City Food – Suraj Bhan’s Butter Milk, Connaught Lane
Taste of Haryana.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla is a faithful customers at Delhi’s ageing eateries famed for nihari and other delicacies — even if the cooking isn’t all that great. Exploring these gourmand destinations, in atmospheric lanes that reveal variations of Delhi we never knew existed, is an adventure in itself.
But these days I’ve made a commitment to a pavement stall that’s just three years old, often with a queue of customers eagerly awaiting… buttermilk. Sour and homemade, it’s the creation of Suraj Bhan, whose footpath stand is strategically located near the central Delhi office towers on Barakhamba Lane.
You’re bound to spot Mr Bhan, clad in kurta-pajama, standing beside a rusting bicycle with a small crowd around him.
His procedure is fairly simple. He pours the homemade buttermilk into a plastic glass, then adds fried boondi along with a dash of black salt and roasted cumin powder.
The tangy drink jolts the senses, and Mr Bhan’s version feels so fresh as if made just now. Somehow the incredibly crisp boondi doesn’t get soggy.
Mr Bhan has a very long day. He commutes every morning from a town two hours away, in Haryana, which means he must catch the 5am train. His wife Shanti Devi, who wakes up even earlier, has already prepared the daily batch of buttermilk by then. By the time he returns home at 10pm, she makes sure his dinner remains warm.
Drink of the pavement