By Chhavi Arora
By 7 every morning, the Kashyap brothers set up their stall and begin serving chhole kulche. Lotan ke Chhole Kulche, located on Chatta Shahji Road in Chawri Bazar, has nothing more than a table, which accommodates the massive copper vessel containing the chhole, some masala boxes, and a few stools for customers. It’s an unassuming stall that might have been hard to locate for a first-time customer, but for the popularity of its chhole kulche, which has turned it into a landmark. It is at the Chawri Bazar location only till 10 am, though. After that,it moves to a quiet lane behind the Commercial Senior Secondary School in Daryaganj, and by 2 pm, business is over.
The reason why this stall moves every morning goes back to 1923 when it was first set up. The school was originally located in Chawri Bazar, and when, over nine decades ago, a Delhi resident named Lotan Ram decided to start his own small food business, this was the spot he chose. His chhole kulche was an instant hit with the students of the school, as well as shopkeepers and residents in the area, and he soon developed a loyal customer base. This is why, when the school opened a second branch in Daryaganj, Lotan Ram decided it was worthwhile to keep serving his fare at both locations.
Mahavir, 43, and Deepak, 41, took over the business from their father Ashok, 30 years ago, who, in turn, inherited it from his father Puran, Lotan Ram’s son. Mahavir’s son, Aman, 20, is now involved in the business as well and the family is planning to open a shop in Krishna Nagar, in east Delhi. The Kashyaps take special pride in serving the students of Commercial Senior Secondary School, where they also run a canteen. “Yeh humari karmbhumi hai (This is our workplace),” says Mahavir, adding that former students still visit, with fond memories of being served by Puran.
Since Lotan Ram developed his own chhole recipe, it has remained unchanged. The kulchas are smeared with butter, their mildness contrasting with the heat and tang of the chhole. The Kashyaps also serve a spicy and tangy chhole ka pani, made by seasoning the excess water used to cook the chhole — the perfect complement to the hearty, satisfying main dish.
(Chhavi Arora is an intern at The Indian Express)