Tried and Tasted: This weekend, try some fresh, fruity kulley in Chawri Bazaar
This week, we go back to the streets to find you a brilliant take on the classic Delhi chaat. Try yourself some kulley.tried and tasted Updated: May 10, 2017 18:15 IST
A revolution knocks on the door – and it comes with a fork and knife. The world of food is more exciting than ever before. New restaurants are coming up offering novel cuisines or digging out old ones. Chefs are looking at unusual ingredients and dramatic ways of presenting food. Meanwhile, some wizened old experts continue to wield magic with their skewers and ladles in remote parts of the city. There is a world waiting to be discovered or re-embraced– new cooking styles, world food, sub-regional cuisine and tiny holes in the wall which produce the most delightful dishes. Here’s a guided tour.
Once upon a time in Old Delhi, the streets were redolent with the aromas of food. Hawkers carrying a khomcha – a portable bamboo stand – would walk up and down the lanes of Chandni Chowk, carrying various kinds of delicious snacks.
Traders who had opened their shops early would be hungry. So they would stop a passing hawker and ask for, say, a crisp kachori with a vegetable side dish prepared with pumpkins and fenugreek seeds. Somebody would want something cold and sweet, so the rabri-wallah or the kulfi-wallah would be hailed. And every now and then, when the shopkeeper was feeling particularly peckish, he would send someone to the kulley-wallah for some delectable kulley.
Kulley? That’s a question that I often hear from my friends, especially from the younger ones who have never seen a kulla or heard of one. I don’t blame them, for kulley or kullas are fast disappearing from our lives. But they were once a veritable part of the street food of Delhi. Now there are just a few kulla sellers in the city. One of them is Hiralal Chaat Corner at Chowri Bazar, at the mouth of Lohe Wali Galli.
I can’t remember when I had my first kulla. But it was years and years ago, during one of my regular walks in and around Chandni Chowk. I found this interesting little shop selling what looked like stuffed potatoes. So I stopped – and my warm and enduring relationship with kullas began.
Let me tell you what a kulla is. It is a special street-side dish prepared with boiled potatoes or sweet potatoes, or with vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes, and now even with fruits.
The word comes from kulhar, though my friend at Hiralal believes it is related to raj kachori, which is a sumptuous kachori topped with various kinds of ingredients such as sev, curd, pomegranate seeds etc. Kulhar is a small earthen vessel, like an elongated cup, once widely used for serving tea and other beverages. The kulla is shaped a bit like that.
The tubers or the other vegetables are scooped out. The shell is filled with a wonderful chickpea mix, flavoured with a special masala, prepared with some roasted and powdered cumin seeds and nutmeg. Some lime juice goes into the scoop, along with a pinch of black salt and bhura or powdered sugar, and then topped with pomegranate seeds. You bite into it, and the juices spill out, giving you a delicious taste of an old Delhi delicacy.
Kullas are also prepared with seasonal fruits. In the summer months, for instance, a juicy piece of watermelon is scooped out a bit, and then topped with the chickpeas and the masalas. You can even get a kulla with a banana or a piece of pineapple.
This is a dish that’s easy to prepare. A platter of kulley can be a great way to welcome guests on a hot evening. Imagine all those boiled potatoes, or fresh cucumbers and cheerful tomatoes, stuffed with flavourful chickpeas, tastin tart and mildly sweet at the same time. And you could always take the bits that have been scooped out and turn that into a salad if you wish to. It will be a health – and delicious – way to welcome your guests.
But be prepared for the question, Kulley, what’s that?
(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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First Published: Apr 30, 2017 10:27 IST