City Food – Spring Roll and Other Fries, Khandani Pakodawala
New in old.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Icons are in a shift. Delhi’s Central Vista is changing, and Delhi’s Khandani Pakodawala is changing too. This legendary place has been making a dozen different kinds of pakodas since 1962.
But, this evening, as cook Bhupinder Sahu tucks out the various pakodas from his oil-filled cauldron, his giant ladle has something new. It’s a spring roll.
“We introduced it six months ago,” says the cook, his face covered in a pink mask.
Nobody instinctively relates spring rolls to batter-coated pakodas — they are more commonly found in East Asian restaurants. But here, these crispy rolls are harmoniously intermingling with the traditional pakodas. After all, spring rolls too are deep-fried and packed with stuffing, just as any self-respecting pakoda.
And yet it will be unfair to recommend this place just for spring rolls. You ought to experience it along at least one specimen of all the fries on offer — paneer pakoda, soya stick, veg chop, aloo tikki, palak-methi-pyaz pakoda, bread pakoda, baingan pakoda, pyaaz pakoda, aloo-mattar seekh, gobhi pakoda, sweet corn pakoda, mix veg pakoda, and hari mirch pakoda. Sadly, this evening the deep-fried ram laddu is already over.
Served with green chutney, the bread pakoda is rectangular, the pyaaz pakoda is round, and the cauliflower pakoda is lumpy. The so-called seekh kebab is a fried roll of channa dal, green peas and potato. Despite being treated with piquant spices such as ajwain, methi and jeera, the gobhi pakoda retains the vegetable’s delicious raw flavour. The pyaaz pakoda is like a secret; beneath the golden brown crust sits the whole pyaaz, translucent, soft and strangely sweet.
In these days of pandemic, impatient customers are exercising heroic restraint in front of the counter, and try not to push each other while making their choices. Nevertheless, the chaos of the pre-pandemic era is still tangible.
Inside, the kitchen is quiet. The aforementioned Mr Sahu is alone, frying the pakodas in a huge cauldron. A Bihar native from Madhubani, he has been in the shop for 40 years. On the wall beside him are portraits of Late Shri Kanhya Lal and Late Shri Om Prakash, the pioneering elders of the family that owns the landmark.
As its name suggests, the long-time establishment has passed down the generations and continues to thrive. Who knows by next year if it will have fried momos too in its pakoda anthology. Situated in Nauroji Nagar market, the shop is tucked between Sethi Juice Corner and Rajdhani ke Special Swadisht Dahi Bhalla.
Reinventions in the tradition