City Food – Gajar ka Halwa, Around Town
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Red Fort looks red from the outside. But a lot of it is white from within.
Gajar halwa sports this very same red. Carrot is red after all, most of the time. But there is a gajar halwa that is white. Safed gajar halwa is found in very few places in the Delhi region. One of them is the legendary Shereen Bhawan in Old Delhi’s Matia Mahal Bazar. Among the oldest surviving culinary landmarks in the Walled City, it was established long before Partition by a man called Fayazuddin, whose descendants continue to thrive in a sprawling house nearby. Around this time of the year, the gigantic platter on the shop’s street-facing counter tends to be filled with what looks like crushed snow, with a pale golden shade. This is the enigmatic almost-mythical white gajar halwa—made of sunheri gajar (golden carrot). Yet so far, the shop’s white gajar halwa hasn’t made its 2023 debut. The platter is filled with red gajar halwa. “You’ll see white halwa by the end of this week,” assures the mithai shop man. The carrot for it is sourced from a special farm in nearby Ghaziabad, he says, adding that the white halwa will stay in the shop until February.
Meantime, the red gajar halwa aficionados might as well explore the lanes of old Gurugram. The vendors there pedal all day long on their bicycle, the halwa containers clamped to the cycle’s back-carrier. This afternoon, vendor Rakesh is making rounds of Civil Lines, silently. He always garnishes the piping hot heap of halwa with a generous fistful of tutti frutti. While Rakesh’s offering is delicious, the area’s best halwa is sold by another bicyclist. Randeep’s version is more filling, yet it doesn’t sit heavy in the stomach. It is also less sugary.
A search to find the most matching-matching destination for red gajar halwa naturally leads to the Red Fort, along the super-crowded pavement outside the monument. The place is crammed with tourists, and a great many vendors are hawking great many things—kheera, tikki, kulfi, golgappe, chana jor garam, gulab jamun, chhole bhathure, khasta, shikanji, chikki, papar, chowmein, bhelpuri, popcorn, karhi chawal, cotton candy, gajak… sadly no red gajar halwa. Even so, salad vendor Jeetender presents a consoling sight. His back to the Red Fort, the gentleman is holding a red gajar.