Julia Child in Delhi – Reuma Mantzur’s Lockdown-Era Hummus, South Delhi
Delhi’s best hummus perhaps.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is tough to find a tastier hummus in the entire Delhi region than hers. But that’s the limit of her kitchen expertise. She guiltlessly admits she’s otherwise a “terrible cook.”
Despite being an embassy-wali expat, Reuma Mantzur has chosen to live outside the bubble. She is almost like us next-door desis—commuting in the auto, playing Coke Studio qawwalis on YouTube, and buying baingan-aloo from her colony’s Mangalwar market. Plus, she calls Louis, her billi, reverently as Louis ji. Her coffee table, here at this south Delhi flat, is topped with Mahatma Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth.
An Israeli, Reuma describes hummus as a staple in west Asia. Everyone there—from Damascus to Tel Aviv to Cairo–eats it all the time. Including the folks in her southern Israeli moshav (township) of Ohad. The dip though does not exist at all in Yemen from where her grandparents, along with many other Yemeni Jews, migrated to the new state of Israel in the late 1940s. “I can’t recall savta (dadi) and sabba (dada) ever eating hummus, which is more of a second-generation thing in Israel… I rather remember savta rustling out lots of Yemeni breads like kubbane, lakhukh, jakhnun…”
Five years back, on the eve of flying to her new assignment as a cultural attaché in her country’s embassy in India, an anxious Reuma met friend Tal for a heart-to-heart hummus chat in their beloved Hahummus Shel Thinna, a café run by youngsters from a nearby kibbutz. The pep talk helped her board the Delhi-bound plane with confidence.
Apparently in Reuma’s country, people seldom make hummus at home “because it is sold everywhere.” In fact, she first made it at her home only in saddi Dilli during the start of the COVID lockdown. Gladly sharing the recipe, she explains that in Israel “we pronounce hummus as khumus, like the “kh” in Khan Market.”
Hummus, for three
200 gm safed chhole
One big clove of garlic
4 generous spoons of Tahini (you should get it in most groceries)
Quarter teaspoon of salt
One flat tea spoon of cumin powder
A large spoon of olive oil
Pinch of paprika powder, optional
Soak the chhole overnight in water.
Boil the soaked chhole in a pot, along with the whole garlic clove. (I prefer pot because I’m scared of pressure cooker).
Transfer the boiled chhole into a mixer, along with one-fourth cup of the water that was used to boil the chhole. Add all the remaining ingredients into the mixer. Stir in the mixer between one and onee-and-a-half minute.
Garnish with olive oil and paprika.