The author sniffs around Old Delhi for ghiya ki launj and finds it at Shyam Sweets. Alas! It is not as good as he knew it as a child
We were talking about sweets the other day, and the conversation veered round to all those old sweets that have disappeared from our lives. Take something like malai key laddoo or makkhan ka samosa. Both are exquisite sweets that were a part of our growing up years. But now it's difficult to find them in any sweetshop.
When I was a young lad, one of the sweets that we loved to eat was a sugar sheet. The sweet makers used to make a thin and translucent sheet out of melted sugar which was dotted with black pepper. We used to buy two or four annas worth of this, and the sweet maker used to break off a big piece and give it to us. It seemed like ambrosia to us those days.
There were two other sweets that we were fond of. Both were made out of ghiya or the humble bottle gourd, which is a vegetable that I fear will not win any popularity contest. But we grew up eating ghiye ka laccha and ghiye ki launj.
Then somebody told me that there was a shop near the Gourishankar temple in Chandni Chowk which sold ghiye ka laccha. I went there, and found the shop but there was no sign of the sweet. I asked the owners about it and was told that they did sell the sweet once but no longer did so. “Nobody wants these sweets any more,” I was told.
That's sad, but true. It's also a vicious circle. If the sweet doesn't exist, how will the young know about it, and how will there be a demand for it? I was mulling over all these imponderables when a friend mentioned that he had spotted ghiye ki launj at Shyam Sweets. Shyam Sweets, as regular readers would know, is a well-known shop in Bar Shah Bullah — the chowk where Nai Sarak and Chawri Bazaar meet.
I reached there one day and found that the shop did have the sweet, and another old favourite of mine called the gajar pak. I ate a slice of the gajar pak — cooked with sweetened carrots —- there and then, and packed some launj, sold at Rs.240 a kilo.
Later, when I had a piece of the ghiye ki launj, I thought that either my memory had changed, or the sweet had. This was a hardened piece — but not as crisp as I would have liked. The sweet is cooked over a period of time by mixing grated bottle gourd with milk and sugar over a slow flame.
But I was happy to see the sweet there — and it brought back memories of my callow youth and carefree childhood.
I couldn't leave Shyam Sweets without eating some of their mutter kachoris. This was, as always, delicious.
The crisp kachori — with a stuffing of fresh peas — came with a potato sabzi, and was truly out of this world. That, topped with the ghiye ki launj, was a meal worth remembering.