On a sunny winter afternoon, led by our enthusiastic local guide Asmita, Harneet and I set out to try the many little gems tucked away in the by-lanes of Kamla Nagar, near the North Campus of the University of Delhi.
Our pilgrimage began, as it inevitably had to, with Chacha’s Chhole Bhature. Thanks to the holiday and an early start, we pulled off the unthinkable — a meal of surprisingly non-greasy Alu Bhature, with the lip-smackingly delicious chholey coupled with perfectly fried potatoes, fresh onions and green chillies, all without having to stand in a long line of drooling undergrads!
Having Asmita with us immediately paid rich dividends — she knew that Chacha’s also sells his secret ingredient — the chana masala, something that is not advertised even at the shop — a fact which I can only put down to inexcusable modesty or perhaps a long history of stampedes. Needless to say, we happily forked out the dough for a paao each of chana masala, selling for Rs. 25 apiece. Having washed the meal down with a hot cuppa from a nearby stall in the same lane, we sauntered down to our next destination — Brijwaasi Sweets, in the Chhota Golchakkar area near the Khadi Bhandar. In the lane towards the shop, we first stopped at the corner for a capable plate of alu chaat, after which the hot gulab jamuns from Brijwaasi tasted even better (especially the round variety, which won hands down over their elongated brothers).
Serving the discerning throngs of Gujaratis and Marwaris that reside in the neighbourhood is the Gujarati Namkeen Wala right next to Brijwaasi. Here you get farsaan (namkeen) the way they were meant to be — gaathiya and phaaphra accompanied by a pickle of green chillies, bhelpuri mixture with an attached sachet of powder to make chutney from, and of course the mandatory khakhra in several flavours, straight from Gujarat.
Having stocked up with enough snacks for the next few weeks, and after a brief stop for some shakarkandi ki chaat at a roadside stall, Asmita decided to take us to Bille di Hatti, originally of Lahore. If all the talk of Gujarati farsaan makes your inner Punjabi groan with phrases of the oonth ke munh mein jeera variety, fear not, you’ve come to the right place. Bille serves lassi in steel tumblers, and before you have licked the cream off the top of the glass, you’ve already separated the men from the boys. It is no mean feat that Harneet, who ordinarily swears by — tsk tsk — namkeen chhaachh (and yet has Punjabi written all over him), found the sweet lassi not only delicious, but also hard to finish. But beware, if you want to sample Bille’s lassi on a regular college day, you must get here early enough, or you’ll have to fight your way through the throngs of young studs for whom downing a glass of Bille’s lassi is nothing short of the Holy Grail of reckless courtship displays.
Incredibly enough though, we were still not done for the day. If the fact that we could still get up the energy to haul our collective ass over to yet another shop on a languorous winter afternoon didn’t earn us our foodie stripes, I don’t know what could. The shop in question was Ajay Kumar Vijay Kumar Garg Gajjak Wale of Agra, a true rags-to-riches story built on the solid foundation of quality gajjak. The elderly gentleman who now presides over no less than two outlets in Kamla Nagar and another in Agra, started life selling his wares on a cycle in Kamla Nagar, at the very location where he now owns a shop. Having by now partaken of some of the gurh ki khasta gajjak and gurh ki rewri that we all stocked up on, I can safely say that neither Asmita, nor generations of Kamla Nagaris, have anything but the finest taste in desi munchies!