Dahi Gujiya | Lentil Dumplings In Sweet Spiced Yogurt – A Festive Recipe


I have not been keeping too well and that is affecting  my writing and other projects badly. Made these traditional UP style dahi gujias for Holi but never got a chance to post the recipe. My apologies for this late post.

Dahi gujia can be called sibling of dahi vadey/dahi bhalle. Melt in the mouth, delicate lentil dumplings especially made in the shape of gujia during festive or auspicious occasions like weddings etc. It is also a Holi specialty in parts of Uttar Pradesh. A bit tricky to make,  it takes a bit of patience and practice to make these. The gujias have a little stuffing inside them unlike the usual dahi badey. Served with sweet tamarind sauce or sonth and ground spices this remains one of my favorite dishes in any season.

I remember my mother making them and arranging them gently in a large ceramic pan then pouring the chilled beaten curd over it and let them rest a while to soak up the curd. She would then decorate them with ground spices and sauces. The gujiyas were so tender hat they would break at the slightest touch. The trick to this softness lies n the making of Peethi or ground lentil paste.

One must keep in mind to soak the daal  for minimum 4-5 hours preferably overnight. Grind the daal with minimal water to make a whipped cream like paste. It should be airy and light. Check the lightness of the paste by dropping a little batter in the glass of water. If it floats then it is ready to use. Soaking the fried gujias in hot water for a minimum of 30 minutes is essential too. This will help them to fluff up to double the size and remove excess oil too. They can them be gently squeezed and used. One can refrigerate the fried gujias for at least and use them later too.

Ingredients :

For Gujia :

Urad daal (Dhuli) | Split skinned black lentil – 250 gm

Oil for Frying

For stuffing :

Ginger grated and julienne – 1 inch piece

Chironji – 1 tsp

Raisins – 10-15

Freshly Crushed black pepper – 2 tsp

You can add crushed cashews too. I do not.

Other ingredients :

Home cultured Yogurt /Curd /Dahi – 500 gm

Sugar – 1 tbsp

Salt – to taste

Sweet Tamarind Chutney  Sonth – as required

Green Coriander \ Mint Chutney – as required

Roasted cumin seed powder – as required

Salt – as per taste

red chili powder – as per taste

Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp

 

I just realized I forgot to add the process pic of frying the gujia. Sorry about that. 

Note to self and Tip – when planning to post on blog save pictures separately from Instagram. lol .. here is the pic from the story I rescued. You know where it should have gone in the collage.

Process : 

Wash and soak the skinned and split black gram daal overnight.  In the morning remove excess water and grind the daal into a fine paste ( it should look like whipped cream.) Add a little water to the daal while grinding if it is too thick but the batter should not become runny.

Take it out in a large bowl and whip it with fingers too to incorporate air into he batter. This will help the gujia to stay light and fluffy.

Now, add oil for frying in a kadhayi / wok and put it on medium high flame. Meanwhile in a shallow large bowl take water(not boiling) and add hing/asafoetida and salt to it. Mix well and keep aside.

Spread it into a round shape of 4-5 inch diameter with your fingers. Add a little of stuffing and gently fold the batter with the help of the sheet to make the crescent shape gujia. Join the edges by gently pressing with fingers.

Lift the gujia with the sheet n your left hand and flip the gujia gently in to your right hand. Gently slide it into the hot oil. Be careful while you do this step.

You can make these gujias on your palms too but that requires skill and practice.

Fry it till its color slight golden brown. Remove excess oil and drop it gently into the bowl of hot water.

Repeat the steps for frying all gujias and place them in salted hing water for 15-20 minutes to absorb the flavor. In another bowl beat the chilled yogurt . I prefer to use home cultured one but you can use the market bought one also.

Once it it nicely whisked, add sugar and mix well. The consistency should be flowing but not really thin and runny.

Take out one gujia at a time and gently press it between palms to squeeze out water. Place the gujias in a shallow dish and pour the beaten yogurt on top soaking them well.

Decorate with tamarind sauce and green chutney. Sprinkle roasted cumin seed powder, red chili powder and black salt over it and chill.

