Sarojini Nagar Market in Delhi

Sarojini Nagar Market is the all-weather all-season market that caters to the needs of the entire South Delhi.   If there is one market that can satisfy Delhiwala’s appetite for shopping, it is this market.

Sometimes I have a feeling that people come here with the sole intention of testing out their negotiation and bargaining skills.   I used to hate bargaining and would simply feel quite magnanimous in handing over the price the vendors asked for.   But some of my visits with my husband, a hardcore bargainer have made me realize that the vendors kind of look down upon people who do not negotiate because as the norm goes, they hike up the price by atleast twice or thrice the original price so that they would still be left with some margin when the deal is finally done.

However, there are fixed price outlets and wares where you can select garments in the same range starting from Rs. 100, 150, 200, 250, etc..

I have been visiting this market from the time I got married about 20 years ago and came to settle down in the south side of Delhi.   From then onwards, if I have anything to buy from children’s clothes to shoes, bags, undergarments, hosiery items, bed sheets, covers or even curtains, etc., I head to this haven.   There are even shops for buying vegetables, grocery items, household items and kitchen utensils in case you need such items.

Babu Market is another complex that lies in the same vicinity and has approximately 4 rows of shops that again caters to mostly garments with some jewellery shops and accessories and all women’s stores thrown in.
All said and done, this market offers decent products at affordable rates.   You can find things you would not find anywhere else – children’s fancy dresses for their school competition, from paalak to a fairy, these shops can change their personality.  They can even loan you these dresses for a day or two!  What else would you need.
A word of caution though – On Sundays, only those who have some really good patience, focus and crowd management skills should attempt to attack this market.   On Saturdays and Sundays, this market can be so crowded that you just need to stand at one place, the crowd will pull you to all directions.
Recently there has been an addition of a multi-storied parking plaza which has turned out to be semi-modern building in the vicinity with Haldiram’s and other food joints like McD and Subway catering to the hungry public!

Idli, Orchid and Will Power by Dr Vithal Venkatesh Kamat

After reading this book, I had half a mind to go and start a hotel business of my own!  The book was that inspiring.  And I also had the deep desire to meet Vithal Kamat in person. None of these things have happened till now.

It is a very well written auto biography of Vithal Kamat.   The book presents him as a completely self-made man.   From a humble beginning, as the son of a small restaurant owner that served south Indian stuff, his rise to the owner of a huge chain of kamat hotels and finally the 7 star Orchid Ecotel is a long long journey.

It is the story of ambition and will power.  He dreams big and he goes right after it.   In his struggle to achieve these, he also goes through some tough times.   He faces rejection and boycotts and a state of bankruptcy but he sticks on.    And in the end, it all turns around and he is able to complete his dream project of building the Ecotel Hotel.    It is a very simple story told simply and directly.

It is inspiring to the core.  Gives nuggets and tips to show how daring to take that step and staying on the course will bring results.  The book left a huge impression on me and I even wrote an email to him to congratulate on his superb endeavor. As usual, never got a reply!!!

For anyone who is down and out, I would recommend a dose of this book.

Rating : 5/5


Delhi Winters and Moongphali Wala’s (Peanut Vendor)

As the winter in Delhi progresses, moongphali wala’s (peanut vendor) ubiquitous presence is welcomed across the nooks and crannies of the city. It is virtually impossible not to find it at a stone’s throw distance from where people congregate in public.

It is a common sight to see a peanut vendor with his various offerings in a cart standing near the bus stops, railway stations and almost all the crowded joints selling his provisions. It is a favourite pastime of Delhi wala’s too to munch on their favourite snack in the form of roasted peanuts that is available in different forms and sizes with these vendors. The vendors put an earthen pot with hot coals in the middle of the groundnut heap to keep them warm and hot. Sometimes I have a feeling that it is the warmth that people appreciate more than the peanuts itself.

It is also a physical activity that one enjoys – breaking the shell open with a bang and fish out the one or two or if you are really lucky three little peanuts from inside the protective casing and pop them into impatient mouths. After opening some, they get the knack of correctly opening the shell by pressing at the midpoint where the pods are joined at a beaky angle, so it pops out at the first instance.

