Old and Famous Jalebi Wala, Chandni Chowk
It’s time to right a terrible wrong.
For the past two years or so I’ve been a regular in Old Delhi, delighting in the wonderful street food – most weeks I’m either checking up on a new dish, gorging on an old favourite, begging for recipes or stocking up on crockery for our Uparwali Chai tea parties. We always take visitors for a quick spin and recently I’ve been doing a few food tours too.
Whatever the excuse (and I need very little excuse to jump on the Metro to Chawri Bazaar), there are a couple of places I always visit. At Bade Mian in Lal Kuan I scoop up a week’s supply of the best kheer (rice pudding) in town; I never miss korma at Ashok and Ashok; I gorge on Daulat ki Chaat whenever it’s in season and I always, always come back with a big bag of sticky, sweet, still-warm jalebis from Old and Famous Jalebiwala.
All of these I have written about droolingly, except one. Amazingly, I have never mentioned Old and Famous. Time to make amends.
An Old Delhi landmark, Old and Famous have been dishing up jalebis since 1884 when Nem Chand Jain, a hawker from Hirraiy Ghari near Agra decided to try his luck in the capital. The shop has been in its current location, on the corner of Chandni Chowk and Dariba Kalan since 1890 where it continues to be one of the busiest shops in the old city. Theirs is the ultimate sugar hit: a sweet I savour and crave, deep-fried coils of batter drenched in sweet, sweet syrup.
Happily, Nem Chand’s great grandson, Abhishek, who now runs the shop, is not one to bear a grudge. I asked him today for their recipe and while he wasn’t quite ready to give away their secret formula in its entirety, he did give me a fair few clues.
Firstly, their jalebis are made from the simplest of flour and water batters, thick enough to be piped through a hole in a muslin cloth, then left to ferment overnight. Arvind Chauhan, who has been making the Old and Famous jalebis for over 25 years, pipes hundreds of perfect concentric circles in seconds, thousands every day. The crisp brown jalebis are then tipped into a sweet syrup and the magic really begins.
Most jalebis are smothered in a simple sugar/water syrup but the Jains like to spice things up a bit. To make their syrup, first they dry roast up to 16 different spices – I guessed cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black cardamom – what else do you think could be in there? – before adding some ghee, sugar and water. And just in case it isn’t sweet enough, a dash of sugar cane syrup! When the syrup has thickened it has a reddish colour from the spices so some milk is added to lighten it.
Sugar, spice, ghee and deep-frying, no wonder I can’t keep away.
All the very best to the Old and Famous Jalebi Walas for 2011 – and to Eat and Dust readers, I wish you a Jalebi-filled year!
Old and Famous Jalebi Wala, corner of Chandni Chowk and Dariba Kalan. Jalebis, rs 250/kg Samosas rs 10 each