City Food – Muhammed Sajid’s Yellow Sooji Halwa, Turkman Gate Bazaar
The morning sweetener.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Muhammed Sajid’s mithai shop in Old Delhi’s Turkman Gate Bazaar is like the canvass of a fickle-minded painter. It shows different colors at different times of the day.
In the afternoon, you might see Mr Sajid and his assistants frying golden-brown jalebis in a giant cauldron. In the night, they are often seen sitting relaxed beside stacks of black gulab jamuns, while the shop lies illuminated in white light. In the morning, the counter has a giant round platter filled with Mr Sajid’s ultra-sweet yellow sooji halwa–the color is due to the addition of zarda.
The Mughal-era quarter has a large number of breakfast places offering good to great sooji halwa, which is traditionally served with freshly-fried pooris or flaky parathas. The halwa at the landmark Shree Bhawan, near Chitli Qabar Chowk, is famously made in desi ghee (and not in the customary Dalda ghee). Kallan Sweets in Matia Mahal Bazaar and Ameer Sweet House near Haveli Azam Khan are also favroites.
The relative anonymity of Mr Sajid’s establishment adds to its novelty. The place is still to be discovered by camera-toting flâneurs and food bloggers. Only locals are seen here. The halwa platter on the counter-table is supported on bricks. People going about on their morning errands often stop absentmindedly in front of the shop, and they are served the dish before they could ask for it. Some customers don’t even get off their bikes. Those parents who feel too lazy during the early hours to prepare school meals for their children simply get the lunch boxes packed here.
A burner underneath the platter keeps the halwa piping hot. It is heartbreaking to watch the steam rise innocently from the cardamom-flavoured dish and disappear into the polluted Delhi air. The parts of the platter far from the flame show a waxy white ring; that’s the condensed ghee.
By noon, Mr Sajid’s halwa is over and becomes a memory.
Everybody needs a sugar high