The best thing about Chandni Chowk metro station is that it leads to Natraj’s dahi vadas. I have spent many happy moments digging into these soft dal vadas, doused with curd and chutney. Indeed, there is nothing quite like having street food on the streets. And let us not forget that dahi vada has a rich lineage, too. Food historian K.T. Achaya tells us that vataka or the deep-fried vada finds mentions in the Sutra literature of 500 BC
What is heart-warming is that, in these difficult times when you do not go traipsing on the streets very often, the streets come to you. Street food is now served at fast food eateries and luxury hotels. Delhi Pavilion, the coffee shop at Welcomhotel Sheraton New Delhi, has on their menu dishes such as papri chaat and Varanasi’s much loved nimona, prepared with green peas. It even offers a Delhi chaat bento box.
Indian Accent, often rated as the country’s top restaurant for its innovative fare, has on its menu semolina and atta phuchkas, with five varieties of flavoured water. And I love the crisp and tart palak patta chaat that you get at Café Lota at Pragati Maidan. During the pandemic lockdowns, some old chaat stalls from Purani Dilli started delivering their food. I have ordered chaat from them, but was disappointed recently when the papri arrived, soggy with curd.
I had no such complaints, however, with the street food that I got to eat recently. I heard that a fairly new restaurant called Madam Chutney, in GK 2, offered street food with exciting chutneys. I tried some of the dishes out, and enjoyed the Chef’s little tweaks.
The Nawabi dahi batasey, for instance, were golgappas with some old and new flavours. The stuffing consisted of boiled potatoes, ripe mango pieces and sev, and a sweet-and-sour curd that gave the dish an invigorating kick. Likewise, the Banaras chaat canapé was imaginative: chutney made with cherry tomatoes came atop a crisp little toast.
I enjoyed the ram laddu — soft dal dumplings served on a bed of shredded radish with accompanying sauces. The khasta dal kachori was excellent — the kachoris were delightfully crisp and fresh, and the aloo rasa was just the way I liked it — light and runny.
Madam Chutney serves street food with different accompaniments. The kachori, for instance, came with an apple jalapeno relish, while the ram laddu had chilli imli sauce on the side.
The Irani kheema pao was a tad disappointing. The pao was soft and tasty, smeared as it was with a bit of jaggery and white butter, but the kheema turned out to be soya kheema. Soya and I have a love-hate relationship; I love to hate it. I should have known better, for this is a vegetarian place after all.
Madam Chutney is not Natraj, and I must say I am happy it is not. Natraj and Ashok Chat Bhandar at Chawri Bazar have their rightful place in the sun, but Madam Chutney has its own delicious niche, too. May they all flourish!
Meal for two: ₹ 1,500. Madam Chutney is at M 20, 1st floor M Block Market, GK-2 (Ph no: 9999386300).