Sunday, August 23, 2009

FATEH KI KACHORI

Fateh ki kachori:
For all kachori lovers of Delhi, Fateh has been something of an enigma. Most serious students of this crunchy savoury have heard of Fateh, for the name tends to crop up in any conversation revolving around the humble kachori. But hearing about Fateh's kachoris is like listening to somebody tell a ghost story: everybody knows somebody who has seen a spook, but no one seems to have seen one personally. A ghost-story teller will say: "This is true, because it happened to my Aunt." And, likewise, the Fateh fan club would insist that Fateh's kachori still existed, but nobody was quite where it was to be found.

For those who like their kachoris, this can be a bit frustrating. And street-food lovers are known to go to every nook and corner of a city in search of a good kachori. Kachoris make for great breakfasts, and there are people who make it a point to go looking for a plateful in cities famous for their kachoris -- from Meerut, Agra, Kanpur and Mathura to Varanasi, that bastion of satvik food. In Delhi, some of the best kachoris are to be had at Ansari Road, Dariba and Bazaar Sitaram.

But then, the high priests of the kachori cult had intoned that you hadn't seen the world if you hadn't tried out Fateh's stuff. So, Fateh remained not just something of an enigma, but a bit of a challenge as well. Any kachori enthusiast worth his or her salt knew that to be counted among the crème-de-la-crème of the kachori lovers' club, a visit to Fateh was a must.
So, a trek was organised one sunny morning to the intestines of Delhi in search of the elusive Fateh. An old student of St Xavier's gave detailed directions to the place, pointing out that Fateh had fed generations of hungry students of the school on Rajniwas Marg. The map was followed to the last T, but there was no sign of Fateh there. Did the place exist at all, or was it just a figment of a city's collective imagination?
But, just when the search was being given up for good, an old jungle saying came to the mind. When you are lost, goes the proverb, just get in touch with the nearest panwallah. A panwallah's help was dutifully sought. He scraped a betel leaf with a bit of limepaste, wrapped it up neatly, and then pointed desultorily to a garden umbrella spread out over a cycle in one narrow galli. That, he said, was Fateh's kachori counter.Fateh's is on a little lane off Rajniwas Marg, next to the Gujarati Samaj building.

The famous kachoris are assembled on this very bicycle. Two huge bags filled with kachoris hang from the cycle's handles. The rest of the stuff lies on a slab on top.
To test the waters, a solitary plate of kachori was ordered. It took a while coming, because there were some 20 people who had already assembled there and placed their orders. But the wait was worth its while, for the kachoris at Fateh's are put together like a choreographed act.
Unlike most other kachori makers of Delhi, Fateh uses boiled chholey - the kind that is usually served with kulchas - with his kachoris. A group of three men go through the motions with clockwork-like precision. One of them picks up a small stainless steel utensil and takes out some of the boiled chholey, mixes it with some salt and masalas, and then places it on top of a kachori.
The plate moves to a helper who tops it with chopped onions and green chillies. Then, a third person sprinkles some masalas on the kachori, and then douses it with a spoonful each of a sweet and a sour amchoor-based chutney. The plate goes back to the second man who now garnishes it with slivers of ginger and fresh green coriander leaves. And the plate is reverentially handed over to a client who seems to have lost all control over his salivatory glands.
Fateh's kachoris are excellent. Though kachoris are usually served with a hot sabzi - made either out of potatoes or pumpkin - the chholeys at Fateh's give a different taste to the khasta kachori. Some more plates were ordered, the kachoris were savoured and a fond farewell was bid to the three surprised men by the bicycle.
Finally, the citadel guarding the famed kachoris had been breached. Fateh, after all, means victory.
ENDS

65 comments:

proindia said...

