Chole Bhature is probably the best of all the street foods I found in Delhi. Rather than something really fancy, this is hearty food for the ‘common man’ – eaten by people across India. But its subtle taste really can carry it above this staple dish and make it something quite special. The chole is a stew made primarily of chick peas softened until they are just breaking apart and sunk into a thick sauce which is full of spices. Some raw onion is often scattered on top to add a bit of crunch to it all. Although to my knowledge there’s no meat in the dish, the hearty sauce and the chick peas have a really satisfying meatiness about them, tasting very earthy and substantial in flavour.
The stew is eaten using bhature – breads made out of maida flour. These have two layers pressed together, so that when they are fried the air in the middle expands and inflates them into a hollow ball. When you get them you press this flat like deflating a beach ball. The result is a really light, slightly spongy bread. It’s floury, fine layers are perfect for scooping up the chole, the dark sauce of which soaks into the softness.
The best place I found for Chole Bhature was Sitaram Dewan Chand a stall in Paharganj that was recommended to me by the Eating Out in Delhi blog. Every time I went to this stall, the counter was crowded with people all jostling to get to the front, elbowing each other out of the way, and snaking their arms into any space possible in an attempt to give their money to the guy. As though there was not rush at all, the old guy would just sit their, casually taking money from each person and passing out a little plastic disk. Behind him the other staff were bustling away, ladling chole into little dishes and laying a few onion and a carrot piece on top, heating up the bhature on a bit hot plate, then passing out both to the clamouring crowds.
To me what made the dish so good at this place was the sublety of the spices in the chole. I also had chole at a few other places, and while it was hearty it didn’t really have the strong, dinstinctive flavour that this one had. In each bite you could really taste the balance of the different ingredients giving it an earthy, yet strong flavour. A green spicy sauce was just lightly mixed in, adding an extra layer to the taste. And with the heartiness of the chickpeas and the sauce, there was also this slightly more spicy kick which slowly built in the mouth. The meaty sauce here goes perfectly with the softness of the bread, which were made really well at this stall so that they felt spongy as you tore each piece off. The layers of the bread had a few herbs sunk into them, adding an extra dimension to their taste.
From the Rama Krishna METRO – Exit on the Rama Krishna side and walk along the street past the front of the Rama Krishna Mission. At the end of this road, turn right onto Main Bazaar and walk a little way along, passing the Metropolis Hotel on your left. Just afte the hotel, the road curves round to the left, with the Main Bazaar continuing straight on. Follow the road round to the left, passing the Imperial cinema on your right. Keep walking about 100m, looking out for the stall on the left hand side of the road. It has a plastic covering outside and is normall pretty crowded with people.
The address is 2246, Chuna Mandi, Paharganj. This road is often called “Rajguru Marg” and runs between the Main Bazaar and the Desh Bandhu Gupta Road. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the building with Hotel Chanakya in, so look out for this sign.