Having missed the flavours of Old Delhi during Ramzan, Rahul Verma is relieved to find the same taste in Bhogal

This Ramzan, I missed going to Old Delhi. I love strolling through the lanes of Purani Dilli before Eid. The narrow gullies are filled with sound and light when people break their fast every evening. And of course every nook and corner offers something delicious to eat. But something or the other every evening kept me from visiting the area that warms the cockles of my heart. I had ample time every afternoon – but I would have found Old Delhi in prayer, and certainly not in merriment.

So I went to Bhogal instead. I was in search of a chholey-kulcheywallah I had been hearing about. The place is called Suresh chaatwallah. The shopkeepers are from Bazaar Sitaram, which is the hub of the best Old Delhi vegetarian food. So not surprisingly, their chholey is the kind that you get in Old Delhi. But before I start on the food, let me give you directions to Suresh’s shop.

If you enter Bhogal Market from Jangpura, turn left. Keep going left, for about 300 yards or so, till you see a sign on the left saying “Suresh chaatwallah” – with a subhead proclaiming it as the mashhoor (famous) chaat bhandar of Old Delhi. It’s quite a big place, with a kulchey chholey counter in the front, a golgappa wallah in one corner, pao bhaji in another, and a chaat counter at the back. I asked for some plates of chholey kulchey (Rs. 20 a plate) and brought them home.

The difference between Suresh’s chholey and the kind that you get in most parts of New Delhi is stark. Suresh follows the Old Delhi tradition of using mattra instead of chickpeas.

In Old Delhi, red chillies are seldom used in chaats and chholey, and Suresh is an Old Delhi faithful. The spices he uses include roasted cumin seed powder, black pepper, yellow chillies and rock salt. Again, in the Old Delhi style, he doesn’t use tamarind sauce, but a delicious mix of aamchur, coriander and mint leaves.

He tops the chholey with slices of onion and a lime wedge. If you are eating there, he squeezes the lime over your chholey.

The prices are extremely reasonable – nothing costs more than Rs. 30 a plate (I was appalled when I took a friend visiting from New York and dying for some Indian chaat to Nathu’s the other day – one golgappa, to my horror, cost us Rs. 8 there). And at Suresh’s, they are not tight fisted with the chholey – there is enough to go with your kulchas.

Since it was the day before Eid, I thought I should supplement our lunch with something meaty. So I went to Kabul’s – and found that because of Ramzan, they had only two dishes to offer – a chicken korma and a mutton korma. I bought a plate each of both, and then tootled off home, whistling happily to myself.

My lunch was a toast to two deliciously different cuisines. I dipped a piece of my kulcha into the korma gravy, took a helping of the chholey and popped it into the mouth. What a feast it was!

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