City Food – Hazari Lal Jain Khurchan Wale, Kinari Bazaar
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Khurchan means ”scraped leftovers” in Hindi. The preparation sounds simple: boil the milk, scrape off the cream as it appears on the top, and eventually mix it with “bhoora”, or powdered sugar.
Khurchan is gooey, sticks to the teeth and, for some reason, it is not seen too often in Delhi’s mithai shops. In Old Delhi’s Kinari Bazaar, however, a place is dedicated exclusively to this dessert. Hazari Lal Jain Khurchan Wale, like most classic landmarks in the Walled City, is a small, seemingly irrelevant establishment. Sandwiched between stores selling wedding paraphernalia (saris, sehras, and so on), the shop was founded more than 90 years ago by Gauri Shankar Jain, a migrant from Jaswant Nagar, Uttar Pradesh. His son was Hazari Lal, after whom the shop is named. Following his death in 1983, Hazari Lal’s son, Sunil, took over the reins of the family’s khurchan empire. His son, Aman, is now also seen in the shop.
Local old-timers confirm that the quality Hazari Lal’s khurchan hasn’t deteriorated over the generations. The mithai has a deceptively dry surface, embedded with roughly choppped pista. With every bite, the khurchan’s syrup oozes out into the mouth like a minor flood. It is a tad too sweet, but maybe that’s of no concern to a conservative Delhi belly.
At Hazari Lal’s, customers have to stand outside the counter on the super-chaotic street. Inside, two lungi-clad kaarigars (workers) from Madhya Pradesh patiently stir the boiling milk in their cauldrons, skimming aside the cream that repeatedly forms up on the surface. Four liters of milk produce half a kilo of khurchan, worth 320 rupees.
And here’s another piece of history: During his Lahore bus ride in 1999, the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee carried Hazari Lal’s khurchan for his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. The gift was soon followed by… well, forget it.