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Delhi's jalebis, Delhi's pride

The Old Famous Jalebi Wala in Chandni Chowk is famous for hot, soft and juicy jalebis. Prepared in pure ghee, the smell of these sweet morsels wafting in the air brings in customers in droves, says FIROZ BAKHT AHMED....

THE IRRESISTIBLE hot jalebis at Delhi's Old Famous Jalebi Wala in Chandni Chowk's Dariba Nukkad may burn your tongue because you can't wait to eat them! The unique taste lingers hours after you have tasted them. Home made ghee has that aroma that tickles the nostrils. "The taste of these jalebis is same for the last 80 years since Nemi Chand Jain opened this shop," once stated the late, Mir Mushtaq Ahmed, a freedom fighter.

Kailash Chand Jain, the present proprietor of the shop, says that his father, Nemi Chand Jain, a native of Agra's Hari Ki Garhi village, migrated to Delhi in 1905 and after some struggle, started a shop at Dariba Nukkad. He experimented with many recipes and finally got one that according to him was the most satisfying. The recipe has been exclusively made and kept a secret with other members of the family. The senior most member has the right to own it. The unique thing is that they cook these tongue tingling jalebis on coal fire.

"We don't use gas burners as the fire there is not suitable for food items," says Kailash. He challenges that no one can make jalebis as tasty as theirs all over India. His jalebis are also famous in countries like U.K., U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Germany and even Pakistan.

Kailash doesn't want to reveal the names of the celebrities relishing his jalebis. Persist and he fishes out a whole lot of black and white and coloured photographs of Raj Kapoor, Chetan Chauhan, Bishen Singh Bedi, Dagar Brothers, Sikandar Bakht, Sanjay Gandhi and Chaudhary Charan Singh savouring his juicy jalebis at Dariba Nukkad. Also, he shows pictures of Pakistani cricketers of yore like Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Sadiq Mohammed, Wasim Bari and Sarfaraz Nawaz eating jalebis at his shop. Looking at these photographs is like taking a trip down memory lane. Kailash claims that even Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi and Deve Gowda - all former Prime Ministers - too were fond of his jalebis.

No name can be more apt than Old Famous Jalebi Wala that you see nicely painted on the board. For desi ghee, they have their own buffaloes. People start queuing up right from 10 a.m. though the shutters open an hour later. Till midnight, there is non-stop rush of those with a sweet tooth. One is impressed by the cleanliness of the area despite overcrowding of customers. A person constantly cleans up the place, throwing the leftovers in the big bin. A person behind the scenes responsible for such succulent jalebis is the Ustad, who keeps frying the juicy sweet. Another speciality of the jalebi is that it is quite big in size - every piece is of 100 grams - and almost like an artefact.

Delhi's jalebis, Delhi's pride

Claims Kailash Chand, "Also, our jalebis are nonpareil as we do not use sugar solution to immerse them. We use khand - a pure form of sugar -- instead of ordinary sugar which gives the jalebis an inimitable taste."

As the jalebis are fried by the Ustad, the aroma of pure ghee wafts through the nearby shops of bullion and gold ornament's Sarrafa market. The smell of jalebis traps even those customers who are in the market. At Rs. 100 per kg, the price is quite affordable for the middle class visitors to this shop. The utensils used for preparing jalebis are all of stainless steel.

The jalebis are soft and even an old man, with few teeth, can enjoy them. If a Delhiite who believes in good eating, hasn't visited the Old Famous Jalebi Wala, he has missed something really palatable.

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