City Food – Wenger’s Veg Patty, Connaught Place
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The magic unfolds in three steps. First, the crisp flaky shell crumbles inside the mouth. Second, the mouth gets all buttery. Third, the filling lets loose its gentle spiciness.
Such are the pleasures of a typical vegetable patty. To get one of the best in Delhi, you ought to head straight to the Wenger’s Cake Shop, justly famed for its creamy desserts, as well as for its shami kebabs.
The Connaught Place landmark is one of the few well-known bakeries in the Capital to proudly showcase this baked snack. This is a rare gesture at a time when the poor patty no longer seems to be in vogue. For instance, the patisseries in the fashionable Khan Market don’t keep patties (though you may find quiches). The patties are also no longer spotted in the snack counters of cinema multiplexes; at one point the aloo patty was as much a part of the movie-watching experience as the aloo samosa. Instead, that space has been hijacked by burgers and nachos.
While we can still spot samosas across town, the patties are fast becoming endangered species. In Connaught Place, apart from the Wenger’s, you are most likely to see them only in the humble street trolleys, stacked beside mountains of ₹10 burgers. There are also cheaply-priced patties available in roadside tea shops throughout town, but they are made in industrial bakeries and most of them have no stuffing inside. So, they are not real patty.
Food writer Pushpesh Pant, author of the voluminous India: The Cookbook, calls the patty an offspring of the Anglo-Indian period of Curry Puff. “It’s simply a puff pastry dough which is baked with a filling,” he says, adding that today the quality patties in Delhi are mostly seen only in members-only spaces such as clubs and officers’ messes. Indeed, the exclusive India International Centre (IIC) serves five different kinds of patties (mushroom, chicken, vegetable, paneer, mutton). Mr Pant blames the downfall of the quality patty to its complicated preparation which does not equal “the return on its investment’ for most bakery owners. He talks of a food shack in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk that proudly sells something called Japani samosa, which, he reveals, is a mere vegetable patty.
It is said that Delhi bakeries of a certain vintage (say, older than 15 years) are more likely to showcase patties. In fact the Defence Bakery—in Defence Colony Market since 1962, also serves four kinds of patties—chicken, mutton, mushroom and paneer. The paneer patty at the Maxim’s Cake Shop in Kailash Colony Market, too, is worth a try.
The Wenger’s patty has five versions, same as in the IIC. The elderly Charanjeet Singh, the bakery’s much-loved manager, says that the one with the chicken rules the roost.
Yet, you must try the one stuffed with potato, carrots and green beans. After all, it is this kind of super-greasy super-flaky aloo-filled patty that used to be widely available in Delhi at one time. Having a bite of it may give you a taste of the city in the old days. But those times can take a ride. The patty is just too yummy for any distracting thought.
In search of patties past