Serve when desired. You can also keep the curd separately and make individual servings by putting a little curd as base in a plate then adding 1-2 gujias and spooning some more curd on top. Garnish with ground spices and chutneys before serving.

I make the usual dahi bada with the same mixture many times in summer. It is a complete lunch for me at times and one of my favorites too.

Do give this a try and let me know your experience.

 

Usal – Misal Pav Recipe


Misal pav is one of the most popular Mumbai street food. Wholesome, delicious and full of flavors this dish is made from whole bean sprouts especially sprouted moth beans or Turkish beans. You can use mixed sprouts too. The curry is a fiery melange of fresh spices, sprouts, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and farsan. Misal is usually served at breakfast but you can eat it any time of the day. Pav can be bought or made at home with whole wheat.

Every place in Maharashtra has its own variation of Misal. I have had Puneri misal on many occasions and once had a taste of kolhapuri misal in mumbai that set my insides on fire. Too spicy, too oily, too rich for me but those who have a penchant for fiery food this dish is a must.  The original recipe requires a lot of oil but you may cut the oil and spices according to your taste. Then there is the Nasik Maratha style misal that uses the aromatic kala masala and lot more red chilli spiced oil that floats atop the misal. There is a debate on whether the goda masala and kala masala are the same. I think they taste very different. I have used goda masala in this recipe.

You can keep the gravy (Kat) and the usal separately or mix them. The advantage of keeping Kat separate is that one can adjust the amount of spiced curry.

Usal is made from sprouted moth beans and has its own place in maharashtriyan households. When topped with Kat, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes and farsan it is becomes Misal.

The process is a bit lengthy but worth all the effort if you get it right. I have made it only thrice but I love to  dunk the pav in this spicy dish anytime.

Making misal pav is a two part process.  We make the Kat ( the gravy) and the usal (the sprout dish).

Here is the list of ingredients you will require:

Pav buns ( traditionally ladi pav buns are used) – 6

Butter to toast the pav

Sprouts (mixed or moth bean srouts) – 2 cups

Tomatoes – 2 large

Potatoes  – 2 medium size cubed

Onions –  2 large finely chopped

Fresh corriender greens – 1/4 cup

Farsan ( spicy snack mixture)

Grated dry coconut – 2 tablespoon

Goda masala or achar (pickle) masala – 2 tablespoon

Green chili – 2

Ginger – 1/2 inch

Garlic – 6-7 pods

Cumin seed powder – 1 teaspoon

Corriender powder – 2 tablespoon

Red chili powder –  1 tablespoon

Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon

Turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon

Garam Masala – 1/4 teaspoon

Salt – to taste

Curry leaves – 8-10

Oil – 2 tablespoon

 

To make the paste for the gravy (Kat in Marathi)

Make a paste of ginger ,garlic and green chilies.

In a pan heat some oil. Once the oil heats up add asafedita powder and this paste. Stir properly.

Add chopped onion and when the onions become translucent add grated coconut. Stir and add chopped tomatoes. Sauté them till the tomatoes become soft and the mixture blends into a smooth paste. Add coriander powder, turmeric powder, goda masala, cumin powder, red chili powder and salt. Once the masala starts to leave oil take it out to cool.

When the masala cools completely, put it in a grinder jar and grind to a fine paste.

In a pan heat some oil and add mustard seeds. Once they begin to sputter, add curry leaves and the masala paste you had prepared.  fry it well and add two – three cups of water. Kat is a watery gravy so don’t hesitate to add adequate water. Let it boil for ten minutes or till the reddish oil floats to the top.

To make Usal

In a pressure cooker add some oil. Once the oil heats, add mustard seeds, asafetida powder,  curry leaves, paste of ginger garlic, some chopped onion and stir.

When the onion become translucent, add washed matki sprouts  and cubed potatoes.  Stir well.

Add a little turmeric powder, a little garam masala and pinch of salt. Add some water to cover the sprouts completely.

Pressure cook  till three whistles. Usal should not be watery but still have some gravy.

