Give me back my Paratha and a goodness of life and “Have we forgotten how to eat a Mango- Signs of changing times?”

 

Anyone who has grown up or merely received hospitality in northern India knows the high gastronomical esteem in which the Paratha is held !!. Paratha belongs to the family of breads which consists of amongst others eatables like chapatti, puris, bhature, kulcha, naan, rumali, missi roti etc. Paratha is considered superior to the chapatti in every way, from the taste to the culinary talent required to make it – not to mention the calories it adds to your midlife baggage – the Paratha is a food for all seasons and temperaments. Some pan-fry it, other deep-fry or you could have tandoori parantahas as well!!. As if the oil required during frying was not enough, dollops of yellow/white butter is liberally pasted while eating or you could eat it by dipping the morsels thru malai or thick curd. Your fingers should be dripping you see!!A pickle adds the zest and tang to the whole affair.

Actually, a Paratha is a meal in itself and generally should be eaten alone as otherwise; you could miss out on its heavenly flavors. It should be crisp yet soft, it should have the right amount of fillings and should not be over stuffed and neither should it be lean; it should have a character, a body, an aroma and a divine after taste. Some people break the Paratha to let the steam out, some eat while shifting the morsel from one finger to another lest it burns their skin- a Paratha is to be eaten hot with all the latent heat packed amidst the many layers it is made of!!

Switch off the “Exhaust Fan”, let the smell of Paratha waft thru the household, maybe the whole street!!. A touch of pure desi ghee nearly makes it a nirvana experience.

There are many ways to prepare the base of Paratha.Some shove the fillings in the dough (big picture!!), some make small dumplings and then fill them- roll them- and fry them. Some actually make 2 layers, place the fillings carefully and close the layers. The fillings range from humble potato, onion, cauliflower,paneer, radish to Pudina, keema, chicken ,egg & cheese. Whichever way, a Paratha is “not” a Paratha if its calorie count is less than 380!!-yes a normal Indian Paratha packs that much calories alone-without counting those dollops of butter, malai or full cream dahi which goes along. A dieter’s waterloo, this culinary piece stands way ahead.

Laccha Paratha is an art. Its similar to a croissant run over by a passing truck?. It has layers and layers of dough interspersed with good helping of butter ( just as in a croissant) and then shoved in a tandoor. Before it is served, it is generally twisted and crushed by hand. It is not generally eaten with Dahi, it requires a proper stew in which one dips big morsels of flaky Paratha.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, teatime, picnics, school and office tiffins, food parcels for the train traveler… it is hard to think of a traditional food situation in which Parathas, whether plain or stuffed, accompanied by vegetables or condiments or nothing at all, would not or could not prominently figure.

Paratha means childhood. It is “deja Vu”. Its that nostalgic moments when cholesterol was unknown, triglycerides were still to be discovered and as long as you sweat out the goodness of Paratha, everything else was fine. It reminds me of standing next to my mother, smelling the goody and eating it just off the “Tawa” or the griddle as they call them now. Give me back my Paratha.

 

1. If Parathas are your weakness, the place to indulge is Gali Parathewali, a Paratha lover’s paradise in Old Delhi. Even if you feel nothing compares with home cooking, a trip here is still worthwhile – if only to breathe in the aroma of shallow frying ingredients and revel in the sight of a line of shops dedicated to this edible attraction in all its mind-boggling variety. Most of the shops here claim an antiquity dating to the 1800s. With the Delhi Metro, reaching this place is a breeze. Just catch the Metro at CP, get down at Chandni Chowk and walk straight or ask somebody around. They would be too glad to give directions.

Everyone is familiar with the homely aloo Paratha, with mashed potato filling. Parathas stuffed with dal are common in the hills. Parathas sweetened with sugar are a common children’s treat. But the menus here are replete with a bewildering array of stuffing. Matar paneer, dal-tamatar (lentils cooked with tomato), “gobhi mix aloo” (cauliflower with potatoes), rabri (sweet thickened milk), khurchan malai (cream) and even papad – this is not a list of savory dishes or desserts, but a sample of the diverse ingredients that find themselves within the crisp confines of the Parathas being rolled out, fried on giant sized griddles and served to you smoking hot.and the guy keeps rolling on and on…, this is “ITIHAS” my dear-History for the uninitiated.

