For the love of good food….
Chaat is the one big equalizer in North India when it comes to food. People from all walks of life can be seen standing at street stalls just devouring all types of chaat. Try explaining chaat to a person not accustomed to the idea and you will be at a loss of words. But get the same person to try out the various things that fall under this umbrella, and the person will understand the myriad emotions and tastes that this word can conjure.
For typical Delhi chaat, one of the oldest, most popular and best option is the Prabhu Chaat Bhandaar in Central Delhi. This open air Chaat stall is right outside another iconic building, UPSC (Indian Administrative Service examination) headquarters at Shahjahan Road near India Gate.
In existence for the last over 80 years, this little haunt has been hunted out by the commoner and the who’s who and everyone in between. You can locate the stall by the cars queuing at a small lane in the road. It is rumoured that the stall is so famous now that the owners come in luxury cars when they do. When I asked the people operating the chaat stall about the famous people visiting them, the first two names of the personalities in recent past that were mentioned were Daler Mehandi and Amar Singh in the last 2 weeks itself. They were also quick to point out that the Ambanis ask for it to be delivered to their place whenever they are in town.
Starting around 12 noon everyday, they are generally out of stock by about 6 pm on weekends. They serve all the typical Delhi chaat items like Dahi Bhalla, Papdi Chaat, Aloo Tikki, Aloo Chaat and Gol Gappe. Adding to the chaat, there is also a small stall dishing out kulfi falooda.
I went to the Chaat Bhandaar with my parents. We started out with a few gol gappas. In typical Delhi style, the gol gappas were of two varieties – atta (wheat flour) and sooji (semolina). Going by our familiy’s preference we chose the sooji gol gappa. The gol gappas were big in size and only the perfectly spherical ones were given out, choosing to let the flat ones go waste. In Delhi, gol gappas are generally stuffed with a small helping of boiled potatoes and boiled chick peas. Then they are dipped in slightly thicker sweet and sour tamarind water and then dipped in the flavorful yet spicy green mint-based water. The result is a dough ball brimming with flavor and chunkiness which needs to be eaten in one go. The waters in our gol gappa were chilled to perfection and gave a mouthful of flavor.
The aloo tikki was slightly thickish, and being fried in bulk on the huge skillet or tava. There were people in front of us getting multiple plates, as many as 8, packed for home. When we had it, the tikki was hot, crisp and stuffed with a right mix of dal. It was dripping with a mix of tamarind and mint chutney and a spiciness customized to our mentioned preference of medium spicy. Another thing being cooked on the tava with the aloo tikki was the aloo chaat. Again a Delhi specialty, it is a chaat made with fried cubes of boiled potatoes mixed up with lime juice and some lip-smacking spices.
The Dahi Bhalla comprised of soft patty made of ground pulses paste. The Bhalla was drowned in thick and creamy yoghurt topped with tamarind chutney and garnished with coriander. The Dahi Bhalla is a Delhi specialty and this is one of the best places to experience the dish with its’ cool yoghurt and the sticky sweetness of the chutney. In summers, the coolness of the chilled yoghurt feels even more accentuated .
Papdi chaat is a chaat with the dal Bhalla being substituted by the crunchy papdi (called puri in Mumbai, think bhel puri and sev puri)
We also experimented with the Kulfi, but that was the only bummer in our visit. With sharp shards of ice sticking out in the kulfi and not-the-best falooda, this dish is better had at other places.
This is a place highly recommended for the fundamental Delhi chaat items right in the heart of the city, for the taste and the legacy. Different dishes can be tried at this all-weather eatery varying with the season – Cold chaat items like Dahi Bhalla and Gol Gappas for the summers and hot dishes like Aloo Tikki and Aloo Chaat to warm you up in winters.
Name: Prabhu Chaat Bhandar
Specialty: Aloo tikki, Aloo chaat, Gol gappe
Address: Dholpur House, Shahjahan Road, Adjacent To UPSC Office, Khan Market, New Delhi
Veg/Non Veg: Veg
Value for money: 3/5
Food quality: 3.5/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5