Turn off the heat and let the cooker cool.

Spoon the usal in a serving dish.

To toast the Pav –

Slice the pav buns  and toast them slightly in butter in a pan or just warm them. They should be soft and nice so don’t toast for long. I recommend roasting in butter.

To assemble the Misal –

In a deep dish first add two ladels of matki usal and one ladle of kat( the fiery gravy). The nadd a layer of chopped onions and chopped coriander greens. The third layer must be of farsan/ sev or whichever spicy gathia mixture you have. Squeeze generous amount of lemon juice.

Serve it hot with toasted pav.

You can serve kat, usal and farsan, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes and lemon pieces in separate bowls too. People can mix them as per their taste.

Alternately if you know that everyone in the family has a liking for hot and spicy curries, you can mix the usal in the kat and boil for some time. Serve with chopped onions, tomatoes, farsan and lemon wedges.

Notes –

You can eat usal with bhakri or roti too.

Some people like to have curd or butttermilk with misal pav to balance the heat from the curry.

Adjust the oil and chili according to your preferences. This is my version of misal pav, you can make your own.

The authentic misal pav uses a typical masala called goda masala. You get it in the market. You can also use Maharashtriyan achar ka masala which gives the misal a unique tastes. If you don’t have any of these, you can use the usual garam masala though the misal will taste different.

I don’t get all the ingredients for goda masala but I make this mix which you can try too. I will post the recipe for it in the next post.

 

To make the bean sprouts –  Wash moth or matki beans properly and soak them in water overnight in a covered container. Once the beans swell, take them out in a sieve and wash a few times under filtered water. Put the sieve on a small container and cover loosely with muslin cloth. Keep in dark place till the sprouts appear. Wash the sprouted beans properly under running filtered water before using.

 

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Delhi Street Style Egg Paratha


 

Egg parathas or Anda Parathas bring back a lot of memories from college days and later when mid night hunger pangs took us to moolchand parathewala and various other roadside paratha joints which catered to the night owls like us. It was the preferred choice of meal along with other stuffed parathas.  There can be no other soul satisfying meal than this when the city sleeps and the streets are almost empty except for  people like us and the dogs. The coveted time between 11 PM to 4 AM was the playground for these parathewalas and hungry night owls. You will always find people to tell you interesting stories related to their night- outs and paratha eating adventures.

Street food is an art. It is an experience to watch these street vendors conjure up delicious dishes right in front of you.  I have watched the art of making anda paratha but what we make at home doesn’t come closer to what the street side vendors sell. Still, for the love of it I started making a few variations of this famous paratha at home. My boys were sucker for this treat and it would be a choice of single egg or double egg, sometimes even a stuffing of anda bhurji or scrambled egg, keema would go in and the paratha would instantly become a  complete meal.

Crisp , flaky, packed with the goodness of eggs and spices egg paratha is a great thing to satiate your hunger. The stalls make this no frill delight and diligently serve you with pickle and onion rings. Sometimes even a dollop of butter.

Unlike usual stuffed paratha the street style egg paratha is slightly tricky to make. The beaten egg is gently folded into the layers of the crisp paratha and then it cooks inside them. Usually, in a good paratha you won’t be able to see a trace of egg outside and only when you tear it to take a bite the deliciousness of the cooked egg will come to light.

Some street parathas are made differently where the egg is broken on top of a large roti made with maida and cooked on hot tawa then folded with some keema or egg stuffing like a mughlai paratha but that is a different story.

The Delhi style egg paratha is different and unique in taste. Here are the two ways you can try to replicate the awesome street food at home.

Ingredients : (Serves 4)

Whole wheat Flour – 2 cups

Eggs – 4

Coriander greens –  4 tablespoons

Green chili – finely chopped 1 tablespoon

Salt and black pepper – to taste

Red chili powder – to taste.

