Chalchitra Cafe – Better than Expected

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Chalchitra café. When I heard the name for the first time, all shades of black and white came to my mind. A place adorned with memorabilia from Black and white era is what I pictured. However it turned out to be a normal café/restaurant with few framed posters of movies on its wall. Honestly speaking, very average looking interior, with a movie theme done just because they had to do something. Or maybe I missed something.

One of the walls

I was visiting the café with Himanshu and Ashima Sharma, a couple from FED as my guests. We started with a look at the drinks menu, besides the usual cocktails, there was a special section with very ‘filmi’ sounding names, however there was no description given against them. As a restaurant, if you are experimenting with your food and drinks, and giving them names which are unique to your establishment, you have to write an explanation on what they are.  With names like Kashmir Ki kali (Cocktail) and Meethi Mirch (Mocktail) one can never guess what is in store, however with little help from our server we ordered them both along with another mocktail called Strawberry Honey Nuts. Kashmir ki kali turned out be a Mojito based on Vodka, however overpowering mint flavor turned us off, and that drink was left unfinished. Strawberry Honey Nuts was exactly what was promised, no surprises there and nothing to write about it.  However the highlight of the drinks was Meethi Mirch, which was a brilliant combination of Grape juice & Chocolate syrup topped with Tobasco sauce. Maybe it can be attributed to my taste of all things chocolaty and/or hot, I am in love with that drink. Infact, just thinking about it as I write, is making me want one.

Looking at the starters menu, we were spoilt for choices and ended up ordering both veg. and non veg. Tandoori platters. Non vegetarian platter had Chicken Wings, Chicken Tikka and Mutton Seekh Kebab, while the vegetarian one consisted of Hari Mirch ka Paneer Tikka, Aloo Makki Seekh and Tandoori Ghobi. Being a vegetarian, Paneer Tikka is the most common tandoori dish that I end up eating, and Hari Mirch Paneer Tikka is one of the better ones that I have tasted. The paneer was well marinated and marinate was really different, unlike anything I had eaten before. Gobhi was strictly okay, with chef taking the standard Tandoori marinate route, while I did not like the Aloo Makki seekhs. Though there is not much to say for Veg Seekh Kebabs, their kebabs seemed to be tailored a bit to be ‘chatpata’, which is not the way I like mine. Talking about non-vegetarian, none of the items managed to make an impression on Himanshu or Ashima. Chicken Tikka was the only thing that they appreciated a bit.

Tandoori Non-vegetarian Platter
Tandoori Vegetarian Platter

Coming to the main courses, I must admit they have very impressive and innovative items on the menu and making choices was not going to be easy. Being the foodies that we are, three of us ended up ordering what seemed like a long list of items:

  • Zucchini Trifolati
  • Butter Chicken with Laccha Parantha 
  • Rajma ke Galouti with Ulte Tawe ka Parantha
  • Veg Khichda 
  •  Non Veg Khichda
Zucchini Trifolati, this was the entire portion

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Out of everything from the list above, only Zucchini Trifolati was a disappointment, more from the size of the serving than the taste itself. While driving back, I was talking Himanshu about the Butter Chicken and he felt it was perfectly acceptable, however it did not stood out. In a city like Delhi, a better butter chicken would be available at lot of places, however there was nothing wrong with the one that was served to us either. 

Butter Chicken

Now coming to the part of food that really blew our mind off, and would account for major chunk of points falling in café’s kitty. Starting from Galouti Kebabs, I generally have very low expectations from vegetarian kebabs and almost never order them. Have never heard of someone making kebabs out of Rajma, and this managed to intrigue us. And I was pleasantly surprised, when my non-vegetarian friends ended up appreciating the Veg Kebabs. Infact they were tender, had a great texture, and just right amount of spices. All three of us unanimously declared them the best dish of the evening, but not for long. 

