The winter Old-Delhi “food-tour”

As winter approaches, Delhi is one place I am definitely going to miss while I am out here in UK. For me, early winter (late-October and November) and late winter (February) are absolutely the best times in the Capital. Especially around Diwali, the city is so festive and yes although we all complain about the huge traffic snarls, I still simply quite like it at that time.

Last winter, we decided to do a novel thing on a sunny winter sunday morning. We decided to take advantage of the Delhi Metro for the first time ever, and fulfill our need for the family’s favourite activity, food!

I would consider myself one the fortunate few who have had the chance to sample true Delhi street food. And that’s available no where but in the very heart of Old-Delhi. My mother grew up there, so she knows the nooks and crannies where truly and distinctly characteristic savouries are available in Old-Delhi, all on the street and gali-corners.

Parking our car at Central Secretariat, we took the metro to Chawri Bazaar, where one suddenly ascends from the depth of a modern underground station into one of the most chaotic and crowded of Old-Delhi’s main markets. The contrast is really overwhelming, esp for someone new to these areas. But our attention was not really on the rickshaw and cart-pullers and loads and loads of pedestrians. There is a small Chat shop called Kedara’s chatwala on the Chawri Bazaar main road, and I have craved for his aloo mutter chat ever since I can remember. So this is where we started our food tour in Old Delhi. The chat here is prepared using “proprietary” masala which this guy even sells in packets now. One must remember to tell him to put little or no chilly in the chat, if one is not habitual of “death by fire” experiences.

Having started on a great note, we walked through the streets of Ballimaaran onto Nayi Sarak. Here, on a little stretch somewhere in the middle, there are a lot of cheap Sari shops lined up side by side. In front of one of them, is a Matra Kulcha hawker, who sells matra (not chhole, as many of the likes of Haldiram). Again, the preparation has a taste of its own much better than anywhere I have tasted in West or South Delhi. So having a taste of this next, we stopped by (of-course) at the Sari shops where my mother did her mandatory shopping, managing to strike mind-blowing bargains all the while.

Nayi Sarak, by the way, has many shops selling second-hand books for all kinds of Curriculums. Going ahead on Nayi Sarak, we turned right towards Kinaari Bazaar, at the corner of which sits a Kachauri hawker. Now this guy is the locals’ favorite, makes extremely crisp fresh Kachauris all the time which he serves with Aloo sabzi and chutney made of methidana(fenugreek seeds) and pickled kachaloo (a variant of potatoes). Thoroughly recommended fare. Kinaari Bazaar, by the way, sells all shiny and shimmering things, to be put on gaudy dresses that women in our country usually wear only on special occasions, fortunately. :-)

Right down the lane is the famous paranthe-wali gali. The paranthas here are actually deep-fried in ghee or oil, and are a health freak’s biggest nightmare. We had already been eating so much, so we decided to take it easy and just shared 2 paranthas between the four of us, much to the raised eyebrows and disgust of the irritably loud shopkeeper.

Booking.com

From paranthe-wali gali, one emerges onto Chandni Chowk, where upon crossing the main road to the other side is a popular Dahi-vada hawker. Amazingly soft, juicy vadas in dahi with authentic tasting chutneys, this was a perfect sweet ending to our food tour. I guess there is good Kulfi available at the same spot, but even though the spirit was willing, the belly was full.

From here, we just strolled to the Old-Delhi metro station down the corner, and went back into the humdrum and monotony of the Sagar-ratnas and Moti Mahals of this world.

We were not able to visit Karim’s near Jama Masjid, which is an absolute delight for the non-vegetarian. It has been rated as the top North Indian eatery in Delhi by Times, and that does feel justified, even though one must forget about cholestorol and calories while eating there.

Disclaimer : The fact that I have grown up liking the taste of the old-delhi fare doesn’t mean it will suit everyone’s palate. Even though one may not want to sample all the food, a walk through the absolute chaos of old-delhi exploring the jewellery, book, and cloth shops may well worth be the effort itself. Note the words “absolute chaos”, so you stand warned :-)

  • manish

    As ever a nice write-up. Its very clear that how much you are missing Indian food esp. the chatpatti things. Well I wish that instead of your one day outing, you would have listed all the nooks and corners of old delhi’s food courts.
    Still I know more than before. Nice write-up.

    Manish.

  • Rahul

    Well I listed my favourites! :-)
    Apart from these, I know of an old golgappe-wala on Nayi Sarak again, and jalebis and samosas from Ghantewalan at the old fountain (I hate the sohan halwa for which this place is most famous)
    And yes the Dahi-Bhalle shop is called Natraj.

  • Manish khamesra

    I wish that a day will come and you will be able to post smell too.