Onion –  1/2 cup chopped fine

Water – to kneed the dough

Oil / Ghee – for cooking paratha

Steps : – 

The paratha for this recipe needs to be flaky so that when it puffs up the layers separate and you can slide the egg mixture inside by lifting the top layer. Regular paratha makers will not find this difficult and the new enthusiasts can learn from trial and error , it is all worth the effort. Trust me. 😀

In a bowl take wheat flour, add salt and a little oil and kneed it into a nice dough using water as required. Keep aside for 15 minutes and then kneed again with your fist to make a nice soft dough. Softer dough will yield great parathas. Keep it under a moist muslin cloth till ready to use.

In another bowl break one egg and add the coriander leaves, green chili, chopped onion and other spices.

Whisk it well and keep aside.

Divide the dough in four equal parts. Roll each part into a ball.

Dust the ball in dry flour and roll it into a circle with a rolling pin. Now apply some oil/ ghee and fold it in half circle , then fold again to make a triangle. brush oil/ ghee between each layer and sprinkle the dry wheat flour slightly. This will keep the layers separate.

Heat a frying pan or tawa, flat griddle on medium heat and cook the paratha till one side gets brown spots, flip and cook the other side similarly. Apply a little oil/ ghee on the sides.

When you see the edges becoming crisp and the paratha splits into layers  gently lift the top layer or make a incision with a sharp knife to pour the egg mixture between the two layers. Tilt the paratha a little so the mixture is evenly distributed.

Cover it again with the layer of paratha and let the egg cook inside.

Gently press it with the spatula to ensure the egg cooks well inside. Do it on both sides. You can keep the flame low and cook covered for a minute too.

Once done remove it in a serving plate and serve with pickle or chutney and a nice cutting chai. Yes, you need to have kadak chai with it. Coffee won’t do.

Sprinkle some chaat masala for that street style taste.

Repeat the procedure with other egg parathas.

They need to be eaten fresh but wrap them in paper towel or butter paper if you want to take them in your lunch box or pack them for your kiddo.

Method 2 

It is simpler and though parathas for me are always triangular and not circular but you can make it this way too.

The ingredients are the same So is the cooking method. What changes is the shape of the paratha.

Don’t worry if the egg comes out. Perfection is not always essential. The parathas taste just as awesome even with a little spillage from side.

Be careful while filling as the steam from the paratha can give you burn.

It takes a little practice to make these but once you learn it you will want them every day. We will make the famous Kolkata Mughlai paratha or the Baida roti soon

Usually the street stalls use refined flour or maida to make the paratha but this healthier version with whole wheat flour is better.

 

Important Tip – It is good to learn from people sharing their food adventures and recipes perfected over time. It is better to make your own stuff and share than copy paste someone else’s. Not everyone is a professional or seasoned food photographer so it is cool to take pix as it is in your kitchen than to steal from other blogs etc.

Don’t be scared to share the way food looks in your kitchen or plate. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Ten On Tuesday -1 – Favorite Street Food Joints and Dhabas In Delhi


I came to know of Ten On Tuesday from Swaram‘s blog but I think the original idea came from Shilpa‘s blog. So it is kind of chain I guess. I am just doing it to fill the cracks between my ‘seriously writing’ and ‘thinking about seriously writing’ 😀 .The idea is to post ten things every Tuesday on one particular topic or even randomly. I am still cocooned nicely in the foodie love circle so the first post will be about some awesome places for street food and dhaba style food in Delhi. Some places that are in everyone’s budget.. well almost everyone. You can of course add more places to the list in the comment section. So here we go..

1. You think of street food and the first place that anyone will say is, Purani dilli (Old Delhi). The place is heaven for everyone who loves street food of any kind from chaat to kulfi, to rabdi faluda to chole bhature or parathas for that matter or the sumptuous kebabs and such mouth-watering delicacies. Not really a place for those who are on some sort of fancy diet or watching their calories. You need to be hopelessly devoted to food if Old Delhi is your choice to savor Delhi’s best authentic cuisine. The places I am fond of are Daulat ki chaat(kinari Bazaar). Oh, this is not the usual chaat you know. This is sweet malayi makkhan as it is known in UP. A delicate treat made of milk froth, khoya, boora cheeni and khurchan decorated with pistachos and silver vark dished out in a dona(leaf plate). Must have in my list. For the tangy chaat you can go to Heeralal chaat wala in chawadi bazaar or jugal kishor’s chaat or Ashok chaat bhandar natraj dahi bhalle wale, Jang Bahadur kachoriwala, Bishan Swaroop chaat wala (fruit chaat and chole kulche), Shyam sweets for bedmi poori, Jang Bahadur kachoriwala (chandini chawk). I can go on forever. There are vendors who sell awesome chaat in sitaram bazaar, kinari bazaar, farash khana that you can explore.

