Tried and Tasted: Ever had the best kalmi vada chat in Delhi? Head to this place
Ashok Chat Corner in Chawri Bazaar offers the most tempting chaats and golgappas in Delhi. Have you tried them yet?tried and tasted Updated: Aug 01, 2017 15:12 IST
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.
I miss those women. Once upon a time in Chandni Chowk, a small chaat corner used to come alive in the afternoons. Women in the neighbourhood would step out of their homes once the family had been packed off to office and school. They would bring their own little muras – small and round reed stools – and sit by the chaat man, popping in golgappas, devouring little pattals of chaat, and talking about this and that. I often saw them when I went to Ashok Chat Corner.
I don’t see those little knots of women any more. Quite possibly, nobody has the time these days to sit around and chat, and the outdoors are not what they used to be. To top it, the place is too crowded now for people to sit on the roadside. You stand there, eat, and leave.
Still, it’s good to know that Ashok Chat Corner is as popular as it used to be. In fact, it’s more crowded than ever before because it’s at the mouth of Chawri Bazaar, and one of the Metro Station exits leads you right to this little street food stall, which chaat connoisseurs will tell you is one of the best in town.
But then the chaat in Old Delhi is different. Ashok’s offering is a case in point. It’s not very hot, for they use yellow chillies instead of the red ones. The masala mix is a bit different, too, for it consists of some well-roasted and freshly ground spices.
The papri chaat at Ashok’s has the strong flavours of cumin seeds and black pepper. The taste is mildly tart, and the red saunth or the chutney that they use is a bit thicker than the ones you get in most parts of south Delhi. And I love the sharp taste of kachaloo – slivers of taro – that you will find in the chaat.
Ashok has an interesting chaat called golgappa chaat, which is a plate of golgappas filled with chickpeas and boiled potatoes, and served with curd, chutney and masala.
I like their kalmi vada, prepared with soaked, ground and fried channa dal strips, doused with curd, red and green chutney and garam masala. If you like your dahi vadas, as I do, you could try out the dahi vada chaat – soft dal dumplings, soaked in a mix of curd and sweet and sour chutney. Small pakoris go into the papri chaat.
The variety of chaats is mind-boggling. Old Delhi, for instance, is also known for its roasted or fried potato chaat. The potatoes are nice and crispy, the sauces sweet and sour, and the masalas full of flavours.
Ashok Chat Corner knows how to make chaats, for it’s been in the business since 1947. I think I first went there 45 years ago, and promptly fell in love with the chaat of purani dilli.
The problem with Old Delhi’s chaat is that once you’ve had it, you are almost always going to be disappointed with the fare that you get elsewhere. I think the chaat in this corner of the city is special mainly because of the balance of flavours – the tartness and the sweetness always do a sensuous tango. And because the spices are fresh, flavours rule.
As someone said in another context, you’ll be sorry if you don’t eat it, and you’ll sorry if you do -- because you won’t get the taste anywhere else.
Just ask those women.
(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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