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A mouthful of kulchey

The roadside Mukesh Chholey Kulcheywala on Delhi's Asaf Ali Road can be a quick getaway for a tasty and hygienic bite.



BOILED AND BAKED DELIGHTS: Mukesh Chole Kulcheywala at Asaf Ali road in Delhi. Photo: Anu Pushkarna.

AUTUMN IS almost overand one is ready for a food festival that is to go on till the end of winter. Now that the blistering summer is behind us, the food carnival can be formally flagged off. For there is nothing quite as exciting as meandering through the by-lanes of the Walled City of Delhi and its outskirts, sniffing at different kinds of street food. Only the other day, crossing by Asaf Ali Road just at the beginning of the Walled City, one suddenly spots a huge crowd of people with what looks like incredibly busy jaws. In search of answers as to what are these men doing, one goes up to the busy corner. Moving closer, there finds place many men - and a few women - digging into chholey and kulchey. Something that finds place in the list of preferred street food of most Delhiites. And here, one is not talking about the deep-fried bhatureys and black and oily chholey that sweet shops actually make us pay for (financially and health-wise), but the light fare that is the lunch of many an office-goer - boiled chholeys served with baked kulchas.

Actually, Delhi has more than its share of talented chholey kulchey wallahs. One is aware of several busy gentlemen who rustle up some great chholey kulchey that keep hundreds of people happy through the day. Here, one can safely name the kulchey chholey that you get at Kasturi's in Bhogal, and the stuff sold by Lotan chholeywala of the Commercial School, Ansari Road, who had even gone to Paris to take part in the Festival of India there way back in the 1980s.There is a famous chholeywallah at Nai Sarak, and another one that foodies swear by at Scindia House in Connaught Place.

But for the first time one comes across a chholey kulchey place which is pretty large when compared with the small outfits (usually placed on a cart, and sometimes even on a cycle), that kulchey chholey wallahas have. This joint at Asaf Ali Road is also spic and span. The present owner, Mukesh, has inherited the business from his father. He and his three assistants wear clean aprons and look like professionals fresh out of a hotel management institute.

This corner is not difficult to find. From Connaught Place, take the road under the Minto Bridge. Keep moving till you reach the Asaf Ali Road roundabout. If you turn right from there, you will see a row of LIC buildings. Mukesh's joint is on the verandah of one of the buildings. Mukesh is clearly an artiste at work - and you know that when you see how painstakingly he serves each customer. One of his assistants stands on one side of the cart, frying potato cubes on a heavy tawa. He picks up two cooked cubes of potatoes and mashes them out in a dona and passes it to Mukesh, who lovingly adds a pile of boiled chholey to it, and then carefully sprinkles a measured quantity of masalas on top. A sour green chutney is then sprinkled on it along with a dash of lemon juice. Now, the other side of the cart takes over. The chef adds some chopped onions and green chillies to the chholey. Then, if Mukesh likes you, he might add thin slivers of ginger to the concoction. Also, he puts thin spicy pieces of boiled kachaloos to one's plate. Then comes a green chilli pickle and a slice of tomato, making one thinkthat it is his signature to the work of art. So, happily extend your hand for it. And he would finally top his creation with a sweet chutney made out of pomegranate seeds. And, he will give this to you just as another assistant would ably heatup kulchas on the tawa. Awesome is the word for it then! Spicy it becomes,but thankfully the chholey does not set one's tongue ablaze. The pomegranate chutney gives a new dimension to the chholey, adding a tart-but-sweet flavour to it. The kulchas - which come from one of the better-known bakeries of the Jama Masjid area - are soft and fresh. In short, it is a sublime experience. And all for ten rupees!

RAHUL VERMA

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