Even after so many years Narayan Das Halwai’s hing ki kachoris remain good as ever – crispy, fresh and surprisingly light
What can you do with weather like this? On a hot and humid day last week I went to Old Delhi, I returned to New Delhi when it was wet and stormy. Of course, I was drenched, as was our photographer guest whom I had taken to Old Delhi for its sights and sounds. But what do you do when the world’s weather patterns change like politicians before an election?
But let me start at the beginning. Our nephew, who runs a restaurant in San Francisco, was in India recently with a group of Americans hoping to see India. In this group was a young photographer called Molly. The group left after the India tour, but Molly wanted to see more of India. And she wanted to experience life with an Indian family. So we happily hosted her.
Then, of course, we had to plan out her days in Delhi, because she knew no Hindi and couldn’t manage the city on her own. One day, our friend Raj took her around his urban village in west Delhi. Another day, our friend Ayesha took her around her neighbourhood to introduce her to all her dogs. And one day, I took her to Chandni Chowk so that she could see another side of India.
And after she had taken some beautiful shots of the spice shops, we went in search of Narayan Das Halwai’s hing kachori corner. I love these kachoris, redolent with the heady aroma of asafoetida. The shop, at the T-junction of Naya Baas and Khari Baoli, has the best hing ki kachoris in town. And you can tell that by just looking at the crowd in front of it.
We were there a little before lunch time. A hing kachori seemed just right thing to eat before we gathered at Adarsh Bhojanalaya for a nice vegetarian lunch.
I like the way the kachoris are prepared here. A man kneads the dough and stuffs a rolled out dough ball with a hing-flavoured and spiced lentil paste. Then another person fries it, and a third person serves it to you on a piece of paper, with potato curry in a dona. He tops the potatoes with a tart methi ki chutney. Some people break pieces of the kachori and eat it after dipping it in the potato curry. Others break the kachori into the curry, and eat it all together.
The prices have gone up since I was there last some three years ago when he sold three kachoris for Rs 10. Now you get two kachoris for Rs 20. But the kachoris are as good as ever – crispy, fresh and surprisingly light even though it’s deep fried. Narayan Das sells samosas, too, which he also serves with the aloo sabzi. Usually he smashes a samosa and then covers it with the potato curry.
The kachoris convinced our friend that there is nothing to beat the street food of Delhi. It rained heavily on our way back, but the vagaries of the weather didn’t deter her one bit. She hopes to come back again. And when she does, I’ll take her to the Jama Masjid area, where she can have her fill of kababs. But till then, it’s back to burgers and hotdogs.