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A crisp kachori never hurts

Ever tried Multani moth kachori from that little known shop in Multani Dhanda?



For some hot fare... Multani moth kachori at Multani Moth Bhandar in Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium.

FOOD STORIES come from the unlikeliest of places. So, when at a barber's shop, a client started talking about a little-known tradition of Delhi cuisine, everybody else with a white sheet below the chin stopped staring at Madhuri Dixit's poster on the wall to take notice of what was being said.

The topic of conversation was the Multani moth kachori. Not many in the small hairdresser's stall in Gole Market had heard about it. The raconteur knew what he was talking about. In one corner of the city in Multani Dhanda was a man who sold moth (to rhyme with boat). Moth - which is essentially a dal, a bit like moong - is something that challenges all those who think that street food in the city starts and ends with papri chaat. Moth, in fact, has over the years been added to Delhi's culinary tradition. The city's eating habits record the history of turmoil. The influx of refugees into Delhi after the Partition of India changed the food culture of the city forever. Since most of the refugees were from West Punjab, the cuisine began to change along with the city's own metamorphosis. The refugees were gutsy eaters from Punjab and the Frontier areas of today's Pakistan and left their mark on what is known as the food of Delhi. The uprooted, yet indefatigable community added two indelible words to the lexicon of Delhi's food: the tandoori and butter chicken.

Over the years, Delhi has enriched its own union of Muslim-Punjabi food, which, while tasty, tends to dismay the purists. The practice of overdosing a gravy with cream, tomatoes and kasuri methi and calling it Mughlai causes both heartache and heartburn in food lovers. So when somebody - like the earnest gentleman getting his hair cropped - talks about one of the abiding chapters of the city's oral food history, it evokes hope in a true gourmet.

Multani delight

The Multani moth is one such chapter. The place is tucked away in the heart of the city. The North End Road from Gole Market, across Panchkuian Road, connects to the Deshbandhu Gupta Road crossing, with the Paharganj police station on the left. A right turn on Deshbandhu Road - towards Sheila Cinema - and a left from The Kashmiri Sweet Shop lead to the Multani Moth Bhandar. The place is on the left in gali number six of Multani Dhanda.

It's a small, inconspicuous shop doing great business. There are artistes at work here, for each plate of moth is prepared lovingly and painstakingly. A huge patila opens up to give a tantalising vista of steaming moth. The dish goes like this: first, a layer of cooked rice is put in a donga, on top of which the moth dal is placed in another layer. A pinch of Multani masalas is sprinkled on top of the mound, and some slices of sour raw onions are placed around it. And instead of a spoon, you use two crisp kachoris to scoop out the moth.

The moth has a uniquely delicious taste - it's both crunchy and velvety like a good dal ought to be. It is spicy, but not chilly hot. And at Rs.7 a plate, it is real value for money.

The moral of the story is this: at a salon, you may keep your eyes glued to the poster of Madhuri but don't forget to keep your ears open as well. A little nugget picked up there can lead to a journey into history.

RAHUL VERMA

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