With over 10 to 12 shops, the street came to be known as Paranthe Waale Gali, now a part of the city’s culinary legacy. However, today, just four of the shops remain, including the first and the oldest.
There wasn’t much work in the farms of Padhawali village in Madhya Pradesh, where Pandit Gaya Prasad lived. A professional wrestler when he wasn’t farming, Gaya Prasad decided to shift base and arrived in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk to find work in 1872, settling with his family in Dariba Khurd. “We are Brahmins, and didn’t have a business sense, hence this [selling paranthas] seemed like a good option.” says 56-year-old Anil Sharma, his grandson. But Gaya Prasad felt lonely in Delhi, so he called his brothers to the city as well around the same time. Soon, all the brothers opened their shops on the same street.
With over 10 to 12 shops, the street came to be known as Paranthe Waale Gali, now a part of the city’s culinary legacy. However, today, just four of the shops remain, including the first and the oldest — Pt Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan Paranthe Waale, set up in 1872 and now run by the sixth generation of the family. The others are Babu Ram Paranthe Waale, Pt Babu Ram Devi Dayal Paranthe Waale and Pt Kanhaiya Durga Prasad Dixit Paranthe waale. The others were either resold or converted into sari shops.
“We make our paranthes in kachori style by deep frying them and use very less ghee, about 10 gm. They are unlike the ones you make at home, which are soaked in ghee,” explains Sharma. Gaya Prasad had started the shop with just four kinds of stuffing — aloo, gobhi, daal and besan methi. The menu was later expanded by Sharma. “A customer had once taunted that this is such a famous shop, but has only four varieties,” he says. It was then that he started experimenting. “I first made the mirchi parantha on my own and added it to the menu,” he says. Similarly, he added stuffings like okra, bitter gourd, banana, tomato, almond, cashew, rabri, khoya and khurchan, among others. The prices bear witness to the passage of time. The paranthas which were once sold for an anaa, are now sold for Rs 60.
The shop is small, with a few tables and chairs inside. But this little space sees an army of workers from five in the morning — when Sharma opens the shop — till 10:30 at night. “I have been coming to the shop as a boy and also served tables back then. I’ve learnt everything from my grandfather who used to make the paranthas himself. Back then, one parantha used to be made at a time, with the light from the lantern,” says Sharma. Three wooden doors made up the shop entry then, each weighing 150 kg. “At that time, there were wrestlers from our village who worked here,” says Sharma. In fact, apart from the shop, wrestling was also something that ran in the family. Wrestling matches — both between family members and general enthusiasts — used to happen outside the Red Fort, and the winner was awarded Rs 5 and a15 kg tin of ghee.
Sharma claims that his famous patrons included Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was fond of the besan methi parantha, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “Before Independence, secret meetings of the Congress used to happen nearby at Lala Ram Charan Aggarwal’s house, where Nehru and Gandhi used to come. The food used to go from our place,” says Sharma, who also fondly remembers playing cricket with actor Akshay Kumar, when he lived in the area.
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