The warren-like streets of Old Delhi hold quite a few culinary secrets that are known only to the die-hard food adventurer. There are tiny kiosks, carts and eateries that don’t show up on Delhi’s eating-out radar, but have loyal fan followings. There are kebabs, biryani, nihari, naan khatai, fruit sandwiches (!), chaat and a humongous variety of other items available in different permutations and combinations. The turn of each season will see the addition of yet more items – items that last only for that time of year. In the winters, there’s daulat ki chaat – incongruously named because it’s not a chaat – and in the summers, there’s Pyaar Mohabbat Sharbat. (All these special seasonal items seem to have whacky names, or are we the only ones who think so?)
The Real Deal
When we first heard the name, it seemed to be the name of a Bollywood love story featuring two chefs. (Think about it. No? Oh well, our imaginations often run away with us.) But then when we saw pictures, we were flummoxed! Why would a summer thirst quencher be called Pyaar Mohabbat Sharbat? That question was answered when we tasted it. It tastes of love – no, hear us out! It’s sweet (nauseatingly so, like love – one of us opines) and smells of summer and roses. It even looks like love – all pink and red. Okay, maybe we’ve stretched it too far.
As soon as Delhi’s scorching summer sets in, Nawab Qureshi sets up his sharbat stall near Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. Qureshi is a native of Uttar Pradesh and came to Delhi a few years back to earn his living. And he’s apparently made a huge success of it. His stall used to be a mere cart a few years back, but now he’s moved to the stall adjacent to Aslam Chicken Corner near Jama Masjid. And there are hordes of people paying daily homage to his pink, fruity paean to love.
The drink has become so popular in Old Delhi that during the month of Ramzan, most adherers break their fast with it. According to custom, iftar, after a day of fasting, is started off with a rose flavored drink – and Pyaar Mohabbat Sharbat fits the bill perfectly – in flavor and in sentiment.
So what makes the drink so special? It contains that vital ingredient from our childhood – Roohafza. Qureshi takes packaged Amul milk in a huge pot, dumps Roohafza and sugar syrup in it and throws in gigantic lumps of ice to keep the mixture cool and fresh. This typical summer drink that we’ve all had as kids is further elevated by the addition of sliced and cubed watermelon chunks. The result is a deliciously refreshing concoction that tastes a little bit nostalgic, a little bit excitingly unfamiliar – a whole lot like passion – sweet, energizing, with a slight bite to it.
Qureshi also makes an apple variant of the summer cooler but that’s not as popular as the watermelon one.
The next time you pass by Old Delhi, be sure to stop by Qureshi’s and sample the love for yourself.
Where: Opposite 1149, Matia Mahal, near Jama Masjid, Delhi
#ProTip: Make a meal out of it by ordering some kebabs from the neighboring Aslam’s. His chicken tikkas are super.
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