I doubtfully eyed the small autorikshaw as all four of us squeezed inside, shifting and making space. The poor thing cringed. “Are you sure it’s fine carrying four people?” I asked the driver again, who looked optimistic despite the staggering weight on his vehicle. “Don’t worry madam,” he replied, “three is the standard carry but we will manage.” And he deftly pulled back the leather curtains on both sides of the auto as the engine spurred into action. It was going to be an interesting day at the market.
Down the crowded lanes of Delhi’s oldest and most prominent market, you will need a miracle to fit any transport medium larger than the humble auto. An enormous open market out on either sides of the street, Sarojininagar dates decades back when it was christened after the distinguished Sarojini Naidu. The market is renowned for its colossal produce, selling out nearly everything under the sun at startlingly low rates.
Shopping is naturally the prime attraction of Sarojininagar, and it isn’t surprising when food isn’t the first thing which comes to mind. Nevertheless, recognized or not, Sarojininagar is indeed endowed with a number of delicious food outlets which you can enjoy on a warm, bustling day in the market.
First stop comes at the popular food joint of, ‘Kulcha King’. True to its name, the kulchas here are the specialty with three different fillings, although mixed veg is highly recommended. With crispy crust on the outside with a soft interior, customers remark that this is the closest you can get to a real Amritsari kulcha in Delhi. With prices ranging from Rs.100 for two, you will regularly find a long queue at their counter. So better mind keep your place in the line!
Another favourite found on Ring Road with a lovely aroma of pakoras floating in the air, is food shop ‘Khandani Pakorewala’. Bases are made of potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, spinach- you can pick your choice. Cooks here even make the formidable karela look tempting when stuffed in a crunchy golden brown crust, best coupled with a cold lassi on a cold, drizzling pouring day. Prices once again reach no further than a reasonable Rs.100 for two.
Locals here share an inside joke that these guys know the weather even better than the forecast, they always seem to prepare the batter extra well on the day the heavens are likely to descend upon the market!
You don’t need to worry if you can’t spot these particular shops in the busy marketplace. On nearly every turn of the roads, you will discover numerous small food stalls selling out original Indian street food. They present everything from chaats, golgappas, kachories, samosas to bhelpuris and sweetened jalebis. These indigenous delicacies are the long lost friends of NCR’s cotemporary urbanites.
Nonetheless, if you still prefer munching your chaat in trendier surroundings – though many agree that watching various people and the occasional stray cow pass in the street, makes more enchanting ambience- look no further than shop no. 186 Amar Jyoti, where you will get chairs and tables as well as air conditioning. Here is finally an outlet for meat eaters. Rated well by customers on internet, they recommend keema meat and tawa chicken. It’s the dream destination for Mughlai food lovers while prices are remain reasonable.
Lastly, it would be unjust to conclude Sarojini’s cuisine without mentioning the age old, Banta ki botal. To weary shoppers jostling through the swarming streets, this is the drink of the gods. A mixture of lemon juice, crushed ice, masala and black salt, it goes down in time as a trademark Delhi drink. So don’t forget to try it out the next time you shop at Sarojininagar. A Banta simply outclasses every carbonated drink in the world!
I fondly remember the memory of my cousin laughing while I stopped at a Golgappa stall in this busy market, feverishly noting down how it tasted in a little brown diary..
Bursting fresh, spicy sweet and sour all at once…
Even the poor vendor looked bemused.
And now my dear reader, never say a writer doesn’t do enough for you.
I hope to see you for my next post.