The pakoras at the Naoroji Nagar Pakoreywallah are simply out of the world
if I sound like a philosopher, but I must say the simple things of life often give you the most pleasure. And what could be simpler than the humble pakora, and what can give you more pleasure than a plate of hot crispy fritters, served with a glass of steaming tea on a cold and grey afternoon?
The temperature had dipped, and I was wrapped up in my thick quilt with the new John le Carré in hand when the heart suddenly cried out for pakoras. So I threw the quilt away, kept the book for the evening, and walked out into the cold day. Well, not literally – but you know what I mean.
What I mean is that when pakoras beckon, I move blindly towards Naoroji Nagar. There is a shop there which sells the most delicious pakoras – and has been doing so for at least 30 or 40 years. I used to go there often, and even now land up there twice or thrice a year. The pakoras are crisp, there are many varieties and the prices are low – what more could one ask for?
I took the Ring Road, keeping Bhikaji Cama Place on my right, and went straight over the Africa Avenue flyover. I took the first turn left. Right there, in the corner on the left, is the pakora shop. Informally, it's called the Naoroji Nagar Pakoreywallah, though it's actually almost in Sarojini Nagar.
The place has expanded since I was there last. Earlier, the owners sat in front of the shop, frying pakoras for the crowd in front. The crowd is still there, but the owners are behind a counter. They take orders, and bark them out to someone in the background. The pakoras are then fried in a cauldron and presented to you with a delicious chutney with onions.
The spicy pakoras are of all kinds – cooked with bitter gourd, chillies, brinjals, cottage cheese, spinach and cauliflower. When I was a regular there, they were sold for one rupee a piece. Now each is for Rs.six, barring the paneeer pakora, which is for Rs.eight. But that's fair because the oil is good, and the veggies are always fresh. The batter is thick, which makes the pakoras heavy, so you don't really eat more than two or three. Or perhaps four or five. Or, if you are someone like me, you don't count.
They also have something called aloo seekh – which is spiced boiled and mashed potato that has been shaped like a seekh. The pakora sellers are brave – they even have onion pakoras! I was so shaken to see onions in this age when they cost Rs.80 a kg. that I didn't dare ask how much each pakora was for. When I eat them then and there, the pakoras are out of this world. But even when I carry them home, they taste good once you reheat them. A plate of hot pakoras with hot tea – to say nothing of le Carré – is ecstasy.