City Food – Anoj’s Ram Laddu, Naya Bazar, Gurgaon
A winter tale.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The snack vendor walks along a pavement, carrying a wicker basket of ram laddus on the head and a bamboo stand under the arm. This is a common sight in the Delhi region. It gets particularly poignant at night when the hawker is returning home, holding on to the remains of his day, which probably cannot be recycled for the next day.
Stopping wherever there is a crowd, these wandering ram laddu vendors quickly set up their makeshift stall, serving the moong dal dumplings in a leaf bowl, garnishing them with grated radish, deep-fried batter-coated green chillies, and a generous helping of pudina chutney.
The vendors keep everything ready—the ram laddus are prepared before they hit the streets.
There’s at least one place in the Greater Delhi Region, however, where a vendor makes the ram laddus right in front of his customer. The stall can be found only during the winter.
So, waste no time before heading to Anoj’s cart in Gurgaon’s Naya Bazar, next to the Jain temple. Here you’ll see a rare sight—ram laddus being deep-fried in a karahi filled with steaming hot oil. An adjacent pan is filled with lentil batter looking as light and frothy as Daulat ki Chaat. The cooked ram laddus are piled up in a giant old-fashioned metal platter, so picturesque in its ethnic appeal that just to gaze upon its beauty is a good reason to visit the establishment.
Nobody knows how the deep-fried spheres of moong dal came to be known as ram laddu. It might have followed the Hindu belief that something with no name can always be attributed to Ram, one of the most venerated gods. Yet the etymological details of the dish seem to be of no priority to the handful of men gathered around the cart. Their eyes are hypnotically following Anoj’s hands as he prepares the servings.
The laddu is crackling crisp, which is offset most subtly by the juicy radish. The effect is delicious on the palate.
Anoj doesn’t stay long in Gurgaon, though. Every year he arrives around Diwali to open his stall and returns to his village in UP after Holi. So, come before it gets too late.
PS: Sometimes Anoj serves the previously cooked ram laddus after re-frying them. Urge him to prepare a fresh round for you.
The ram laddu spectacle