Rajma Galouti Kebabs, great option for vegetarians.
I do not remember when was the last time I had khichdi, forget about the time when I ate it without a grimace on my face. Even though I had ordered Khichda from the menu, I was still very skeptical about it. However once it was served, the smell itself ended any doubts I had. I am not an expert on ingredients, however was told that Dal Makhani and Rice form the base of it along with Desi Ghee. Sometimes you have to forget what is going into it, and focus on the bottom-line, in this case which was awesome taste. Himanshu tried the non-vegetarian version of the same, which came with well cooked chunks of mutton, and he was very pleased with it as well. Both were served with mix vegetable raita, diced onions and green chutney. In my opinion, it tasted best without any of the condiments. 

Vegetarian Khichda, smelled awesome.
Non Vegetarian version of Khichda – with Mutton Chunks
After having some of the more innovative dishes, I was really looking forward to the dessert selection available, which unfortunately turned into a disappointment for me. Thinking about it, it was rather a case of high expectations that I had from the café, especially after the Khichda and Rajma Kebabs. Most of the items listed seemed to be regular ones and we ordered three of them:
  • Frozen Alaska (Served with Mango, caramel and Chocolate Sauce) 
  • Fried Ice-cream (Served with Chocolate Sauce) 
  • Fruit Custard Tart
Baked Alaska – Ice-cream filled inside Vanilla sponge
Fruit Custard Tart

I would have said that I was indifferent to all of them, however if you are visiting them and SHOULD order a dessert, then Fried Ice-cream is what I would suggest. Because inside the coating of batter it is eventually ice-cream and you cannot go wrong with vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce.

Frozen Ice-cream with Chocolate Sauce
Chalchitra Café is a place where you do not go to dine. It is a place where one goes to hang-out with friends, have a few drinks, enjoy the filmy music and have fun. Whatever time we spent there, this is exactly what we saw happening there. And if they manage to surprise you with something as awesome as Rajma Kebab and Khichda, I see no reason to complain.
It is a place where I would be definitely going back; to get more of the things I like and try some other delicacies they have on their menu. Oh! And I love filmy music :D. 
My overall Rating for food : 3/5 
Since this is an invited review, I have not taken service into consideration.


Chalchitra: M-38, first floor, M – block Market, Greater kailash-2, Delhi.
Bbpin: 21EA4281 (Customers on BB list get an additional 10% discount)
Contact number: 9999855519, 011-4080 1111

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Food walk in Old Delhi – Exploring Sita Ram Bazaar

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My love for the walled city is quite known, as mentioned earlier, that place makes me feel like Alice in wonderland. Hence I always cook up excuses and look for opportunities to visit that part of the town. And what better time there is to walk those famed food lanes than in the month of December. The well settled winter chill coupled with possibly the best time to be out basking in the warm sun, we zeroed down on a perfect December afternoon.
Swooping on the heady combination available, a FED raid was called for and a bunch of Food Enthusiasts assembled at the Chawri Bazaar Metro station. This raid was dedicated to explore Sita Ram Bazaar, one of the lesser known lanes of the walled city; however it is also the lane that I end up visiting most often. My regular visits can be attributed to my Aunt, who lives there with her family.
What probably very few people know about the Old Delhi food trail is the fact that this particular part of the city, famed for its kebabs and biryanis, also houses lanes that are an absolute delight for a vegetarian. Chawri Bazaar and Sita Ram Bazaar, strongholds of the Hindu trading communities are areas that are traditionally pure vegetarian. As far as I know, even eggs are a very recent addition to the food scene there. This happens to be the area from where the famous Chat, Kachori, Samose, Bedmi, Nagori, Gol Gappe, Kulfi etc of walled city hale from.
The Sita Ram Bazaar food walk that day was quite an ad hoc for experience for me as well. I knew the lanes like the back of my hand but what I was not sure of was which vendors would be serving at that time of the day? Was Sunday the day I would find all that I had sampled previously? Would my regular guy be there or would we miss him by an hour or so? However there was one thing I was pretty sure of and that was the fact that we would not be disappointed. The happy smiles throughout ensure that I don’t need to emphasize of this point at all.

While waiting for other foodies at the metro station, the temptation to have Ram Laddoos of the hawker standing right next to gate number three was hard to resist. Though they were not extraordinary but totally succulent and with the right amount of salt and spices and worth the moolah and the long wait. However as I often say, even the average food you get in those lanes is better than the good food elsewhere.

