Friday, November 4, 2011

Food Adventures in Chandni Chowk with Paratha, Lassi and Halwa

Paratha is a flatbread that originated in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the most popular unleavened bread in Indian cuisine. The mass of the paratha bread usually contains ghee or oil, and it is also usually spread on the already prepared bread. It is common to fill the bread with certain vegetables such as potatoes, radishes or cauliflower, and can even be filled with cheese (paneer).

The paratha is smeared on the top with a little butter, or with a sauce made with yogurt or herbs and even with some curry of meat or vegetables. Some prefer to roll the bread in a tube and eat it with tea. This is the perfect companion for the Butter Chicken although it is also possible to eat it with rice. In the Indian culture, the paratha or the chapati is always present at the table.

The paratha was conceived in the ancient Punjab region. Despite its origin, its consumption is spread throughout the subcontinent, to such an extent that one of the typical dishes of southern India is Kerala Parotta. It is a type of chapati made in several layers that resembles puff pastry. The immigrant Indians brought this dish to Malaysia, the Mauritius Islands (where it is known as farata) and Singapore, giving rise to certain variations such as "roti canai" and "roti prata". In Myanmar, where it is known as "palata", it is eaten with curries or as dessert with sugar.

I decide to leave at 12.30 to Chandni Chowk on the other side of Delhi. Some food shops remain open until midnight. Then it will be the schedule until night, we deserve that breath. They say. I had a tough bargain with the rickshaw that asks me two hundred rupees as 'tourist' is written on my forehead. Well, you're wrong! This tourist will not pay more than 50 rupees! He literally puts me in front of the Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib. Also, with the subway works, it has become an obstacle course. Even so, I venture forward as a caterpillar tank towards my target.

Chandni Chowk remained the shopping center par excellence with its four bazaars of Urdu Bazar, Johri Bazar, Fatehpuri Bazar, Chikan and Zari Bazar. The corner of Ghantewala Halwai is proud of its tradition that made pure ghee sweets since 1780. Wait, I'll be right back! First something salty to recover strength.

So I head for the Paranthe Wali Gali, famous since time immemorial for its Parathas of various types and recent Bollywood films. They say that 300 years ago a family of Brahmins from Agra settled here and their descendants have continued with the trade.

The paratha bread can be round, square or triangular. In the first case, the filling is mixed with the flour and prepared as if it were a roti. But in the last two forms, the ball of kneaded flour is flattened in a circle and the filling is put in the center of the dough and sealed as if it were an envelope.

I enter one where there is no onion and garlic according to the tradition. Methi Paratha is my first, served with pudina chutney, jaggery and ginger, and aloo mutter. A lassi alongside softens the hotness of the chilis. But I'm not satisfied and I still have another one called the paneer paratha that leaves me satisfied. Then I go back to Ghantewala and I buy the sooji halwa with pistachio that makes me forget my pains.

A group of foreigners arrives grazed by the tour guide. With the backpack tight to the body, they get half suffocated by the medieval effluvia of this decrepit Old Delhi. With the halwa, I give up. The Badshahi badam pasanda, the jewel of the imperial Delhi will be for another day.
Kalyan Panja
Kalyan Panja is a photographer and a travel writer sharing stories and experiences through photographs and words