Haji Kallan was a young orphan when he came from Peshawar to Delhi with his aunt in 1912. He grew up, married and made a life in the city. In 1939, he bought a shop right opposite the Jama Masjid, in the Matia Mahal area, and started selling milk and curd. Soon, he started serving a breakfast of puri-sabzi too. The shop stands there even now, and is run by his grandsons Mohammad Shaan and Mohammad Naved. It’s the first shop on the left when one enters Matia Mahal from Jama Masjid’s gate no. 1, and one may miss it at first for it doesn’t have a banner on top.
“After Partition, my grandfather suggested that they shift to Pakistan but my grandmother, her name was Bismillah, refused. She loved Delhi and didn’t want to leave her loved ones. In regard of her decision, the entire paternal family decided to stay put,” says Shaan, 30. Soon, sweets such as barfi, laddoo and gulab jamun were added to the menu and the shop’s size doubled after Kallan bought the adjoining shop too, in 1963. The shop is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
After his death in 1975, his sons Habib ur Rahman and Azeez ur Rahman looked after the shop. After their deaths in the years 1992 and 2010, respectively, their sons Naved and Shaan took over. “The menu expanded as and when cooks came to my uncle and father offering to make a special sweet for the shop,” says Shaan. The shop has a variety of sweets like shahi tukda, rabri, Karachi halwa, habshi halwa, badam pakeeza, warak pakeeza, among others. The latest addition is khajur ki barfi, which was added two months ago. “I had khajur ki barfi a few years ago in Dubai and liked it. My sister suggested we keep it at our shop but I didn’t think it would work. Then a few months back, I realised dates are something people have a lot during Ramzan, so I should give it a try,” he says. After some trial and error, Shaan came up with his version of the sweet, which is now a favourite among customers. “I haven’t used sugar at all,” he says. As the winters arrive, the shop will soon add gond (gum) ka halwa to its menu.
The sweet shop is also known for its special menu during the holy month of Ramzan, which includes paneer ki jalebi, keema samosa, khoya samosa, among others. “I used to tell my father we should make the jalebi all year round but he refused. He said it should be a gift to those who keep rozas,” he says, adding that chef Vikas Khanna had especially come to them to learn how to make the specialty. Shaan’s photo and story also made it to Khanna’s book Utsav, on recipes of dishes made during festivals.
“You can say that the recipe of keema is a family secret. Even now it is made by my mother at home, and not by any other worker. That whole month she has only one work, we insist that she makes the keema herself,” he says. Customers take half-done or frozen samosas all the way to the US, Dubai, and Australia too.