City Food – Gol Paape, Farash Khana
The tea-time tradition.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Walled City is changing furiously. The old is speedily giving way to the new. But the historic district’s traditional bakeries have somehow been allowed to survive. For now.
Unlike the patisseries of the fancy Khan Market that mass-produce meringues, tarts, and quiches, these cramped establishments bake Old Delhi teatime essentials like toasted rusks and gol paapes, a kind of flavoured bread rolls.
It is an experience to spend an afternoon in one such establishment. Try shop no. 758, a bakery in Farash Khana near Ajmeri Gate. Since 1955, the bakery – open from 6 am to midnight – daily churns out 120 kg rusks and 20 kg gol paapes on the strength of one wood-fired bhatti (oven), five labourers, and 300 baking patris, or tin trays.
Even if it’s sunny outside, the tiny bakery remains dark, warm, and sooty. The place has to accommodate not only the low-roofed oven, but also a sales counter, and an iron tijori to keep the cash.
This afternoon two lungi-clad labourers are baking paapes. One of them brings down a stack of patris from a loft where a separate team of workers is kneading the dough. Each patri has six paapes, each of which has its surface dusted with khus-khus seeds. The other man is carefully placing the patris inside the oven with the help of a long metal spatula.
As paapes grow light brown inside the bhatti, the patris’s positions are changed for uniform heating. They are taken out ten minutes later.
If eaten straight off the bhatti, gol paape is warm, sweet, soft, chewy, and a little greasy. If eaten later, it is hard but crisp and still delicious. Goes great with milky chai.