Ram Laddoo, all dressed up 😛

 

Ram Laddoo outside the Metro Station
Food Enthusiasts waiting to embark on the Expedition

Post the Ram Laddoos we started our expedition, and decided to give a skip to the Ashok Chat this time. Been there, done that way too many times. But Hey! May be next time :D. Our first stop was a cart selling Kachoris. I am sure many of us love our drinks, however a night of heavy drinking always leaves a bad taste in mouth the morning after. And that is where Kamal Kachori waala’s claim to fame comes from. He is the only vendor that I know who serves his kachoris with chhole, instead of the usual aloo ki subzi. His chhole are known to be super spicy, making them extremely popular among people suffering from ‘morning after’ taste buds. But don’t lose heart, you can find pure joy and delight on any given day with or without the hung-over taste. The heat of the red chilli ‘tadka’ in the chhole and the strong and potent smell of heeng from the kachori would be enough to open up and assault your sinuses. Quite understandably one of the best and the most hit item we sampled that day all I can say is that I cannot wait to get back there and stuff myself silly with those kachoris.

Harjeev enjoying the Kamal’s Kachori
Pallavi found the flavors to be too difficult to resist.
To stay informed about our outings and other activities please join us on our Facebook Page. For more information about FED Raids, click here. Next in queue for the foodies was Chhole Bhature which is not technically a walled city specialty. My past experience with this Chhole Bhature waala (Near Lal Darwaza) was decent and this time as well he did not disappoint. Though not at par with the best in business, however still edible.

Quite surprisingly the lanes were choc-a-block with people selling Daulat ki Chat; however I have been warned time and again against having it from any of them due to various reasons. Luckily Gali Arya Samaj in Sita Ram Bazaar has the best Daulat Ki Chat waala in business. For those of you who are wondering what Daulat ki chat is, it is basically milk froth mixed with khoya. Froth is made by whipping the milk for a long time, and then powdered sugar and khoya are added to it before serving. It’s a winter delicacy and an extremely light dessert. Kalakand came next on list, coming straight from the Kadhai of another vendor with a small unnamed shop in the same lane. It was fresh and delicious.

Frech batch of Kalakand being prepared
Kalakand from the last Batch

Unable to think of anything else to eat in that gali, we decided to move towards Kucha Pati Ram, home to legendary Kude Mal Kulfi waala. However instead of taking the conventional route, we took another ‘exotic’ route and stumbled upon a shop selling Kachori and Samosa. How was it different? They had two varieties of Samosas, one stuffed with Mutter (Peas) and the other with Gobhi. The mutter samosa was quite a revelation, and also quite a hit. It is the season for peas and hence they were quite sweet, tender and flavorful. Mixed well with the right spices they are a potent combo for the taste buds.

Mutter Samosa
Kachoris and  Samosas
It was no surprise that Kude Mal, once again turned out to be highlight of the day. Just imagine 25 foodies, jostling with each other for every piece of kulfi that was available. From Anaar, Phalsa, Jaamun, Aam, Kiwi to Paan, Fruit Cream, Classic Kulfi, Aam Panna and Kala Khata, you name it and we had them all.
Unfortunately there was only person who was serving us, and before he could scoop out an entire kulfi from the can, it was already gone. But after having 40 kulfis in all, we had no reason to complain. And what was absolutely as delightful as the kulfis themselves was the fact that all of us took the Old Delhi lanes and got back to our childhood, quite literally. I don’t remember the last time all of us created such a racket to sample something. Jostle, jump and tug for something with all our heart and not once not twice but forty almost times like a bunch of over enthusiastic kids.

The final stop of the evening was in Chawri Bazaar for Veg Kathi Kebabs and Rumali Rotis. This is something that again one does not find on a daily basis in walled city, and luckily for us, we were there on a Sunday. Maybe I love that stuff too much because I am yet to have a Kathi Kebab that I did not like. That said most of my experiences of eating it have been in walled city as well. Average food found within the walled city is more often than not better than the good food found elsewhere ;-).

Veg. Kathi Kebab being prepared

The joy of being there that Sunday afternoon and the joy of revisiting that experience to pen it down is as good a conclusion as I can come up with for this post. Old Delhi lived to its promise, it sprang up some surprises and least of all it managed to delight one and all. Asking anything more is asking too much.

