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Tried and Tasted: The best place for aloo sabji-poori in Delhi? Look no further

For your next Sunday lunch or breakfast, we have just the right suggestion. What and where? Aloo sabji and bedmi poori in Chawri Bazaar of course!

tried and tasted Updated: May 14, 2017 13:56 IST
Rahul Verma
The eatery is now run by the fifth generation of the family.
The eatery is now run by the fifth generation of the family.(HT Photo)

A revolution knocks on the door – and it comes with a fork and knife. The world of food is more exciting than ever before. New restaurants are coming up offering novel cuisines or digging out old ones. Chefs are looking at unusual ingredients and dramatic ways of presenting food. Meanwhile, some wizened old experts continue to wield magic with their skewers and ladles in remote parts of the city. There is a world waiting to be discovered or re-embraced– new cooking styles, world food, sub-regional cuisine and tiny holes in the wall which produce the most delightful dishes. Here’s a guided tour.

When I was a young lad – in those prehistoric times when the Internet was still a dream and the television largely stuck to agriculture – my Sunday mornings consisted of a long walk from Rafi Marg to Daryaganj. I would browse through the books being sold on the pavements, and after having picked up a few well-thumbed volumes, I would amble up to Chawri Bazaar. There, my first stop was Shyam Sweets, where I had an early lunch – a plate of bedmi and aloo sabzi, which on Sundays came with a special pumpkin side dish.

The shop has been there since 1910, and was started by a gentleman called Anandimal Baburam who came from Allahabad to Delhi. The eatery is now run by the fifth generation of the family, notably two brothers called Sanjay and Ajay Aggarwal.

One of the landmarks of Delhi, it serves breakfast fare, sweets and the snacks that you need to fill yourself with at teatime, or even for dinner. The mornings are reserved for bedmi aloo -- bedmi being a much loved puri layered with a paste of urad dal. It is served with a mildly spiced potato curry, lightly cooked chholey and a dollop of some tart fenugreek (methi) chutney. And on Sundays, you’ll get a helping of the old pumpkin sabzi that had me hooked.

I think this was the first eatery in Old Delhi that I ever visited. On Bud Shah Bullah lane, the T junction of Chawri Bazaar and Nai Sarak, the shop was then a nondescript little place, behind which was a well which gave you water that was wonderfully cold and sweet. Water to the houses in the neighbourhood went from this well, I am told. Now it has been walled up.

Shyam Sweets has also expanded over the years. They have added counters around which people stand and eat. Apart from bedmi aloo, it is also known for its muttar kachoris which are sold in the evenings. The bedmis get over by 2 pm, and the cooks then get ready to fry the pea-filled kachoris.

You bite into your bedmi or kachori, and take a swig from a tall glass of frothy lassi. If you want to end your meal with something sweet, you could try out the rabri, rasmalai, or the ghiya ki launj – which is a delicious sweet prepared with bottle gourd.

One of the most endearing aspects of Old Delhi is the fact that you can leave home with a 100-rupee note, and actually return with some change. A plate of bedmi aloo with 2 bedmis is for 40, and if you want four pieces of nagori with halwa added to it, the meal comes for Rs 50. Nagori is a small puffy disc, prepared with flour and semolina. You make a small hole in it, fill it with halwa and then eat it.

And the other remarkable fact is that these once-little-and-now-big eateries have withstood the onslaught of time. Though Ghantewallah, a sweet shop set up in 1790, closed down in 2015 , many of the old food places are still going strong. And more power to them, I say.

(Rahul Verma has been writing on food for over 25 years now. And, after all these years, he has come to the conclusion that the more he writes, the more there is left to be written)

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