There is something compelling about Delhi that makes me hate the city yet romanticise it every single time I’m away from it. Having spent some formative years growing up, I always hated the non-stop competition between heat and humidity that makes you actually feel like what a chusa hua aam would actually feel like and how can I forget the crowd of collared fat bellied men in their late 50s who stand at every corner of every single street possible whose only purpose in life seems to be staring at women and smoking a beedi.
I remember this one particular time when I was 12 years old, my parents decided to take me to Chandi Chowk as a birthday gift. For no other reason but to eat. That sounds like the most fantastic birthday gift to me now, at the age of 24 but at that time as happy as I was eating I felt a little dismayed because I felt ashamed of what I’d tell my friends the next day. It was a fashion statement to celebrate birthdays at EDM mall at their air-conditioned food court and definitely not eat food off sweaty street vendors.
My journey to Chandi Chowk was definitely air-conditioned with vasts amount of sweat and barely breathable space. The metro route from the red line changing to the yellow has always been an experience and something I can no longer dissociate Delhi from. Delhi now for me at least stands for food and metro. Stepping out of the metro is as uncomfortable as stepping in. The absolute squished interiors are replaced by the ghastly hot breath of air that welcomes you back to a different reality.
It’s a different story once you enter the tiny lanes where nearly half the body of a person can fit through. The city moves on along with dogs, cats, humans, scooty’s, cars everyone has somehow made home in these tiny streets and roads for the past 370 years. Including street food. I remember we started off with Giani that day. It’s hard to forget a place like that where the size of a mango milk shake is served in a glass that was almost equal the size of my 12 year old arm and the rabdi faluda being topped with cashew nuts I probably would think twice and check my pockets before buying now. We slowly moved trying to not get hit by the various people on the road on to palm sized jalebis at Dariba Kalan that were fried in ghee and served with rasmalai for an extra 50. On wards to the softest dahi bade’s at Natraj. A small pit stop to eat a plate of gol-guppe. A kulfi each when a ice-cream seller in a cycle approached. By this time the three of us were exhausted and somehow decided to sit on a large set of stairs. Even though we were full, we couldn’t help but smell a small vendor standing and making fruit and aloo chaat. There was a tiny line of people queued all coming back and sitting in the same stairs. After a little consideration and thinking if we had enough space. We ordered a small plate of Aaloo chaat. It’s something I can still smell and taste now as I write it. Aaloo was cut and fried in ghee till it was absolutely crunchy. A spicy mix of dry masalas was poured on top and a dash of lemon served with green and red chutney.
Since that day my mom has gone crazy trying to re-create it. Especially that crunch. After much variations we’ve come to this conclusion. Although this is a recipe of the tikki and not the chaat- it has the same exact general texture and flavour.
Aaloo Tikki Recipe (Makes 6)
4-5 medium sized Potatoes Boiled / 512g (cooked in a low flame, in sim for 25 minutes, four whistles, make sure the fat potatoes are placed in the bottom. We used Pahadi Aaloos for this recipe.)
3 Green Chillis, chopped
1 and 1/4th tsp salt / 8g
50g Poha, grinded into powder
50g Fresh Coriander, chopped
For the Filling
1 tbsp Moong daal / 10g soaked in water
2 pinch Ajwain
2 pinch Jeera
2 Pinch Salt
2 Pinch Red Chilli Powder
2 Pinch Garam Masala
Put your potatoes in a pressure cooker. Add 2 cups of water and let it pressure cook it in the lowest heat for around 25 minutes. This should be 4 whistles. Make sure that you place the bigger potatoes at the bottom so that it cooks faster.
Meanwhile, slice your green chillies and chop your coriander. Put raw poha in a blender and blend it till it becomes a powder.
Once the pressure cooker has released all its air, wash the potatoes in cold water and remove the peels. Now take a bowl add in the potatoes and mash them. Once it has cooled add chopped green chillies, coriander, poha powder and 1 and 1/4th tsp of salt. Mix it well.
For the filling: Soak 10g of moong daal in water for 30 minutes and drain the water. Take a small sauce pan and in a medium low flame, add 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot add the moong daal and two pinches each of ajwain, jeera, salt, red chilli powder and garam masala. Cook in medium low flame for five minutes and keep tossing it from time to time. Once done, set it aside and let it cool.
Once both your moong daal and potato mixtures are cooled. Divide the potato mixture into medium shaped patties with hollow centres. Place the moong daal filling in the centre. Bring the mashed potato edges to the top and seal them to a ball. Roll them in between your palms and flatten them carefully. Make all of your patties in the same way.
Take a non stick pan and add 4 tablespoon of oil till it is medium hot. Gently place your tikki and pan fry them. Add 1/2 tsp of ghee on top of the tikki. Fry them on one side till it becomes slightly golden brown, this should take around 5-7 minutes. Flip again to the other side for another 5 minutes. Flip again five minutes and take your spatula and gently squish the tikki to make them flat. This will ensure that the sides are cooked. Cook for another five minutes and flip and flatten the tikki. Your tikkis should be a nice golden brown!
Serve them with coriander chutney, meethi chutney or raita.