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Tried and Tasted: This Old Delhi eatery is where you’ll get the best phirni in Delhi

A 60-year-old shop in main Chitli Qabar bazar is the place to have thick and smooth phirni with a delicious layer of cream and dried nuts on top.

more lifestyle Updated: Feb 18, 2018 09:40 IST
Rahul Verma
Rahul Verma
Hindustan Times
Tried and Tasted,Old Delhi food,Phirni
Phirni is essentially a dessert of milk, powdered sugar and ground rice.(HT Photo)

A friend who loved Urdu once told me that if you take the letters of the language and randomly scatter them around, you will still end up with a couplet or two.

I think this also holds true for three simple ingredients – milk, rice and sugar or gur. It never fails to amaze me how these three basic items can lead to such a variety of desserts. Put them together – and you will end up with various kinds of payasams, kheers, payesh or phirni.

Phirni was on my mind for a couple of reasons. I had recently eaten a very nice Awadhi meal, and at the end of it, was dying for some phirni (and there was none). Then, a few days after that, I went to a new restaurant in town, but ate so much that when they said they had phirni on their dessert menu, I had to sadly decline because I felt I couldn’t eat another morsel. And that is why I thought I should look up an old phirni place that I had not visited for what seemed like eons.

To get to this shop, enter the main Chitli Qabar bazar from the Jama Masjid side. Walk down 100 or 200 yards, and you will find it on your right. The shop has been around for 60 years or more. When I last went there, possibly 20 years ago, senior Qureshi was in charge. He is no more, and his son, Irfan, now runs it. They also have a catering unit called A.One.Catering.

The shop was set up by Irfan’s grandfather. They sell milk, curd and phirni and supply phirni in large quantities to those organising a feast. I would say this is the best known shop for phirni in Delhi.

Phirni is essentially a dessert of milk, powdered sugar and ground rice. It sounds simple, but it isn’t, for a good phirni depends on how well the three have been mixed, and how well the rice has been ground. You need to soak rice and then grind it. But you have to ensure that the rice is ground to the right consistency – it should not be powdered, nor should it be grainy. You have to then cook this on a slow fire for a long time, stirring all the while so that there are no mini lumps.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” says Irfan. “And the milk has to be really good for a good phirni.”

The Qureshi phirni has one special ingredient – khoya. They add a bit of the solidified milk to the milk when it is on simmer, and that gives a nice little edge to the dessert – adding to the consistency as well as to the taste. The phirni is thick and smooth, and forms a delicious layer of cream on top. They top the phirni with some flakes of dried nuts. Some people like their phirni flavoured with saffron. Irfan tells me that they do add saffron to their phirni when they get a special order.

I had my first spoonful, and realised that the phirni was as good as ever. Before I knew it, I had polished off a whole bowl.

I went back home singing to myself. The old regrets – of not being able to have some phirni when the soul wanted a spoonful – had been wiped off.

RECIPE: Phirni

Ingredients: 1 litre full cream milk, 100g rice, 150g sugar (or according to taste), 2 green cardamoms

Method: Soak the rice for 30-45 minutes. Drain the water and grind the rice well. Boil the milk, and then lower the flame and add the sugar and the cardamoms. Keep stirring. Wet the rice a bit and gradually add to the milk and sugar. Keep stirring, else lumps will form. Once the milk has thickened to a custard-like consistency, take it off the heat. Put in small bowls and refrigerate.

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First Published: Feb 18, 2018 09:39 IST