Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

16 December 2009

Food first, then morality

The following story has no basis in fact, but is worth repeating anyway. Apparently, back in the 1600s, poor old Emperor Shahjahan was imprisoned by Prince Aurangzeb in his fort at Agra. All royal privileges were withdrawn, but the old man was given a choice: he could pick some one item of food, which he would be allowed to eat for the rest of his days. The old deposed Emperor chose the humble chick-peas: chhole (छोले) to you and me! This was so because he was assured by the palace (read prison) cook that he could turn out different varieties from this humble legume every day.
Now anyone who lives outside India would wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, this is only one of those ghastly gas-inducing edible legumes, albeit one high in protein and tracing its genealogy to 7,500 years ago!
The fault, Horatio, lies in the preparation! What is it that elevates this humble dish to being saluted as the food fit for an Emperor? It is all about the chhola being cooked to the right consistency, coloured to a nicety and spiced to perfection: admittedly an art known to a very small and exclusive club of cooks. Some names spring to mind: Sitaram Deewanchand in old Delhi, Mama-Bhanja in Amar Colony, and the grand-daddy of them all: Ahuja Chhola-Bhatoora in Amritsar.
This brings us to Shimla. Or specifically, to finding a good plate of chhola-bhatora in our lovely town. Old-timers unanimously recommended Sita Ram And Son.

This is an unprepossessing little place located on the road which goes from the Ridge towards Lakkar Bazaar. The picture above tells a thousand tales on its own. The owners have a Spartan approach to marketing their wares and clearly little or no thought has been spared to embellishing the establishment. You would think that this is so because ofthe confidence they repose in their customers, in what is called "return value" in Bombay film parlance: the ability of a certain product to make its buyers return over and over again.
And this is what puzzles me.
Having sampled the fare, I am totallyat a loss as to what is it that attracts people to this place. The chholas were not as beautifully coloured as you'd find at Sitaram's (a well-kept secret, but one hazards that tea leaves are used), nor is there an explosion of flavour a la Ahooja (all caused by kasoori methis, among other things). They were over-cooked and there was an under-taste of baking soda. Too many slices of potato had been added, something which is a strict no-no in any self-respecting chhola-bhatoora joint, and where were the diced green chillis, the slices of onion and that special pickle/chutney which the more famous names add as a signature to their chhola?
As for the bhatooras, they were a parody - pre-cooked viscosity, a travesty of those golden orbs one has samples in Delhi and Amritsar! Sitaram's were flat, rubbery and re-heated. The re-heating had robed them of the crispness and lightness which is the hallmark of a good bhatoora. Also, the flavour was very doughy and had clearly not been allowed to rise enough prior to being fried. A cautious addition of sooji goes a long way in giving a good bhatoora a je ne sais quoi, but that was rather missing in Sitaram's dish.
All said and a plateful consumed for Rs 20, I'm not sure I'll be returning to this eatery again.
Rating 5.5 on a scale of 10.


NITYIN said...

This is a trash joint in Shimla. Did you noticed the level of hygine there? The way they clean the plates??

Gallimaufry said...

Nityin, then why did all of ye olde Simla go ga-ga over it?!

NITYIN said...

I guess when the grand old man was around, the place made a grand following for itself. Now with the son around, this is just another joint which is cashing on the name.

BTW it is mainly the girls and ladies who throng this place for some spicy and hot chollas.

Autar mota said...

"Some names spring to mind: Sitaram Deewanchand in old Delhi, Mama-Bhanja in Amar Colony, and the grand-daddy of them all: Ahuja Chhola-Bhatoora in Amritsar."
i would like to add " Brijwaasi "near Bhandari bridge Amritsar. Unmatched Chhola Bhatura and papdi at this shop.Made a good reading .

Gallimaufry said...

Autar-ji, Amritsar is an Indian fast-food lover's paradise, isn't it?
I was trying to remember the name of that famous garaadoo-wala (गराडू) in Jammu - we made it a point to have a dona-full each when passing through the town! But it's been so long...

Gallimaufry said...

Nityin! I just re-read that last line of yours! BTW it is mainly the girls and ladies who throng this place for some spicy and hot chollas What do you mean?? Women have less developed palates? Or that they're more tolerant?!

Bath said...

Thank you for your posting. I really enjoyed it.

NITYIN said...

I meant women look for joints offering spicy and hot food, giving two hoots for the hygine, at least in this case :)

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