Delhiwale: Landmark, with only a bit of land
- A culinary landmark serving one of the city’s best halwa paratha
It’s a mishmash of canvas and cloth. The wooden counter is so weathered by the years that it is of no colour. In the lockdown, the empty stall looked like a superfluous debris of yesteryear. In a heavy storm some days ago, the canvas roof collapsed (see left-side photo).
A few days after the lockdown, the self-proclaimed Sultani Hotel in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti is back in business—its roof restored with a new canvas. It is astonishing that one of Delhi’s best halwa-paratha establishments has such a provisional appearance.
“Because it’s on the footpath, we can’t make it pucca,” explains Abdul Salim, the owner—better known as Ustad, or master cook. The stall was founded 40 years ago by his “walid saheb”, his father. “My father, late Abdul Rahim, was a khandani cook... his own father was a cook, and his grandfather too.” The founder, his son explains, came from Shahjahanpur in UP, and settled his base on this central Delhi spot. But the establishment was mobile, and would each year travel across various cities in UP, stopping by for a few days in the annual melas, or fairs, taking place across towns such as Aligarh and Bulandshahr, and of course in the famous Nauchandi Mela of Meerut. “The melas have ended with the coronavirus,” says Mr Salim.
The stall has two other cooks—they sit on the counter facing the lane that goes straight to poet Ghalib’s tomb. The halwa-paratha arranged on the counter looks more monumental than the Barakhamba monument behind. Studded with cherries, karonda, magaz, the sooji halwa is spread out in a gigantic thaal—the platter holds 40kg of halwa. The paratha, too, is the size of the thaal. Watching it being deep fried in a cauldron makes you at once upload the scene in your mind’s Instagram. The paratha’s dominion keeps decreasing as Mr Salim cuts it bits by bits, with each new order by a new customer.
The place is open daily from 10 in the morning to 8 in the evening. The halwa-paratha serving is so filling that you may not need any dinner plans later.