For foodies who love to venture out in the night, area near Jama Masjid (Urdu bazaar and side street of Matia Mehal comes to life with makeshift eateries selling, kebabs, fish, fried chicken, tikkas.biryani, qorma, jalebi, phirni and a lot more. Go discover yourself and tell me what all you loved. Beef, chicken, mutton, name it and you have it along with delicious sweets. Everyone knows parathewali gali, don’t we. The name says what you will savor there.

Sweet lovers can also go to Chaina Ram and annapurna sweet shop. Don’t miss Gyani’s di hatti for best rabdi faluda and dal halwa. There are so many great place that it will take me many posts to do justice to them so just head out to purani dilli and explore. 🙂

2 Paharganj is also full of fantastic eating joints that serve different kind of cuisine but we are here just talking of street food. Staram Diwanchand (chole bhature.. yum), Junta sweets, Geeta kulcha, Kashmir sweets( I think it serves veg food only), Banke Bihari samosewala, soni sweets, lassiwala neat Imperial cinema (don’t know if it still exists), Pappu Delhi sandwich stall (must try). Then there is German bakery, Sam’s café and many such hidden gems all dotting the Paharganj market. There are nankhatai sellers and Afghan food joints too.

3 Mandirwali Gali in Yusuf Sarai is for street food lovers who love samosas, kachoris and pakodas. The place has some very good eating joints. Tucked away in this busy market place is Dhan Singh’s kachori shop which sells delictable kachories, bread pakodas and jalebi, if you love kadhayiwala doodh then head to Atithi restaurant. There is also Balaji peethiwale, panditji naanwale. There are some other pakodewale and little food joints one can explore here.

4 Pakodas remind me of one of our favorite joint near Nauroji Nagar market. Khadani pakodewala, The shop offers a variety of veg-pakoras to choose from including Paneer, Potato, Spinach,onion, Lotus stem, Cauliflower, Eggplant, fat green chilli, and Bread Pakora served tangy green chutney. There is an awesome lassiwala next to it. Not to be missed. There are many good places for pakoda lovers and for non vegetarians the best choice is Paramjeet’s fish pakodas (near Motinagar metro station). There are some good pakoda shops in Karol Bagh too.

5 Poori sabzi – bedmi kachori etc- Poori sabzi at Arihant Sweets Dariyaganj best for a nice hot breakfast of nagori poori, aaloo sabzi and halwa. Sohan lal’s eatery in mehrauli bazaar, shiv kachori near Dilli Gate, Dariyaganj, Gopal snacks, Kamla Nagar, Jain Sa’ab’s bedmi kachori (near Golcha cinema- Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg T junction).

6 Nizamuddin Basti street food – The area around the Dargah Shareef is a delight for food lovers especially during festive months of ramzan and Eid. At other times too one can get a vast variety of sumptuous food here. One such shop is near the dargah and is called Muradabad ki biryani (old shop), a must visit place. There is one famous shop for nahaari on Mirza Ghalib road but I cant remember the name just now. Ghalib kebab corner, a place for the softest delicious kebabs. For sweets head to nasir for yummy kheer ( I have yet to taste it :p) or some other small shops that sell imarti, jalebi etc. The entire area near the dargah is dotted with small food stalls that sell anything from biryani to kebabs, tikkas, qormas,and various mutton, chicken, beef dishes. One just has to explore and experiment with food here.

