops selling paranthas now, down from 20 a few decades ago. But despite the dwindled numbers, they promise a taste to remember. All existing shops are controlled by the same family.
"The speciality of our paranthas is that they are prepared with pure desi ghee (clarified butter) with no onion or garlic. The 26 varieties of paranthas include mix, khurchan (sweet parantha), paneer, badam, banana, gobi, muli, rabdi, carrot and dal (pulses)," Sharma said.
The paranthas are served with aloo-methi, aloo-matar and pumpkin curry, along with mint and banana chutneys.
"Another special thing about the paranthas here is that they are made in a kadhai (wok) full of ghee while elsewhere paranthas are made by putting ghee or butter on the sides," Rajiv Sharma added.
"Our parantha shop was established in 1872 and this is our sixth generation which is running this shop. Earlier in 1984, we used to sell a parantha for 75 paise but now due to rising prices, we have increased the price to Rs.30 per parantha weighing 100 grams," Rajiv Sharma said.
Another parantha shop owner, Gaurav Dikshit, says the name of the gali is enough to attract customers. "Many customers we cater to come here from far off places in Delhi," Dikshit said.
According to Dikshit, business is good in all seasons except summer. He employs eight workers, including cooks, serving staff and a dishwasher.
Naresh, who owns another parantha shop in the gali, said, "Though the gali boasted of about 20 shops a few decades ago, most of the shopkeepers have branched out into different businesses."
None of the shops in the gali has much space but is able to adjust around 25 to 30 customers at any given time.
Media professional Jagriti Kumari said: "The paranthas here are very crispy. I come here whenever I get time."
Sandeepan who is pursuing his MBA from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) came from Katwaria Sarai in south Delhi to check out the food at the famous gali.
"Though I am not very fond of paranthas, I was curious when I heard about the speciality of the gali and decided to check it out," Sandeepan said. Sandeepan's friend Ashish Sinha, who is an engineer, said: "The paranthas are fine, but I like the banana chutney the most."
Manoranjan Sharma, who is originally from Kolkata and is pursuing his MBA here, said he finds the overall quality of the paranthas good. "The paranthas here are completely different and I liked the mewa parantha made with dry fruits," he said.