New Delhi, India
March 1, 2011
Gali Parathewali (`the street of the paratha’) is a worthy tribute to the paratha. This is a fairly short street, now mainly crowded with sari shops, but during the late 1800’s, a sudden paratha rush happened here. A number of entrepreneurs set up paratha shops in Gali Parathewali, and a few still remain. My favourite happens to be the Jai Hind Paratha Bhawan, a restaurant on the second corner of the street.
The Jai Hind Paratha Bhawan was established by a certain Pandit Kanhaiyalal Durga Parshad Dixit in 1875. It’s a barebones eatery, looking out onto the busy Gali Parathewali. The Formica-topped tables are cramped, the narrow wooden benches warped by generations of patrons. Getting to a table consists of dodging waiters, cooks, the manager cum barker, and other patrons—and since there are only about a dozen tables, you may have to wait during busy mealtimes. But once you’ve settled down, the fun starts.
On our latest trip, we’d just about sat down when our waiter arrived and plonked down stainless steel plates with complimentary condiments. Each plate had a large helping of a curry of potatoes and chickpeas; another, sweet-sour dish of spiced pumpkin; a tamarind chutney; pickled carrots and green chillies; and another chutney.
We glanced up at the menu—painted on the wall—and chose our parathas. My husband, conservative as always, ordered tried and tested stuffed parathas: potato, radish, cauliflower. The only paratha he was a bit adventurous with was a green chilly paratha! I love to experiment, so settled for an okra paratha and a dal (lentil) paratha. There were plenty of others available, including some very unusual ones: tomato, bitter gourd, cashew nut, poppadum, even sweet parathas stuffed with thickened milk!
The potato, radish, cauliflower and dal parathas were predictable enough: well spiced, crisp and delicious. The green chilly paratha was enough to take the roof off your mouth, but what I really loved was my okra paratha, with its paper-thin slices of raw okra fried to a crisp. Deliciously different!
To end, we each ordered a serving of khurchan. Khurchan (literally, scrapings) is made by cooking sweetened milk gently till it forms a thick, creamy crust. This is scraped off and stacked into layers, chilled and garnished with shaved pistachios. Very rich but lovely.
By the end of it we were so full, we could barely move. Our bill, however, was modest enough: Rs 255, including three soft drinks. Considering the unlimited helpings of complimentary curries and chutneys, and the excellent parathas, I think that’s great value for money. A must try!
From journal Delhi: A Culinary Heritage