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Delhi’s Sweet Spots

5 minute read
Nilanjana Bhowmick

As anybody who has attended New Delhi’s International Mango Festival will realize, India’s obsession with mangoes is second only to its passion for cricket. The world’s largest producer of the fruit, accounting for almost 66% of the global harvest, India is a nation of mango connoisseurs, and the two-day festival is an annually awaited debauch. Scheduled for July 7 and 8 at the Talkatora Stadium, the event will see visitors gorging on more than 1,100 varieties of mangoes, including many rare ones. Mango pickles, jam, chutney and even mango poppadum will be on sale, and there will be mango-eating competitions and trivia contests. What to do if your sweet tooth isn’t satiated? Here’s where you can try some of Delhi’s other sugary surprises.

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1 Kuremal mohanlal kulfiwale
When you take the stone out of a mango and fill it up with thickened milk spiced with saffron and nuts, and freeze it, what you get is a dessert made in heaven. Kuremal’s sparsely furnished kulfi parlor in Old Delhi is that heaven, and it has been serving this divine dessert for decades. The shop (1165-66 Kucha Pati Ram, Sitaram Bazar), tel: (91-11) 2323 2430, is tricky to find and the approach is congested, but the quality of the kulfi makes it worth the sweat. Kuremal makes more than 50 varieties, including pomegranate, tamarind and custard apple, but the stuffed kulfi, both orange and mango, is by far the most delectable.

2 Wenger’s
When locals talk about cakes and pastries, the first name that crops up is Wenger’s (wengerspastry.com), on Connaught Place. At 86 years old, it is the city’s most venerable patisserie. The cool interior is always a pleasant respite from the chaos outside and forms a relaxed setting for the enjoyment of unabashedly old-world treats — think cream buns, snowy pineapple cream cake, fruit trifle and coconut macaroons. In colonial times, this formerly Swiss-owned café was a popular haunt of British bureaucrats, foreign diplomats and Indian royalty. Local A-listers and dignitaries still make up a large portion of the clientele.

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3 Choko la
The first stop for chocoholics in Delhi is Choko La café (67A Khan Market; chokola.in), located in a popular shopping precinct. Choose from a sumptuous range of chocolate desserts that includes layered-chocolate Black Forest cake, chocolate cupcakes and dark-Belgian-chocolate truffle pastry. If you’re feeling adventurous, go for the chocolate pizza. If you want to be virtuous, there’s a sugar-free chocolate mousse. Wash it all down with a chocolate milk shake and pick up some delectable handmade pralines, chocolate-coated almonds and chocolate roses on your way out.

4 Amritsari Lassi wala
You can get lassi — the popular drink of yogurt churned with water and cream, and sweetened with sugar or mixed with salt and spices — on virtually every street in Delhi. But that doesn’t stop devotees, many celebrities and politicians among them (judging by the photos cramming the walls), from flocking to the Amritsari Lassi Wala (295 Fatehpuri Chowk), tel: (91) 981 009 5621. Lassi is made strictly to order there — meaning it stays thick, even though you might have to wait longer for your drink — and only the richest yogurt is used. That accounts for Amritsari Lassi Wala’s popularity. Common flavors are available, such as mango or banana, but for a dash of exotica try the cumin lassi (served salted and spiced with cilantro), or the rose-and-nut lassi, which arrives all pink and frothy with a generous helping of almond slivers and is so thick and creamy that you can consume it with a spoon. Do be warned, though: after one of these lassis, you might have to skip a main meal.

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5 Bengali Market
Built in 1930, the open-air Bengali Market is a Delhi institution, a short stroll from Connaught Place. Amid its stalls, hawkers and pushcarts is a gustatory trove of confectionery. Two of the better-known purveyors are the Bengali Sweet Centre (shop A-27-33) and Nathu’s (shops 23-25). Both sell a wide array of Indian sweetmeats like laddoo (dough balls fried with sugar) and rasmalai (balls of cottage cheese boiled in sweetened and thickened milk spiced with nuts). Nearby hawkers offer chuski — churned ice loosely set on a stick and covered with flavored syrup — which is a godsend in the Delhi heat.

6 Elma’s Bakery
This little gem of a tearoom (24/1 Hauz Khas Village) is sequestered down a small lane in one of Delhi’s fashionable quarters. The decor is homely (white piano in the corner, wooden sideboard with bone-china crockery), the large windows overlook lush greenery, and there’s an irresistible smell of fresh baking wafting from the open kitchen. “We are offering a different space here, away from the rush,” says proprietor Smita Singh. High tea, served daily from 3 p.m. until closing at 10 p.m., is the real deal: finger sandwiches, scones with homemade jam and clotted cream, and a three-tier stand of delicious cakes. Just make sure you arrive early. Elma’s can only sit around 15 people at a time and reservations aren’t accepted. For more, see Elma’s Facebook page: facebook.com/Elmasbakery.

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