City Food – Bel Juice, Kasturba Gandhi Marg
The consolation of summer.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In the summer months of April, May and June, the walker-friendly lane connecting Kasturba Gandhi Road to Barakhamba Road, in Connaught Place, gets an extra stall beside the regular food vendors. Chauhan Bel Juice Bhandar attracts the biggest crowd during the searing noon. Office people from surrounding skyscrapers, security guards from nearby ATMs, and commuters on their way to the bus stand or to the metro station stop for a glass of bel juice (Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 15).
Bel, or wood apple, is considered by ayurveda as a remedy for Delhi-belly ailments. In Hindu mythology, it is the favoured fruit of Lord Shiva. While freshly squeezed sweet lime, orange, and pomegranate are also popular noonday drinks in Delhi, the bel’s is the most filling. The fruit’s sweet, orange-coloured pulp is mixed with sugar and milk, giving the drink a thick consistency, so different from other juices. The flowery fragrance is another uniqueness.
In the streets of summer time Old Delhi, vendors sell ice-cold bel juice in wide vessels, or paraats. In other parts of the city, it is sold from earthen pots in carts. The fruit is arranged in a hilly mound. Mostly there are two men to a cart. One scoops out the seed-filled pulp, crushes it into juice and pours it into the pot where the liquid cools due to evaporation. The other man serves the juice to customers.
At the stall in the Connaught Place lane, the yellow plastic awning – under which the customers stand – blocks the sun’s white heat. That and the first sip of the bel juice make the spirit-killing summer of Delhi bearable, for some time.
Cool and inviting
Sugar free claim
Peak business hour
The consolation of summer
Same drink, other places