Down memory lane Metroplus

Samosas from Sindh, kachoris from Old Delhi

Kachoris Photo R. Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

“Ek kachori tel mein/Saare toady jail mein” (one kachori in the oil and all the toadies in jail) was a slogan during the freedom struggle against those Indians sympathetic to the British. Very few remember that slogan now and fewer still understand what it meant. But kachoris are still fried as of old and sold in the Walled City though the residents of New Delhi prefer samosas. Octogenarian Beni Prasad of Katra Neel remarked: “Samosas gained in popularity after Partition as the refugees from Punjab and Sindh did not have the Braj culture of a jalebi-kachori breakfast.” The samosa, comes news, is now going to be taxed in Bihar, which may hit its popularity.

Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia was fond of kachori-jalebi and so were President S.D. Sharma and former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. As a matter of fact, Lohia heard the news of the first cosmonaut (Russian for astronaut) Yuri Gagarin circling the earth in a mid-20th Century historic first while being entertained to his favourite breakfast at the office of the popular Hindi daily Amar Ujala. That also happened to be an occasion for a rare Press conference with the pragmatic socialist leader. Dr. Sharma, even after becoming the First Citizen of India, confessed that he missed the kachoris and jalebis of Bhopal. His wife, however, added that she and Avantika (their granddaughter, named after the much-hyped pre-World War Italian call for Revolution) were equally fond of them and whenever possible the delicacies were procured from Madhya Pradesh for a private breakfast at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

That seems strange as Old Delhi’s kachori and jalebis are supposed to be just as good. You can get the best jalebis in Chandni Chowk and the kachoris of Chawri Bazar attract customers from far and near. One vendor, who stands in a nearby Ballimaran gali, does brisk business every afternoon when the girls and boys coming home from school throng his rehri (cart), causing a virtual traffic jam. Dal-filled kachoris of Ghattia and Daresi, fried in mustard oil, are supposed to be the best in UP, and so also Jaipur’s. After Partition the kachori culture spread to Karachi as most migrants from UP were brought up on the Ghattia and Chawri Bazar preparations, which beat even the mince-filled variety. At least this is what MQM leader Altaf Hussain (an Agra boy) is said to have stated.

Old Delhi is a good place for samosas and kachoris but if you are looking for equally good once in West Delhi you will find it really hard to suit your taste-buds. Some enterprising Old Delhi-wallahs have however opened costly shops to sell the traditional stuff in the newer colonies. Shri Ram’s Purani Dilli shop near Hari Nagar Ghanta Ghar is the newest outlet in West Delhi, drawing customers to its exquisite kachoris and samosas. Its Chandni Chowk connection helps.

Some like soft jalebis and some hard ones but both are delicious, whether big or small, and easy on the pocket. First fried and then dipped in molasses, the red-brown, circular pieces require deft fingers to give them the required shape. For this a piece of porous cloth is needed to hold the pre-prepared mixture in a potli (small bundle) from which the stuff is twisted out into the cauldron containing hot ghee. As soon as the jalebis begin to sizzle, they are put into another cauldron full of sugar sheera (syrup) and then offered for sale. But the ones eaten with milk during Ramzan are not sweet.

Besides the big shops, there were two Rajus who sold jalebis at the Shani market in Subhash Nagar. The elder Raju, who used to bring his rehri-cart all the way from Khayala Village, died one evening after a heart attack, suffered while he was catering to customers, but the other Raju is still there in front of the Route 820 bus stop at weekends.

Josh Malihabadi tasted mince samosas in Matia Mahal. Dr. Zakir Husain who was fond of good food usually came to the Walled City in his early years for a breakfast of kachori-samosa-jalebi combine. What’s more, even Jawaharlal Nehru was fond of having the stuff at Teen Murti House. Some of his staff came to Ghantewallah’s and after ordering sweets visited other famous shops in the area to buy kachoris, samosas and jalebis for a week-end breakfast. Someone remarked that even the Murtis (statues) in front of Nehruji’s residence, which gave the building its name, must have felt their mouths watering at the stuff being served inside. The remark is attributed to R.M. Lohia who, though a strong critic of the then PM, appreciated the fact that the Nehru-Gandhi family, despite the usual Western-style menu, retained its love for the traditional North Indian breakfast. And that too is a tribute of sorts to the kachori-samosa culture that has withstood the onslaught of soft food like pizza, pasta and macaroni, which is now also being used in samosas, belying Lalu Prasad Yadav’s boast, “Jab tak samosa mein allo rahega/Tab tak Lalu ka nam rahega” (so long as potato is used in samosa so long will Lalu’s name remain). Alas, Shah Jahan could not have savoured the Shahjahanabadi samosa because they say its history dates back only 200 years.

The author is a veteran chronicler of Delhi

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 9:50:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Samosas-from-Sindh-kachoris-from-Old-Delhi/article14028745.ece

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