Old Delhi Food
When you are in Old Delhi, you just can't miss the food there. The streets buzz with activity and are filled with the aroma of food. For the connoisseurs, there are restaurants like Karim's. For the food historians, there's a chance to taste Butter Chicken at Moti Mahal.
A good idea would be to start with the Paranthewali Gali. It became a famous gourmet locality when the parantha shops moved here in the 1870s. This lane has been the haunt of many celebrities of India. In the years after Independence, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and his family members - Indira Gandhi and Vijaylaxmi Pandit - came here to take their parantha meals. Jayaprakash Narayan and Atal Behari Vajpayee were also among the regular visitors.
Though the number of shops in this lane has reduced - one wonders if their owners are more interested in McDonald's franchises - there still are a few left from the good old days. Perhaps the oldest among these is Pt Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan, established in 1872. Others include Pandit Devi Dayal's (1886) and Kanhaiya Lal Durga Prasad's Parantha Shop (1875). The paranthas are fried in pure ghee in cast-iron pans. They are served with Mint Chutney, Banana - Tamarind Chutney, vegetable pickle and Aloo Subzi. Half a century back, you could get only a few varieties - Aloo Parantha, Gobhi Parantha and Matar Parantha, stuffed with potato, cauliflower and peas respectively. While these continue to be the most popular, there are several new variants. These include lentils, fenugreek, radish, papad, carrot and mixed. Besides, there are paranthas which cost slightly more and include those stuffed with paneer, mint, lemon, chilly, dry fruits, cashew, raisins, almond, rabdi, khurchan, banana, karela, lady's finger and tomato.
The real flavour of the Delhi street food lies in the chaat. The original chaat is a mixture of potato pieces, crispy fried bread,
Dahi Bhalla, gram and tangy-salty spices. The mixture is
garnished with sour home-made Indian chilly and saunth (dried
ginger and tamarind sauce), fresh green coriander leaves and
yoghurt. However, there are several other popular variants now,
including the one with an Aloo Tikki.
Let us explore a few of the chaat shops.
Shree Balaji Chaat Bhandar (1462, Chandni Chowk; Noon to
10pm) is perhaps the best and most popular chaatwallah in
Chandni Chowk. We particularly recommend the Papdi Chaat with its liberal inclusion of Kachaalu Chutney, Khasta Papdis and
Bishan Swaroop (1421, Chandni Chowk; 10am to 10pm) is one
of those gems tucked away in the chaotic by-lanes of Chandni
Chowk which keep alive the magic of another time, another taste.
Since 1923, this tiny little stall has dished out just three items: awesome Aloo Chaat, fabulous Aloo ke Kulle and mouth-watering Fruit Chaat.
You cannot afford to give a miss to the authentic chaat at Lala Babu Chaat Bhandar (77, Chandni Chowk, Near McDonald's; 11am to 10pm). Glorious Gol Gappe served with a type of Jal Jeera that's packed with harad (a digestive), kachoris stuffed with potato and peas, Gobhi-Matar Samosas, Dahi Bhalla and Matar Paneer Tikki are the fastest-selling items here. Jugal Kishor Ramji Lal (23, Dujana House, Chawri Bazaar, Chandni Chowk; 10.30am to 10pm) is best known for the Fruit Chaat that has become a quintessential part of the sounds and sights of Chandni Chowk. Though they do offer a version of Pao Bhaji and Aloo Tikki, it's the Fruit Chaat that is the winner here. Dahi Bhalla need not always be a part of chaat; it can be served as a principal dish as you will find at Natraj Dahi Bhalla. The delicacy called Dahi Bhalla is a deep-fried urad dal dumpling smothered in whipped curd. Often, it is streaked with chocolatebrown laces of sweet-sour tamarind chutney. Pink pomegranate seeds glisten in the folds of the curd. Natraj is located near Bhai Mati Das Chowk at the turning to Chandni Chowk metro station.
Kachori, usually stuffed with pulses and served with potato curry, is another delicacy that makes your mouth water. Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala (1104, Chhatta Madan Gopal, Chandni Chowk; 10.30am to 8pm) is perhaps the most famous for its Urad Dal Kachori, which is served with Aloo Subzi. This place is surely worth the adventure.
On the sweeter side, Rabdi Faluda is a must. And the place to have it is Giani di Hatti near the Fatehpuri Mosque. It has now become an ice-cream parlour specializing in exotic flavours like Litchi and Bubblegum. Apart from standard ice creams, they also serve milkshakes, fruit shakes, ice-cream shakes and sundaes. If you are interested in kulfi - a flavoured frozen dessert made of milk - venture towards the Ajmeri Gate. The popular name here is Siya Ram Nannumal Kulfiwale (629, Gali Lodan, Ajmeri Gate; 7am to 4pm). What you get here is kulfi as kulfi should be - sinful, scrumptious and oh-so-splendid! Order any flavour - Kesar, Pista, Rose, Kewra, Banana, Mango, or Pomegranate. Or better still, order one of each.... Indulge!
Coming back to Chandni Chowk, you meet the Old and Famous Jalebiwala just before you enter Dariba Kalan. Refresh yourself with a delicious plate of hot jalebis - a sweet made by deepfrying batter in a kind of pretzel shape and then soaked in syrup. Also, don't miss the Jama Masjid area that buzzes with activity. The aroma of food wafts to your nose from the Urdu Bazaar facing Gate No. 1 of the Masjid and a side street called Matia Mahal. The smell of fresh fish, aromatic kebabs and fried chicken is in the air. Vendors sell kebabs and tikkas (made of buffalo meat) wrapped in rumali roti (paper-thin bread) at throwaway prices. The Mutton Burrahs here are easily the best in the city. They are practically the only place to serve Nihari and Paaya, which are all sold out by 8.30am Other unmissables are Stew, Mutton Korma, Shammi Kabab and Shahjahani Korma.
Ghantewala at Chandni Chowk is more than 200 years old. The sweets here are
prepared in pure desi ghee. Highly
recommended are the Sohan Halwa
Papdi, Pista Samosa and Badam
Burfi - truly sinful pieces of heaven
Delhi's only tea boutique worth its name, this place bursts with atmosphere. Midway between New and Old Delhi, tourists in the know and locals in search of that magical cuppa beat a retreat to this store-cum-drawing room. Even if tea is not your thing, you can pick up gifts for friends. Even though it has distinctly frayed at the edges, the restaurant offers the cuisine it truly pioneered in the city - Dal Makhni, Butter Chicken, Reshmi Kabab, Murgh Musallam. After all these years, the Tandoori Chicken is still succulent. Chor Bizarre is one of the few restaurants to serve Kashmiri food and attempts to replicate a 'thieves market' in its decor. Specially recommended for non-vegetarians is the Tabak Maaz. Also good are the Yakhni, Rishta and Goshtaba, besides the wonderful greens - Haaq.
Butter Chicken originated at the Moti Mahal, Darya Ganj in the 1950s. The restaurant was famous for its Tandoori Chicken. The cooks there would recycle the chicken juices that were left over by adding butter and tomato. Once, be it by chance or by design, this sauce was tossed around with pieces of Tandoori Chicken. And the rest is history. Butter Chicken was born and soon set tongues drooling the world over. Butter Chicken is creamy with thick, red tomato gravy. It tastes slightly sweet. The sauce percolates into the chicken pieces, making them soft and juicy. This melt-in-mouth dish tastes best with tandoori roti or naan.