7. Around HT House- Pappu Chaat Bhandar- Okay, I know I am going a bit heavy on chaat business but then I love it and what is Delhi without various kinds of chaats. There are many places famous for chaat in Delhi but I am talking about only those I have visited. Pappu Chaat Bhandar is right in front of HT House. My son introduced me to the awesome chaats he makes. (Kid1 works for HT City).  The guy sells best aloo chaat ever. I also like the fruit chaat he sells. Buy the simple salt and lemon seasoned one or the spicy tangy masala one. Both are a treat. Yes, the place sells Rimzim too. Added bonus. Behind HT  House you will find a lane full of food vendors. A small shop near the underpass on KG Road sells small samosas worth eating. Prabhu Chaat Bhandar ( next to UPSC building) is an old favorite.

8. Bhel puri – Bombay bhelpuri on Janpath and Bombay Bhelpuri at south Extension -1 are my favorite but you get nice one at Maharashtra stall in Dilli haat too. (Dilli Haat is over rated by the way but the Nagaland stall is awesome.)The north campus is another world of street food that one needs to cover in a separate post but I can not talk about bhel puri without mentioning Mohal lal bhelpuri wala (outside Hindu College, DU North Campus)

9. Here is a list of some good dhabas that I can vouch for – Pehlwan ka dhaba (Mehrauli), Rajender ka dhaba,Ajit Khalsa ka dhaba (Love this one opp Trivoli Garden, Chattarpur), Ashok and Ashok (Sadar bazaar), Break Fast Point ( near east Rohini metro station), kapashera and Delhi gurgaon border has some good dhabas you can explore. You can check out dhabas near Naraina Metro Station and Uttam Nagar flyover.

10. Some other places I can think of are kuldeep Parathewala 9usuf sarai), Baba Nagpal Corner for chole bhature ( Lajpat Nagar), Munnilal samosewala ( Gole Market), Dilli Haat for all kind of local cuisine from different states (near INA Market), Keema parathas near Qutub institutional area(Laxman fast food), there used to be a famous parathewala at Moolchand but I am not sure if he is still around. ( Kid 1 says he is near the metro station now. Must check.) He made awesome egg parathas. Matthew’s cafe in R.K.Puram for awesome masala dosa, dal wadas, parotta veg qorma , veg pulao, set dosa, and filter coffee.

I will add more names as i remember. 😀  This is just a trailer. Delhi has hundreds of local joints tucked away in colonies. Please feel free to add more names so that we can have a good list here. One can always talk about Karol Bagh but what I am looking for are undisovered places.

Monday Memories – 20 – Hot Tandoori Food On Delhi Winter Nights


Some years back I did a post on Dhaba food  which is an essential part of North Indian culinary culture.  Today while looking at some old posts I remembered the roadside tandoor, a two feet by three feet hole dug out in the ground and plastered with clay, where at least once a week I would go and get fresh tandoori rotis made. An old woman owned this roadside tandoor and one had to keep the container of whole wheat dough in a line and wait for our turn. The tandoor remained covered with an  old tin sheet throughout the day and as the sun went behind the buildings the old woman took her seat on a patched rug beside it and people poured in with or without the dough to take the rotis for dinner. One roti costed 10 paisa if you got your own dough and 20 paisa if you took it from the her. Mostly people got their own dough as hers was mainly a mix of whole wheat and  all-purpose flour (maida). Some even made balls for the roti (the size of a tennis ball) to save time,  keeping in mind the number of rotis consumed by each person in the family. Many bachelors or students staying alone just came and told amma ( as she was lovingly called) the number of rotis they wanted and then sat on the small charpai near the shed while leisurely waited for their chance. Warmed by the heat of the tandoor they exchanged news, the events of the day or just relaxed. New associations were made over tea bought from the nearby tea stall which did a brisk business along with the tandoor.

Amma was very particular about her rules. Those who had rolled out the dough into ball came first in the line, then came the turn of those with plain dough and then the rest.

