With temperatures touching 48 degrees in Delhi and the heatwave refusing to depart, one feels like ditching the daily chai and coffee for something cooler. As you walk around old Delhi, where business never stops, workers work all day long and customers throng its streets, there are a number of stalls that set shop in the summers to quench the never-ending thirst, selling nimbu paani, Rooh Afza and sattu ka ghol. We look at a few iconic shops in the area:
Made with Love
The sharbat made popular by Nawab Qureshi in Matia Mahal, which he called Pyaar Mohabbat Mazaa, is now being sold by a few others as well. At Amir Malik’s shop, it’s called Sharbat-e-Mohabbat. But the recipe isn’t too different. In a huge container, huge blocks of ice are added to milk, and the iconic sharbat Rooh Afza is added with small pieces of watermelon, giving it a crunch. “I started selling the sharbat about eight years ago, and the shop runs round the year,” says Malik, who opens shop at 11 am till 1 am past midnight. While Qureshi sells it for Rs 10 per glass, Malik’s version is for Rs 20. Mohammad Shaan, who runs the neighbouring Kallan Sweets, says, “So many people have started selling this sharbat in the area, but it is not something they have invented. We have been making this at home ever since we were kids.”
Where to find: In front of 1149, Matia Mahal, near Jama Masjid
At the corner of Mohalla Pahadi Imli in Matia Mahal’s Chitli Qabar area, Aqeel Ahmed has been serving Gur ka sharbat for four decades now. Residents and shopkeepers keep returning with glasses for a refill, and he takes the glass in one hand, squeezes a lemon with the other, and pours the jaggery juice using a big brass spoon. One glass costs Rs 5. “It can sell even for Rs 10, but I comfortably earn my living at the present rate. If I am in some financial trouble in the future, I’ll increase the price,” he says. His father, Zaheer Amhed, who used to own a shop selling watches in Chandni Chowk, had first set up the stall post the Partition. “Due to the riots, he had to let go of his shop, and we had to flee from Daryaganj,” says Aqeel.
Where to find: Pahari Imli, Chitli Qabar, Matia Mahal
While Keventer’s flavoured milk is now available at malls, there is a popular shop in Chawri Bazar that has been doing it forever. On the Barshabulla Chowk is Sudarshan Refreshment Centre, known for their flavoured milk, thandai and malai lassi. “I opened the shop just after completing college, and got the idea from a similar shop in Kamla Nagar,” says Mukesh Sharma, who set up the establishment in 1992. The Kesar badam flavour, which makes for 80 per cent of their sales, is worth the trip. Served in a glass bottle, the saffron-flavoured milk had cut almond pieces giving it a cool and crunchy feel. Other flavours include chocolate, paan, butter scotch, rose and pineapple. The shop is also known for kachodi-aloo, and in winters, one can relish their moong dal ka halwa.
Where to find: 4097, Barshabulla Chowk, Chawri Bazar
Creme de la creme
In Chowk Fatehpuri, there’s Amritsari Lassi Wala, known for flavours such as kesar, mango, jeera, strawberry, banana and badam. The area is known for quite a few shops selling similar drink. There is Hemchand Ladli Prasad Mishthan Bhandar, tucked in the bylanes of Kuch Ghasiram, and Meghraj and Sons, doling out the lassi in flavours such as rose badam, kesar badam and even the namkeen version. But most people vouch for a small open-air shop that goes by the name of Jagdish Narayan Pandey Milk and Milk Products in a corner of Kucha Ghasiram. The fourth-generation owner, Bhanu Prakash tells us how his great grandfather Ram Narayan, who migrated from Agra over a century ago, was first an employee at the shop. “But the man who was running it then handed it over to him and left,” he says. It is his family that is running it since then and is named after Bhanu’s brother-in-law. The shop is known for its kesar pista lassi, and if you want it in a kulhad, pay Rs 5 extra.
Where to find: 193-92, Church Mission Road, Bagh Deewar, Kucha Ghasiram, Chandni Chowk
Touch of Lemon
While there are a number of stalls selling nimbu paani, one of the most famous shops in Chandni Chowk is Pt Ved Prakash Lemon Waale. A small shop that traces its origins to over a century ago, stands opposite Town Hall. The options here include a sada or nimbu lemon. Prince, the fourth-generation owner here, explains, “In sada, you’ll just get the banta bottle — the carbonated lemon drink in a codd-necked bottle, but in nimbu lemon, we’ll serve it in a glass with extra lemon and masala.” The shop, started by Ved Prakash in 1870s, first used to serve nimbu paani in a kulhad. “It was after 1910 when the banta bottle came to India, and we introduced it in Chandni Chowk. Now, we also have our own takeaway version,” he says.
Where to find: 5466, opposite Town Hall, Katra Rathi, Chandni Chowk