City Food - Aloo Tikki, Around Town

City Food – Aloo Tikki, Around Town

City Food - Aloo Tikki, Around Town

Potato in formal wear.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

On almost every street of Delhi you see the tikkiwalla’s cart with the large tawa, emitting enticing fumes of potatoes crisping to a deep brown.

The stall of Natraj ka Dahibhalla in Chandni Chowk is worth a try.

Arranged around the margin of the tawa are the tikkis – round patties of spiced mashed potato, occasionally filled with a layer of dal and sprouts – lying partially fried to light brown.

The customer arrives and the vendor pushes the half-done tikki into the centre of the tawa where it sizzles in a shallow pool of hot oil.

When the surface hardens into a crisp shell, the tikki is served onto a plate, flattened and soused with the usual chaat paraphernalia of yogurt, tamarind and mint chutneys, ginger julienne, and sometimes boiled chickpeas.

Outside the Union Public Service Commission building on Shahjahan Road, near India Gate, the Prabhu Chaat Bhandar stall takes its popularity very seriously. The cashier hands out colourful plastic coupons, which must be presented to the cook, who will not share the ‘secret’ recipe. The self-importance is well deserved. As the tikki’s crusty surface cracks open, the intense vaporous heat trapped inside releases its flavour-filled energy.

Before it can sear the tongue, the cold yoghurt and chutneys troop in and douse the fumes. The experience is deliciously smoky.

Another popular tikki joint, Bittu Tikkiwala, is situated in a high-rise shopping centre in Pitampura, north Delhi. Also known as BTW, it has glass counters, uniformed staff and tikkis that come half-done from a distant ‘base kitchen’. The final frying is done in front of you, in olive oil.

Dressed with yoghurt and chutneys, garnished with cabbage and tomatoes, topped with paneer cubes and pomegranate seeds, BTW’s tikki is as showy, heavy and as earnest as the nouveau riche Delhiwallas.

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