The best time to taste ghewar is during monsoons, and there is no one better than Kanwarji in Chandni Chowk, vouches Rahul Verma
The sky promised rain, so my thoughts turned to ghewar. When I was a young lad growing up in western Uttar Pradesh, sweets – barring sickly sweet rasgullas and thick balushahis – were seldom on the menu. But when the rains came, they brought along with them a sweet called ghewar. I loved it – not only did it look beautiful, with its curious honeycomb-like structure, but tasted good as well.
So, when it looked like it was going to rain one afternoon this past week, I suggested that I go out in search of some good ghewar. Immediately, an ad hoc committee on ghewar sprung up, with the self-appointed members all coming up with various proposals. One said I should go towards Rohtak, and another, even more ambitious, suggested I make my way to Alwar, which (in his opinion) had the best ghewar. Someone thought I should buy some from Kaleva in Gole Market. And another person pooh-poohed the entire idea, maintaining that ghewars should only be eaten around teej, and teej was yet to come.
So I did what I always do when in a dilemma – I tootled off to Old Delhi. I wanted to go Kanwarji's in Chandni Chowk, a 100-odd year old shop that's always been known for its sweets, especially its ghewar and sohan halwa. It's also known for its namkeens, and I ate a delicious samosa with a pea stuffing while I waited for my ghewar to be packed.
Ghewars, I must say, have evolved over the years. When I was small, there was just one kind of ghewar – made out of flour, sugar and ghee, dipped in sugar syrup. The basic recipe remains the same, but there are at least a dozen variations now. I got two kinds of ghewar – one was a small and crispy piece, with a thin layer of malai on top and flavoured with saffron. The other was a softer, larger portion – soft because the ghewar had been topped with khoya, and then flavoured with slivers of pista. The first one was for Rs.420 a kilo, and the second, for Rs.320.
I don't like my ghewar with too much khoya, for that takes away the essence of the simple sweet. But the two variations I tried at Kanwarji's were perfect. Elsewhere, ghewar changes to such an extent – with large portions of khoya, dried fruit, cream and so on – that you can't call it ghewar any more. At Kanwarji's, on the other hand, the sweet was just right – it was a ghewar that had only been mildly tweaked to give it an enhanced flavour.
Kanwarji's is possibly the easiest shop to locate in Chandni Chowk. Once you walk up to the Chandni Chowk side of the Metro station, cross the road. Kanwarji's is right in front of parathey wali gali. The old shop has now split into two. I went to the one that's right there on the mouth of parathey wali gali, owned by Raj Kumar Gupta (phone no: 23261318).
I went back with the ghewar, and the committee members all pounced on it, forgetting their differences for a moment. They all came up with varying verdicts at the end of the exercise – but I couldn't care less. For me, going to Kanwarji's was a much better proposition than taking a train to Alwar.
Keywords: Delhi eat outs