Locomotoring

Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

A brief excursion to Chandni Chowk

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A beautiful old door on near Gali Anar

Sunday is quieter at the Chandni Chowk. Mind, quieter is a relative term. It is still the largest market of India. Most shops take the day off. Only the food shops are open. The chor bazaar is open as well. We walked the mile of Chandni Chowk, recently made a pedestrian thoroughfare with allowances for cycle rickshaws. Our destination was Kake di Hatti where we had a sit down meal on Chur chur naan, Amritsari naan and Amritsari chole (chickpea stew). On our way, we sampled fresh baked crispy nankhatai on Parathewali Gali, cauliflower samosa, and bedmi puri with curried chole on the main Chandi Chowk road. Kake the Hatti is located next to the spice market on Khari Baoli road and I found myself looking longingly at massive bags of puffed lotus seeds. Post meal, we hopped on a rickshaw and made our way back to Parathewali Gali and meandered about the narrow alleys.

Narrow is relative too. Sometimes, when you look up, the buildings on two sides touch and you can’t see the sky. It is cool and quiet. The narrow Gali Anar, translated “pomegranate alley”, leading to Haveli Dharampura could not be wider than 3 ft. Some of the old buildings of the haveli complexes were empty, one abandoned courtyard was overrun by young peepul trees. On some of these narrow alleys, you could have stepped into 17th century were it not for the overhead tangle of cables.

Another old door in the same alley
Occupied portion of an old haveli complex
Abandoned building on the same street with peepul trees growing in its courtyard
Nature and human activities co-exist in these narrow lanes – overhead tangle of cables overrun by flowering creeper.

The thing with fast food in Chandni Chowk is this, there is bound to be something that you are going to love. For example, I have a particular checklist for samosa. To me, the ratio of stuffing to wrapping is the most important factor. If you bite and all you get is stuffing, something is horribly wrong. If you bite and all you get is crispy wrapping, it isn’t right either. The spiciness matters. It should have enough spice to flavor the otherwise bland crispy dough, but not enough to overcome the flavor of the raw ingredients. The spicy cilantro and sweet tamarind chutneys help with the spice balance, but they shouldn’t be the crutch the samosa relies on. In other words, the samosa should taste sublime even without the chutneys. If you see someone upselling samosa chaat, where the samosa is crushed and slathered with various chutneys and topped with crunchy bhujia, walk away. Or minimally, hold your judgement. These samosa chaats are made from samosas that are long past their prime. Not that there is anything wrong with a day old pizza but you wouldn’t judge a pizza based on how they taste a day later. Finally, there is texture. Don’t get me started on texture! If the dough isn’t flaky and crispy, then it isn’t a samosa. Mushy potatoes belong to masala dosa. The one we had here easily rose to my number one spot. The cauliflower filling was unusual and definitely the star of the show, it could best be described as oven baked jerk cauliflower. It was perfectly spiced, and retained its bite.

Upstairs at “Kake di hatti“. Adorning the walls are recommendations from sources such as TripAdvisor. Apparently, Jamie Oliver is a big fan of “King of Naan”, Kake di Hatti is famous for its king size naan.
Their popular chur chur (translated to “broken in shards”) naan, and Amritsari naan with Amritsari chole (chickpeas). The chur chur naan is brittle and Amritsari is chewy, the textures and tastes are very different. Food is served on cafe style stainless thalis. The complexity of tastes more than makes up for the homeliness of the presentation.

Translated, Chandi Chowk means “moonlit square”. We owe Chandni Chowk to Begum Jahanara. This 17th century market was arranged in a square and was divided by canals with a central reflecting pool. There are old paintings depicting the 17th century grandeur – wide roads, pink sandstone, marble, intricate craft. Today, it takes a connoisseur’s eye to unsee the clutter and see the historic buildings. For example, some narrow alleys are simply result of broken up haveli complexes like the one we found ourselves on Gali Anar. Others lead to the Katras, small clusters/communities with a defined purpose. A Katra presents a small arched gateway, and expands into a bigger space with many store fronts. Most famous of the Katras is the Katra Neel (indigo), it was built in 1857, the year of the mutiny. A month ago, parts of the gateway had collapsed, it had played a significant part during the 1942 Quit India Movement.

My last visit to Chandi Chowk was nearly a quarter of a century ago. It was Kinari Bazaar and I was a young bride. Makes a girl think!

Written by Som

November 29, 2022 at 12:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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