City Food – Halwa-Subzi-Poori, Haji Tea Point
The sweet poison.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
An archetypical Delhiwalla harbors a dangerously dismissive attitude towards his body. He unconcernedly fattens it up with ghee, oil and sugar. A physical embodiment of this suicidal tendency is Haji Tea Point in Old Delhi’s congested Matia Mahal Bazaar.
The tea stall is actually a full-fledged sit-down establishment that serves sooji halwa, poori, subzi, and omelet-toast in the morning. (In the evening, the dessert is shahi tukda).
The cardamom-flavoured halwa is the eatery’s principal highlight – it lies on the counter like a gargantuan mass of mush. The addition of zarda gives the dish its distinctive yellow color.
The halwa is very sugary and it is drenched in excessive ghee. Its smooth sweetness explodes inside the mouth like a million atom bombs. The energy that is produced lifts you to higher levels of happiness — – although you are well aware that it is vulgar to feed on such great quantities of fat.
Most breakfast-hour customers at Haji Tea Point order the halwa with a plate of poori and aloo-chhole. The spiciness of the chickpea curry is sobered down with a spoon-full of mild yoghurt. The poori, treated in the customary vegetable oil, is deep-fried with dozens of its fellow sisters in a large cauldron. The stove is placed outside on the filth-strewn street, which offers a panoramic view of the Mughal-era Jama Masjid.
The stall is named after Haji Shahadutullah, who opened it in the 1960s. He had arrived from a village in Amroha, a town 100 miles north of Delhi. He lies buried in Qabristan Chameliyan, a graveyard on Eidgah Road. His bearded son, who manages the stall, says that the founder had a sprawling mango orchard in his native village. It is not clear that what factors made him move to Delhi.
Nevertheless, the sweet-toothed patrons of Haji Tea Stall would always be grateful for the Haji’s unexplained migration to our city.
Where 924, Matia Mahal Bazaar Time 6 am to midnight Nearest Metro Station Chawri Bazaar