She would prepare the tandoor by lining it with charcoal and once it was lit and reached the right temperature she would wet her hands, cut the dough expertly in neat sections and roll them into smooth balls,  flatten the ball a bit, dust it with dry flour,  clap the flattened ball between her hands like a skillful artist  turning it around to get the prefered  thickness, dust some more flour to avoid sticking and place it on a small cushion and slap it gently to the inner side wall of the hot tandoor. She would quickly make more rotis and place them one by one in the tandoor.  In a few minutes the smouldering embers and the heat retained by thick dry walls made the  upper side of  roti brown and air pockets began to form. At this moment she would take a makeshift skewer , a thin iron rod hooked from one end to lift the roti from the tandoor, and flung the roti straight into the clay surface surrounding the tandoor. She would count the rotis, pack them in the container brought by the customer and take the money. This process went on till about ten in the night and then the tandoor would close for the day.

Some days the crowd was less and on such days she indulged her clients by making small talks or sometimes throwing tantrums about the consistency of the dough etc.  Most of the time she remained chirpy and warmed by the heat of the hot tandoor her wrinkled face glowed with happiness. There were times when the slightly burnt or extra roties were given out to poor children who waited patiently for the business to close for the day so they could get their share.

On special Sundays one would get the lip smacking dal too. The split gram dal cooked to perfection on slow fire could beat any dal makhani served in hotels or even roadside Dhabas. One could either take the plain dal or get famous panjabi dal fry or dal tadka ( tempered with seasoning of onions, green chilli and tomatoes) . The very aroma of freshly cooked dal and hot rotis made me drool. It was the best food one could have. We had to take a container for dal which she sold on a fixed per plate rate. The simmering dal was kept at the side of the tandoor in a huge aluminium pot. Those who wanted seasoned dal had to wait till the delivery of rotis was complete. Once done amma would hold the frying pan blackened from outside due to constant use, add a spoonful of oil, toss chopped onion, green chillies and tomato , add a dash of some secret masala (spice mix) she kept in a small box and give it a quick stir. The flames would sometimes flambé the seasoning and as the aroma would begin to fill the air she would add a ladel ful of dal in the sizzling pan and then pour the dal in the container. As a garnish sometimes she even put freshly chopped coriander but this was only for those who ordered in large amount.

I would wait eagerly for Sundays to relish this sumptuous meal. As we usually made Maharashtra or UP food at home this Panjabi tadka was a much awaited treat. I was in my pre-teens at that time and learning to cook. Urad dal dhaba style was one of the first things I learned to make. For two years we enjoyed the delicious food made by amma. Simple dal and roti whose memory still lingers in my mind. As i write I can feel the taste of the meal cooked with love and passion. She was a frail old woman, maybe in her early sixties, but the energy with which she worked on the tandoor was amazing. A true artist, experienced and adept at her art of cooking. We didn’t know where she lived or if she had any family but the shopkeepers and even the policemen on duty respected her and she never faced any issues with her clients.

I had seen her putting an extra roti or an extra ladle of dal for the students who came everyday to take food. A generous person even though she lived on her everyday earning.  She even believed in ‘ladies first’ or “ladkiyan pehle” as she mentioned before starting the work. The men had to wait it out till all the women were gone. Slowly I noticed that more and more  little girls began to come with their containers. The older women hardly came unless there was no one else to fetch.

I have eaten at many roadside eateries and dhabas but the memory of those meals is unforgettable. There is a certain pleasure in simple things.  A simple smile, a simple word or even a simple meal cooked with love.

We left that government colony when mom got transferred to new place and amma was missed sorely. I don’t know how long she continued serving hot rotis and dal at such low-cost or if she was able to sustain her little means of livelihood in the midst of growing number of food joints and rising coal prices but where ever she is I want her to know someone in a corner of world remembers her fondly.

I miss those roadside tandoors. One hardly sees them in the city anymore espcially in the area I live in but I make it a point to go eat at a dhaba once in while just to keep the tradition alive. Eating out on Delhi winter nights is incpmplete without dhaba food and I encourage all of you visiting Delhi is experience it at least once.

Wordless Wednesday – 81