City Food – Hello to the Queen, Ajay Guest House, Paharganj
The backpackers’ fantasy.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is the most curiously named dessert to be found in Delhi. The decadent Hello to the Queen is available only in a few places in the capital. The Delhi Walla asks you to try it at the backpackers’-friendly cafe in Ajay Guest House, a hotel in Paharganj.
Served in a glass bowl, the dish consists of scoops of banana-studded vanilla ice-cream lounging on a mound of cookies, and the whole thing is generously smeared with hot chocolate sauce. It demands such a simple preparation that you can easily rustle it at home. But the Queen is truly enjoyed only in a room filled with sugar-starved tourists, preferably from Israel.
There is a reason for that.
Apparently, Hello to the Queen is a kind of made-in-India dish that appears only on the menus designed for foreign tourists who hang out in hotspots like Pushkar, Manali and Goa. Its origins are mysterious. Even the all-knowing Wikipedia is silent on the Queen.
Luckily, an online discussion forum on the Lonely Planet website has somewhat interesting stories about the Queen.
One argument says:
The origins of Hello to the Queen are the topic of much debate, some say it heralds from Israel. The Israelis say it doesn’t. The truth is insignificant. The fact is it is the most incredible and indulgent of all desserts I have had the pleasure to feast upon. Imagine if you have a layer of biscuit, topped with hot fudge sauce, raisins and cashews, with a fat dollop of vanilla ice cream perched on top and lashings of cream.
And another argument says:
One of the things that we’ve been noticing on the dessert menu of most restaurants around India is the very intriguing Hello to the Queen. A group of Israeli girls explained that the dessert was a travellers’ favourite around India and was particularly popular with the Israelis (“Shalom la Malkah”). As the story goes, it all started with an Israeli man in a Pushkar café who, after a long day of enjoying the local charas, began to get the munchies. He asked the waiter to bring him ice cream… with chocolate, and whipped cream, and bananas, coconut, marshmallow and cookies.
The Queen at the Ajay looks grand but there is no sophistication to its taste. You get no surprises. Its constituents have not combined to offer a new flavor. You simply get the distinct flavors of the vanilla ice cream, the banana, the chocolate sauce and the delicious cookies. Even so, if you manage to finish all of the Queen alone, you will feel nourished, exhausted and sleepy. You will yearn to crash down on a nice warm bed, just like a diligent backpacker who has come home after a long, long trek.
I had a tumbler of gentle bhang lassi on a rooftop cafe in Bundi and, because I felt I had to have the full experience, i asked for Hello to the Queen: both were delicious. I drifted back to my hotel and collapsed for twelve hours. I’m a bit of a lightweight…
But beware, Ajay Guest House is not very enthusiastic about having Indian patrons.
That’s not true.
Speaking from personal experience.
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