It is a heavenly experience going through your blog. Here at last is someone deeply in love with food, fond of exploring the nooks and corners Delhi.
On top of it what a style of narration!
Someone commented "Attach a picture". I am not so sure! Your pen (?) paints such a lovely picture that one gets to experience the sight and wafting aroma through your words.
Let the foodies enjoy the thrill of locating the place and savouring the food and atmosphere on their own.
You could however put the markers on wikimapia or alike.
Great blog Rahul! Keep them coming.
I wish you a most adventurous and enjoyable voyage of discovery.
-Proindia

rahul verma said...

proindia, thanks -- and thanks! sounds like you are a foodie too. so do le me know what you think about some of these food joints if you are based in Delhi.

I am a bit clueless about wikimapia -- but let me see if i can do as you suggest.

Cheers,

Rahul

gautam said...

Dear Rahulji,

Wonderful blog and wonderful, humorous, sensitive writing. couple of comments. While certainly aap ruchi khana, I too am a biryani lover, and let me urge you to consider that NO restaurant in CCU serves/has ever served biryani 1/10,000 th the quality & sapidity of the best offered at homes durring wedding feasts etc. Therefore, if you have been impressed by the restaurant or the Metia Buruz redaction of CCU biriyani, I can assure you that there are gems awaiting your discovery. Whether the old school ustads still exist, is another question. Various people tag themselves xyz, Munna Bawarchi & so on, and the newly-rich have no appreciation of their own cuisine, let alone the best delicate biriyani that would be too insipid to their alcohol-ravaged tongues and sensibilities. So I must beg to disagree with you there.

Additionally, you write so beautifully & evocatively, that we would love to learn more about your years in the village, & what it was like growing up, culinarily speaking, in a bi-cultural household. It must have been an interesting journey for your mother to adapt herself to the situation she found herself in, and her reactions to the food, availability/not of certain things, and food culture around her would also be very interesting to other Bengalis like me.

Be well.

Gautam.

vinstring said...

Dear Rahul
Yes, Fateh's Kachori is all time favourite of mine. Actually got the taste of his kachoris in 1977 - that makes me a vintage Kachori eater. Whenever I get a chance, atleast once a month or two, I deviate from my regular passage and land up at his erstwhile bicycle. Unfortunately the legendry Fateh is not around. He left 2-3 years ago to serve the almighty. The next generations are doing a great job though and continuing the traditonal tasty kachori. Keep up the good work.

Vini

ps : have you tried the ginger chicken at Prem dhaba off Filmistan gali ?
am off to Delhi 6 today evening...

rahul verma said...

Dear Gautam,


I enjoyed reading your views -- and it is nice to know that you are subjective about food as I am! But which column of mine were you referring to? I write a weekly column for The Telegraph, but haven't written anything about biryanis for a while. The next time in Calcutta, I hope I'll be able to eat some home-cooked biryani. Do keep in touch.My email id is chuchunverma@gmail.com.

Cheers,

Rahul

rahul verma said...

Hi Vini,

So you are a kachori fan too? I think we are a part of a dying breed who'd go miles to find a decent kachori. I think I had my first kachori at Fateh's in the early Seventies too. Do keep me informed about other places. I shall try out the ginger chicken at Prem's. Is this dhaba on the Faiz Road Rohtak Road crossing? Do email if you'd like to. My email id is chuchunverma@gmail.com

Vishva said...

Hi Rahul - I wanted to see if you could do an interview as part of a BBC travel TV piece I am filming in early January in Delhi on food issues ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Would you mind e-mailing me at vishva@mac.com. Thanks

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Anonymous said...

Buenas noches

It is my first time here. I just wanted to say hi!

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Ashishkbhagat said...

Hi,

I was a student of Government school at Ludlow Castle. It was next door to St Xavier School. Fateh (the daddy) used to stand outside our closed gate and we used to grab his kachoris from between the iron bars. Now I live in England but still remember every moment of it. I had his kachori last time in 2004. It was his son (I think) who was on the same place as described in your post. I never thought somebody will be writing about it and with such zeal and a touch of nostalgia until I made a blog for myself and started writing. Good job I did and found you.

Ashish

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