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Sweet surrender

Annapurna Bhandar in Mayur Vihar-I serves an array of delightful Bengali sweets and snacks, says RAHUL VERMA, who succumbs yet again to his sweet tooth.



At the counter of temptation... Life is sweet at the Annapurna Bhandar in Delhi's Mayur Vihar. Photo: S. Subramanium.

EVERY NOW and then, when I find that my mirror doesn't accommodate me breadth-wise, I make a resolution. No more sweets, I tell myself sternly. And I follow the dictum faithfully till I come across the first sweet of the day: a stray pastry, some halwa, a Bengali sandesh or a bowl of hot payasam. Then I quickly devour the sweet crying out to be done away with and make another resolution: no more sweets, I say.

The trouble with sweets is that there are all kinds of good desserts to be had in the country, and each one is so different from another. I have been to every corner of the city in search of some good doda burfi. I have been to Hansi, near Hissar, for its excellent pedas. I always urge friends who go to Kolkata to make a small detour to Krishnanagar in Nadia district to get me some sarbhaja and sarpooria - exquisite dishes made out of the top layers of milk. Anybody who makes the mistake of going to Lucknow has to come back with malai paan from Ram Asrey's, and those travelling to Jodhpur take a day out only to get me some mawa-kachori. Despite that - or maybe because of that - I periodically spare a thought for my creaking weighing machine and go off sweets.

Some days ago, just as I was congratulating myself for having bravely kept my word through the day, I found that I had somehow strayed to Mayur Vihar Phase I and was standing in front of the Annapurna Bhandar. The Annapurna Bhandar has done a yeoman's service to expatriate Bengalis for scores of years. The main shop at Fountain in Old Delhi was set up by a Bengali family in 1929. The family came not from Bengal, but Lahore - and promptly put themselves on the food map of Delhi with the city's first Bengali sweet shop.

Bengali sweets

The Mayur Vihar branch was started some years ago. It gave a new lease of life to those with an aching sweet tooth who had to traverse several kilometres for that notun gurer sandesh, a sweet made out of the season's fresh date palm jaggery. For years, Bengali sweets were only to be found at the original Annapurna Bhandar, or one of the shops in Chittranjan Park. On Aurobindo Marg, there is another shop - conveniently called Annapurna Bhandar - that keeps a fairly good stock of Bengali sweets and snacks. There was an old shop in Gole Market that blew its last bugle some years ago and shut shop. So the opening up of the shop in Mayur Vihar in East Delhi was greeted with much joy and fanfare.

Annapurna Bhandar is near Nilgiri's, a restaurant that offers some good South Indian vegetarian fare. The actual address is Shop number 2, P 37-38, Pandav Nagar, Mayur Vihar Phase I, near Nainital Bank. I landed up there and was happy to see Harish, whom I had first met in the main branch several years ago. I ordered some notun gurer sandesh for Rs.8 a piece and misti doi - thickened and sweet curds - for Rs.70 a kg. When I was there last week, it had run out of the usual Bengali snacks that are served in most Bengali homes for tea in the evenings. Annapurna makes some interesting samosas or singaras, as they are called in Bengal. The potato stuffing with peas and occasionally some florets of cauliflower is lightly cooked and goes well with the crunchy flour covering.

Annapurna is not the only sweet shop in East Delhi. In the last few years, quite a few little stalls have sprung up in different parts of the area selling authentic Bengali sweets and snacks. Being a die-hard believer of all conspiracy theories, I am convinced that it is all a part of an intricate plot to keep me from losing weight.

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