City Food – Chhole Kulche, Around Streets
Light and healthy.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Chhole kulche is like haiku, the Japanese poetry form that says so much in so few words. With no oil, no fat and as light as a feather, it is still mealy. If office goers in the skyscrapers of Nehru Place have forgotten to get tiffin, they are most likely to go out to have a plate of chhole kulche.
There is no pretension in its making. Made of maida flour, kulcha bread is mass-steamed in small-scale factories. Chhole, which here are green peas sun-dried to a pale yellow, are boiled in water and left at that. The art is in the garnishing. A good cart is stocked with an array of ingredients that gives it a colourful glow: green cucumbers, pink-ish onion rings, red tomato slices and yellow lemons.
After you place the order, the kulcha-wallah bhaiyya ladles chhole into a leaf bowl, and with his fingers moving like an accomplished pianist, he quickly adds in the garnishes and squeezes the lemon dry. As he reaches for garam masala, he asks, “Very spicy, middle spicy or no spice?” The chhole is topped with chopped coriander leaves, slivers of purple chukandar and ginger julienne. If you like, you can get the kulcha re-heated in butter. Sliced carrots, mango pickles and green chillies make for the final touch.
Unfortunately some regulars eat their chhole kulcha in their sanitised office cabins. The true pleasure is in having the meal right next to the bhaiyya, beside the busy road, along with other hungry souls.
Butter is optional
Where’s the kulcha?