Walking through the packed lanes of Lajpat Nagar in Delhi, the smell of freshly baked bread fills the air. Curiosity piqued, one follows the scent and lands up at a stall displaying golden brown bread in various sizes and shapes.
Photo Credit: Prakash Samuel Paul
Manned by a child and a man, the Mazar Ozbik Nanwaey is one of the handful dhabas offering Afghani naan in the crowded alleys of Delhi‚Äôs ever busy central market. A tilted small red board placed oddly out of sight, spells out the name both in English and Pashtun.
Lajpat Nagar is becoming a second home to many Afghanis. Our South-Asian neighbours come down to the capital as tourists, medical patients and those seeking shelter away from a war-torn country. The south Delhi locality even has an Afghani colony, complete with dhabas, air ticket booking agencies, restaurants, barber shops. And like all communities, getting to eat native food at the end of the day is a joy unmatched. It is this nostalgic need that these dhabas cater to.
The fluffy flatbread sells most towards evening and makes its way on the tables of Afghani families with side dishes like chicken shorba (a chicken stew prepared with tomatoes and boiled vegetables), dal or other vegetable curries. ‚ÄúIn a day we sell about 100 naans and make a profit of about 400-500 which helps us tide over at the end of the month,‚ÄĚ says Ravi Prakash Dubey, co-owner of Mazar Ozbik Nanwaey dhaba.
How Dubey (better known as Panditji), an Indian landed up selling Afghani naan makes for another story. Hailing from Benaras, a venerated pilgrimage place in India, Dubey met his future business partner in another dhabha. He and Ghawsuddin (a native of Afghanistan) were working together when they decided to open a place of their own. ‚ÄúIt has only been one year but we have managed to do well,‚ÄĚ he says.
Ghawsuddin is the backhand man. He stays in the kitchen, overlooking the preparation of the naans. His job is to ensure the dough made of flour (maida), yeast, sugar and salt is well kneaded before it is placed in the tandoor. As wafts of flour float in the air, another worker makes symmetrical prints into the bread with a comb. The baker then keeps dough on cloth wads and places them in the earthen tandoor. Using two iron tongs, he pulls the golden brown beauties out for sale. ¬†The Naans sell for twenty and forty rupees depending on their size.
A little boy helps Punditji restock the table serving as a counter. Presentation is important in the trade, and so the process of arranging and re-arranging the breads punctured with symmetric holes continues. ¬†