Old Delhi, the lifeblood of the national capital of India, may not be the heart of Delhi geographically, but there is no match for this place when it comes to its spirit and charm. Away from the fast paced hustle and bustle of ‘modern’ New Delhi, the walled city has retained its old school persona, and boy, has it retained it like a boss!
This is a place where mutton biryani and chole bhature co-exist peacefully and in harmony.
Here food is not just edible goodness that you consume in order to make your taste buds dance for a while. It’s a way of life, quite simply put.
Here are the top five reasons why Old Delhi is the Fiona to every foodie(Shrek) out there:
1. It is the promised land, the kingdom of heaven, to all carnivores out there.
The area around Chawri Bazaar and Jama Masjid is the principal nerve centre for everything and anything that the non-vegetarians might crave. To some, Old Delhi is synonymous with non-vegetarian food and to an extent, there’s no denying the fact. If Old Delhi is synonymous to non-veg delights, non-veg delights are (primarily) synonymous to the one and only Karim’s- the undisputed king of Mughlai cuisine since 1913.
I don’t need to elaborate and enunciate why and what makes Karim’s such a showstopper, now that it’s out there, in the open, and is no longer a well-kept secret of the walled city. Despite its monopoly, though, there are several other restaurants dishing out lip smacking (and high on oil and cholesterol, dare I add!) meaty goodness.
There’s Aslam Chicken for the much-coveted butter chicken, Al-Jawahar for chicken/mutton stew, kebabs at Qureshi and Lalu Kebabi,fried chicken at Haji Mohd. Hussain and the list is endless…
2. Old Delhi houses the infamous Paranthe Wali Gali for paranthas (talk about self-explanatory naming skills!)
I know I got you drooling over all the meat earlier, but there’s more to this enchanting place than being a carnivore’s ultimate party zone.
Gali Paranthe Wali, in Chandni Chowk, houses three shops, run by branches of the same family, that dish out fried paranthas, in a variety of ‘unthinkable’ flavours.
The various parantha fillings include kaju (cashew), khoya, bhindi (lady’s finger), matar (green peas), kishmish (raisin), apart from the conventional potato, cheese and dal paranthas.
Served with tamarind chutney, mint chutney and potato and fenugreek curry, it tastes as good as it sounds.
Don’t listen to me, eat it to believe it!
3. The street food frenzy in every nook and cranny
Old Delhi is one of those few places where you’ll find a hidden gem of an eatery in every alley. The physical layout of this place is such that every lane has its own set of tea stalls or mini restaurants. But the most prevalent are the tiny street food and ‘chaat’ shops, that are tucked away in virtually unbreathable spaces!
Be it the mighty dahi bhalla and raj kachori, or the scrumptious papdi chaat and aloo chaat, or the relatively humble ‘gol gappa’, you’ll find different tastes and different flavours in every second lane or alley that you go to.
4. Desserts to die for. Nirvana for the sweet toothed. Shalom!
What makes this place all the more special, is the presence of a number of prodigious sweet shops. I don’t think it will be wrong on my part to say that these shop owners have sugar syrup running through their veins. Be it the Kallan Sweet Shop near Jama Masjid, or the 220 years old Ghantewala in Chandni Chowk, these shops have existed and prospered for years on end, and have another century of years written on their cards of destiny.
Also, there are jalebi shops, and then there’s the Old Famous Jalebiwaala in Dariba Kalan. Daulat ki Chaat, the frosty-melt in your mouth-sweet milky froth is something you don’t want to miss, at least in this life, when you’re blessed enough to reside in/visit Delhi.
PS: Don’t miss the delectable kulfis anywhere and everywhere!
5. Yes, this place has out-of-the-worldly beverages too!
Beverages complete the holy pentagon of gastronomy here. Now that summers have dawned upon us, and you brave the sun and visit Old Delhi just to treat your taste buds, make sure you treat yourself with these cool and easy on the pocket beverages.
The Amritsari Lassi Wala in Fatehpuri, Giani’s Faluda (yes, the very same now commercialised Giani still has its original shop back home) and the Watermelon Shake in Matia Mahal complete the holy trinity of beverages for me here.
Brave the Sun, get out and go find yours!