The world may change but some places don't, just like Kake di Hatti in Chandni Chowk, says a bewitched RAHUL VERMA
Another word for Delhi today is change. Everything around the city is changing – from its road to its markets to its eateries. Though I am an old Delhi hand, even I find it difficult to recognise some parts of the city these days. Huge flyovers have come up – which more often than not serve no purpose – and pavements have been wiped out. Old markets which were like neighbourhood shopping centres have turned into glitzy designer arcades. Even the winters of Delhi – which were once bitingly cold but wonderfully sunny – are now sheathed in a glum foggy cloak.
That's why, it was simply great to see that an old haunt of mine called Kake di Hatti hadn't changed at all. I used to go there decades ago – those days when I could walk like a horse and eat like one too. I went back there this past week, and found it was just the way I had last seen it so many years ago. There was just one change. Instead of benches, there were stools for people to sit on.
This little eatery is in the Chandni Chowk area, and is not to be confused with its more upmarket namesake in Connaught Place. This is on Church Mission Road. When you hit the Khari Baoli-Fatehpuri crossing from Chandni Chowk, turn right. You'll find a lane full of shops all selling paneer and khoya. That's the Church Mission Road. About 50 yards down the road, on your left, is Kake di Hatti. The 70-year-old place is actually known for its huge nans. The nans are so big that you can easily turn them into four rotis. They are filled with all kinds of good stuff – from potatoes and cauliflower to radish and peas, and cost anything between Rs.25 and 30.
Kake di Hatti is for people who want to have a fulfilling lunch without any fuss. It's not for those who'd like a leisurely meal. I sat on a stool and looked around. In a huge bowl on the table in front of me I found grated radish and carrot. Large amounts of pickle lay on a flat plate. There was a small bottle of chutney too on the table. All this, clearly, was for the nan. I saw people who took a dollop of the grated vegetables on the side, added chutney to a chunk of nan, dipped it in some raita, and then popped it into the mouth with a piece of pickle. You had a full and balanced meal for Rs.30.
The nan, however, was too big for me. I asked for a plate of dal makhni, shahi paneer and boondi raita. How big are the rotis, I asked the waiter with some trepidation. Oh, very small, he replied nonchalantly. So I asked for two. When the rotis came, I found that each one was big enough to feed a small army. For once, I left food on my plate. But the food itself was delicious. The dal was superb and so was the raita. The shahi paneer was a bit too sweet for me, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I finished my meal, and coughed up Rs.93 for it.
It's nice to know that some parts of Delhi are still the way they were when I was a callow youth. I am all for change – where would we be without the wheel? – but I like to see some old familiar places. It's nice to know that not all is history.