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Chandni Chowk goes five-star...

Remember the time when you had Gol-Guppas or Paapri at a shop down the lane? Now, drive down the road to Park Royal Hotel in South Delhi where the best of street food is available in the most hygienic of surroundings. SUMITRA SENAPATY e njoys the fare on offer... .

DILLI SEEMS to be going head over heel for the love of tempting Chaat flavoured with chutney, spices, curd and toppings. The spicy and fiery gastronomic appeal of the Chaats is hard to resist and will surely make your mouth water. Umm...yummy! Forget the insipid pizza and cheeseburger, the Gol Gappas -- Pani Puri -- Aloo Tikki, Dahi Gujiya and Papri Chaat are top of the tops! For all those who fit into thela-masaledaar type of mode, run to the Street Food Festival at Singh Sahib. A hot spot for Dilli cuisine, this Indian restaurant at Park Royal Intercontinental promises singles, couples and families with children something thoroughly enjoyable. There is a range of desi snack attacks -- feast on Raj Kachori, Chana Bhatura, Aloo Tikki, Papdi Chaat, Gol Gappa and Ragraa Chaat. The list is pretty extensive. Enjoy all this chatpata Chandni Chowk cuisine without worrying about the hygiene or the water as the hotel has taken sufficient care on this account.

Upbeat dance music blares from the speakers. We tap our feet and move our shoulders in sync. The smell of mango juice, chickpeas and spicy chutneys is in the air as we remember the good times with the chaatwala, doing the rounds with his rehri or handcart. Chaat is a versatile snack that can be a melange of potatoes, boiled and diced, mixed with boiled channa or chickpeas and served with a mouth-watering mix of spices and imli ki chutney, or tamarind sauce chutney. It may include Dahi Badas -- fried lentil patties topped with cool yoghurt, powdered spices, also the papri, a crispy fried topping. One does not normally associate Gol Gappas with a five-star hotel but they were more than present at this festival. Hollow and balloon shaped, fashioned from a batter and fried, these are dipped into seasoned tamarind water and the trick as always is to swallow the Gol Gappa whole and enjoy the fireworks!

The street feast does not end with Gol Gappas and chaat, there are more lip-smacking delights to tickle your taste buds -- Kalmi Vada, Dahi Gujiya, Cheela stuffed with cottage cheese and dry fruits and Aloo Matar ke Chaat. Now if all this heavy food makes you thirsty do not look for the usual aerated drinks but head towards the tiny stall vending the most refreshing Chuski -- flavoured ice lollies -- Aam ke Ander Aam aur Rabri Mix or the Mausami ke ander. An interesting variation of the Kulfi -- call it what you wish, but do try it! The flavours are absolutely delicious! Ice cream -- we all are familiar with this word and have tasted it in some form or the other! And everyone has memories of the place where they have eaten the most delectable ice cream and desserts. But the entire group at our table had never come across Roller Fruit Ice Cream.

It turned out to be an amazing way to make ice cream -- a huge roller is filled with chunks of ice and suspended on a frame, the roller is then liberally doused with the ice cream mixture and is continuously kept turning. A mash of strawberry, mango, watermelon, banana, custard apple and pomegranate is also sprinkled onto the roller at regular intervals. The mixture freezes in minutes and the ready fruit based ice cream is scrapped off the roller and deftly handed over to you. A truly novel style of ice cream making and an equally amazing taste! Sure gives Robbins, Walls etc a run for their money! And for those who long to bid goodbye to the summer sizzle, the street foods are as enticing as never before! Not to be missed.

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