A man has to eat to keep body and soul together. Which is why, while meandering around Old Delhi the other day, I was on the look-out for a place where I could rest my weary legs and treat my grumbling tummy.
I was in Fatehpuri in search of a Sindhi restaurant. But there was no sign of anything Sindhi there – barring the Karachi halwa that can be found at any halwai’s shop. So I was thinking dark thoughts about the friend who had sent me there while I looked for an eatery.
That was when I suddenly remembered Annapurna Bhoj. I had had eaten a thali there some years ago and enjoyed every morsel of it. So I hot-footed it to Church Mission Road, off Fatehpuri.
Many years ago, there was a famous little eatery called Soni Bhojanalaya. The Soni family was known for the tasty vegetarian food that it served in its little eatery. But as the restaurant grew, so did the family. Finally, one branch of the family moved out and started its own little place. They called it Annapurna Bhoj. These days, it’s run by two brothers – Rajeev and Sanjeev Soni. One brother takes care of the Delhi eatery, the other of its Haridwar branch.
Since I had fond memories of their thali, I decided that I’d go for an encore. I asked them to pack three thalis for me, even though my stomach was by then growling like a wounded bear. You can ask for both rice and roti, but I opted for the chapattis because rice would have meant carrying a heavier load. Then, with this heavenly-smelling bag, I took the metro back to New Delhi.
My friends were all waiting there with what I presume was bated breath. The thalis were unpacked – to reveal several soft rotis, moong dal, a dry vegetable dish of carrots and peas, potatoes in a light gravy, saag-paneer and kheer.
The food was truly delectable. Cooked with just a few spices, it was like well-prepared home-made food. The moong dal was very light and had been tempered with a dollop of some heavenly ghee and cumin seeds. The vegetable dishes were delicious. And the kheer at the end of the meal was like ambrosia – cooked with just the right amount of sugar.
A thali costs Rs 40, or Rs 45 if you want a ghee ka tadka in your daal. You can have as many rotis as you want with your thali, but an extra bowl of vegetables or kheer comes for an extra Rs 5.
This was such a great meal that I quite forgot about my friend who had sent me off on a wild goose chase. In fact, by the end of the meal, I was feeling pretty benevolent towards him. After all, if it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have renewed my friendship with the Soni family’s incredible thalis.