I love people who have one simple attitude in life, “Been There, Done that”. Life is all about trying out everything and doing things you always wanted to. Like I always wanted to explore the deepest food secrets and try out all the exuberating cuisines that reflect the rich cultural heritage of our country. So, this is my first step towards this mission. To begin with, I am going to talk about the most famous part of food capital of India, the Chandni Chowk.
After Delhi Metro’s arrival to this most famous and oldest place in Delhi, it has become much easier for anyone to come here. As soon as you enter Chandni Chowk streets, you feel like it’s a different world, the world in contrast with the world of malls.
This place is a mixture of religion, food, chaos, history, modernity, tradition and commerce. People moving fast here and there in narrow lanes. On every corner, you will find something special to eat.
Most of the shops in Chandni Chowk are now being managed by the fourth or fifth generations from the time they’ve opened. There are examples of halwais, namkeenwalas, paranthewalas and many others. Every shop has its own specialty.
The narrow gullies of Old Delhi narrate many stories through the overwhelming variety of street food that they offer. They will inspire you to pull out your cameras, explore new ways, and sometimes, even get into the kitchen and recreate.
While walking through the chaotic maze of by-lanes, you can never be lost. If ever you are, you’ll probably catch the whiff of steaming samosas still hissing from the hot oil or the sweet aroma of crisp jalebis that will lead your senses. The temptation is everywhere and it’s hard to resist.
The old city shares an intimate relationship with food, one that was founded during the Mughal era. Here, traditions rule and history is served sumptuously garnished with culinary secrets that have been passed down through generations. I’ve learned that finding the best street foods in Old Delhi is a journey of discovery. But to start with, these places will give you a glimpse of the historic heart of the city.
Presenting, a food lover’s Old Delhi.
To begin with, there are famous paranthas from Gali Paranthe Wali. Some 50-60 years back, there were around 15-20 shops in this street, but now only 4-5 have left. The first parantha shop in the gali is Pandit Devi Dayal’s (established in 1886). Then the next one is Kanhaiya Lal Durga Prasad’s Parantha Shop (established in 1875). The last one is Pt. Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan (established in 1872). All of these shops have photographs on the wall that show Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Ranbir Kapoor dining in the shop.
50 years back, the paranthas were just of 3-4 types aloo, gobi and matar (potato, cauliflower and peas). But nowadays, you can try 24-25 varieties of paranthas. Apart from normal aloo, daal, methi, gobhi etc, there are special paranthas like papad, parat, gajar, kaju, rabri paranthas.
All of these are fried in pure ghee in cast iron pans (kadhai). This reminded me “The most enjoyable things in this world are either immoral, illegal or fattening!”
Moving ahead and not talking about food for a while, there are a lot of other brilliant things offered in Chandni Chowk to customers. Only a few people know that within the Chandni Chowk, there is Asia’s biggest camera market.
Photo market on the Esplanade Road has some hundreds of small shops offering various ranges of latest still/video cameras and accessories. This is a wholesale market and most professional photographers (from wedding photographers to new channel guys) come here to buy albums, lenses, filters, tripods, battery and camera bags etc.
One of the oldest shop is Pritam Studio (owned by a Sardarji), has customers from all over India for camera repair. Good thing about this market is you will get all sort of qualities and all at a genuine price, and every shop sells at a good price.
After shopping, popping and hopping around a lot, it is time to move back to food. This time, it’s Natraj Dahi Bhalla shop. It was established in 1940 and since then it has become one of the most famous street food shop in Delhi. It sells only aloo-tikki and dahi bhalle on the ground floor. The dish lived up to its reputation and best ingredient in dahi bhalla is saunth (tamarind chutney), tangy and slightly sweet.
Another interesting thing, you will see near Natraj shop is the pedestrian jam in a narrow street connecting to Delhi metro way. You must have seen traffic jam on roads, but this was the jam of pedestrians! This is the busiest and most narrow alley, you will ever notice.
The two famous junctions that should be visited are:
1) Old Famous Jalebi Wala
Located at the Dariba Kalan Road in Chandni Chowk, the jalebis here are the real deal. A look at those lovely swirls frying in hot oil, then delicately dipped in sugar syrup and you just can’t wait to eat them.
This shop has been around since 1884. The jalebis here are fried in homemade desi ghee. The founder of this shop, Nemi Chand Jain, is known to have experimented with many recipes before deciding on the final one. The jalebis are soft and are cooked over coal-fire. Another thing that interests me is that they use desi khandsari sugar and not the regular one to make the syrup. That’s what we call pure pleasure.
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.
This is not all, Chandini Chowk has so much more to offer. If you wish to witness that, then you have to be there! Take out some time now and visit the place for mouth-watering delicacies and blissful streets.
Hailing from the exquisite valley of Kashmir, I just love the bliss that lies in nature, people, thoughts and ideas. Being a journalist in progress, I love everything which is associated with this profession. Extrovert and sometimes a troublemaker, I believe in turning ideas into reality.