An ode to masalas: Sita Ram Diwan Chand

We raise a toast to Delhi’s favourite street food — chole bhature at Sita Ram Diwan Chand

November 15, 2018 03:37 pm | Updated 03:58 pm IST

I am a self-confessed chole bhatura freak. I have traversed distances across Delhi to savour this dish, and then retraced these epic journeys to devour it time and again.

There are many joints that serve chole bhature , but one that wins hands down in the capital, is the one served at Sita Ram Diwan Chand at Paharganj.

It is easy to reach this place from the Metro station side, from where you can avoid the railway station crowd. The streets are wide and it is comfortable to travel that far for a plate of the best chole bhature .

These melt-in-the-mouth choles are mildly spiced. You can taste the myriad spices which explode in your mouth, unlike in other joints, where you only get to taste green chillies and ginger.

Puneet Kohli, who mans the joint with his father Pran Nath Kohli, says, “We serve typical Punjabi chole bhature . People seem to love it and keep coming back for more.” I prod him, asking for the secret ingredient and he cheekily replies, “Ask those who eat it. They should be able to tell you. We feel it is typical fare, but it sells in generous quantities.”

After further prodding about their recipe, Puneet says, “We soak the chana (Kabuli variety) for over 24 hours.” They are not pressure-cooked, but cooked in drums with garam masala , which gives it the unique flavour. The garam masala is a special mix made using 14 ingredients, is all he divulges.

Puneet adds, “It is the combination of the garam masala which gives it the unique taste. It is a play of spices. We grind our own spices.”

As we chew on the soft and fluffy bhaturas , people queue up for their share of the dish.

Right from 8 in the morning to 6 in the evening, the place is brimming with people. Puneet beams, “One thing we do not compromise on is the quality. The method is still the same, as started by my grandfather. The recipe for the masala is the same, as is the method for soaking, boiling chickpeas, or the flour for the bhatura .”

Puneet then shares the history behind their food joint. His grandfather sold chole bhature outside DAV School, Paharganj on a push cart.

He talks about how his family moved to India from Lahore after Partition. His grandfather was called Sita Ram. Online research reveals it was his great grandfather who probably initiated this trade in 1948. Hence the name, Sita Ram Diwan Chand. Sita Ram, in the 80s, set up shop opposite Imperial Cinema. By 1990, he had managed to buy a small space near Chanakya Hotel.

In 2008, the current, swankier place was opened. The outfit also delivers through Swiggy and accepts online bookings. Puneet reveals that “in 1970, the dish was sold for 5 paise a plate. Today, we sell it for ₹65 a plate.”

The chole bhature is served with pickled carrots and green chillies with diced onions. Their version of aloo subzi is another killer. The gastronomical expedition is well worth the effort.

In this fortnightly column, we take a peek at some of the country’s most iconic restaurants

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