Food has a delightful way of reinventing itself. Just when you think that nothing can be done to enhance the taste of khasta kachori, an innovative chef goes and replaces the usual carrot-chilli pickle with an apple jalapeno relish, giving the dish a delicious kick. Street food, I noticed especially in 2022 (though the trend has been there for a while), is being presented with little tweaks here and there, which add flavours to old favourites.
As I look back at a year well spent, I find that street food — traditional and new — has been occupying the high table.
A place called Madam Chutney, for instance, gave me immense pleasure. The restaurant in Greater Kailash 2 (M-20, 1st floor M Block Market; Mob: 9999386300), serves street food that is familiar, yet different. Its Nawabi dahi batasey are golgappas with a stuffing of boiled potatoes, ripe mango pieces and sev, and an invigorating sweet-and-sour curd sauce. Its khasta kachori is crunchy, the way kachoris should be, but it is the apple jalapeno relish which makes it memorable.
Another drool-worthy dish is jalebi chat, a must-have at the Amaltas Indian tapas and bar in Greater Kailash (Mob: 8595324189). This is a savoury and crunchy jalebi, which comes wrapped in sweet-and-sour flavours provided by a mix of yoghurt, chutney, sev and pomegranate.
Amaltas has given sandwiches, an essential part of street food in Western India, a zestful twist, too. Its Amdavad special sandwich, taking off from Gujarat’s fermented rice-and-lentil batter dish, handvo, is stuffed with spiced potatoes and sprinkled with crunchy sev. I am greatly fond of keema (minced meat), and love Amaltas’s meat bhaji with pao - a keema patty topped with a fried egg, and served with toasted pao.
Happily for me, innovative street food whets the appetite for traditional street dishes. I remember in particular Annakoot’s bedmi (puri made out of spiced dough) with aloo sabzi. The restaurant, which has branches in many parts of the city, including Bengali Market (Mob:9711088031) has all kinds of delightful breakfast dishes such as mattar kulcha: soft kulchas served with a lemony, white-pea dish. Their aloo bedmi is superb, too — the bedmi is crisp, and the stuffing, deliciously spicy.
Another eatery that gave me much joy this year was Kulcha Ambarsariya Da in the Amar Colony main market, Lajpat Nagar (Mob: 9717430017). Their stuffed kulchas are delicious, and the chole that they come with (along with butter chiplets) is light, yet superb. The kulchas have different kinds of fillings ranging from potato-onions and cauliflower to moong dal and green chillies.
Clearly, the year has been a food-filled festival. Not everything that warmed my soul was street food, of course. I get all mushy when I think of Layla’s Yemeni mandi chicken a dish of flavoured rice topped with a huge piece of roasted chicken. Layla (L-27, ground floor, Zamrudpur; Mob: 9310764949) offers excellent shawarmas, oozing with meat and onions, and their lamb with hummus and lafa bread will keep you going back for more. Then there is the Bihar food of The Chhaunk (D-145A, South City 1, Gurugram; Mob: 8860200021). Its menu includes the region’s mouth-watering Champaran meat dish, dal puris and methi puri.
As the New Year approaches, I tip my beret to all those who added flavours to 2022. Let 2023 be even more delightful.