City Food – Tasty Trinity, Gurgaon
Gaalis in the galis.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In foggy December, one of the few consolations during the gloomy thandi can be the company of jalebi, pakori and adrak chai. Every pincode in the big wide Delhi region has its own permutations and combinations of the classic tridev, or trinity. Here is a tried-and-tasted selection curated in Gurgaon that aims not only towards the palate but also to help you appreciate the spread of the so-called Millennium City.
This snack cart in Gurgaon’s picturesque railway station rustles out the punchiest green chilli pakoras. Their fierceness verges on an almost-elusive border where you could still enjoy and not suffer from the mirchi’s soul-shuddering piquancy. The cart attendants keep the pakoras under a white cotton net that is as delicate as the woven air (think Dhaka malmal). The accompanying green chutney accentuates the thrill. Since the pakoras don’t travel well, better finish them off on the station platform, while watching the expresses arrive and depart.
Winter‘s sugar high
Facing the ruins of a haveli in Gurgaon’s Sadar Bazar, the shop has been churning out sweet succulent jalebis for more than seventy years. The jalebi here is extremely thin, extremely crisp and is tasty even when cold—unlike its thicker counterpart at the Old Famous Jalebi Wala in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, which tastes best when eaten just off the karahi. The landmark’s founder, Arjun Singh (d. 1994), landed in the city as a Partition refugee from what is now Pakistan. The historic shop is permeated with an assertively individualistic character that can never be duplicated by any super-resourceful retail mithai store. The wall behind the counter is decorated with the portraits of Sikh gurus. Since the shop is open on two sides, you can relish the jalebis while enjoying a panoramic view of the bazar cacophony.
The tea stall here in Sector 35 acclimates the citizen with a still-in-progress futuristic segment of the sprawling metropolis. The surroundings appear deserted, but are in fact the addresses of quite a few “factories” and “company offices.” These recent landmarks are barely visible, as each is surrounded by a high wall. The rest of the landscape consists of trees, creepers and unwieldy bougainvillea bushes. It was practically a “jungle” here when tea seller Rajesh Kumar set up the stall on the dusty roadside about a decade back. The man is young but talks like an elderly tau ji as he narrates the changes in the area—the scraggy wilds giving way to concrete. The stall has a wooden interior with shelves full of namkeen packets and mouth fresheners. The adrak-flavoured chai injects instant relief into the soul’s bloodstream.