The quality of food served at Jain Sa’ab in Connaught Place hasn’t wavered a bit all these years. The author finds the taste of bread pakoras and kadi-chawal lingering on his palate

A friend turned 50, and I was put in charge of getting something nice for him. So I decided that I would visit the Nagaland Emporium on Baba Kharak Singh Marg and have a look at their colourful jackets. I seldom go to this side of Connaught Place because of its parking woes. But if and when I do, I make it a point to look up Jain Sa’ab. So after picking up a jacket in black and red, I walked up to Jain Sa’ab’s corner near the Madras Hotel bus stop.

Jain Sa’ab used to be a small hole in the wall once. Now it’s a sprawling set of stalls on the lane next to Manjusha, the Bengal emporium, and Khadi (just opposite Rivoli, on the other side of the road). Tables have been set up on the pavement under an awning. You get Chinese fare on one side of Jain Sa’ab’s ever-expanding stalls, and Indian on the other side. I found a whole horde of young men and women devouring steaming hot chowmein in the Chinese section. In the Indian section, rice and kadi were being wolfed down in a similar vein.

Jain Sa’ab’s shack used to be an old haunt of mine. I would go there for its famous bread pakoras and paneer pakoras way back in the 80s. He was known for his kadi-chawal, too, which was the staple diet of the office-goers, shoppers and shopkeepers of the area. I went back there after years, and was really happy to find that the place was humming as always. I didn’t see Jain Sa’ab, but a young man, who was efficiently manning the counters.

It was a cold day and I wanted something hot and filling. So I asked for two plates of kadi-chawal. He also sells rajma-chawal and chholey-chawal, all for Rs.60 a plate. His paneer pakoras and bread pakoras are for Rs.20 a piece. I asked for some bread pakoras to be packed, which the young man did with care.

I had the bread pakora with my evening tea, and found that it was as good as it used to be. It had a nice filling of cottage cheese and potatoes, and came with a very light but tasty gravy of chholey and aloo. The bread pakora was soft inside and crispy outside, and what I particularly liked about it was the fact that it was not greasy. I dipped the bread pakora into my bowl of chholey, and had a nice tea indeed.

The kadi was had for dinner, and that was rather nice too. The rice had been lightly fried and was fragrant and flavoursome. The pakoris in the kadi were incredibly soft, and I ate this with some crispy papads that had come with the dish.

One reason why Jain Sa’ab is so popular is that his stuff is fresh. You don’t get that heavy-in-the-chest feeling which troubles you when you’ve eaten something deep fried. My pack of pink Digenes winked at me alluringly after my meal, but I winked right back. Not tonight, dear, I said.

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