Rahul Verma finds a chaatwallah in Old Delhi almost as good as the iconic Ashok Chaat Bhandar. The debate is open…
Many of you know about my food mentor — Guru Santosh. He grew up in the galis of Old Delhi and is a veritable encyclopaedia about the food of the area. Every now and then, he would tell me about some little corner where you got the most delicious kachoris or kababs. Unfortunately, Guru Santosh has not been well for a while now, and I really miss those wonderful food conversations with him.
But the other day, I bumped into his son, Annu, and was happy to find that he is carrying on his father’s food-loving tradition. Annu, I realised, is quite a foodie himself and like all foodies, has very strong opinions on what’s good and what’s not. We started discussing the food of Old Delhi, and I mentioned Ashok Chaat Bhandar in Chawri Bazaar, which is one of my favourite chaat shops. “Pshaw,” said Annu — or something as disparaging. “Ashok’s chaat is no good. You should try Padam’s.”
I had not heard of Padam’s. But always happy to follow a food trail, I went in search of him a few days later. I took the metro to Chandni Chowk and walked into Paranthey Waley Gali. At the end of this lane there’s a T-junction. Turn left into Kinari Bazaar. A little ahead you’ll find a small lane (Gali Barafwali) to the right. Padam’s chaat counter is at the mouth of the gali (phone nos: 9971537114 and 9910359025).
Pots and pans
The day I went there a young man called Titu was in charge of the eatery that was started many years ago by his grandfather.
Titu sits there in the mornings, and his father takes over in the evenings. He was surrounded by baskets and pots and pans — carrying everything from golgappas and papris to curd, saunth , chutneys and spices.
I asked for some golgappas (Rs.20 for 5) and had a plate of chaat papri (Rs.40). The golgappas were crunchy, and the water that went into the hole was delectable — nicely sweet (unlike in most parts of south Delhi, where it is much too tangy) and mildly sour. The chaat was delicious too. The curd was fresh and the spices (black pepper, yellow chillies and roasted and powdered cumin seeds) were just right. What I also liked about the chaat was that the slivers of kachaloo that went into it were thin — which burst gently in the mouth, without exploding with a snap.
Padam also sells kachoris with dahi and the works, and kalmi vadas — again for Rs.40 a plate.
I enjoyed both the golgappey and the chaat, and plan to go back there soon for the kachori and the kalmi vada. Annu is right — Padam’s stuff is excellent. But is he better than Ashok chaatwallah? I would say, not quite — though he’s almost as good. Readers’ views on the subject are most welcome!