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Tried and Tasted: Head to Ansari Road for the softest Punjabi puris

If you are a lover of Punjabi puris, head to this shop on Delhi’s Ansari Road to savour their soft puris and tasty sabzi.

more lifestyle Updated: Dec 10, 2017 12:21 IST
Tried and tasted,Delhi,Delhi street food
The puris at Sardarji’s are prepared with a mix of white flour and whole-wheat flour, and are considerably softer than bedmis.(HT photo )

If you know your aloo-puri, you would know about Nand Singh. The venerable old Sardarji was a legendary figure. Even now, long after his death, the shop that he lovingly built on Ansari Road, is known as Sardarji ki dukaan.

This is one of the few Punjabi puri-aloo-chholey outlets in Delhi. The puri that you get in the city is usually a bedmi, which is stuffed with a lentil paste and has a grainy and crunchy texture. But the puris at Sardarji’s are prepared with a mix of white flour and whole-wheat flour, so are considerably softer than the bedmis. The sabzi is different, too, quite like the fare you would expect in a Punjabi friend’s house — very light and very tasty.

The shop opens in the morning at 8.30, when they start frying their puris. I love the light and soft puris, and the chholey-aloo is superb, cooked with just a few spices. The tight-lipped and loyal Ustad was trying to pass off the masalas as a secret mix, but warm-hearted Kuku spilled the beans. The dish, he says, is cooked without onion-garlic-ginger, but with yoghurt, coriander powder, degi mirchi and garam masala.

Officially known as Jeha Caterers, the family used to run their food business in Rawalpindi before the Partition. They moved to Delhi after the division, and set up shop on a pavement in Daryaganj. The pavement counter became a bigger corner, and is now a bustling shop near the Oriental Insurance building on Ansari Road, which runs parallel to the main Daryaganj Road. It is run by Sardarji’s son, Kuku, or Harbhajan Singh.

The Aloo Chholey dish is cooked without onion-garlic-ginger, but with yoghurt, coriander powder, degi mirchi and garam masala. (HT photo )

What I like especially about the sabzi is the taste of the tiny urad dal-besan pakoris in the gravy, which give a nice crunchy taste to the dish. There is a boiled pumpkin relish on the side, and sliced onions.

Once the puris are over, the workers focus on kachoris, which are split open and served with the aloo-chholey curry. Once those get over, they are ready with their bread pakoras, stuffed with paneer, and paneer pakoras, then, hot samosas. And once all the savouries are done, jalebis are fried crisp and dipped in sugar syrup.

Golden puris at the shop. (HT photo )

They also serve rajma chawal and kadhi chawal. The pakori in the kadhi has some spinach in it, which gives a new dimension to the taste.

It never fails to surprise me how Delhi is peppered with various kinds of puri-chholey vendors. But Sardarji’s shop is different, because of the light, Punjabi fare, which you don’t easily get in the city. Not surprisingly, his clientele includes old-timers who have been visiting the shop for 60 years or more. One elderly gentleman tells me that the food tastes the way it did when he first went there, eons ago.

As times change, it’s good to know to that some things remain the same — full of homely taste and some happy, sepia-tinted nostalgia.

Recipe: Maryam’s Aloo Chholey

Ingredients: 1 cup kabuli chana, 1 potato, 1tsp whole coriander seeds, 1tsp cumin seeds, 1 small stick of cinnamon, 1 small cardamom, 1 dried red chilli, 2 tomatoes, 1 green chilli, a pinch of hing, ½ a tsp of turmeric powder, salt to taste, oil.

Method: Soak the chana for 6 hours. Then, boil it. Boil the potatoes and chop them. Dry roast the spices and grind them together with a little bit of water. In hot oil, add hing, the spice mix, and fry. Then add the chopped tomatoes and green chilli. Add turmeric. Fry till the oil separates. Now, add the chana and the potatoes. Fry some more. Add salt and water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with hot puris.

(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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