Food Enthusiasts of Delhi – The Happy Bunch
PS : Besides good food, the super-awesome company took the experience to all new high.

Written by Shashank Aggarwal, with support from Pallavi Shahi.

 
Follow me on Twitter – @Tweet2Shashank

 

From Delhi’s Kitchens – By Jen Sugermeyer

While on a sabbatical from work, I made the decision to uproot myself and allow my passion for cooking, good food, and traveling take me to Delhi, India.

The goal for this trip was simple- Indian recipes!  Going alone and knowing no one, I took this as an opportunity to live on my agenda, making this trip whatever I wanted it to be.

Though I had done very minimal research before I arrived, I did come across the Food Enthusiasts of Delhi’s blog- of which I immediately became a member. This was the first and foremost best move I made, as it afforded me the opportunity to meet a community of foodies, some of their families, and made my vision become a reality.

After arriving in India, I met up with FED on one of their food RAIDS and began socializing my intentions and mission for the trip. What I did not expect was an outpour from the group to invite me into their homes to give me personal lessons of authentic dishes! I cooked with wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and even some of the gents- everyone was willing to show me their sacred recipes, of which some I have been vowed to absolute silence.

My culinary experiences were mostly Northern India based, spanning from Punjab to Calcutta.  Being a huge fan of all types of food- I had no limitations on anything that was prepared.  I had a full experience of everything from snacks and appetizers to entrees and desserts.  Here were some of my highlights.
Paneer Tikka was one of the dishes we created, and with ample prep time, this decadent dish can be whipped up relatively quickly.  Paneer (Cottage Cheese) itself, is boiled milk, curdled, then wrapped in a cheese cloth.  In any dish, the delicate texture of the paneer melts in your mouth, while your taste buds are overjoyed with the soft, creamy taste.  It is a personal favorite of mine, and the tikka was a perfect complement to this mouthwatering delight.

To make this dish, the spices were ground by hand, which made a beautiful gold coloring.  Once the spices were crushed, the paneer and vegetables were left to marinade.  Once ready, they were pan grilled until slightly crispy.
Chole Batura:
This dish is the epitome of flavor for vegetarian dishes; a perfect blend of tomato and onion puree, beans, and spices served and eaten with ghee soaked dough (Poori)- scrumptious! It was one of the first dishes I observed, and immediately became one of my favorite Indian dishes.  Accompanied by hearty helping of chopped onions and pickled chili makes this dish a hands-down winner!

Bread Rolls
Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined cutting the edges off white bread, soaking two pieces in water and wringing them out with my palm, filling the wet bread with a potato mixture, making a ball, and frying it in ghee.  This was truly worth mentioning, as it was simple- yet made a satisfying and rewarding snack!

Fish Curry in a Mustard Sauce
The dish from Calcutta proved to be fast, simple, and piquant.  The nice blend of hand crushed mustard seeds and green chili gave a mild yet zesty combination of flavors.  This was poured over rice and eaten with traditional Indian silverware- hands only!  

 Sweet and Tangy Pumpkin:

Cooking with a family from Punjab I got to experience another phenomenal vegetarian dish.  The dish tastes exactly how it sounds; sweet and tangy- which target most every taste bud.  Prepared by a grandmother of one of the FED guru’s, this dish had been perfected for generations- and each bite conveyed perfection.  My taste buds have certainly acquired a taste for chaat masala- a tangy spice that I will most definitely keep in my household from here on out, and this sworn-to-secrecy recipe will be one I cherish.

