Last week I finally managed a wishlist item and went to Chandni Chowk with friends, by the Metro, much the sanest way to get there. I hadn't been back since I lived in the Red Fort during my first year of college, so Chandni Chowk certainly looked very different from what I remembered. We found our way to Dariba Kalan, passing vendors selling yummy-looking guavas and vegetable sellers who had beautifully packed mushrooms, broccoli and baby corn side by side with cholia and other purely desi veggies.
I spotted a cart selling Daulat ki Chaat as soon as we hit Dariba Kalan, and I was thrilled. I had been reading about this winter delicacy for years! Daulat ki chaat sounds like the kind of thing you'd expect indulgent nawabs to have invented - the froth is whipped off of boiling milk and left out to cool under the stars overnight, so the early morning dew soaks into it and helps it set. This is then whipped up with a few rose petals, slivers of khoya, bhoora and saffron to form an ethereal mouthful, like early morning clouds of a hopeful dawn, tinged with the red-gold of the sun. It dissolves on the tongue in seconds, leaving behind the merest hint of its grace to tantalise your tastebuds.
Once we'd indulged in that and some jewellery shopping in tiny shops along Dariba Kalan, we headed for Parathe wali Gali. One of my friends had recommended that we go to the third shop in the lane. Sadly, it's not much of a Parathewali gali anymore, and the third shop down was the only one to be offering the said Parathas. They had all kinds, though - karela, bhindi, mirchi, matar, khoya, kela etc along with the more traditional aloo, gobhi, mooli.
We decided to be adventurous and only go for the exotica - starting with Karela, mirchi and papad, then moving on to malai, matar and so on. The meal consists of kaddu ki sabzi, tari wale aloo, sukhey aloo and gur-imli ki chutney with bananas along with the assortment of parathas. As it turned out, the one traditional one we ordered - the mooli one- was a big letdown in erms of flavour, but all the others were fabulous, leaving me dreaming up combinations of my own to try out at home. Though the parathas were deep-fried, they weren't heavy. Four of us ate about 9 of the parathas, washed down with Pepsi but didn't feel weighted down by the meal when we left.
Highly recommended: Papad, mirchi, kaju parathas; kela paratha for dessert. Do carry tissues/ wet wipes and if you're particular, some sanitizer.