"Slip me some tongue", I said, not without a trace of lasciviousness.
Doubt danced in her eyes before she stammered out, "Are you sure? It's...."
"I know what it is. And I want it," I said, impatience in my tone and hunger evident elsewhere.
"Ok," she quavered, even as I specified, "And no capsicum".
She nodded and sped away. My chelley was on its way.
No, this isn't the beginning of some erotica; it's more of a love letter.
Safdarjung Enclave's market came to the Capital's attention with swish joints like Hungry Money and The Piano Man Jazz Club. But, despite the social media sustenance (and great music) these places provide, the neighborhood's actual treasure is tucked away behind these frequented frontages.
Barely 50 metres beyond the HDFC ATM you used to frequent in the trying times of demonetisation, is the entrance to an unassuming lane. Flanked by fancy houses at one side and an NCC camp on the other, the lane discreetly leads to Humayunpur, a tiny but dynamic colony housed by a mainly Northeast Indian populace.
Its aberrant name aside, a walk around Humayunpur serves as an extremely palatable primer to the oft confounding eight sisters. Restaurants, state specific as well as all encompassing of the region, jostle with fashion boutiques, export huts and grocers stocking provender familiar as well as unknown. Let us be the Virgil to your Dante, dear reader, and provide you a closer look.
Who Needs Momos?
A portion Chilli Chelley (Image courtesy: Shantanu David)
"This is a bad time to come," the manager at Yo Tibet tells me, raising her voice over the hammering that echoes through the tiny eatery. All around the restaurant planks and pipes, as well as other construction paraphernalia, rest perpendicular to each other (no sawdust, huzzah) around the dining space, evincing progress as well as perhaps the burgeoning prosperity of the area.
"We're renovating and this is the best time. Business is slow because most people are on holiday or back home, including the owners. We can afford to have less tables," she smiles, while assuring me that the kitchen is still fully functional.
And it is, as I attest shortly, diving into a platter of chelley (tongue fried up with onions, chillies, garlic and deliciousness) and fried pork momos, because we're Delhi like that. I polish off the food, the plate left pristine sans a single lick, reminding myself that The Categorical Eat Pham, a mostly Manipuri restaurant with the world's coolest name, is just a few stores away.
Alas, it's shut when I stagger to its door. Perhaps the chef-owners are out picking up some more of their famed fresh snails or maybe they're sourcing some duck (no Dick Cheney jokes please). In any case we can't wait because then who'd have written this story. You owe us some roast snail is what we're saying.
Still filled with momos and tongue (Stop!) I head on over to KPG Express, a grocery store-cum-restaurant for some Pork Chilli Soup and plain Pork Chilli. Yes, I made a pig of myself.
And these three are just a fraction of the restaurants peopling this neighborhood. There's Mizo Diner with its chicken porridge and The Bamboo Hut boasting Naga necessities, while Druk has some of the best momos you ever tasted. You know why I mentioned the last.
Bamboo Shoots and Bubblegum
[caption id="attachment_1449273" align="alignnone" ] Humayunpur has narrow but brightly lit lanes (Image courtesy: Shantanu David)[/caption]
Both the rain and the renovations haven't managed to dampen appetites or aspirations in the hamlet. Grocery stores dot the narrow lanes bisecting Humayunpur, their discreet storefronts promising a taste of home as well as the new. Plastic Hershey's chocolate syrup bottles finds place between variously branded jars of pickled bamboo shoots. One shelf away, du jour kettle chips crackle next to dried wild mushrooms and prawn cracker fryums. Dalle (a fierce Nepalese round chilli paste) is near universal while the famed Raja Mircha (fresh, dried, processed, what you will) is ubiquitous to every business.
Elsewhere, large clear plastic bags display whole smoked chickens, complete from cock's coomb to claws, while fresh produce like Elephant Yams, damp wild rice and other goodies deck the display counters. Meat-which-not-must-be-named (not even that actually, but its completely legal cousin which also can't be named in fear of censure) is everywhere. Shop owners are happy to guide you through their wares but balk at the notion of photographing them. We don't wonder why.
But essentially, come here for a meal, leave with groceries.
[caption id="attachment_1449285" align="alignnone" ] A serving of Raja Mircha Pork with Sticky Brown Rice (Image courtesy: Shantanu David)[/caption]
This aspect isn't really to my taste but the clothes are, in fact, really pretty, never mind the people clad in them. A casual shufti down the street and the residents' chicness is palpable even to me, of the T-shirt and jeans avowed. Catering to this unofficial runway are a collective of -- what do you call 'em, fashion or clothing -- stores, flashing their threads amidst a constellation of LED strings and neon. And yes, it's all reasonable.
What are you waiting for?
Directions: tell your auto/Uber/Ola/Google Maps-wallah: "NCC gate, Safdarjung".
Thank us in the comment section. Or better yet, with some snails. You're welcome.
[caption id="attachment_1449291" align="alignnone" ] The entrance to Humayunpur in Safdarjung Enclave (Image courtesy: Shantanu David)[/caption]