Hazarilal Jain Khurchanwala
Most children start with words like Mama and Dada. I think one of the first words I ever spoke was jalebi. Other children were born toothless -- legend has it that I came with one sweet tooth. I have been fond of sweets from time immemorial. There was a time when no meal was over complete without a sweet which usually meant, in those days, a laddoo or a balushahi.
Thanks to this long-lasting affair with sweets, some of my teeth departed early. Just last week, my dentist gave an eviction notice to three reluctant teeth. Still, in a country such as India -- where the Taj Mahal is the ultimate memorial to love -- I, as an Indian, have a reputation to protect. So the love affair -- irrespective of disappearing teeth and a widening girth -- has continued.
I have built up a meaningful relationship with a lot of sweets -- from the Ladoo, jalebi, balushahi and rabri to kalakand, rasmalai, rasgullahs and kulfi. But my everlasting memory is still that of a sweet my father brought for me from Khurja -- over 40 years ago -- called khurchan. It was so delicious that its memory lingered on -- even though I never could manage to ever find a shop that sold this exquisite sweet anywhere.
It was much later -- somewhere in the mid nineties -- that I finally found a small shop in Paranthewali Gali selling khurchan. I had just downed a few greasy paranthas when my eyes fell upon a pile of khurchan. I immediately asked for a plate, but was a little disappointed with it because the taste didn't match up to my expectations. I was grumbling about this to an old friend from the Walled City when he asked me to try out the khurchan at Hazarilal Jain's shop in Kinari Bazaar.
I took his advice, and, after a few wrong turns, located the small sweet shop. I controlled my salivating mouth and ordered 100 grams of khurchan (now for Rs 180 a kilo). With the very first bite I realised that this was the real thing. But before I get into a frenzy, let me tell you about the shop.
To get to this Mecca of Khurchan worshippers, you should get into Chandni Chowk from the Red Fort end. Ask anyone where Dariba Kalan -- the silver market -- is. The landmark for Dariba is the famous Jalebiwallah at its entrance. Go down Dariba, get into Kinari Bazaar and you will find Hazarilal about 20 shops down the market, to your left.
Let me tell what khurchan is all about. If you want to translate it into English, the nearest word that you can get is scrappings. When kheer was cooked, did you, as a child, use a spoon to scrape the sides of the utenstil to get at the thickened milk that was stuck there? I did that -- and loved the taste of the caramelised, thickened milk. The concept of the khurchan is just that.
At this 70-year-old shop, they keep boiling the milk in a big karhai and removing the malai, or the head, with a twig. In another karhai, they keep putting one layer of cream over another till the sweet is as thick as, say, a kalakand.
What's interesting is that sugar is not added to the milk. Instead, just before the khurchan is put on the counter, they sprinkle some powdered sugar or karara over it. This helps release whatever moisture there is left in the khurchan, and makes it softer.
Khurchan is not as sweet as some of the other desserts that we eat -- and I find it heavenly. Sadly, it's getting to be more and more difficult to find a khurchanwallah, because few halwais make this dish since the process is too time-consuming. Soon, like the Dodo, the khurchan will be lost forever. So seek out the stuff right now.