City Food – Paratha, Around Town
Best at any hour.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There is one thing paratha enthusiasts will agree upon — the wheat flour disks fried on a shallow pan have unlimited versions.
At its simplest, a paratha is crisp and a little salty or flavoured with azwain. It grows in complexity as it comes stuffed with potatoes, onions, cauliflower, radish, methi leaves, eggs, keema, or even last night’s leftover daal.
In Chandni Chowk, the legendary Parathewaali Gali is now reduced to four eateries dedicated exclusively to parathas — and is still worth a try. One shop, since 1875, has a notice informing customers that the Maharajah of Kashmir once dined here. The adjacent shop, since 1872, has a framed picture of Prime Minister Nehru enjoying his paratha.
While the gali offers only vegetarian options, the varieties are seemingly endless, ranging from the usual (mint, daal, cauliflower) to the unusual (tomatoes, khoya, bananas) to improbable (almonds, rabri, bitter gourds, lady finger).
Served with standard garnishes that include potato curry, chutney and pickles, the thick parathas glisten with oil. They are deliciously crisp and retain the freshness of the stuffing — the parathas here are deep-fried, as an exception to the rule.
The cooks sit facing the street; the stuffings are arranged on a platter beside them. It is like watching a live cooking show on television as they throw a fistful of stuffing into the dough ball, wrap it in, flatten the ball and expertly toss it into the karahi (wok).
Paratha carts are a common morning sight in office locations around the city. However, these carts serve mostly one variety – aloo paratha, topped with a glob of butter and accompanied by green chilly pickle. Sometimes boiled channa is an added accompaniment.
Parathas also make up the night-time experience of Delhi. When restaurants shut down, some paratha-stands, under flyovers and beside highways, keep the midnight lamp burning. Hungry college students and people on late-night drives stop by. Perhaps it is because Delhi becomes beautifully quiet at this late hour, or the parathas are really delicious, these roadside stands have become a part of the city lore.
The construction of the Delhi Metro has forced a few of them to move to other places. The paratha enthusiast keeps track of the changing addresses.
One more paratha please