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Tried and Tasted: Head to Jantar Mantar in Delhi for some delicious south Indian food

Kesavan Kutty’s stall near Jantar Mantar is the place to have supersoft idlis doused with sambar, crunchy vadas and all varieties of dosa.

tried and tasted Updated: Apr 01, 2018 09:18 IST
The USP of the place is the way the food is served.
The USP of the place is the way the food is served.(HT Photo)

If you are ever near Jantar Mantar, you are likely to spot a large group of people jostling for space in front of a small stall. Don’t be surprised if you find that they are not really in that part of town to have a look at the 18th-century observatory that nestles in the heart of New Delhi. They are there for the hot south Indian food that is served at Kutty’s stall every day.

The shop came up when I used to live in the neighbourhood. I think it was a success from almost the day it started. That little nook used to be a bustling bus stop area. And while people waited for their DTC buses to trundle up, they would spend their time fruitfully by digging into a plate of idlis doused with sambar, or some crunchy vadas.

The bus stops have gone, but the place is as popular as ever. It opens at 9.30 in the morning and doesn’t shut till 9.30 pm. There are a few benches on the side, but it is so crowded that people usually stand and eat. The rates and the menu have expanded over the years. I remember the time when idlis were sold were for Rs 2 – now they are for Rs 50. And on the menu now are dishes such as the Mysore dosa.

Kesavan Kutty started this place some 25 years ago. Now he has an outlet in V3S mall in East Delhi, too. But the Jantar Mantar stall is where the action is. You pay up, tell the man at the counter what you want and within minutes the steaming hot food is there in a plate in front of you.

The USP of the place is the way the food is served. Ask for a plate of idlis and see the magic work. The idlis will be put in a plate, over which piping hot sambar will be poured. And then this will be topped with some dal chutney. The sambar here has no onions but is flavoured will small pieces of okra and brinjal. The sambar is hot and softens the vada or the idli, and you spoon it up and pop it into your mouth. I asked for some vadas and these went through the same treatment.

Kesavan Kutty started Kutty’s stall some 25 years ago. Now he has an outlet in V3S mall in East Delhi, too. But the Jantar Mantar stall is where the action is. (HT Photo)

I remember the time when there was a man at the counter who knew and remembered exactly what each of the hundred-odd people there wanted. He is not there anymore, but the food is the way it used to be – hot and soft (or crispy, as in the case of my vadas) and served before you can say gun powder. The food is cooked right next door, for Kutty has expanded and taken over the neighbouring stall.

For many years, this was one of my favourite spots for breakfast. Clearly, it still has its loyal clientele – for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for the hours in between.

Recipe: Onion sambar

Ingredients: 1/4th cup arhar dal, 1tsp turmeric powder, 2tbsp finely chopped onions, 2tbsp chopped tomatoes, 1 cup chopped okra, 1tbsp sambar powder, ½tsp tamarind paste, salt to taste

For the tempering: A pinch of asafoetida, 2 dried red chillies, a few curry leaves, a pinch of fenugreek seeds, 1tsp black mustard seeds, 1tsp urad dal, oil for tempering

Method: Pressure cook the arhar dal with 1 cup water and half the turmeric. Set it aside. Heat the oil and add the ingredients for the tempering. When the seeds splutter, add the onions and sauté for a minute. Add the tomatoes and fry some more. Add the okra, the rest of the turmeric powder and sauté. Add the tamarind paste, sambar powder and salt. Add the dal with the water. Put 2 more cups of water and mix well. Let it simmer for five minutes or so. Serve hot.

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