Rediscovering the good old paranthawallah in the backlanes of Parliament Street with Rahul Verma...

When I lived in Rafi Marg, it never failed to sadden me that there weren’t too many neighbouring food places I could go to. There was the UNI canteen, of course, and I went there so often that I almost got an identity card from the news agency. Then there was a gentleman who sold aloo paranthas and chholey from a cycle near Transport Bhawan on Parliament Street. I went there often – but that was almost three decades ago.

That’s why, when I heard that friends of mine were gorging on aloo paranthas and chholey which had been purchased from a counter near Transport Bhawan, I thought I had to look it up. So last week, I parked my car on the lane behind PTI Building, and found a man with loads of paranthas in front of him, a huge cauldron that I suspected contained chholey, and kulchas on the side.

For Rs 25, you get two paranthas stuffed with potatoes and a bowlful of chholey, along with some onions and pickle. I asked for three plates, and when the boy at the counter approached a young man inside a car parked there for change, I realised that this was my old acquaintance’s son.

The paranthas — lightly fried and well shaped — looked rather good. I wanted to eat some right there (especially when the boy at the counter put a fat pat of butter between the two paranthas while heating them). But a nosy cop wouldn’t let me park there, so I packed the food and went to VP House on Rafi Marg, where I shared my lunch with three hungry activists of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.

I liked the chholey too – it was different from the chholey that is served with kulchas, and I thought it went rather well with the stuffed paranthas. It was hot, no doubt, but good to eat. The paranthas are large and two of them make for a filling meal indeed.

But I found that one of my lunch companions — our good friend Sehba — clearly covets my role of a food critic. All through the lunch, she aired her strong views about the paranthas. And though I take Sehba’s food seriously, thankfully I don’t take her criticism seriously enough. I enjoyed the paranthas, which were soft and not greasy (despite the butter). The masala inside the paranthas was light, which was one reason why I relished eating them with the hot chholey.

To counter the hotness of the chholey, you can buy a glass of thin lassi with boondi in it from the parantha corner. This comes for Rs 10, and he sells it to you in a plastic cup. I was a little worried about the antecedents of the ice that was floating in it, so gave it a miss.

But the paranthas are rather good – irrespective of what Sehba may have to say about them. And I am very happy to know that the business started by the gentleman who fed me so many parathas in my youth is still going strong. Let a thousand paranthas splutter with butter.

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