I have a friend who is a bit of a finicky eater. He doesn't like
anything Continental, or regional cuisine from India either. Something
like aloo-posto, that wonderful dish from east India of poppy seeds
and potatoes, leaves him cold. A good Brahmin from Uttar Pradesh, he
is a vegetarian who doesn't even eat garlic and onion. So you can't
serve him steamed spinach with garlic – a dish that otherwise always
works out well when I invite friends home for a meal.
What he does like is a plate of hot kachoris. And that is why, when I
heard that he was coming over for dinner the other evening, I
hotfooted it to Kamla Nagar in search of some khasta kachoris.
I have noticed that those who like their kachoris are pretty much
focused on them. I know that, for I am a card-holding kachori lover
myself. Whenever somebody goes to Rajasthan, I ask them to get me some
Jodhpuri kachoris. These come in two types – the mawa kachori, and the
onion kachori. The first is sweet, and stuffed with khoya. The second
is a savoury, with fried masala-soaked onions as its filling.
Of course, you get some wonderful kachoris in Delhi as well. I think
the best of the lot comes from the Old Delhi area, and Jain Sa'ab of
Darya Ganj makes the most delicious kachoris. And Kamla Nagar in the
University area has some good kachori makers, too.
I went to Gopal Snacks Corner, for this used to be an old haunt of
mine when I was a trade union activist in the University area more
than two decades ago. Lately, though, I had been hearing a lot about
Gopal from a friend who lives in the University. So I thought it was
time I renewed my old friendship with Gopal. The great thing about
this place is that while most halwais make bedmis for breakfast and
start frying kachoris in the afternoon, the two savouries are
available at Gopal's through the day. They focus their attention on
four items – apart from kachoris and bedmis, they have a bread pakora
stuffed with cottage cheese and hot gulab jamuns.
Take the road that has Ramjas College on your left and Daulat Ram on
the right, and keep going straight. The road leads to the Shaktinagar
crossing. Just before the crossing, you will find Gopal on the main
road, on your left. You'll know you have reached your destination when
you see the huge crowd in front of the shop.
I asked for 12 plates of kachoris. Each plate (for Rs 10) consists of
two kachoris, served with two dishes -- a spicy potato curry and
chholey. Gopal tops the veggies with a methi ki chutney, and adds a
dollop of raita on the curry. The kachori is nicely khasta, and you
alternately lather a piece with chholey and aloo, and then pop it into
your mouth. It's delicious.
So, to come back to the friend, I served him the kachoris for dinner.
He ignored everything else that was on the table, and concentrated
only on the kachoris. And then, after eating quite a few, he confessed
– even as his mouth was full – that he preferred bedmis to kachoris.
Well, there is always another day.