  
Kadi Pakoda:
Kadi Pakoda takes a bit of prep time, but well worth the effort.  We made fried vegetable pakoda balls, which were ultimately added to the curd/curry mix.  The dish was rich in flavor and very satisfying.  A blend of garam masala, chili, and mustard seeds mixed along with the mild taste and texture of curd (strained plain yogurt) make this dish complex and yet smooth and gratifying on the palate. 
Papri Chaat:
Words cannot convey how much I adore this dish, and it is not all too often you find it prepared in the home, as it is a traditional snack food found on the streets with lots of various ingredients.  The brilliant mixture of tangy and sweet, the crunch of the fried dough, the coolness of the yogurt, the spicy bite from the chutney, and the smooth, rich texture from the garbanzo beans, makes this dish a must-try!
My cooking experiences varied vastly, and at each home I picked up various tricks-of-the-trade.  One of the most important notes I will take from cooking and eating in India is the difference it makes to take the time to grind and blend spices by hand.  The aroma, flavor, color, and strike to the taste buds makes this act of grinding an art form- and one that need not be overlooked or underestimated.  Another important note is the more robust flavor that comes from food when using hands over utensils.  The act of mixing a sauce over rice by hand, penetrating each grain, brings out an intense flavor- none of which is lost by the use of a metal spoon.   Lastly, there are no shortcuts.  Food is amazing because the time and the preparation that is put in (and if all done right, then dishes can be prepared rather quickly).  Using fresh spices and fresh food are key, and timing is everything!
Additionally, there is much to be said, especially coming from a culture that relies on fast food and frozen meals, for the full cycle of food in India; from preparation to consumption, all of which in an event.  Cooking and consuming is an art form.  It’s a tradition passed from generation to generation, it’s a way for wives to connect with their mother-in-law, and a way to identify a family to a certain region.  It’s just one more way to bring the close family unit together- giving them a daily event in which to partake and share stories from their day.
I have much practice to do to replicate these dishes, of which in some cases took generations to perfect, but I will none the less try my best to do service to all those who took the time to help teach and guide me along my journey.  Not only has my experience and culinary repertoire been enriched by these families and experiences, but I, as a person, have been enriched, and feel utterly blessed.

Any place and experience is what you make of it, and in Delhi, I made a wide group of friends and family, not to mention a lifetime of memories.  I can honestly say that had I not met FED I would not have learned as much or had as much fun as I did.  They made Delhi come alive, and gave food the recognition and credit it deserves, and certainly made this foodie’s dream a reality.  Thank you, Food Enthusiasts of Delhi, for letting me partake in your activities, there is a lot to be said for all of the members- and I look forward to RAID’ing with you again!

Text & Pictures by Jen Sugermeyer

Though there are things which need correction in this post, however I let it be like Jen sent it to me, so that we can get first hand perspective and understanding for a foreigner of our Food. However you are welcome to make suggestions in the comments for Jen to improve her knowledge and cooking skills. ~ Shashank

Amritsar – Spirituality, Sights, history and of course FOOD – by Siddharth Chatrath

As a kid reading those history books I often used to wonder how life would have been at the time when we were governed by the British Raj. As a Dilliwala myself have seen Delhi grow with time. Almost giving away that old world feel except for the some parts which are still very much intact. But somewhere within me I knew there’s still a city which could give me that feel of being very much back there in the history. That’s when one day I came across this city of Amritsar.

Golden Temple

‘Amritsar’ literally a pool of nectar derived its name from Amrit Sarovar, the holy tank that surrounds the fabulous Golden Temple. For first time visitors it can easily seem like an over-sized version of Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. The description that would really hold true in the later part of this blog. 

Now when they say Golden Temple is a must, believe it. Because to start the quest for something, in our case FOOD, you should always be thankful to the all mighty. Now when you step out of this place, the distance from history becomes all the more obvious as you’re thrown into the crazy hustle-bustle of Amritsar. Every city has its buzz and old Amritsar sounds like an old fridge. You would find hundred’s of Bajaj eight-seaters lined up just outside. Just mention FOOD and they would take you places. 

For the start first things first – Start with a glass of Lassi. 

1) Ahuja Lassi  shop located near Hindu mahasabha College serves the best lassi in the country. Started in 1955 and since then all of the visitors are treated to this lassi. Also highly recommended by the real food enthusiasts Rocky and Mayur ( HOMP )without whom I would have never known about this place. Sound like an award speech but am ok with that.

