“Some fruity sandwiches?” asked Rahul Verma several months ago, and I promptly put my hand up.
We’ve mentioned how Delhi’s food is often descended from that of the mediaeval lashkars garrisoned around the forts of the capital. Today Shahjahanabad is home to an army of office-goers and shopkeepers who trade in everything from spices to bridal trousseaux to electrical fittings.
Raghuganj is nestled within this area, just off the Chawri Bazaar road. It used to be the granary of the city, that is, until the trade shifted to Naya Bazaar and Khari Baoli, just about a kilometre away. Now Raghuganj is home to metal wholesalers and paper merchants, as well a tiny little shop that serves up the most unusual sandwiches to sate their lunch appetites.
It calls itself the Jain Coffee House, but you’d only know that if you get your sandwiches packed, for their brown paper bags are labeled with the name. Otherwise the shop is entirely nondescript, located in the corner of a small clearing approached from the Chawri Bazaar road through large iron gates.
As has become disturbingly typical of my culinary expeditions, I didn’t up eating there the first time I tried. That’s because I went there on a Sunday evening, and the shop is only operational on weekdays during office hours.
But some weeks back, Shashank and I landed at Chawri Bazaar a little early for an EOiD meet. The idea of having sandwiches filled with fruits had been intriguing me for so long, I decided to make good use of the time we had on hand.
The fare lived up to our expectations. We ordered three of the sandwiches on offer this season — a relatively standard paneer-tomato-cucumber combo, an apple sandwich, and a pomegranate (anaar) sandwich. Let me describe the apple sandwich: first, the edges of a couple of white bread slices were chopped off. Then one slice was lathered with orange marmalade. The other slice, after being buttered, was layered with paneer slices, which were then dusted with some secret masala (yes, I tried asking what it was, but with no success). Then came thin slices of apple. Finally, some anaar seeds were sprinkled on top, the marmaladed bread was pressed on top of the whole ensemble, and the sandwich was cut into two triangular halves. The anaar sandwich seemed identical, except for the lack of apple slices, and with a more generous helping of the anaar. Indeed, anaar seemed to be quite a favourite of Jain’s — it found its way into the paneer-tomato-cucumber sandwich as well.
I can’t quite decide whether it was the anaar or the apple sandwich that I liked more. Both had a delightful combination of flavours and textures — the softness of the paneer contrasting with the crunchy anaar, the masala adding just that right sour touch to the sweetness of the bread, and the marmalade giving a zesty tang to the whole affair. If the apple sandwich had a lovely sharpness to it, the anaar sandwich allowed you to more fully relish the intense pomegranate flavour.
I believe in summer the place also serves mango sandwiches. And Rahul Verma is fond of the malaai (cream) version as well. It would also be good to try out their cold coffee and milk shakes once the weather hots up.
Certainly plenty of incentive to keep going there again and again!
Location: As you walk down Chawri Bazaar road from Hauz Qazi Chowk (where the metro station is) towards Jama Masjid, watch for Gujarat Namkeen Bhandar on the left (which comes well before the intersection with Nai Sadak). He is on the corner with Charkhe Walan. The lane after that, which has an entrance with large iron gates (that are open and hence not casually spotted) goes into Raghuganj. After entering the lane, take an immediate left, and the shop is in the corner of the quadrangle. Their phone number is 23921769, and you might want to call and ask for help getting there. I’ve tried marking the approximate location on our Google Map.
Timings: During office hours on weekdays. Definitely open till about 6 o’clock, but unclear how much beyond that.
Prices: We spent Rs. 52 on our three sandwiches.