Reminiscence of mother’s cooking has forever influenced people of our generation as fondness of her dishes and tender care live with us everyday. There are special eateries with similar and rare delicacies, which make us travel distances to savour them from time to time. More than anything else, a dish becomes an ultimate endorsement of a place and incredible affinity with its culture.
About 30 years ago, at the tiny cafe underneath Regal Cinema in New Delhi, I saw an old man frying special pooris every morning, and serving it with spicy chickpea curry and pickles. Until I managed to save Rs.5 and tasted one myself, I watched this many mornings while regulars ate this famously known breakfast called ‘chole bhature’. I could still feel that scrumptiously spicy taste that melts in mouth, and I love to have as the first choice when I preferred north Indian food.
Regal cafe’s veteran cook shared the history behind this dish. “Even though known as a typical Punjabi dish, this was originally invented in Delhi in the 1940s,” says he. In the last 20 years chole bhature has travelled across India as a much-loved dish. Just like the popularity of masala dosa spread in north India and beyond, abnormally sized bhature could be seen on most vegetarian restaurants in south India today.
We used to drive 10 miles to Shehan Shah restaurant in Southall for a chole bhature breakfast in London. However, quality and flavour remained a disappointment even in this Punjabi hub. Although the dish has become freely available, the taste is commercially standardised or sometimes vastly different to anything traditional.
Recently, I noticed a crowd outside Kartik Sweets on CMH Road in Bengaluru on a Sunday, and figured out that they have a special chole bhature breakfast on weekends. With growing curiosity and intense craving, I walked in with Ganesh and couldn’t resist the fantastic smell of chickpea curry and hot bhature after a long time. In absolute happiness, we had stomach full of deliciously spicy chole and bhature standing next to a busy queue of people.
Answering my question Sunil Agarwal, the owner, said, “We could offer this every day and perhaps look for a bigger shop. But there is nothing more exciting than seeing a waiting crowd arriving from many parts of Bengaluru to taste it every Sunday.” He was so right. Believe it or not, they sold almost 600 portions that day. Even Ganesh and I will plan our Bengaluru trips around this Sunday breakfast now. It was utterly delightful and matched the perfect taste I have been looking forward to for years.