Tucked away in the labyrinth of stalls of Old Lajpat Rai Market in Chandni Chowk is Manohar Dhaba. Umesh Ji, the owner, has the best street food I have eaten in Old Delhi. And I have eaten a lot of street food; I have had the intestinal infections to prove it.
The house speciality is Japani Samosa. It is like a normal samosa made with filo pastry. This flares out, presumably like the rays of the rising sun on the Japanese flag. To accompany the samosa, Umesh serves a chick pea curry and a sweet yellow chutney. I like to snap off a crispy layer of thin pastry and use it as a scoop to eat the curry. This leaves the filling in the centre to savour separately. (I am obsessional about my favourite foods – there is only one way to eat a Walnut Whip.)
I complimented Umesh on how delicious the samosas were. He told me that his grandfather started the restaurant in Lahore in 1920s. Following partition, the family moved to Delhi and set up shop here 68 years ago, opposite the entrance to the iconic Moti Cinema. He even showed me an screenshot on his smart phone of a newspaper article in Japan, featuring his restaurant.
He insisted that I try some of the other dishes on the menu. The spinach curry was excellent, best I’ve ever had. The naan bread was crisp and fresh, great for mopping up rajma, a spicy thick soup made with kidney beans. I was too full to try the chole with bhature or puri, but I had a taste.
Just after I paid, he beckoned a waiter to give me a dessert – gulab jamun, probably up there in my top five Indian sweets. Absolutely delicious.
If you want to try authentic Punjabi/Delhi street food cooked by a culinary genius, visit the shop on Diwan Hall Road. You won’t regret it.