A palate full of ol’ Delhi streets

A food walk through the bustling streets of Old Delhi is a sensorial experience of another level. Delhi Food Walks took taste buds from spicy, sweet to tangy on one such visit.


A food walk through the bustling streets of Old Delhi is a sensorial experience of another level. Delhi Food Walks took taste buds from spicy, sweet to tangy on one such visit. 

Juicy jalebis, orange and glistening with ghee, at the Old Famous Jalebiwala

One of the major draws of Delhi, among other things, is its vibrant and eclectic food scene. The average middle class urban Delhi resident has acquired a global palate and is familiar with a range of cuisines from across the world. Yet, notwithstanding the profusion of European, Asian, American and Mediterranean food options, locals keep returning to Old Delhi aka ‘Purani Dilli’ for their fill of soul satisfying comfort street food.

While tastes might veer towards the exotic, food cravings continue to be satisfied by good ‘ol street fare. Not surprisingly, old Delhi street food enjoys considerable branding, so even posh restaurants now claim to offer authentic old Delhi street food. But this food is best enjoyed in its original setting, in the noisy labyrinthine bylanes of Chawri Bazaar and Chandni Chowk where golden gurudwaras share space with historic mosques.

It is easy to get lost in the great hustle and bustle and the teeming humanity that is old Delhi. So when an opportunity arose to participate in a food walk curated by Delhi Food Walks, I grabbed it immediately.  The concept of a food walk in old Delhi is neither novel nor new with an increasing number of groups offering it in the last few years. Usually, groups of eight to ten people or more are organized for every walk. These walks tend to be targeted at foreigners. Charges vary depending on the number of places which are included in your walk.  The walk which I participated in charged Rs. 600 and Rs. 700 per head for vegetarians and non-vegetarians respectively.

Our first halt was at ‘Old Famous Jalebiwala,’ a five minute walk from the Chandni Chowk metro station. Here we tried large thick and juicy jalebis, orange and glistening with ghee.  As I crunched on my share of jalebis, I watched these maida treats being deep fried in a sea of oil in a huge frying vessel. These were delicious, but the samosas were not much to write home about.

A few steps on, we crossed the road and arrived at Nataraj Dahi Bhalle Wala. Here we sampled alu tikki chat—crisp fried potato cutlets dunked in a melange of chutneys and smattered with onions and spices. The tikki was crisp while the chutneys had a great zing, packing more of a punch compared to many other places where it is served.  My fellow walkers were mostly students from Russia, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Germany and the United States and I could tell that they were enjoying the snack.

We next trooped to the famous ‘Paranthe Wali Gali’. The walk was not long, but slightly dodgy because of narrow congested lanes teeming with cycle-rickshaws, rashly driven motorcycles and pedestrians. Paranthe Wali Gali is famous for its impressive varieties of stuffed paranthas— potato, onion, cottage cheese, cauliflower, radish, papad, dry fruits and even khoya. At Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan’s shop we were plied with a variety of these paranthas served with vegetables, a gravy and pickle. My personal favourite was the one with dry fruits. Sweet and spicy and with the crunch of dry fruits, these paranthas had me wanting more. Shops such as Pandit Gaya Prasad’s enjoy considerable vintage value and date back to 1872. The best part about eating food at old Delhi is that focus is directly on the food. Here, ambience, service and decor, are but trifling issues. You are meant to solely enjoy the food, finish and leave.  No scope for lingering over coffee!

Kebab time beckoned as Anubhav, our guide, led us through a bewildering maze of streets to  Ustad Moinuddin who fries buffalo kebabs in the open. We stopped enroute at the renovated haveli of Mirz Ghalib at Ballimaran which provided a fascinating glimpse into the life and times, and genius of the celebrated Urdu poet.

Paranthe Wali Gali is famous for its impressive varieties of stuffed paranthas— potato, onion, cottage cheese, cauliflower, radish, papad, dry fruits and even khoya

It was easy to identify Ustad Moinuddin’s kebab enterprise by the crowds which gather around his kebab grills.  He sits at a corner of Lal Kuan and does a brisk business of selling kebabs.  The kebabs were tender, juicy and flavourful – and quickly passed around and devoured by the group.

For the next stop we piled into cycle rickshaws which took us to Aslam’s Chicken Corner. Butter chicken is their most famous offering. It arrived in a shallow wide bowl—several pieces of fried chicken soaking in a yellow butter gravy.  This vanished quickly too with rumali roti and pickled onions for company.

The last drop of butter gravy mopped dry, it was time for sweet nothings.  First, we tried a creamy and addictive phirni served in earthen pots. Made of a rice-flour paste, mixed with sugar and finished with a pista garnishing, the flavours continued to linger after we had finished.

Our last halt was Kuremal Mahavir Prasad Kulfi Wale at Chawri Bazar. When we arrived, we found that there was no power supply, so even though the shop was open, it was completely dark. Candles were purchased and they were back in business. It was quite an experience. Some ten of us stood huddled with our kulfis in a dark alley with barking dogs for company.  This kulfi shop was my find for the evening. I am coming back here to have their wonderful selection of kulfi such as blackberry, pomegranate, mango, litchee, guava and more. The kulfis tasted like chilled manna from heaven on that sweltering evening.

Although the food walk was more than satisfying to our appetites, it was only a representative selection of some of the food options that old Delhi has to offer. Other must-haves that food walks or walkers should not miss out on is nalli nihari and an assortment of vadas, kulchas and sweets. Needless to say, food walks are the one of the best ways to explore the old world charm of the capital.

Delhi Food Walks is a group initiative to organize food expeditions to explore the Delhi lanes for its spices and flavors. It is a platform where the foodies form a network, socialize and drown themselves in the taste of both ethnic and modern Indian food.

Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to be up to date with their next food walk or get in touch with Anubhav at +91 9891121333

Pics: Urvashi Sarkar

Related posts: Need another reason and corner to wander about in Old Delhi? How about books at throw away prices or a glass of garam chai?

 


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Urvashi Sarkar (@urvashisarkar on Twitter) has been a city correspondent with The Hindu for two years, covering education in Indian universities and civil aviation. A graduate of print media journalism from The Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, Urvashi has freelanced for news publications like The Times of India and Meri News. She is currently pursuing her Masters in International Politics fro... more

   FOLLOW US

   SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
  Top Stories on TA






  Top Stories in LIFESTYLE






   Get stories like this in your inbox

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Urvashi Sarkar (@urvashisarkar on Twitter) has been a city correspondent with The Hindu for two years, covering education in Indian universities and civil aviation. A graduate of print media journalism from The Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, Urvashi has freelanced for news publications like The Times of India and Meri News. She is currently pursuing her Masters in International Politics fro... more

Discuss this article on Facebook