Kishan Lal's sweets are good as ever
It's good to be noticed. I was spotted the other day by two artistes in one end of Old Delhi. They were assistant halwais, who saw me hovering around galli Shankar on a couple of occasions. I'd gone in search of a sweet shop that was founded by the legendary halwai Kishan Lal, and found the shop shut. Later, I learnt that his family went away to Haridwar every summer.
I waited for them to return, and then renewed my quest. From the Chawri Metro station, I walked into Sitaram Bazaar. At the fag end of the road, almost a kilometre ahead, I turned to the right into a small lane. This was galli Shankar.
When you reach this spot, ask for Kishan Lal's shop, for there are no boards or signs to indicate that you are anywhere near the most heavenly sweets on earth. The shop is actually in a haveli.
Outside, men make syrups in huge kadhais (the ones who spotted me, and correctly read my disappointment when I found the shop shut, as they told me later). Inside, in a small room, you'll find the sweets that you are in search of. Kishan Lal is no more, and the shop is now run by his son, Narender. Narender wasn't there when I went to the shop one rainy afternoon. But the sweets – glory be to god! – were all there.
I used to eat Kishan Lal's sweets many years ago. I remember him so well – in pristine white clothes he would bring his sweets to a spot in front of the Mercantile building in Chandni Chowk, and spread them out for sale.
He was so well known – even now local traders fondly remember – that his sweets would get sold out in no time.
Now, the sweets are to be found in galli Shankar. Like Kishan Lal, the family only makes four kinds of sweets – and these are all traditional Delhi sweets. I bought all four kinds – half a kilo each of Karachi halwa, sev ki barfi, ghewar and 250 grams of pateesa. For all this, I paid Rs.540.
The sweets were incredibly good. Take the delicious sev ki barfi, made with vermicelli, or the Karachi halwa, which was chewy, as it's meant to be, but not hard and rubbery as it can be.
The ghewar, again, was the way it used to be before halwais started smothering it with khoya and dry fruits. This was plain ghewar – which is a sweet eaten in the north during the rains – and the way it tasted when I was a small child with scraped and muddy knees.
A lot of water has flown in the Yamuna since then. The knees are not what they used to be (and a bit achy in the bargain), but I am happy to see that Kishan Lal's sweets are as good as ever. The family makes only as much as can be sold and consumed in one day, so the sweet is freshly cooked every day. And they stick to the old recipes, which add to the taste.
There was a cool breeze when I went back home. And there was a cooler breeze in my heart. After all, I'd found Kishan Lal.