A walk down the streets of Delhi is akin to getting acquainted with cuisines from all over India. Aroma of Mughlai dishes, endless rice preparations from South India, delicacies from Far East, spices of Rajasthan, and flavours from Gujarat are only a trailer of what Delhi has to offer. The Mumbaikar in me decided to become a Delhiite for a week and I went hunting for eating joints to tickle my taste buds. I was accompanied by a Food Walk Specialist who had me taste a wide range of delicacies from Parathas to Idiyappam.
Some of my personal recommendations to you are:
- Amritsari Chur Chur Naan, Mickey Restaurant, Paharganj
Delhi is known for its incredible street food, which every Dilli walla relishes. The vendors on the streets of Paharganj coaxed us to try Amritsari Chur Chur Naan. I was under the impression that it would be a Naan (Indian bread) sliced into various pieces. When the Naan was served, it was drenched in butter. It was accompanied by mix vegetable curd with pinch of Jeera (cumin seed) powder, a vegetable puree with Rajma (kidney beans) and a Paneer (cottage cheese) dish. The Chur Chur Naan was a special mix of Mughali and Indian, with a naan cooked in coal oven and potato stuffed in the middle. I felt guilty about the calories I was consuming, but the taste and fragrance took over my logic and I carried on.
- Nepali Thali, Kathamandu Café , Paharganj
Delhi offers a host of options to taste cuisines from all over the world. The city made me realise that Nepali cuisine is most underrated. During my recent trip to Everest Base Camp, I developed a fling with Nepali cuisine. Hence, I decided to revive my romance with it and see if the food is as authentic as you get in Nepal. To my surprise, the Nepali Thali passed the test. The cost of Thali was Rs. 120 and it comprised yellow dal, a curry made of cauliflower and potato, stir fried spinach and yoghurt which complemented the sweet feeling at the end of the meal. The quantity of rice served was enough for two people. It is a must-try if you haven’t been to Nepal and experienced its culinary prowess.
- Al Jawahar Restaurant, Opposite Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk
If you ask any Dilli walla, what are the two things that stand out as compared to other cities; they would say rich history and mouth-watering food. When there is a combination of magnificent historic monument right in the middle of city and beverage to help you cool off after the strenuous climb to one of the top pillars of Jama Masjid, your day is made. I was exhausted after climbing about 50 steep and narrow steps where I had to actually squeeze myself to let other people climb down. The reward was blessed upon me in the form of a Lassi – a traditional curd-based drink, which is often called the national drink of Delhi and Punjab. It is sweetened with sugar or sometimes served with a pinch of salt.
- Daulat ki Chaat, Chandni Chowk
I had tangy chaat before, but ‘Daulat ki Chaat’ was a blend of sour and sweet. I tasted it in the middle of bustling Chandni Chowk. Curiosity struck me when I saw a man serving a white creamy dish from a big aluminium bowl. He later referred to the bowl as “Old Delhi’s most tightly guarded secret”. Daulat ki Chaat is a milky puff, made only during the cold winter nights after 2:30 am and kept under the light of full moon. Gallons of sweetened milk are whipped into foam, which is then left under the moonlight till dawn. The top yellow layer is sprinkled with saffron and decorated in the morning when it becomes solid enough to be scooped and served.
- Idiyappam, Saravana Bhavan, Connaught place
I had heard about this restaurant before. However, I must admit that it was a pleasant surprise to see the place buzzing with people even at an odd hour. While in Delhi, always remember to ask for proper address for each restaurant or cafe since they have several branches in the same area. If you have to zero in on one particular dish, it has to be Idiyappam – string hoppers made from rice flour pressed into noodle and then steamed. They also offer mini tiffin, which has a variety of curry, sweetened coconut milk and mini Idli submerged in Sambhar. Drink it down with strong filter coffee. Delhi is even a delight for those having penchant for South Indian cuisine.
- Bikaner Sweets, Paharganj
Once you enter this sweet shop it becomes difficult to resist trying some from the eclectic collection of sweets. This is one of the places that is perennially flocked by people with a sweet tooth. I was one amongst them who decided try some of the delicious mithai from an array of Gulab Jamun, Gajar ka halwa, Daal ka halwa and Ras malai along with Lassi and Kulfi.
- BlueBerry Cheese Cake, Lavazza Cafe, Paharganj
International cuisine is also a must-try in this cafe that resembles an European setting. If I had to choose a dessert to enjoy for the rest of my life, then it would be blueberry cheesecake without a doubt. The firm and soft cake with sweet blueberry topping was more than satisfying.
- Cha Bar, Connaught Place
This is an excellent place for book and tea lovers to hang out for hours. The cafe serves more than 100 different kinds of tea. The interiors are pure white with bold designs in blue and black. Amidst the swanky restaurants and decked up boulevards of Connaught Place, this is quite an unassuming place where you can catch up with friends or even spend time all by yourself. I grabbed a Kashmiri kawa which was served in authentic Kashmiri cutlery, and grabbed a book on the experiences at Nandi hills. The flavour, aroma and ambience of this place soothe your senses. Before leaving, I even gobbled up an apple pie.
- Shimtur Restaurant, Paharganj
I found this roof-top place with the help of a Korean friend who wanted me to try the cuisine from her country. Minimalist interior, a setting that is reminiscent of the small food joints in the hills, and friendly staff make the ambience truly inviting. Do not miss out on trying Jae Yook Bokum (roast pork in spicy sauce), Bibimbap (sticky rice with egg and assorted veggies) and Kimbap (Korean sushi rolls).