My Tryst with Authentic Subzi, Nagori Puri, and Halwa
Ask and it shall be given
Matthew: 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will
find. Knock, and it will be opened for you.
For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks
finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.
Drool and it shall be served on a platter. OK I made the last one, or did I ?
I was talking to my friend cum elder brother jyada Pankaj G and we were conspiring on how to leave our wives and go to Old Delhi for a gastronomic discovery tour. But the wives got a whiff of the same and we were reprimanded to not to dare to leave them out of our plans, this from women who are constantly on a diet or exercise regimen, such is the power of food found in lanes of Old Delhi. While for most people food in Delhi means Chicken tikka, or Rajma Chawal, they forget that before Punjabification of Delhi after partition, people lived in Delhi and actually ate some really cool food.
Today most of Delhi has migrated to Pizza, along with Butter Chicken and Rajma Chawal but in by-lanes of Old Delhi, the original authentic Delhi foods are still made, served and savored, specially during breakfast time. These delicacies you will rarely find outside Old Delhi, may be if you are lucky to attend a wedding in one of the Old Delhi families you may find some of them being served on special counter as ” Dilli Ka Khana” or “Foods of Old Delhi “
For one reason or another we could not go to Chandni Chowk and the desire to savor aroma of the fresh breakfast rising out of Kadhais of Halwais of Old Delhi kept on getting stronger. But God is Great and as Paulo Cohelo said in the Alchemist “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” OK, enough of my global gyan from best-selling books, holy or inspiring; let us move forward.
I was visiting Pankaj G’s home and an aroma of fresh Laddus and Matthi welcomed me as I entered the elevator on ground floor, it only got stronger as he opened the door of his 3rd floor apartment. “Mummy is here he announced” with a big grin on his face,” She is making “Besan Ke Laddu“.
“How filmy!” I told him.
“No, not filmy, my mom is really here and she is making Besan Ke Laddu and Matthi, come have some”, he invited me in.
Soon Aunty jee emerged from the Kitchen with a fresh batch of Laddus in her hands with a clear expectation that I need to do justice to them. Over the laddus and some kadak desi hot masala chai, I was invited with Missus and kids next morning for breakfast for some authentic Purani Dilli ” style Nagori and Aloo Kee Subzi”
“PAULO YOU ROCK YAAR”, I said in my heart, here I was planning to go to Old Delhi and now Old Delhi food was inviting me right here in my friends home. But I was wondering how I will wait till next morning. Fikar not, said my guardian angel as Aunty jee packed a box full of Matthis and Besan Ke laddus for me to take home.
Now a bit of background information about Aunty Jee would not be out of place here. Santosh Aunty was born and brought up in Nai Sadak of Purani Dilli ( New Road of Old Delhi, so filmy na!, but Kasam Purani Dilli Kee 110% true). There is only one thing she loves more than cooking, and that is serving the food she cooked to her family. She can teach a lesson or two to the best chefs of 5 Star hotels on making mouth-watering delicacies from scratch that can convert the biggest diet conscious creature in avid foodies.
Once I reached the Garg residence next day in morning with Missus and kiddo in tow, my drooling dreams were about to come true.
By now the lift and the corridor of the building had developed a permanent aroma of authentic hand pounded desi spices. As I pressed the bell, I was surrounded by aroma of the simmering spices flirting with Heeng (Asafoetida) converting the cinderalesque potatoes into a princess. I have never seen such transformation of a character since the Tom Boyish Kajol became the sizzling siren in Saree in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai by the time she is rediscovered by the guy who forgets to wear his pants aka SRK in second half. Such is the magic of spices of desi Indian cooking, even the tasteless, colorless, odorless potatoes are converted into mouth-watering delicacies. The curry in question here was ” Aloo Kee Subzee” or Curry Potatoes, a fairly simple dish to look at till it reaches your taste buds. Once the gravy touches your mouth, you realize how many different spices were used to give the makeover to the potatoes, and all this without any onions and garlic. ( Just to give you some idea it had Heeng, Jayphal, Javitri, Kachri to name a few, please use Google to do translation as they just don’t taste the same if I use Anglicized names).
But like all Indian feasts, the beginning is done with a sweet and right there in the bowl was Suzee Halwa, with liberal sprinkling of grated coconut. Did I earlier said ” Oye PAULO PAJEE Tusee Great Ho!” But greater than Paulo Pajee is Santosh Aunty G who made a visit to Old Delhi redundant.
But they say it takes two to tango for the taste buds, it turns out that the Aloos ( potatoes) are only the side hero of this multi-starer and the real hero in this story is actually heroine or Nagori. Well it is difficult to explain Nagori,but let me try. A well fed elder sister of Papdee, but plump and fluffy and made with a special floor that has not only wheat but also some sooji, some dal etc are also added. The trick is to make sure your Nagori comes out fluffy and not totally flat, so that it looks like little plump cute cousin of Puri, while still being elder sister of Papadee. Go figure or please check the pictures.
And yes before I left, she packed a whole Tiffin of more of
Nagori Puris, Halwa and Aloo Subzi. The only thing I did not like in this whole episode was that I met Santosh Aunty just a day before she was about to leave so did not get a chance to try more yummies. But there is always a next time 🙂
Note for Pankaj G: Please keep me posted about travel plans of Aunty G
Note for readers: All pictures were taken by Cell phone as I did not had patience to wait to set the camera and click pictures using DSLR. For some really fabulous taste stuff your Nagori with hot Halwa and enjoy the explosion of flavors in your mouth. The Nagori and Subzi taste better with the special chutney made with Methi ( Fenugreek) seeds, and some secret ingredients that Santosh aunty G learned from her mother and have taught here daughters and daughter in laws. I can share the secret recipe of Nagori, Subzi, Halwa and Chutney with anybody who desires, all you need to do is leave a comment and I will inbox it to you.
If you love food check these posts too:
- Lassi in Benaras
- Street Food Hyderabad
- Aahaar Kuteer: Millet Restaurant
- Bamboo Chicken: Tribal delicacy from Araku Valley
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