Like most who have grown up in Delhi, I have a special affinity for the Chhola Bhatura. The deep fried ‘bhatura‘ or bread and the overcooked ‘chhola’s‘ continue to tingle and tempt my senses to no end. Whats so great about it? As is true of all streetfood, there is a certain simplicity in my expectations from it – the Indian tastes typically want the senses to be overpowered, no subtle-ness wanted here. Consequently the chhola needs to have an overdose of spicy-ness, and it needs to have that special sourness combined with a certain minimum level of smoothness that you only get with oil.
You can have a chhola bhatura in any part, nook and corner of Delhi, and you will get an amazing consistency across all sellers. No, it does not taste the same thankfully and each chhola bhatura waala has given it his own variation (never seen a chhola bhatura waali!).
On a journey in Delhi I find that Chhola Bhatura’s tend to be less oily in South Delhi’s affluent neighborhoods (Evergreen at Green Park), more oily is less affluent ones (Gopala’s at Kalkaji), less spicy when they serve older/middle aged people (Amar Colony), better presented in more cosmopolitan areas (South Ex Bengal Sweet Shop), etc.
The Chhola Bhatura waala’s, unlike the McDonalds of the world, introduce their own idiosyncrasy to their ware – that special tadka that is in line with the needs of their local customers. Their is a richness in the variety we can get of this amazing product. I feel free markets are all about this – freedom and relationships. There is no regulator but the customer, no branding but the relationship between the buyer and the seller, and and no NGO forcing good action, but the pride of the seller in his ware.