City Food – Dilli 6 Chaat Bhandar, Outside Siri Fort Auditorium
The mother of all snack stalls.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Without doubt, this has to be the naani of all the roadside snack stalls. The unusually huge counter is filled with multitudinous dishes—aloo chaat, dahi bhalle, papri chaat, pao bhaji, aloo tikki, burger, Ram laddu, and dahi puckha. (Any item left unmentioned is deeply regretted.)
This is Dilli 6 Chaat Bhandar. It’s not in Dilli 6, aka Old Delhi, but in south Delhi, just outside the Siri Fort Auditorium, on August Kranti Marg. “Originally we were in (Old Delhi’s) Chandni Chowk,” explains Brijesh, while shallow-frying the tikkis on the tava. His elder brother, Ram Avtar, with whom he runs the establishment, is briefly away on some errand. The stall was founded by their grandfather Tika Ram, whose son, Ek Ram, moved it to the present site more than three decades ago.
It will however be unfair to say that the business is managed by the brothers alone. The women in the family—mother Kalawati with daughters-in-law Sunita and Kranti Devi—have an equally active role, though they stay invisible. The stall’s daily work begins every morning at 5 in the owners’ residence in nearby Gautam Nagar. Together the three women and the two men perform all the cooking that can be executed in advance—such as boiling the aloos and channas, preparing the papris and golgappas, and grinding the many chutneys. Everything is made afresh the same day at home or at the stall, insists Brajesh, emphasising that nothing comes from outside. That’s certainly a convincing reason to drop by this stall. Another is to enjoy the chance of marvelling at its gigantic proportions. Try to stand behind the counter. It’s so wide that the view might look somewhat distorted, the way the phone screen appears when its camera lens is set to ultra-wide mode.
The place appears to be wildly popular. A long silver-grey car comes to a halt, the lady sitting behind the uniformed chauffeur opens the window and asks in baba-log Hindi for several plates of papri chaat to be packed. Moments later a scooterist stops by for golgappas (his Hindi is fluent). Attending to these customers, Brijesh is simultaneously piling up dozens of partially fried aloo tikkis into a metal platter perched atop an adjacent brick wall. The sight is startling, as if somebody forgot to carry his tikki hamper. All you have to do is to pick it up and run.
The stall serves daily from 2pm to 10pm.
The counter of all things