Hole-in-the-wall tikka rolls

The last day of August, 2008. H, C and I were making a mad dash from Ghaziabad, a New Delhi suburb, to the Delhi international airport clear on the other side of the city. We were headed to Lahore, Pakistan. As usual, our field visit (this time to rice farmers in Haryana) took so long that we didn’t get a chance to pick up any salwar kameez while we were in Delhi. Not wanting to take a chance at showing up in Pakistan without the appropriate attire we made a frenetic stop at the Fabindia in Khan Market, one of my oases of sanity in Delhi. 20 minutes later we emerged with shopping bags loaded and wallets considerably lighter of Indian currency. As the adrenaline rush started to wear off a bit we suddenly discovered how hungry we all were. With absolutely no time to waste we headed straight into one of the back lanes of Khan market, where we joined the hordes of school children clamoring for tikka rolls from Khan chacha’s.

We placed our order (chicken tikka roll for H, paneer for C & me) and within minutes we had piping hot tikkas wrapped in roomali rotis. The taste experience is best described as a layered explosion of flavors. First, the chewy yet paper-thin bread that is the roomali roti, perfect to hold the multitude of flavors in without overpowering them with the presence of the starch (I’ll wax poetic about this Indian bread at another point–key message: If you’ve never tried it, get your hands on some asap!). Next, the paneer. Spiced and grilled to tandoori perfection, crisp, spicy, tangy on the outside, creamy milky goodness on the inside. This is followed by the most thinly sliced red onions, their bite reduced by what I can best describe as a minty chaat powder. Then, finally a yogurt-mint chutney. The flavors, alone and combined, are as vivid in my memory today as when I first bit into that tikka roll. All the more amazing that we all polished off our rolls in 5 minutes, rushed back into the car and had the driver speed all the way to the airport. Made our flight to Lahore full of Khan chacha goodness.

If you’re in Delhi, Khan market is a decent place to go shopping. Not the cheapest threads but the quality is fairly dependable. From what I understand Khan chacha has moved from its original location but is still located in the market. Thanks to the power of social media I can even link you to their ‘official’ facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/khanchacha?v=info

But seriously, why bother with all that formality? When you’re in Delhi, ask anyone how to get to Khan market. When you’re in Khan market, ask anyone how to get to Khan chacha’s. Get that nose out of your guidebook and live spontaneously!

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