Tried and Tasted: Head to this Chawri Bazar eatery to have the best veg food in Delhi
Shakahari, a 55-year-old restaurant in Delhi’s Chawri Bazar, is the place to go to if you’re in the mood for some good north Indian vegetarian food.Updated: Feb 11, 2018 09:18 IST
Where does one get good north Indian vegetarian food in Delhi? This is a question that I am often asked. Go to Chawri Bazar, I usually reply. For that’s where you can still get some authentic vegetarian food of the region.
Long years ago, when Delhi was being set up, the first basas came up in the city. The setters or traders from Rajasthan missed their food from home, and basas were essentially messes where they could get ghar-ka-khana. But since this part of Chandni Chowk was largely Hindu, other eateries soon mushroomed, offering vegetarian food, but not necessarily dishes cooked without onion and garlic. Unlike the many small stalls that sell breakfast fare or snacks, these were regular eateries where you could have a full meal.
One of my favourites is a restaurant called Shakahari, which has been there for more than 55 years. If you are at the Chawri Metro stop it is just 50 yards away, in Chawri Bazar. A neon sign leads you up a steep flight of stairs, and you find yourself in Shakahari, now run by Manoj Gupta and his son.
There was a time when it was a basic eatery with benches. Now it is quite like a restaurant with small clusters of tables and chairs. The difference between Shakahari and other bhojanalayas is that you don’t get a thhaali here, but can choose from its menu, which includes such dishes as dum aloo, aloo zeera, channa masala and muttar paneer. But I go there for their urad dal, which is a particular favourite of mine for it was our staple dish when I was growing up. And I have the dal with their small and thick besan rotis called besani.
Again, unlike some of the bhojanalayas, the food is cooked with onions wherever required. The baigan bharta, for instance, is fried with onions and tomatoes. And the bharta is wonderful, for you get the nutty taste of a well-roasted eggplant.
But the dal is to die for. It comes in a small metal pail, and you can see the bubbling dal coated with a nice layer of ghee. The ghee adds its delicious taste to the dish, and I find that I can finish it all up with a small hillock of besanis. The rotis are also smeared with ghee, and I as I tear off a piece, dip it in the dal and pop it into the mouth, I thank all those researchers who have been telling us that ghee, after all, is good for the health.
Shakahari has also changed with time. These days it has such dishes as dal makhni and shahi paneer on the menu. And why not? Let there be something for everybody, as long as I get my Dal (Urad Fry) Special.
The dals are for Rs 160 a plate, and the vegetables for Rs 150. The paneer dishes cost between Rs 160 and Rs 200. The ghee besani is for Rs 20 a piece, while rotis, naans and parathas cost between Rs 10 and Rs 60.
The dal is deliciously creamy, for they cook it with a little bit of milk. It is flavoured with just a few spices. And then, of course, comes the dollop of ghee.
The urad dal reminds me of my home in a village in western Uttar Pradesh. It’s like an album of sepia-tinted pictures.
Recipe: Urad dal
Ingredients: 100g dhuli hui urad, ½ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp coriander powder, 1tsp dried mango powder, 1tsp cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, ½tsp red chilli powder, 1tbsp ginger juliennes, 1tbsp ghee, salt according to taste
Method: Soak the dal in water for about 30 minutes. Put in a pressure cooker, add turmeric, salt and half of the ginger. After one whistle, take it off pressure. Now add coriander powder, mango powder and boil for a minute. Heat the ghee in a pan. Add cumin seeds, asafoetida and the remaining ginger. Take it off the fire. Add the chilli powder. And pour this over the dal.
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