City Food – Barfi with Mask, Dilshad Garden
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
No, you don’t commonly spot this delicacy on the streets. Certainly not with this combination—brown barfi with face masks.
“I used to sell only barfi, and then the bimari arrived,” says stall owner Raju Kumar, referring to the pandemic. “Since I had some vacant space on my stall, I thought why not sell masks on the side?”
The grey-haired seasoned street hawker sure knows how to make the tiny inches count. His stall is a mere wicker stand, topped with a metal platter containing the sweetmeat, each piece cracked at various places due to its brittle texture. The masks are clipped to the stand by plastic hooks. The idea isn’t original; his pandemic-era entrepreneurship is shared by many pavement traders. These days almost every paan kiosk in town has masks hanging beside long strips of sachets of fresheners. The barfi, though, is something unique, especially in this area of east Delhi’s Dilshad Garden, where no other stall owner boasts this tempting treat.
“I make it myself, from the khoya of Aligarh… this khoya is of pure buffalo milk,” he reveals. Mr Kumar says it with hushed pride, as if suggesting that the khoya sourced by him is superior to made-in-Delhi khoya. These 20 kg of Aligarh import are delivered to him once every three days. The barfi seller lives with three other men, they all sell barfi, and the khoya is divided equally between themselves. “Each of us makes his own barfi, we all are from Darbhanga in Bihar.”
The barfi that Mr Kumar sells on any given day are made the evening before “over the course of two hours.” The good thing is that there’s no old stock in his stall, for he starts his transaction at 7 in the morning and stays on the streets until the stock finishes. “Sometimes all gets over by afternoon, sometimes by 4 or 5 in the evening.”
Now a masked customer arrives. He’s not buying mask but the other thing—one big-sized barfi is for 10 rupees, and two smaller versions are for 7 rupees. Mr Kumar uses cuttings of old newspapers as a serving plate. He places a barfi on one cutting and hands it over to the customer. The customer throws away the print edition remnant after finishing. The barfi has the shade of dark wet sand and is embedded with fat raisins. It is super-addictive and gives an instant sugar high.