Established in 1875, says the board. Five generations. That is what Kanhaiya Lal Durga Parshad Dixit’s strangely spelt parawthe are about. It is easy to believe it. True, now the employees wear spiffy red T-shirts with yellow aprons and matching yellow caps, all carrying the shop logo; there is no such thing as too much advertising.
There is something elemental about the way parathe are fried and served in the tiny shops of the famous parathewali gali of old Dilli. It is almost as if nobody there has heard of cholesterol and fat and the nasty thing these can do to the human heart.
But why think of such things when you have the most delicious parathe fried right in front of you? And a range larger then you can ever sample. From the staple aloo and gobi to the mildly adventurous papad and mirchi (both rock, I am glad to report) to the outright bizarre fillings of karela (bitter gourd – which my husband insists on sampling) and rabri (a milk sweet).
The four of us, we squeeze our way through the narrow benches and find a place by the wall at the end of the room. The boy who is obviously too young to be working there places the steel plates in front of us, small crevices filled with the chhole and alu sabji. Who needs all these when each of the parathas comes bursting with flavours? Accha, methi chahiye, yeh lo mein gobi ka laaya, yeh kha lo, says the waiter with a benign smile; we are already down several bits of parathe – shared generously across the four plates, each with different flavours – and we can only weakly nod and take the gobi, begging him to forget the earlier order of methi.
It is fascinating to watch how fast the entire process is; the waiter takes our order (that is just to make you feel happy – in his mind he has already decided what you are going to eat), he goes near the counter and yells the order to the man with the dough. He places a handful of the stuffing in the middle of the rolled out disc and folds it carefully and lets his hands fly lightly over the atta, he then passes it on to the oil man and in a minute, another paratha has made its way into the world.
A kind word of advice: it is best to close your other senses and let taste rule in the time you are there. Focus on the food.
And when you wearily stumble out, try not to think of the teddy bear which told the world, I am stuffed.