2) Kesar Da Dhaba, Chowk Passion I have to say this and I mean it. If you been to Amritsar and has never visited this place just because someone told you Bharavan or Brothers served much better don’t call yourself Foodies. I highly recommend this place. Kesar Da Dhaba is run by fourth generation and many of the recipes have been passed down in the family since 1916. Never would you find a open fronted kitchen (YES you read that correctly). If you don’t believe me just pay a visit once. Kesar waali Daal, Lachha Paranthas, Stuffed Paranthas, Paneer Bhurji, Palak Paneer on menu welcomes you to this legendary dhaba. Not to forget Phirnis and Gulab Jamun. You can never ever afford to miss this. Just FYI, be prepared to walk or take a rickshaw from outside Golden Temple complex for Rs.10-15.

Menu at Kesar Dhabha

Parantha Thali at Kesar Da Dhabha
Phirnis waiting to be served

3) Bharavan , Brother’s or Bade Bhai ka Brothers Am not bothered which one came first. I don’t recommend this place. I know many of you would disagree but that is fine. Famous for its Amritsari Kulcha, Channa Masala and Daal. Mostly thronged by tourists due to prominent location, which is visible as you return from Golden Temple.   

4) All India Famous Amritsari Kulcha, Maqbool Road As the name suggests by far and away the tastiest Kulcha ever tasted. Kulcha which has filling of potatoes mixed with sliced onions, red and green chillies. Served with dark, imli flavoured chana and piquant salad. No better place to have Amritsari Kulcha than this. 

5) Beera Chicken House, Majitha Road I know many of you would have your reservations after visiting Golden Temple not to have chicken that day. But make it a point you finish with Vegetarian joints on one day and the other day you chance upon the Tandoori Chicken served by Beera. 

6 ) Surjit Food Plaza, Lawrence Road Mr.Surjit Singh is by far the most courteous owner I have ever met . World famous eating joint, recommended by Lonely Planet Publications, BBC , World Cafe Asia, Jet Airways , Kingfisher, and many others. Surjit Food Plaza is famous for almost all its dishes, but Tandoori chicken and Amritsari Fish are beyond comparison. And every conversation with the owner, truly is an experience. Just tell him you have come from all the way from Delhi and he would be like “Ki khaoge mere bacheyo, pehle dasso Non Veg ya Veg? Tuhannu pehlan khilande ne Machi malai machi te for Veg Haryali Paneer tikka”. He has loads of albums with him showing famous celebrities who have visited this place.  He would have his camera ready for the click every time.

No explanation needed.

Fish @ Surjit’s

Yours truly with Surjit Uncle

7) Golden Temple  When we are talking FOOD how could we not mention the Guru Ka Langar served here. Guru Arjan Dev decreed that none of his people in the city should ever have to go to bed hungry and thus began the tradition of Langar (free food). The money is provided by devotees and most cooks are volunteers. It is strongly recommended you stop here for a langar. The most satisfying meal you can have.

Take Aways

8) Ujagar Singh for Varian and Papad And for your takeaways from Amritsar don’t forget to buy some Variya and Papad as well. Some of your dear ones would be happy with these goodies.  You can get a wide variety of same.

9) Puni Lal Aam Papad Lawrence Road :- Now the girls would love this. Aam Papad topped with Lemon Juice, Red Chilli powder and Black Salt. This makes a deadly combination. Highly Recommended!!!

Again, no introduction needed 😀
The spiced up Aam Padad.

Now would be sharing with you some of the other famous joints as well shared by our fellow FEDs from Amritsar. Here I would like to specially thank Jaideep Riar paaji.

10) Kundan Dhaba Near Railway Station.

11) Veg Pakoras outside  Hall Gate or Gandhi Gate where railway over bridge starts.

12) Kanha Sweets Lawrence Road famous for Puri Launji Thalis and Halwa of all types.

13) Prakash Meat, Maqbool Road

14) Brijwasi Chaat, C Block Ranjit Avenue
If you plan on visiting Amritsar, a 2-3 days trip is essential to sample all the delights it has to offer, both as a tourist and as a foodie. 

PS : Will keep modifying and adding to list as new recommendation and information keeps coming in.                                                                                                                                                                         
Text & Pictures by Siddharth Chatrath
Edited by Shashank Aggarwal
 To share your experiences, reviews, recipes, food pictures etc, mail them to shashank@foodenthusiastsofdelhi.com

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