There are different ways to eat the peanut as well. Some are so hungry that it goes right into their mouth as soon as it bursts open from the shell. But some who have all the time in the world, take their sweet little time and tease their appetite with some playing around with these peanuts before it finally reaches their ravenous mouths.

The young kids can even have a funtime with these little nuts as they make it their toys and try to throw them all at different angles and catch it with their open mouth.

The Moongphaliwala sells all the versions of these nuts – Peanut with shells, without shells, unroasted ones, roasted and salted ones, etc. Another interesting option that he stocks are the Delhi wala’s favourite chikkis.

Chikkis are a kind of a peanut bar made with jaggery. The chikkis can come in different shapes – round and flattened, rectangular like a normal granola bar or small round balls. The texture can be from anywhere between hard to soft with slightly crushed peanuts or finely powdered and blended with other ingredients. These are all kept in different polythene packs and sold at different prices.

Winters in Delhi and chikkis are inseparable, and so are the moongphali walas!!

Kerala Kattan Kaapi (Black Coffee)

The early morning Kattan Kaapi is one of the most followed rituals in a Keralite family.    So it is for most of the keralites settled outside Kerala too.    And for this one cup, they would buy an entire year’s ration in one go during their annual visit to Kerala.    The kattan kaapi evokes feelings of nostalgia and an invisible  bond towards their hometown and the place they belonged to once upon a time!

This one concoction in the morning satiates and helps them to keep going for an entire day.  The rest of the day can then be dedicated to the lesser preferred tea in any form…  plain tea, tulsi tea, ginger tea, green tea, etc.

The special taste and aroma of the kattan kaapi can only be achieved with the special South Indian coffee powder that is available in South Indian stores outside kerala.      Though the preparation of this simple beverage is equally simple, many don’t get it right.  It is the proportion of the sugar and coffee powder that matters.

This cuppa is supposed to be high on sugar and coffee powder both..  but the preparation is slightly tricky.  The coffee powder should not be so strong that it starts turning sour in the mouth or so light that it becomes tasteless and watery.  So, it has to be prepared carefully.   Some people prefer the coffee powder straight – the coffee beans roasted and powdered just as it is, but there are others who prefer the coffee powder with a little chicory added to it.  Both tastes equally good.

A very simple method of preparation – in one cup boiling water, add one heaped teaspoon of sugar and then one not so heaped teaspoon of coffee powder.  It usually takes me atleast two three preparations per coffee powder that I buy new, to get to the right proportion to follow for the rest of the days..  so, essentially it is about practice!!!



About India Travel Blog – We have tried capturing our experiences travelling through India and our aim is to give you a holistic view of the sights and sounds and smells of this beautiful country .

Delhi Haat – Chaupal at the Town Square

Delhi Haat or “Dilli Haat” as it is popularly called, is an interesting amalgamation of a set of people coming together to buy and sell fabrics, crafts, art, food, and small things that are cute and interesting.   There are 3 of them in Delhi but I have visited only the one near INA and as far as I have gathered from my friends and colleagues who have visited the other locations (Pitampura and Janak Puri), this one is the best.

The concept is taken from the traditional form of village haats (market) that was assembled once a week at a village site.  Here the change is that the market is a constant while the vendors keep changing every fortnight.  The authorities have put up a notice at the entrance that every 1st and 16th of the month is the time when this change takes place and therefore the stalls look deserted while the vendors are moving out and new vendors coming in  and placing their wares.  So, everytime we go to Delhi Haat, we find different things and different vendors.   There are small artisans and craftsmen from different states and different art faculties showcasing their wares.

There are two rows of shops where these craftsmen display their wares and the lane in between that leads to the end would be flocked by various other people. Sometimes you can find someone sitting there sketching a face or write names on a rice grain and box it in a glass container.  In the evenings, there will be vendors luring small children by playing and then trying to sell flutes and small instruments like ektara.

I love visiting this place, sometimes to shop, sometimes to just look around or sometime to just enjoy a bit of peace and spend the evening with family or friends.  There are some very good and interesting eating joints from different states – Momos from the north eastern states, Gujarati food, Punjabi Thali, Andhra food, dosa and idli  from Tamil Nadu, appams, puttu and kappa from Kerala.

