21-05-2018, Suresh’s Chana Kulcha Stall, near Railway Station, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India:
It’s a snack that is very popular in Shimla, so much so that one can find it in almost all corners of the city – the Chana Kulcha (an Indian bread stuffed with Chick-peas). Now I have eaten my fair share (and more) of Chana Kulchas across Shimla, but whenever I have a real craving for this dish, I head towards Shimla Railway Station because that is where you will find Suresh and his Kulcha Stand – in my opinion, his Kulchas are the most delicious!
You will find Suresh near the Shimla Railway Station, at a place where the road coming from Vidhan Sabha or Chaura Maidan meets the Main Cart Road. Suresh told me that he has been in the business of making and selling these Chana Kulchas for the past 20 years. He says that he owes his success to his teacher who passed on his special recipe of making the Chana Chaat with a unique blend of secret spices, chutney and by boiling the chick peas in a special way so that they don’t stick to each other after being cooked.
The precooked chanas are kept in a big brass utensil which sits on a round platform with its open end facing Suresh; waiting patiently all around the front-end of the round platform (and surrounding the brass utensil), are stacks of Kulcha, green chillies, lemons, cucumber while at the other end are small boxes with spices. Preparation starts with Suresh roasting the Kulcha over a griddle with a little butter. With the other hand, chick peas are mixed with chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber, potato, optional green chilly, spices, and a little bit of the chutney. The Kulcha is then slit open like a pocket and the mixture is stuffed inside with a tinge of lemon juice. Just writing about this is tempting enough to send me back to the stall!
Suresh is a really modest fellow and while he gives all the credit to his teacher’s recipe, I feel that he adds a lot to the tangy and crunchy Chana Kulcha with his flair, skill and touch. Once the kulcha is ready, it is a delight enjoying this tantalising Indian sandwich while taking in the beautiful view of the city in the background. Next time you’re in Shimla, do stop by and try one yourself!