Nankhatai is like Indian English — a foreign import slapped, beaten, fermented and baked by Indians till it gets desi-fied. Invented in the port city of Surat back in the 16th century, during the rule of the Dutch, nankhatai is an egg-less Indian cookie, greased with desi ghee. It was first made by the entrepreneurial Parsis in Surat bakeries, which were set up by the Dutch who left India in 1825.
Though the Dutch could never make it to Delhi, their legacy has been left behind in these crumbly cookies sold on city streets. The bakery is the cart itself. The ‘bhaiyya’ prepares the dough by mixing sooji, maida, besan flour with khoya, sugar, desi ghee, cardamom powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. He then shapes the dough into dozens of circles, which are arranged on a large platter and placed on a coal-fired salver. The platter is covered with a kadahi and the little moons are left to steam. Now, wait for five minutes.
The effortless way in which the vendor kneads, bakes and serves the cookies suggests that nankhatai-making is in his blood. Most probably, his father and grandfather had lived and died as bonded labourers in the poverty-stricken farms in the Indian countryside. Bhayyia had come to Delhi in search for a better life, and instead of pulling a rickshaw or becoming a coolie, fate conspired to make him a roadside baker by accident.
Okay, five minutes are over. Eaten while still hot, a nankhatai is soft, buttery, a little powdery and, because this is a Delhi street, very sweet.
Where: On your neighbourhood pavements across the city, especially in Old Delhi
Price: Rs2 per piece
Winter comforts for the Delhi belly
Moong Daal Halwa
Have piping hot moong dal ka halwa at Giani di Hatti, near Fatehpuri mosque in Old Delhi. The halwa drips with ghee and is generously sprinkled with dry fruits. Ask the locals for direction.
Shelling groundnuts is a perfect ‘timepass’ for Delhi-ites. Also,
the nuts are filling, warm and
addictive. Available almost everywhere.
The Old and Famous Jalebi Wala in Chandni Chowk, at the turning to Dariba Kalan, serves Delhi’s best jalebis. As you sink your teeth into the jalebi, its crispness breaks open, releasing gooey sweetness
Steamed hot momos (vegetarian and chicken) sold by roadside vendors is emerging as the soul food for Delhi’s winters. Try the stall next to Hauz Khas Village’s entrance. The momos are heavenly.
Nankhatai in the city’s bakeries
Bon Bon Pastry Shop
73, Community Center, New Friends Colony
Tel: 26317552, 26317553
931, Bazaar Chitli Qabar, Jama Masjid
Sun Moon Bakers and Confectioners
Sector 27, Noida