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Chandni Chowk's Paranthewali Gali

In 1960s, the famous lane of parantha makers in Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk had around 20 shops selling vegetarian-doused-in-pure ghee paranthas. Now only 3 of these shops remain.

The real name of the place is Chota Dariba or Dariba Kalan ( from Persian word Dur-e-be-baha - Pearl without compare, and hence the name - 'The street of the incomparable pearl').

William Dalrymple in his fine book The Last Mughal writes that this place meant Jewellers, money lender baniyas and a market famous for cloth merchants and silverware ( 'meena' hence the name 'Silver Street'). After the Great Mutiny of 1857, Dariba Kalan bore the brunt of British voilence, they demolished many of Chandni Chowk's 17th century mansions to make place for a parade ground.

But, only a couple of decades later, the first of the parantha shops opened at Dariba Kalan. These shops were set up by the new immigrants who came from neighbouring Northern Province (U.P.). The popularity of these paranthawallas grew, owners brought in relatives from their towns and villages and slowly more shops opened up. By 1911, it had so many parantha shops that this street came to be known as Paranthewali Gali or Gali Paranthewali .

Today, in that narrow lane, the oldest of these shops still exist.

Parantha Shop of Pt. Gaya Prasad Shivcharan.

The legend: Estd. 1872
People here are already celebrating the film 'Chandni Chowk To China'.

An old photograph on the wall: Pandit Nehru, his sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit and daughter Indira Gandhi dining in the shop. Notice the earthen pot 'Khullar' used for serving lassi.

Indira Gandhi. These photographs on the walls have a "marriage album" feel to them - people getting garlanded, people looking glum in suits, people with hands in plate, mouths stuffed and waiting for the next morsel.

My friend wanted to try out the famous khurchan parantha - it's a parantha filled with a milk-based sweet made specially in Old Delhi. The day is Sunday, time is somewhat past 5 PM and the place is bustling with hungry people. No luck, khurchan was off the menu. Someone from another table asked if he could have Brinjal paranthas, the guy making the paranthas laughed and said he will prepare and serve it but then be sure that you eat it. This shop offers more than14 types of vegetable paranthas. We ordered lemon paratha, pudina parantha, mix parantha, meethi parantha - each one Rs. 20 a piece. To make it all perfect, we ordered a single glass of lassi. The plates came stacked up with cooked kachaloo (Sweet potato), fresh carrot pickles, pudina chutni, and a fine tangy Banana apple chutney. A few minutes later, hot paranthas came rolling in.
A completely tasty and a completely filling meal.

Then we walked out of the Parantha street and had some Daulat ki Chaat. Another Chandni Chowk specialty.

A chaat unlike any other Chaat, this one is basically milk froth sprinkled with some crunchy stuff called khurchan. Slightly sweet, Daulat ki Chaat is melts-in-the-mouth kind of thing.

One of my friends still had space for more. He went on to eat some Giant Dahi Bhalle of the lane just opposite to Paranthewali Gali.


Read more about Paranthewali Gali at this article from The Tribune

I got to know a lot about the place from that article of year 2002. Stuff like:

"The three famous shops are Pt Kanhaiyalal Durgaprasad (estd 1875), Pt Dayanand Shivcharan (estd 1882). Pt Baburam Devidayal Paranthewale (estd 1886)."

But the thing is: I had paranthas at the shop of Pt. Gaya Prasad Shivcharan and its hoarding declares year of establishment as 1872.


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