When we think of food, at the back of our mind, it is the basic food which resides there. At home, it is Dal Chawal or Khhichri. Eating out, it is Dal Makhni with Butter Naan or Yellow Dal with Chapati, Chholey Bhaturey, Masala Dosa or Idly or Sambar Vada etc etc. For non-veg lovers, the first thought is of Meat and Chapati or Meat with Rice. And mind you, when you say Meat, it is the picture of Mutton Curry which comes to your mind first and Chicken or Fish later. This is true for most of us. Think it over, and you would acknowledge that basics are ingrained in our minds any little stimulation leave us craving for it, instantly.
Let me try to trace it for you that how it happened or usually happens with me. Will talk of non-veg here because that’s what I am comfortable with (observe the new red dot in the improved masthead atop). Vegetarians can easily draw comparisons from here. Let’s go….
A few weeks ago, suddenly a colleague announced that he feels like skipping the regular cafeteria lunch in the office and wants to go out to eat (by the way it keeps on happening in and around me, frequently). Quickly three foodies, including me, hopped on to a car for eating out. Guess to eat what ? A small roadside joint in Gurgaon, Deena Meatwala serves some amazing Dhaba Mutton Curry and tandoori chapaties. The Mutton is fiery (I am told many truckers come there to eat) because it has an overload of chillies and spices in it. I have tried it a couple of times earlier and couldn’t handle the heat. However, I must confess that the stuff is amazingly flavourful, succulent and is a treat in itself both on the palate and to the pocket. Have tried it with chapaties he serves and also with rice when brought over from there. Although, I dread eating that but somehow the urge to eat out was so high that I joined the bandwagon.
After about twenty minutes of drive, we reached the place. What !! The place looked deserted and shutters down. We were politely told that the place was closed for weekly off which is Tuesday !!! While we felt dejected we also felt ashamed. Here was a meat seller who observed Tuesdays as offs and here are we who had gone out to savour meat without realising anything. Withshoulders down, we came back to the car, feeling low and couldn’t decide where to go now. There were many places we could have gone to relish meat but decided against it. We drove down to another nearby roadside joint, Civil Lines Wala which serves amazing vegetarian paranthas, Kulchas and Chholey Bhaturey. We will talk about it later sometime. Today we will stick to the Meat Roti combo.
Why did I narrate this sequence? Well, actually this incident set my thinking rolling that why despite high on heat, I agreed to have that Meat Roti combo? Why after being denied, we chose another Parantha combo, vegetarian though? Because, the basic food always worked best for us.
The very next day, the urge for Meat Roti had to be addressed. The mind went back by almost two decades. In the heart of Delhi, in Mandi House, there is Triveni Kala Sangam in which there was a decent outlet which used to serve some amazing Keema and tawa pranthas to go along with it. It used to be a great place to hang out with art lovers and have a relaxed lunch in decent settings. Calm and quite place with amazing food served. So, why wait ? A quick enquiry revealed that the Triveni Canteen (this is how we used to call the place in those days) still has the eatery and is called Terrace Cafe. Quickly, I arranged for the iconic Keema with plain tawa paranthas to reach us.
Keema-Parantha from Triveni (left) and Kosha Mangshu with Dhakai Naan
The Keema had the same look as was many years ago, a fairly granular fare, not very greasy yet glazed and moist enough. A familiar aroma raised out of it. The very look was so tempting that one could not wait further. The tawa paranthas too were non greasy, albeit were moist with little oil, thin and soft. First, a spoonful of keema burst those familiar Mughalai flavours on the palate. The texture was granular yet soft and had balanced flavours. It had the same old aftertaste of a mix of cardamom and nutmeg. A bite with paranthas further enhanced the flavour of the keema. A very satisfying lunch which you could keep on eating. Not very oily keema and paranthas were not at all heavy on the stomach too. One loved it then and it’s the same even now. In Calcutta too, I normally love to have Bengali version of Mutton Curry known as Kosha Mangshu. They have it with a variant of puri, known as Luchee. Once, I tried it with Dhakai Naan, again it was an amazing experience.
So, wherever one goes, basic food does work. These experiences were from a decent restaurant. Now let’s talk about the same basic food in a five star.
A few weeks ago, I was in Hyderabad and was staying at the ITC Kakatiya. After days work, it was time to retire. Wanted to have something quick, not very elaborate and basic. The server suggested, Galawati Kebab and Romali Roti (Avadhi food festival was on there and chefs had come from Lucknow). My reply was an instant yes, without a second thought. The plate which came to the table had two large sized patties of minced meat a bit dark in colour. Not at all oily. The look was surely inviting. The Romali Roti was a equally good looking, soft and warm. The kebabs were soft, were not falling apart despite not being oily and had a bouquet of flavours and melt in mouth kinds. It had that touch of Luckhnavi flavours and was a treat with Romali Roti. I had once tasted Hyderabadi Kebabs there with a parantha and Laal Maas with Bajra Roti In Jaipur. Every combo was great. So, the basic could never go wrong.
Galawati Kebabs with Romali Roti (left) & Laal Maas with Bajra Roti
And….let’s now talk of this basic food from a roadside joint which actually is the hero of my story today albeit the ones mentioned above are no less.
Delhi always had a few late roadside night joints which used to serve hot paranthas and tea through out the night for late travellers, workers and fun seekers who wanted to satisfy late night cravings. They were there in various places in the city. One of them was a joint near Moolchand Hospital in Lajpat Nagar, South Delhi. This was and is still known as Moolchand Paranthe Wala. However, a few years ago, from a roadside makeshift place, this has now moved to a shop under a metro station. It is still a roadside joint as has no sit in. One can have a take away and has the choice to eat it there or ask to pack it. The place has large variety now moving over from only a parantha joint. But it is paranthas which still is his master stroke and ,for the purpose of this story, would want to stick to it.
I remember, in those good old days, egg parantha was his speciality but lately I had heard about his Keema Paranthas. I went there a sometime back and ordered one. Contrary to my expectation, it was not Keema served with a parantha but was a Keema stuffed tawa parantha. A huge sized parantha, was sprinkled with Chat Masala before taking off the tawa, and was served on a takeaway plate with a curry, a cube of butter, green Chutney and onion rings. I decided to avoid all that and stuck to the parantha only.
Hero of the story : Keema- Parantha
The first bite in the mouth conveyed that it is the best I had tasted so far. The keema inside was juicy, soft, granular and had various flavours. The nutmeg in it gave the Mughalai touch. Besides that it had the spices, chopped onions, green chillies and fresh coriander. The sprinkling of Masala over it added to the flavour in each bite. Very satisfying, amazingly flavourful, freshly made in front of your eyes and a full meal in itself. One could go there again and again, many times.
The basic food is what clicks for sure with most of us. Rest whatever we eat is a built up. Here I narrated my experiences in Five Stars, Decent Restaurants and Roadside Joints – At the end, Meat & Roti combo rules, its basic after all.
Bon Appetite !!