Spotted a Chotiwala outlet as I looked around the Ganga ghats for a vantage point from where to view the evening aarti at Haridwar. Endless tales of nostalgia about their puri-aalu/channas-halwa from a closely-related Garhwali (as much in the know of food as he is of films) had seriously spurred my interest in their fare. Not one to pass up on an opportunity at culinary adventure, I immediately made a note to self to dine there after.
Joined by a friend in this exploration, we decided to give their signature aalu-puri, & chole-bhature, a try. The experience was seriously underwhelming. Waiting for seats to come available at eateries is usually a sign of good things to come; not here. Instead, below average preparations of microscopic quantities of bhaji/chole & gigantic puris/bhaturas was what we got in hastily and indifferently washed utensils. They somehow managed to make even ‘stainless’ steel look otherwise. Shudder. Have eaten better, in more hygienic confines, at remotely located wayside shacks!
Then, turns out, this may not be the Real McCoy. For one, the original is at Swarg Ashram in Rishikesh. Two, there was nary a sign of the rotund, pink-skinned live mascot so very reminiscent of the Chotiwala brand. Gaily painted, kitted out in dhoti-kurta-rudraksha with a long choti-on-attention, and usually found seated at the entrance, he has been the top draw for decades.
Established in 1958 as a modest little place offering quick wholesome meals to visiting devotees, Chotiwala now boasts a multi-cuisine avatar dishing out Punjabi, Gujarati, South Indian & North Indian meals in swanky fast-food environs. While I’m quite wary of establishments that ‘specialise’ in every kind of cuisine, I’m going to reserve final judgement till after eating at Swarg Ashram. Still, a quick stab at internet reviews suggests that the one in Rishikesh is also headed south, and not in a lip-smacking, spicy rasam sort of way.
You are very gentle in your comments. Both the quality of food and the level of cleanliness are horrible….btw are there not two Chotiwala shops, wall to wall and competing with each other, with their own Chotiwalas sitting outside (not an easy vocation) in Rishikesh?
This was the one in Haridwar, Chat. Very, very disappointing as an introduction. Wondering if I should even bother with their Rishikesh counterparts; where, yes, I believe are the two cheek-by-jowl shops you refer to.
Thanks for the caveat emptor Puneet! Your “wary of establishments specialising in every cuisine” reminded me of a picture I had clicked in Khajuraho. Try the following link, though I don’t know if it will open just the picture of that dhaba, or my entire album:
Brilliant capture, Rajnish! Evidently, your fella is super ambitious, more power to him and his jugaad. Love that he has managed to burrow through the wall, to extend his culinary empire. Frankly, it is scenes like these that make travel in India so endearing 🙂
Puneet –eating in Haridwar at any place is a one way ticket to disaster !!!! In UP there are no traditional places left –the old glory has been washed away with the desire to get rich quick on the fame of their forefathers !!!!
Technically, this is Uttarakhand, and yes there is little to write home about about the eateries that I visited in Garhwal.
UP, on the other hand, is home to culinary worthies Lucknow and Rampur, which, as I understand, continue to maintain their palate-enriching traditions.
Saw the Khajuraho shots –lovely shots –but cannot recognize any part of the lace –as I want there in the 70s –it was a one horse town dedicated to the temples –which now seem to resemble marriage palaces !! Aaaargh !
Not sure which shots you refer to, Robin. I have yet to visit Khajuraho…
The reference would probably be to the link I posted Puneet. Though the link leads to the picture of the international dhaba, one can also browse through the rest of the pics I uploaded.
I might be conveying the wrong impression of Khajuraho through this album, Robin. This album only contained pictures of the local population as they went about their life. Because of the Shivratri Mela being held at that time, there were a lot of people from surrounding villages.
And the one picture of the temple that you see is the one that is outside the main compound, which is open to everyone and where puja is conducted. The rest of the temples are still well kept, marvellous to behold, and well worth a revisit by you 🙂
Ahhh, I see.
Who be that closely related Garhwali methinks. 😉