The red brick buildings are made to give a very ethnic and traditional feel and care has been taken to give the ambience a traditional and yet premium touch.

During festivals and special occasions, this place gets decorated and various cultural programs are organised which are usually conducted in an open air theatre platform and is free for all who visit Delhi haat. But generally people flock here to look and buy things which are a little out of the ordinary.  These are people who believe in a little different, a little ethnic, a little chic and a little stylish pattern of lifestyle.

Timings : 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The simple Cheela

Cheela is a quick and simple north Indian breakfast.
The usual breakfast in a north Indian household is Roti and Sabzi (Indian bread and a vegetable).   It is time consuming but quite filling and nutritious.  However, when the housewife feels that the children need a change and also there is a time crunch on her hands, she would try these quick recipes.
Chopped onion, ginger and green chillies are added to the besan flour (chickpea flour) and a batter like consistency is prepared with adding water and salt.   Then this preparation is fried on a pan both sides.  This can be served with a little sauce or chutney.
Chickpea is very nutritious.   These days housewives have started experimenting.  They mix half of besan and half of wheat flour to make it more tasty and many more vegetables or chopped coriander could be added to create a little extra zing and nutrition.
It is a quick bite and light on stomach.  Children can carry these in their lunch boxes.

The Punjabi Chhole Bhature

One of my favourite north Indian dish is chhole bhature.

Chole is basically Kabuli Chana (chickpea) curry with a spicy,  thick and dark gravy and bhature is an elongated puri made from wheat flour.

I go back to my childhood days when I think about this dish.  This dish is usually sold by the street vendors and hawkers.  I used to have this with my friends when we were coming back from school or tuitions.  It used to be so yummy and melt in the mouth.  It is very difficult to get that same variety or quality anywhere these days.  The chana masala used to be a mixture of spices that hit the taste buds and create a magic.  And to top it, there was achaar ( pickle)  to go with it.  That vendor also used to give some finely chopped onions to spread on the masala and the tanginess along with the spice is still resting on my memory that my mouth has started watering.

These days the best chhole bhature can be had in any of the Haldiram outlets.  It is not as melt in the mouth as I spoke about, but the chhole masala is very tasty.

The famous breakfast of Kerala – Puttu and Pazaham

One of the most popular breakfast of keralites is the combination of having Puttu with Pazham (Banana).  Kerala is blessed with paddy fields and coconut trees and this dish rightfully claims to represent the Kerala culture and tradition and the agricultural background!  
For people who don’t relish a sweet breakfast, kadala (chickpea) curry is the substitute for banana.    

It is a very easy breakfast item to prepare.  It is considered a healthy breakfast too because it is a steamed preparation and no oil is used for cooking.  It is made with rice flour and coconut.  Some people would add a little sugar to this combination if the banana is not very sweet.   Once you mix the banana into the puttu and mash it, it almost becomes a sticky and gooey kind of product.  Then you can make small balls of these and pop it into your mouth where it melts and gives a very good taste of the banana and coconut and cooked rice.

Method of Preparation

For anyone who is interested in preparing this at home, I am giving below a simple recipe.

The rice flour is fried and then cooled.   Then a little water is poured and get a powdery format by slightly wetting the powder with your hands.  There is a specially made cylindrical vessel in which this powder is transferred interspersed with grated coconut.   Place it on a pressure cooker and steam it.  Once the steam starts coming from the top, the puttu is transferred to a plate and serves hot with banana and sugar (optional).  Else with a lentil curry called kadala (chana in Hindi) curry.

This is a staple breakfast for all malayalis in Kerala.   A very traditional and popular breakfast dish amongst keralites, it doesn’t go very well with north Indian taste unlike the famous Dosa or Idli that they gobble up so relishingly.   It is a little dry, powdery and bland in taste that can make them wonder what in heaven is so tasty about this dish that keralites love so much..  but I guess only a Keralite will understand the true value of this dish.  For me, my mouth starts watering the moment the name is mentioned J

p.s. :  Do write back to me in case you need the exact measures.  Else, you could search on the net to find the exact recipe to follow.