City Food – Jaljeera, Around Town
The bite that cools.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Literally translated as ‘cumin water’, jaljeera’s name is deceptive. There is more than just the jeera in this cool spiced drink that is traditionally sold in summer from earthen pots.
During the hot months of May and June, jaljeera walla bhayyas line the crowded street corners. They wrap the pot in a red cloth (to attract customers) and then decorate the sides with thick layers of bushy mint leaves.
On the lid are placed ripe yellow lemons alongside chunks of ice blocks. The sight has a cooling effect. As the temperature rises, water evaporates from the pot leaving the liquid cooler. The red cloth becomes wet.
Waiting for customers, the vendor gently stirs the pot so that the masala does not settle. Though the jaljeera is sufficiently spicy on its own, it is made edgier by the addition of more masala and lemon juice in the glass. Most bhayyas garnish the drink with boondi, the small fried balls of besan flour.
As the liquid trickles down, you feel as if several flavours — kali mirch, amchoor, kala namak, mint, and tamarind as well as the pot’s earthy taste — are vying for supremacy.
Together they produce a sharp-edged chill that cools the body and gives you moral strength to survive the Delhi heat.
The green drink