City Food – Manjeet Singh’s ‘Car-Restaurant’, Sham Nath Marg
The karhi chawal consolation.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
They always look old. No matter how recent they may be, street food stalls always seem dated, deeply rooted to their hyperlocal address. Often, they look like they’ve been standing here even before your dadaji was born — which, actually, many of them have.
This is certainly not the case with Manjeet Singh’s so-called “Car Restaurant”. It is a mere eight-year-old establishment in north Delhi’s Sham Nath Marg. The social ecosystem, however, that this teenieweenie shack has created around it makes it appear as venerable as Chandni Chowk’s Old Famous Jalebi Wala.
Mr Singh’s restaurant consists of a small white car whose boot serves as the buffet table. The food is prepared at Mr Singh’s home in faraway Rohini — he starts cooking with two assistants at 4.30 am every day. The menu is steady: rajma chawal and karhi chawal along with fruity raita, “ghar wali tawa roti”, and a subzi that changes daily — today it is aloo gobhi.
The seemingly simple choices offered at Mr Singh’s stall mirror the complications of food preferences in India, which, often, defy logic. Many of us, for instance, prefer veggie stuff, while many so-called non-vegetarians will happily gorge on chicken biryani while avoiding everything that is mutton. Garlic, acceptable to some, might be taboo to others. Mr Singh, 47, navigates through these mind-numbing nuances by sticking to veggie options and by keeping away from both garlic and onion.
“I chose this spot to set up the business because there was no other cheap veg eatery here, and it is just across the road from a hospital.”
In addition to the hospital crowd, his customers include the area’s school students, rickshaw pullers, and patrolling cops. The regulars address the turbaned Mr Singh respectfully as Veerji.
The Car Restaurant opens daily from 8.30 am to 4 pm. Sundays are closed.
Veerji’s Karhi, Veerji’s Rajma