  1. Posh restaurants have display kitchens as a fashionable gimmick to lure customers.But here in Gali Paranthewali the kitchens have always been open, not only to the public but to the elements as well. However, whether due to the heat gradient or some other scientific phenomenon, the flies swarming the streets stop short of the restaurants!!Along with your choice of Paratha comes a trayful of side dishes like chutneys of  banana and tamarind, mint and pumpkin, watermelon pickle and vegetables. If you prefer  not to eat in the midst of the commercial bustle of Chandni Chowk, the Parathas along with their accompanying delicacies can be packed up at no extra cost.Go there, once in a while. The past catches up with present and future. Drown yourself in the aromas and laid back “Esh-tyle” of yesteryears and just enjoy. Maybe you may like to walk down right to the domestic airport and say goodbye to taxi-wallah-that way you could ( maybe) digest a couple of Parathas!!.
  1. Step out of Delhi in the direction of Nainital and 2 hrs from Delhi on your left near town of Gujraula you would find the “Pahalwan Nos 1 Dhaba”.Try the Paratha there with curd, its Divine, marvelous. Don’t try the deep fried varieties. The pan fried or tandoori are equally good!!.
  2. In South you get “Parotta” or is it “Barotta” in Madurai.As was told to me (I am not too sure of its authenticity), there is no P in Tamil script and hence Barotta instead of Parotta!! is used ( somebody should testify this).Parotta is good at Karaikudi and Coastline ( all a part of same complex) opp Nilgris Nest.

But they cannot go beyond plain parotta.But it is crisp and smells fresh. Down south, it’s difficult to find stuffed Parathas. Its thinner than the Laccha Paratha that one gets up north and has more oil as well. It stretches also unlike the Laccha. Eaten with mutton stew, it’s a treat.

 

Lastly, how can one forget the egg Parathas available outside Vikram Hotel in New Delhi. This Cart wallah starts the business at 2100 and closes shop at 0200.Speciality-egg Parathas.The taste is pedestrian, but the effusive, ebullient surroundings makes it a good experience.

Only suitable for cast iron lined stomachs, this Paratha really delivers a volley of calories. The way he packs 2 eggs during the Paratha making process is a delight. Close your eyes and eat. Just don’t go for a medical checkup after eating.

 

How to eat a Mango ” Is it signs of changing times”

Mangoes are not to be eaten with fork or spoon. Mangoes are supposed to be eaten as per following Process:

  1. Caress the mango. Wipe them with soft muslin cloth. Smell them.
  2. Repeat step 1.
  3. Take a bucket (actually it should be a wrought iron tub) of water. Buy blocks of ice from friendly ice maker. Put the blocks in the bucket.
  4. Put all the mangoes in the chilled water.
  5. The steps 1-4 should be done in the morning.
  6. Wait till the afternoon.

    Best mango eating sequence in Hindi films : Border (1997)

  7. Look into the bucket and take a deep breath. Put your head down till the tip of your nose touches the chilled water!! And smell.

    Mangoes in ice cold water in a "Patila" ( or a Pan)

  8. Pick up a mango and make a hole at the tip.Squeeze.As per the folklore sourness gets out from the hole.
  9. Hold the mango in one palm. Just squeeze the pulp out and devour it. Some pulp may spill on to the shirt, but carry on.

    See the enjoyment on the face of Akshye Khanna as he sucks in the mango

  10. Eat all the mangoes.
  11. Take a bath and sleep the afternoon!!

This is best described in a sequence in the film “Border” by JP Dutta. There is this scene when Pooja Bhatt & Akshye Khanna families meet for finalizing their engagement. Best Mango scene ever.

Mango celebration

 

And what do they do now days?

  1. Buy the mangoes and put in biofresh refrigerator.
  2. The chillness is uneven. Worse, it maybe half frozen.
  3. Then cut the mangoes or worse, peel them off (peel a mango off! you must be joking my dear-peel a mango you said!! My god!!-mango is not a cucumber or a carrot).
  4. Scoop the pulp with a spoon. or sprinkle chat masala on cubes of mango and eat with a fork. Disaster! or mix it with cucumber and tomato for a fruit Chat.
  5. And they work afterwards!! You must be joking. Nobody works after eating a mango (you never eat a mango, you eat mangoes).Eating mangoes is “Work” and an art. You need to have a well earned rest afterwards.

The earlier way of eating mangoes was exploratory, used all the senses and in a way was playful and childish. It was celebration of life. Today, its just done to satisfy a craving. Its more like a 2 minute noodle experience. We have forgotten to savour life, its small precious moments and are reveling in instant gratification. We have lost our childhood. 

About sanjay

A power industry professional. I did my schooling from DPS, R K Puram, New Delhi ( Class of 1982). Earned my engineering degree from DCE ( Delhi College of Engineering) in 1986. Worked in Tata Motors ( 2 years), Thermax India (5 years), ABB (2 years), Wartsila (13 years) and now work for Tata Power. Stay in New Delhi and works in Noida. Have travelled extensively worldwide and in India. Loves to travel and see the world.
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One Response to Give me back my Paratha and a goodness of life and “Have we forgotten how to eat a Mango- Signs of changing times?”

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