City Food – Roasted Peanuts, Around Town
The soul food for winter.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Peanut roasting is a cold-weather trade on Delhi’s streets. The Bhaiyyas, mostly migrants from the impoverished countryside of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, fill up their carts with popcorn, gajaks and peanuts. In summer, they sell watermelons.
In Delhi, peanuts arrive from Gujarat and Rajasthan. The vendors purchase their stock from the wholesale grain bazaar of Khari Baoli, in the Walled City. In December and January, the godowns there are filled with gunny bags of peanuts; sometimes even the pavements are taken over by these sacks. One cold afternoon, The Delhi Walla spotted a teakettle half-buried in a pile of unshelled nuts on the roadside.
Peanut bhaiyyas are spread all over the city. A native of Moradabad, Mohammed Talib, 22, sets up his cart under a peepal tree at an alley behind Scindia House, Connaught Place. Mr Talib’s cart has a coal-fired stove called bhatti, which has a large karahi on which he roasts peanuts in hot salt, a traditional way of heating the nuts. The salt is roasted so frequently that it looks as brown as gravel. After tossing around the nuts for five minutes, they are ladled onto a strainer. The salt filters out and Mr Talib scoops the nuts into small packets – made of old newspapers – for customers. Price: Rs 100 for a kilogram.
Wait; don’t have peanuts straight off the stove. They’ll be too squishy. Wait a few minutes before you start popping in the carbohydrates. Then they are warm, crunchy and fulfilling, the perfect soul food for a 5 degree Celsius soul.
The cold season’s soul food
Mohammed Talib, the peanut walla
Bhatti, the stove
The art of roasting
The strainer is hot
Elsewhere in Delhi