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The Breakfast of Desi Champions!

Nirvana Restaurant manager Jakir Hossain and waitress Noemi Gamez with the weekend puri, aaloo, chole and halva platter that is the Indian breakfast of Champions!!

Nirvana Restaurant manager Jakir Hossain and waitress Noemi Gamez with the weekend puri, aaloo, chole and halva platter that is the Indian breakfast of Champions!!

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: If you have a hankering for the traditional style of breakfast that you would get in the Old Country on special occasions at home or down at the corner dhaba when the urge for puri, aaloo, chole and halva was just too great to pass up, look no further than a popular restaurant on the west side of town. It has been serving this dish every weekend for the past few years, without any fanfare, to hungry clients who devour it along with the other buffet options.

“We’ve had these items on our menu for a long time,” said Nirvana restaurant owner Salim Ahmed one Sunday morning as he made sure that the pile of puris (deep fried flour bread) were soft and kept warm at the buffet line. “We have had them as separate items in the buffet,” he pointed out to each container.

But it would take a connoisseur of North Indian food – or those from Hyderabad – to understand that the four items go together very well. Indeed, on many a cold winter’s day in Delhi, there are throngs of people at eateries across town warming themselves up with this tempting combination, served with hot puris coming straight from the kaddayi (wok).

The puris are eaten with three simple, but savory dishes, each with their own competing tastes. The peeled aaloo (potatoes) are smashed and cooked in a reduced semi-thick sauce; the white chole (chickpeas) are made in a reduced semi-thick brown sauce and the tinged yellow halva (thickened semolina pudding) made with some nuts and raisins is kept on the side dessert table. You have to have Ahmed to guide you to eat the four items a la mode Indien!

Served together in small bowls on a plate, you can munch between them and it offers you a sweet and sour experience that brings back memories of sitting in a crowded Chandni Chowk bazaar in Old Delhi, in the warming sunlight, with the din of the city around you! The last ingredient to fill this fantasy is the hot Indian chai (tea) with plenty of warm milk, and Noemi Gamez, the waitress, brings it just in time. “I am the designated chai maker,” she says with a big smile, “and make a huge pot that is gone within two hours.” Stuffed, you realize this is the breakfast of Indian champions!

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