India is known as the Land of Spices and a walk through Old Delhi immediately supports this age-old reputation.
Whether you’re wandering through a dense market or along the city’s side streets, the aromas of curries and golgappa (crispy snacks full of chutney, potatoes and chickpeas) invite a closer look.
Known as the street food capital of India, Old Delhi is packed with food stalls — more than 400 of them, by our guid Sanjot’s estimate.
“In the eyes of foreigners, it’s like an organized chaos when you enter Old Delhi,” says Sanjot.
“This kind of warmth and affection, you won’t get in any other part of the city. When I do the tours, it’s really about experiencing the food and the people, through an eye of a local person. That’s what Old Delhi is for me.”
From sizzling meat skewers in the market to freshly made roti there’s no shortage of tastes, smells and colors to be found. Here are a few of Sanjot’s favorites.
For Delhi’s best paratha, you need to hit up Delhi Paranthe Wali Gali .As the name implies, this little street is filled with shops selling this tasty Indian treat.
Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan is the oldest paratha (Indian flatbread) shop in Delhi, established in 1872, and run by the sixth generation.
They have different varieties of paratha here — you have potato, you have cauliflower, radish, green peas, all different kinds of stuffed parathas.
To make mooli paratha, you have two pans of clarified butter, ghee, grated radish, and you deep-fry it twice.
Everything, especially in Old Delhi, is fried twice, just to make it crispier — and they say if you fry anything twice it absorbs less oil.
There’s also a mixed vegetable paratha, which has sauce, cheese, cauliflower, carrot and green peas, pumpkin, potato, fennel leaves, green coriander mint sauce, green peas, tamarind and banana sauce.
Natraj Dahi Bhalla
Natraj is located near Bhai Mati Das Chowk at the turning to Chandni Chowk metro station. It was started in 1940 and is run by Inder Mohan. They have only two items on the menu – dahi bhalla and aloo tikki. Both are worth a taste.
Khemchand Adesh Kumar’s Daulat ki Chaat, Nai Sadak
You’ll find them hawked around places like Dariba, Kinari Bazaar and Daryaganj. They sell a frothy, creamy sweet, famously known as ‘Daulat ki Chaat’. It is made with churned milk.
The soft, cottony foam is carefully collected and served. It is enriched with khoya and saffron and instantly melts on your palate. One of the most sublime sweets, its preparation can take about six hours! It is made through the night and served fresh in the morning.
Mohammed Aziz was a cook in the royal court of Mughal Emperor. One of his sons, Haji Karimuddin is known to have moved to Delhi with an idea to open a dhaba and that’s how Karim Hotel was established back in 1913.
All meat lovers must make a pit stop at Karim’s for their heavenly kebabs and divine mutton nahari and shikh kebab.
“Down this lane we have a very famous shop called Hazari Lal Jain Khurchan Wale, in the Kinari Bazaar,” says Sanjot as he leads us to the next stop.
They make a dish called khurchan (meaning ‘leftover scrapes’ in Hindi). It’s a very interesting delicacy: Khurchan is basically scrapings, or different layers of cream.
To make it, you slowly boil milk, allowing it to evaporate, then scrape off the residue that builds up in the karahi (cooking pot). Then, these “scrapings” are topped with bhoora (powdered sugar).
Old Famous Jalebi Walais the oldest jalebi shop in Old Delhi — it opened in 1884, of this eatery in the Dariba Kalan area.
“It’s a very famous shop that’s known for two dishes — desi ghee jalebi and samosas.”
“This is a common street food all over India that’s calledpani puri,”says Sanjot, pointing to an Old Delhi stall. “They have different variations in different cities. In some places they call it puchka, as we call it. In Delhi, we call it golgappa.
Talking as he walks, Sanjot gravitates towards a stall serving mutton seekh kebabs, another popular street delicacy in Old Delhi.
It’s minced meat put on skewers and grilled over charcoal, taking a bite. “You can simply enjoy it from the skewer — you don’t even have to take it off.”