Then you start growing up and college brings a legion of North Indian or Punjabi friends shattering your reality, saying, 'Yaar Poona mein accha khana milta hi nahi hai yaar. Tu toh localite hain, khilaiyyo yaar sahi wala khana kabhi, bhai". You take them to your favourite places for 'Punjabi Food' and they look at you like you've insulted their ancestors, which I probably have.
We as Punekars, our highly evolved Sadashiv Peth-ness, never let us realise what we were missing out on. Only when we actually travel to the North and take the pains to eat at a local eatery (and not just the Kesari Tours hotel buffet) do our eyes open up and we get over our illusions. But now that is no longer the case.
Delhi Chowk, Viman Nagar, is a small cart now evolved into a delivery kitchen serving delicious homely Dilli style comfort food. It was started by a passionate and undaunted Vartika Malhotra. Coming from a totally unrelated corporate job, quitting to follow her passion, she ended up here and doesn't seem like she's gonna stop.
After braving the elements and the mysterious soul-sucking cosmic phenomena that our Pune roads and traffic have become, we finally reached. We couldn't wait for what was in store.
-Chole Kulche: We were tired and hungry but one bite of the chole kulche and our face turned into smile machines. The taste was unbelievable. The chole was so creamy, rich, cooked in ghee with minimal spice, but so flavourful. I was shocked to know when I was told it was made without onion or garlic. Some serious soul-satisfying stuff.
Then there was the kulche. These kulchas deserve a museum of their own, they were that good. So soft, airy, melt in the mouth, and beautiful slightly crisp and uber buttery on the outside. I could have had a whole kulcha just on its own, and I did. The combination with the chole was otherworldly. She gets them made from a baker friend with her own special recipe. The picked lime, fresh chilli pickle and onions are just a perfect savoury combination. Adding a bit of zing to the subtle creamy flavours.
-Rajma Chawal: Another classic that's blows it out of the park. Creamy, mild and soft rajma, beautiful subtle flavour of whole spices like cinnamon, clove and bay leaves. Just absolute comfort food that nourishes the soul. Had such homely and beautiful rajma rice after a really long time. Probably better than anywhere I've had before!
-Kadhi Chawal: Another classic and it was really nice but I found it to be quite intense in flavour. It was quite spicy, the flavour of green chilli, coriander seed and turmeric overpowering the creamy and mildly sour kadhi taste.
-Buttermilk: What better to accompany such lovely food than some soothing homemade chaaz. Refreshing!
All the recipes at Delhi Chowk are recipes she has learnt from her family, her mother, granny and aunts. All perfected at her innumerable trials to make sure the food is tasty and consistent. Everything is made from scratch every day from fresh ingredients and from her own homemade masalas and mixes. The quality shines through and the homely simple very typical 'Dilli' waali taste elevates it to a level very few can match in Pune, definitely not any typical restaurant.
The revolution has begun. Us Punekars need to remove our Misal-tinted glasses and take in all the wonderful food that hard-working, simple people like Vartika are dishing out from nothing else but the passion of cooking and making others happy with their food.