I have been re-reading my chronicles of the past few weeks, and I realized I sound just like how people describe Bombay folk: pretentious, stuck up, unbending. But that’s not how we are, we are go-getters, adaptable and accepting, so I decided to go a little easy on the highly preserved food and Delhi, too.
My regular meal of kebabs, eggs, and a crispy wheat bhakri
A few days ago, we had a guest over at home, a friend of my roommates, Yohan, a Swedish voice-over artist, and as someone who loves to show off my culinary skills, I took the opportunity to make a Spanish omelet (YES! I love eggs), or as they call it Tortilla de Patatas. My Spanish friend, with the most generic name, Pablo, showed me how to make it, and I always make it when I meet someone for the first time when they’re hungry and in my home.
The tradition started mostly because Pablo made it for me when he met me the first time, and although he could barely speak English, we became friends, because he fed me. And that’s the thing about food, it comforts you, warms your belly and your heart. So although I’ve made it a total of, like, 8 times, it’s still pretty damn special.
While the lack of a non-stick pan and a sturdy spatula made the end product look like a messy pile of goo, Yohan’s, “Man, I didn’t expect it to actually taste good, this is great!” restored my confidence. (You can find the recipe in the end)
After a week of eating packaged kebabs, I decided to try and find some real food in Delhi. Mostly because all the preservatives I was consuming were making me perpetually gassy and nauseous.
Knowing myself, I doubted I’d find any amazing food here, so I asked my colleagues if there was anything I should eat, and I honestly don’t know what I was expecting because all the suggestions were, “The paranthas outside JNU are so good”, “the paranthawalla near Sector 18”, and before I even heard the third suggestion, my eyes had rolled all the way back, I could see my brain. I’m exaggerating, obviously.
But then, when in Rome, right? So I took their suggestions, and asked a friend from university, to take me to said spots since JNU is in some far off, secluded corner, and after much co-ordinating, we went to the famous paranthawalla outside the JNU hostel.
We reached our location in the middle of a long winding unlit road, it was a little dhaba, not that I expected a ‘proper’ restaurant, but I did expect walls. We ordered all the dishes the owner said I’d like, ‘Aap Bambai se ho?’ he had inquired, and when I affirmed he promised he would make sure I never forget the paranthas there.
Our order included the chicken parantha, the mutton kheema parantha, butter chicken and best of all, chai! The paranthas came with pickles and a red and green chutney.
The delicious paranthas outside JNU in all their buttery glory
I was quite hungry, so I scarfed everything down in under 20 minutes, and it was a lot of food, and have since eaten a boatload of paranthas, I believe the owner of the store knew what he was talking about. The paranthas were ideal, that’s the only way to describe them best. The mix for the outer dough made for a crisp and flaky outer covering that enclosed a thick layer of the perfectly spiced and seasoned filling of both the chicken and the mutton kheema. And that giant dollop of butter added the perfect amount of richness, and the pickles and chutney help cut through that. It was a symphony in my mouth. I was a parantha convert, they were delicious, and nothing like the aunty made for my roommates! Our entire meal came under Rs 500, and while I have often said that the food in Delhi isn’t cheap, this certainly was.
I totally had to try more, but given that this was a major cheat meal, I paced myself and hit the next parantha spot….. the next morning. I couldn’t really wait for any longer than that, to put it dramatically, I had tasted blood and wanted more. I’m certain that’s a saying.
Now, the next parantha spot was a suggestion by one of my seniors from college, who also happens to be a food blogger, and isn’t one of the more well-known spots, just a little stall on an unassuming street. And since it was in the morning, I decided to go for a lighter parantha, that wouldn’t leave me feeling lazy throughout the day.
The delicious spicy and salty fried chilis
So I ordered a vegetarian onion and potato parantha, that cost Rs 30, this was a little different though, it was a thin parantha, not stuffed like the one outside JNU, but more crispy and light, it was good breakfast food. They served it with mango pickle, chili chutney, and fried green chillis. And it was the fried green chillis that really added oomph to every mouthful, as I took every bite of parantha with a little bite of chili. I’ve eaten that parantha three times since, and I now kind of understand Delhi’s parantha obsession.
And as I sat on the bench near the stall chomping on my parantha, I realized that Delhi was slowly creeping its way, like they say, first the stomach, then the heart.
4 whole eggs
1 large onion, cut into long slivers
1 large potato, peeled and finely cut into thin sliver
Plenty of oil (any kind works, rice bran, sunflower, olive. This is usually a cheat meal, don’t skimp)
Cheese (optional, but also as much as you like)
Oregano (optional, but makes it better)
Salt and pepper to taste
Add oil in a pan, once it's heated, add the onion sliver. Sautee until they begin to brown.
Add the potato and cook the two until the potatoes soften and the onions caramelize to perfection.
While this is happening whisk the eggs with salt, pepper, and oregano.
Once the potatoes are cooked add them to the egg mix and let it rest until the egg is slightly cooked from the heat of the potatoes.
Now add more oil to your non-stick pan and add half your egg mixture to it.
Add the cheese to the centre, you don't add cheese to the mix because it burns on the skillet, ruining the shape your otherwise perfect omelet. (I learnt the hard way)
Add the rest of the mix on top so that you have a gooey cheesy centre.
Let it cook, until it gives way from the bottom, this is when you flip and if you aren't good at flipping, use a plate to aid you.
And voila! Another couple of minutes of cooking on the other side, and your Spanish omelet is ready!