Delhi has a colourful history of a city that has evolved with time. It has always fascinated rulers and travellers alike, and interest in this heritage city resulted in a confluence of culture, music, religion, art and most of all, culinary traditions.
From the days of the Mughal era, street food has been a way of life and the locals have not only relished but contributed to its evolution. If you are a traveller visiting Delhi for the first time, then experiencing its history, music, art, architecture and culture would not be complete without traversing the narrow by-lanes of Old Delhi in search of culinary utopia hidden within its maze of narrow streets.
Shiv Misthan Bhandar, Kucha Ghasi Ram, Chandni Chowk
The experience of food on the streets of old Delhi starts early and one can’t miss out on a visit to Shiv Misthan Bhandar to gorge on their fresh and mildly crisp Bedmi Puris, fried for just that right puff and off it comes onto the plate and served with some mouth-watering ‘aloo ki sabzi’. For those with a sweet tooth, there is traditional breakfast of Puris served with ‘Sooji ka Halwa’, which is prepared in ‘Shudh Ghee’.
To finish off, you have a choice of savouring some of the most heavenly ‘Jalebis’ or gulp down Delhi’s all-time favourite thick and creamy ‘Lassi’. They also have a wide variety of traditional Delhi sweets like Karachi Halwa, Nagori Halwa and of course, the soft ‘Motichoor Ladoo’.
Khan Omelette Corner, Katra Bariyan-Naya Bans Corner
Its only on the streets of Delhi could one possibly discover an innovative rendition of a perfectly spiced egg omelette, all complete with salt, pepper, chat masala, red chili powder, sliced green chili along with some aromatic and fresh coriander leaves, all blended into a crispy fried Indian bread called ‘Paratha’. Khan serves his special ‘Omelette Paratha’ with traditional mango pickle, which can be a perfect way to start the day or had anytime as an all-day snack.
Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala, Maliwara, Jogiwari, Chandni Chowk
If the above is too heavy for you early in the day, then check out some of the best spiced Kachori in Delhi, another all-day snack. The shop has built its reputation on its ‘Pyaaz Kachori’, ‘Matar Kachori’ and ‘Dal Kachori’, with ‘Dry Fruit Kachori’ standing out as his signature specialty. The shop remains popular with visitors and locals throughout the day and one can see many a visitor carrying bags of Kachori home.
Sita Ram Diwan Chand, Paharganj
‘Chola Bhatura’ is to Delhi what ‘Masala Dosa’ is to Chennai. It’s a lifeline for the die-hard street food lover. And no one makes it better than Pran Kohli, whose family has turned this iconic dish into Delhi’s most sought after. The ‘Chola’ or chickpeas are specially prepared with select fresh spices and served with a dash of potatoes, pickled carrots and tangy tamarind chutney, again a formula developed by his family and passed on through generations. The ‘Bhatura’ is specially blended with cottage cheese or ‘Paneer’ and fried to just the right crisp, while retaining its inherent softness. People throng his shop all day and locals never seem to tire of the delectable dish.
Shree Balaji Chaat Bhandar, Chandni Chowk
Delhi’s three most popular street food is Chola Bhatura, Chaat and Gol Gappa. If Sita Ram Diwan Chand has made its name around Chola Bhatura, then Shree Balaji stands out for its all-time favourite ‘Chaat’ and ‘Gol Gappas’, both not-to-miss items, if one happens to be visiting Chandni Chowk area.
The ‘Chaat’ is a speciality here, prepared with a blend of crispy papri, boiled and mashed lentil cakes called ‘Bhalla’, and covered with a blend of mild creamy yogurt, tamarind sweet & sour sauce, coriander chutney, and topped with a pinch of salt, red chili powder and specially prepared chaat masala. The result is a mouthwatering cauldron of heavenly experience. Street food in Delhi can’t get any better!
The ‘Gol Gappa’, also known as ‘Paani Puri’, stands out for its simplicity and not-too-heavy-on-the-stomach snack that one can gulp down at any time of the day. Small puffed balls made out of atta or suji, are lightly stuffed with a concoction of small lightly fried or boiled potatoes, boiled chick peas, tamarind and coriander chutney and dipped into a water-based highly spiced concoction, served rapidly, quite literally, from hand to mouth. The rapid pace of serving makes the experience unforgettable, perhaps with the odd tear in the eye, thanks to the blended spice, which leaves one a tad breathless but craving more. That’s Delhi’s Gol Gappa for you!
Lala Duli Chand Naresh Gupta, Sitaram Bazaar
Delhi’s ‘Kulfi’ has been around for ages as its very own local iced dessert. It’s made from full cream milk and frozen in plastic moulds overnight. The Kulfi is scooped out and served with or without a handful of sweet noodles called ‘falooda’ and a dash of rose or saffron essence sprinkled over it. No makes it better than Lala Duli Chand Naresh Chand and one gets to choose from a wide variety of flavours from kewda, mango, rose, tamarind or aam papad. This would perhaps be amongst the few places in Delhi to offer such a large variety of Kulfi flavours.
Karim’s, Gali Kabian, Jama Masjid
Karim’s holds the flag for Mughlai food and is seen as an institution. Established by chefs who served in the Emperor’s kitchen, Karim’s has built its reputation over its unique range of recipes spread across mutton and chicken based dishes, and include ‘Nahari Mutton’, ‘Jahangiri Mutton Korma’, ‘Mutton stew’, ‘Mutton Pasanda’, ‘Burrah’ kebabs, ‘Sheekh’ and ‘Shami’ kebabs, ‘Mutton’ and ‘Chicken Biryani’, are all a foodie’s must-haves!
While Karim’s cannot really be classified anymore as a street food, the Jama Masjid area has enough non-vegetarian options for a die-hard foodie on an empty stomach to discover and experience.
Tibetan Monastery, ISBT
Try out some of the best in Tibetan street food which includes Thukpa and Momo, besides a range of noodles made the Tibetan way. Cheap on the pocket but long on experience, a visit to ‘Tib Dhabs’, as many still call it, is a must visit in Delhi.
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