Sunday, January 01, 2017

Delhi Belly, Daulat ki Chaat and A Decade of Blogging

Best wishes for the new year!

It's the beginning of a new year today. Another round of hope for happiness, goals and milestones begins anew. I had a significant milestone last year. Is it a sign of maturity that I haven't celebrated my tenth blog anniversary? It was in September. It would be so marvellous to be detached from such milestones, but I suspect it's more of dullness and less of detachment that has me blogging less and less. I keep wishing fervently every year that this blog could go back to its heyday, but the rest of life seems to have gotten in the way in the last few years. Over the last one-and-a-quarter years, I've had a new hobby as well - I've been dabbling in art, you see the result above - and that has consumed a lot of my free time. I have also been cooking less and less, and trying to cut down on eating out.

Some of the life that got in the way was pleasant. It involved some travel, mostly to familiar pastures, but also to Taiwan, which I visited in 2010, and most recently a trip to Delhi. It resulted in me making something I thought was blogworthy. I went there on work and had half a day ahead of the day-long workshop I had to attend. I hoped to visit the famous Paranthewali Gali in Chandni Chowk and a friend's pictures of her own trip to the place where she had the famous Daulat ki Chaat jogged my memory of this confection.

I remember reading about it as Nimish from Lucknow. It's made with milk and the dew that settles on it in winter nights. I have never made it to Lucknow and don't see myself doing so anytime soon, but I'm glad to have had this version. I heard that the Daulat ki Chaat would not be available after 11 am. I knew I would probably have such disappointments so it wasn't a disappointment - my maturity kicking in, you see - but my friend who lives there said she would take me to Paranthewali Gali anyway. I had done no research as my trip to Delhi was short and my schedule unclear till the last minute so I was happy to wind my way through Chandni Chowk's narrow streets and absorb the sights and sounds.

As soon as we disembarked from the car and approached PG, what confronted us but a vendor with a huge container of Daulat ki Chaat!

I've been reading that the genuine thing is very difficult to find nowadays, and that cream of tartar or hydrogenated fats are used to retain its light and airy consistency. My knowledge of science is rudimentary but even I can understand that something that is made with dew can't last as the sun shines high and bright. Well, that's what I have deduced. It will flop - and when my friend's husband passed on the information that Daulat ki Chaat would not be sold after 11 a m, I thought that was the reason why. We probably had the modern, engineered-to-stay version, but I am glad that I did. It was really of a delicate consistency, creamy and sugared just right and garnished/mixed with nuts.

I took this picture for the signboard saying Parathewali Gali. I did not buy or eat anything at this store.

As for the paranthas, I had a bhendi parantha for the first time ever. I had never even thought it could be used for a filling. I also had a peas paratha and a green chilly paratha. I loved the mustardy, pickled vegetables that were dumped in bowls on the tables. The parathas we got were served with a potato curry and a pumpkin curry, along with a few pieces of banana in a jaggery-chilli powder syrup.

Nankhatai, I'm told. So different from the ones in the bakery!
The day after the workshop was a Saturday. I didn't have to work so I spent the day with my friend. She took me on a short walk through her locality. She lives at the end of a lane that opens out on to a busy road overtaken by the Great Delhi Metro, but the other end and further up was so peacefully small-town I could easily have forgotten I was in India's capital city.

For perhaps only the second time in my life I saw hara channa/choliya, and brought back some to cook. My friend said I could freeze them too, for later use. Well, I froze half of them, and converted the rest of them into this

Choliya and potato curry
As usually happens when I am impatient to get on with a culinary discovery, I chose, shed and fused elements of several recipes to come up with this gravy. I cannot find any of those recipes now, I even searched History on my computer but it isn't helping. Most of those recipes contained tomatoes and no potatoes, while I had no tomatoes and several potatoes. I used curds for the tang. I came up with a gravy of intermediate thickness but ate is as soup.

In a pressure cooker or pan


3 chopped onions

in 2 tsp of oil

I can't remember if I added ginger-garlic paste, but add it now, after the onions have wilted.


1/2 a tsp of turmeric
1-2 tsp of coriander or cumin powder
1 tsp of red chilli powder

and fry.

Add 2-3 diced potatoes, 250-300 gm of green/ hara channa/choliya and salt. Mix well.

Add water to cover the vegetables. Close the pressure cooker. Let it whistle 4-5 times before you switch off the flame. Let the pressure drop on its own before opening it.

If the gravy is too thin, mash a few pieces of the potato into the gravy and cook a little longer without the lid till some of the liquid evaporates/thickens.

Top with 1/2 a tsp of garam masala.

Confession: I don't know if I used cumin or coriander powder. My sense of smell failed me.