Tried and Tasted: Have you tried khurchan yet? Here’s where to find the best in Delhi
Now that the bullet train is zooming its way in, I am reminded – rather nostalgically – of the leisurely rail journeys of another time. Trains those days stopped at various little stations, and each one of them was known for something special.
Fathers bought ripe guavas from somewhere, mothers picked up bangles from another station and children loved the wooden toys elsewhere. But I always waited for a train to pass through – and stop by at – Khurja.
For this little town in western Uttar Pradesh was known not just for its pottery, but a most amazing sweet called khurchan. I first had a taste of this many years ago when my father bought some from us on his way back to Delhi from what was then Calcutta. And I have been a die-hard khurchan lover ever since.
It’s not a sweet that you get everywhere. In fact, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find it, for it’s prepared so laboriously that few halwais want to spend their time on this. You get khurchan in Parathewaley Gali in Old Delhi, but the best khurchan, to my mind, is to be had at Hazarilal Jain’s sweet shop in Kinari Bazaar.
Let me tell you what the sweet is all about. In a kadhai, the halwai boils large quantities of milk. Then as it boils and thickens, he takes a thin twig and gently pulls out a part of the top layer of the thickened milk, and places it carefully in another utensil. Again, as the milk thickens, he takes another layer and adds it on top of the earlier one. He does this for a while, making a shape like that of a small kalakand.
Once it sets, it’s ready to be sold. But before that, he adds powdered sugar or what is called karara over it. You don’t add the sugar in the beginning, because that will make the sweet all watery. Done at the end, it releases just a bit of moisture into the sweet, making it soft.
It’s a delicious sweet. The top texture is a bit crisp, and the bottom layers are soft. Because it’s mildly sugared you get the feeling it’s not heavy. And that of course is the danger because you can end up eating quite a lot in one go!
Hazarilal is known across the city – and outside – for its sweets. It has a wide variety to offer, but I go there essentially for khurchan and the rabri, which is equally heavenly. The milk for the rabri is boiled and thickened, and the sides at the end are scraped off and added to the thickened milk. Those little pieces in the rabri add to the texture and the taste.
Going to Hazarilal’s for its sweets is an experience in itself.
You go down Dariba Kalan – which is the silver hub -- into Kinari Bazaar, which bustles with life and colour, for it’s the place to go to for all kinds of wedding must-haves. Hazarilal Jain Khurchanwaley, as the shop is formally known, is some 20 or 30 shops down this lane (Address: 2225 Kinari Bazaar, Ph 011-23253992). The closest Metro station is Red Fort.
The shop has been there for more than 80 years. And the khurchan and rabri are as good as ever. I take a piece of the khurchan and am transported into another world – of slow trains that stopped at Khurja.