Once I took a travelling friend from another city to the Old Delhi for sightseeing (or just eating!). After taking the metro from Central Secretariat we reached the Chawadi Bazar station. The sight after we exited the metro station was so different than what we had left behind. At Central Secretariat, the view of the Lutyen’s Delhi was very impressive- clean roads, beautiful Government buildings and rows of expensive cars in the parking. But the sight outside Chawadi bazar station was chaotic, disoriented traffic including hand-carts, autos, rickshaws, the shouting vendors and endless rows of crowd. “Do you really like this place ?” My friend asked me. I gave him an “obviously” nod.
We headed towards the Ashok Chaat house and ordered the “Mirchi wale alloo” ( boiled potato wrapped with the red chilli power fried in ghee). It is served with yogurt and pickle of kachalu (a vegetable from the potato family, similar to Taro(arbi) or elephant’s ear. I have only had it in Delhi and no where else. Also one friend explained me kachalu as “Arbi ke papa”! ). After eating 2 other chaats there, we headed toward Kucha Pati Ram and ate the amazing Falsa ki Kulfi. After that it was his turn to say, “Man, I love this place.. ”
There are many interesting stories about Old Delhi. The visits to Moti Mahal & Al Jawahar, Sunday book market in Daryagunj followed by Chole Bhature near Delight cinema- all these memories came fresh with Pamela Timms’ Korma, Kheer & Kistmet- 5 seasons in Old Delhi. The cover is beautiful, hard bound, full with colors. Pamela not only celebrates the food, the flavors and the festivals of Dilli, but also the chaos, uncertainty and some awkwardness of the old city. I am happy that many of my favorites got listed in the book.
What I love about Pamela’s effort is that she goes back & try to find the background story from each of these food legends. Some of them are shy but others are outspoken, some of them are secretive and others have nothing to hide. Her quest also took her to the workshop of ” Daulat ki Chaat” where she encountered an unpleasant place for food but at least she crushed the rumor that Daulat ki Chaat gets its flavor from the natural dew of winter.
She is not the first one from Scotland to write an amazing book on Old Delhi ( Yes, I am talking about William Dalrymple’s City of Djjins ) and maybe she won’t be the last. I hope that she will keep spreading the joy over her Delhi style Chai and mahfils around the world. You can follow her on her blog Eat & Dust however she is not posting anything new in it these days but you can always read her old post.
I rated Korma, Kheer & Kismet, a 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads– a nostalgic trip to the gastronomical khumbh mela. And the good thing is that you don’t have to wait for 4 years for it.