  • riitu

    hi

    thanks for the tips on what places to go to.

    paranthe waali galli rocks – four of us polished off 12 paranthas between us post a three hour long heritage walk in the vicinity last winter. and washed it down with tall glasses of cold lassi from the shop across.

    the old famous jalebi waala is at the dariba entrance – but i find the jalebis too thick and heavy for my liking. i prefer them hot, thin and crisp.
    the mattar waali kachoris too look and smell yummy but the desi ghee they are made in makes them difficult to swallow.

    natraj ke dahi bhalle were a disappointment. the bhallas were tasteless. and the meethi chutney was pedestrian…

  • So glad you posted this. I’ll be visiting Delhi soon and am very eager to try out the best of the food. ^__^

  • Food is a very personal like for most. Guess times change and some things change with it. But there is still some old-world charm left in old-delhi for sure!

  • I was there yesterday, had paranthas in Parantha Waali Gali , they are rather fried stuffed pooris. General wandering and a visit to Ghalib’s house where he stayed in his later years. One part of building has been restored and now houses a scanty museum. This is in Ballimaran, some shopping and thats about it. Was not carrying camera else would have at least shot some pics of Mirza’s house.

    Not sure whether a full new post is deserved so thought of putting a small comment. Rahul has done a wonderful job already :)

  • hmm… lovely post… I have been to Chandni Chowk twice of late, and am falling in love with that place (for the food and the old world charm) all over again. :)

  • Pingback: Hotel Ratings and Reviews()

  • sunaina

    what about the “khurchan” ?? available right opposite the parathawallahs.

    ever tried the “vallawalley” aka “japaani” samosas?

  • Rahul

    Never tried the latter though definitely heard about them, and yes skipped the former just because of personal liking :-)
    I guess there is something for everyone to experiment with there!

  • Jitender

    Old Delhi is foodies delight.I can’t find a place that promises lip smacking food,coooked in desi ghee ,replete with spices,tickling your taste buds.Thali at Aadrash Bhojanalaya jsut before fatehpuri mosque is a steal For 60 bucks you get unlimited 3 sabzis,rotis,aloo and panner parantha,rice,salad and a dessert.food is good on all days as it is freshly cooked and on sunday the place is not crowded.The place is must visit for me once a month even though I don’t live in Delhi.

  • vipin

    there used to be a naan shop at fatehpuri chowk kaake di hatti. is it still there ?

  • I think there are lots of places to go…. u Can try Nand Lal ji ka Dhaba’s Grilled chicken and Korma simply awesome .there used to be some poori waala in lajpat rai market i dont know where it has disappeared.Theres one outlet of Cumsum at old delhi railway station and its briyaani worth going .Bedmi poori at jama mazjit are amaing but be prepared to gulp large quantities of water ..as they are too hot And on the top of that all u can eat delhis chaat papri from anywhere and anytime …let me take u to some other good places like gullu meat at malka ganj please make sure u get there bfore 1 in the noon coz its over in no time.Then Tee Pees briyaani at CP..And age old Kaake da dhaba simply simple but yet good.If u waana have some good breakfast come to kamla nagar where u can have Chache Ke Chole Bhature and bille ki poori with lassi.I had been to many places of the world but indian cuisine Rocks and i simply love the flavour and this place ..u wont find it anywhere else on this planet.

  • Indeed, like I said, a foodie’s paradise!

  • Patrick Jones

    Although I visit Chandni Chowk a few times a year, those were strictly for purchases books, dry fruits and electrical goods never could make up my mind to try eateries except Haldirams. The crowd and the squalor were to blame.

    However, after reading this and other posts at Ghumakkar, my perception is changing. When I went there yesterday, I started looking for remnants of its past glory rather than the unpleasantness and decided to give it a try starting with Karims.

  • There is no parallel for great street food, i miss while i am in bangalore and suitcasing in US :( But having spent majority of my 3 decades in west delhi, i think this part of delhi also deserves a chance as a distinct food constituency – i would christian it the “Pig Out” food capital. Where can you Bhature stuffed with paneer, monstrous helpings of chowmein, huge samosas.

    Amit

  • VINOD DUA

    when i go chandni chowk in parwthe wali gali there were many shops of parwthe’s then i saw a daba his name sharma bohjnaley, i entered the shop and order .

    1.one plate sahi paneer.
    2.one plate dalmahkni.
    and one plate allu naan thali.

    i eat those itmes it’s very testy ,allu naan thali was awesome. so0 i request to you when you go to chandni chowk please eat this itmes .

    THANK YOU.

  • Waseem

    Take a rickshaw from daryaganj golcha cinema to chitli qabar, and ask for shireen bhavan. Out of the world pooris and sabzi. Top it up with halwa parantha. All of this is made in desi ghee so try to walk your way out to daryaganj.

  • Kick Ass Post !!!

  • Rahul

    Thanks :)

  • Sujata

    Gosh, really very enchanted with this whole concept of eating in chandni chowk, a little overwhelmed, this is too much info, guys someone plan a tour for me, like where to start and end, practical food itinerary, I mean something my weak belly can tolerate…. Kebabs being a favorite. Have had parathas, natraj chat etc, what else ? I need to do this in December for sure. :-)