What makes Old Delhi’s street food so good? Why can I no longer imagine life without Gupta’s aloo tikki, Moinuddin’s beef kebabs, Ashok and Ashok’s korma? It’s partly, I believe, because many of the vendors’ dishes are like supercharged home cooking, full of everything nutritionists nag us about – sugar, fat, salt and carbohydrates – designed to provide solace as well as sustenance to diners with limited means. Many of these are migrant workers, mostly from poor rural areas who flock to the city to work as rickshaw wallahs, porters and day labourers, send most of their earnings back home, sleep where they drop, and can often only afford to eat one cheap meal a day. For a few rupees, that meal has to provide enough nutrition and energy to keep them on their feet all day, but it also has to soothe the soul and revive flagging spirits.
- 110 gm plain flour (maida)
- Ghee for frying
- 250 gm sugar
- 500 ml water
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 strip lemon zest
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground urad dal, yogurt and water until you have a smooth batter. Cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place for at least 24 hours.
- To make the syrup, put all the ingredients in a pan and boil until the liquid has thickened.
- To fry the jalebis, heat 4 cm depth of ghee in a kadhai over medium heat. Whisk the batter once more and spoon it into a piping bag. Squeeze neat spirals into the hot ghee, turning the jalebis over a few times until they are golden brown. If they brown too quickly, lower the heat slightly.
- With a slotted spoon, remove the jalebis, drain excess ghee at the side of the pan and transfer straight into the syrup. Let the jalebis soak up some of the syrup before serving.
Excerpted with permission from Korma, Kheer and Kismet: Five Seasons in Old Delhi, Pamela Timms, Aleph Book Company.