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Delhiwale: Kamlu’s spicy Sindhi inheritance

Kamala Hemrajani gives chana dal pakwaan a regional glow in her sumptuous Sunday brunch

delhi Updated: Nov 14, 2017 14:42 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Delhi wale,Kamala Hemrajani,Sindhis in Delhi
Daal Pakwan made by Kamala Hemrajani at her apartment in Defence Colony.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

They say that Karachi, the capital of Pakistan’s Sindh province, is full of Delhiwalas who moved there after Partition. In fact, Karachi even has a neighbourhood called Delhi Mercantile Society. One of our city’s greatest novelists, Ahmad Ali, spent his last years in Karachi.

But here’s something about Sindhi Hindus who moved to Delhi after Partition.

“There are a lot of us who settled in Mayfair Gardens, Lajpat Nagar and Old Rajinder Nagar,” says Kamala Hemrajani — called Kamlu by family and friends — who lives in a lovely apartment in Defence Colony.

Ms Hemrajani’s husband retired from a long career in the corporate world. Her two sons recently finished business studies (“Akhil from Shanghai, Rohan from Chicago”). She is a practitioner and teacher of Alternative Therapy. We are in her apartment because she has promised to cook us authentic Sindhi food. This is a special treat because we haven’t found any Sindhi restaurants in the Capital yet.

Ms Hemrajani’s parents were originally based in Sindh’s Manjhand town. She has never been to her ancestral land. In fact, she is so well-entrenched in the upper echelons of Delhi society that it is astonishing when she tells us, “I’m a Bombay girl, born and raised… Daddy was a struggling businessman. Mummy would look after us seven siblings. We all grew up in a one-room home.”

The household budget was always tight and Ms Hemrajani remembers that each kid would receive exactly two meat pieces in their biryani, whenever it was cooked. The fact that her father always bought “sava-kilo meat” is so deeply imprinted in her memory that to this day she also buys the same quantity of mutton.

“Every weekend mummy would bake caramel pudding which would be served only to Daddy.”

Ms Hemrajani is making Daal Pakwan for us today because “it’s simple to make and my friends love this dish and it makes for a great Sunday brunch.”

We must add that Ms Hemrajani is helped in the kitchen by Sushila, who has been working with her for 10 years.

One cup chana daal (soaked for 3-4 hours)
2 green chillies
1 medium tomato cut into 2 pieces

2 tsp Ghee
1 tsp Amchur
1 tsp Dhania powder
1 tsp Jeera
1/2 tsp Red chilli

Chopped onion
Green coriander mint chutney
Meethi tamarind chutney

1 cup whole wheat flour (or maida)
1/2 tsp ajwain
Oil for frying


Boil chana dal in a pressure cooker with chopped chillies, tomatoes, haldi and salt.

Once cooked, remove the skin of the tomatoes, and mix them whole in the daal.

Transfer the dal into a bowl. The dal should be thick in consistency. Add the masalas, except jeera, over the daal. In a tempering pan, heat ghee. Add jeera, and when it begins to crackle, pour the mixture over the masalas in the dal bowl. Mix well.

While the daal is being cooked, knead wheat flour with the ajwain. The dough should be slightly harder than the one for chappatis. Pour oil for frying in the karahi and heat it.

Roll the dough into the round-shaped pakwan, using oil for rolling. It should be thinner than a roti. Prick it well with a fork, so it does not fluff up like puri.

Slide it into the boiling-hot oil in the karahi and fry both sides till brown and crisp. Keep flattening the pakwan with a fork.

Serve pakwan with the hot steaming daal and add dhaniya chutney as an accompaniment.

First Published: Nov 14, 2017 14:08 IST