Delhi Street Food The taste no chef can beat
The speed of life seems to be double every decade, and the citizens of developed countries are determined to deal with this chang in every possible way. People try to manage their time as properly as they can. Street food is one of the most common and moderate ways of outdoor snacking. The culinary and cultural heritage of India illustrates the harmonious blending of diverse influences over the centuries. Indian cuisine displays the genius of our culture and our people. As time has passed, with reducing distances and the hunger for taste and variety the different regions of the country have interacted with one another and influenced each other’s cuisine, flavours and fashion.
Wandering through narrow streets of capital city of India, Delhi has given you an appetite. The city lives and eats on its streets. Delhi offers overwhelming verities of street foods to the people. The whiff of steaming samosas still hissing from the hot oil or the sweet aroma of crisp jalebis will lead everyone’s senses. Temptation is everywhere and it is hard to resist. Its cuisine incorporated the best of Hindu-Rajput, Bania and Kayasthas well as the Tusrkish, Afghani, Persian and Mughal influences. Here, traditions rule and history is served sumptuously garnished with culinary secrets that have been passed down through generations.
Chandni Chowk, often called the food capital of India, is famous for its street food. This variety consists of snacks, especially chaat. If you wish to enjoy it, shed your high-brow attitude to soak in the flavours and delicacies. Come on, everybody… Yes, it’s a kind of celebration in congregation. Chandni Chowk resembles a fair every day. The streets are lined with halwais (sweet-sellers), namkeenwallahs (sellers of savouries) and paranthewallahs (sellers of rich, flaky breads soaked in ghee). A good idea would be to start with the Paranthewali Gali. It became a famous gourmet locality when the parantha shops moved here in the 1870s. This lane has been the haunt of many celebrities of India. In the years after Independence, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his family members — Indira Gandhi and Vijaylaxmi Pandit — came here to take their parantha meals. Jayaprakash Narayan and Atal Behari Vajpayee were also among the regular visitors. Perhaps the oldest shop among these parantha shops is Pt Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan, established in 1872. You will be amazed by the varieties of stuffed parathas. The paranthas are fried in pure ghee in cast-iron pans. They are served with mint chutney, banana–tamarind chutney, vegetable pickle and aloo subzi. Their taste depends on their fillings. Half a century back, you could get only a few varieties — aloo parantha, gobhi parantha and matar parantha, stuffed with potato, cauliflower and peas respectively. While these continue to be the most popular, there are several new variants. These include lentils, fenugreek, radish, papad, carrot and mixed vegetables. Besides, there are paranthas which cost slightly more and include those stuffed with paneer, mint, lemon, chilly, dry fruits, cashew, raisins, almond, rabdi, khurchan, banana, karela, lady finger and tomato.
Dahi bhalla need not always be a part of chaat; it can be served as a principal dish as you will find at Natraj Dahi Bhalla. The delicacy called dahi bhalla is a deep-fried urad dal dumpling smothered in whipped curd. Often, it is streaked with chocolatebrown laces of sweet-sour tamarind chutney. Pink pomegranate seeds glisten in the folds of the curd. Natraj is located near Bhai Mati Das Chowk at the turning to Chandni Chowk metro station. On the sweeter side, Rabdi Faluda is a must. And the place to have it is Giani di Hatti near the Fatehpuri Mosque. It has now become an ice-cream parlour specializing in exotic flavours like litchi and bubblegum. Apart from standard ice creams, they also serve milkshakes, fruit shakes, ice-cream shakes and sundaes.
Refresh yourself with a delicious plate of hot jalebis — a sweet made by deepfrying batter in a kind of pretzel shape and then soaked in syrup. 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. Jalebis here are fried in home-made desi ghee. The founder of this shop, Nemi Chand Jain, is known to have experimented with many recipes before deciding on the final one. 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. Kailash Chandra Jain, owner of the shop, said : “Taste and smell of jalebis are same as it was during 1884. We never compromise with the quality of jalebis.”
Prabhu Chaat Bhandar, Dholpur House, Shahjahan Road, New Delhi, provides a range of chaat options. Sitting under a tiny tin-roofed shop, downing deep-fried potato patties floating in a blend of yogurt, spicy green and red sauces served in leaf bowls is a definitive Delhi experience that even hardcore locals can’t get enough of. Chaat is a collective term used to describe savory street dishes, especially these three: aloo tikki, dahi bhalla (cutlets of skinless black lentil-like gram submerged in yogurt) and papri chaat (a hybrid of aloo tikki and dahi bhalla with salty, plain biscuits thrown in).
The name Veg Gulati has been synonymous with Great Indian Food and traditional hospitality for over four decades. Since it is inception in 1959 Veg Gulati Restaurant at Pandara Road, New Delhi, has generated a happy guest list, which includes the highest social strata and countless prominent dignitaries. Their guest list cuts across the social boundaries and people from all walks of life form a part of their prestigious guest list. Undoubtedly, it has been the most trusted and revered place for authentic sugar free faluda, matki malai kulfi , etc. delicacies. Owner of the restaurant Pravin Gulati says, “one will not find our kind of kheer anywhere in Delhi.”
Just adjacent to the Lakshmi Nagar Metro Station, Delhi, is Shri Ganesh Corner. The elderly owner of the shop has been selling hot kachoris with potato gravy for the past 20 years now. The kachoris are very crisp and mouth watering and subzi is very hot and spicy. Priced at Rs 25 for two, the dish is a must-have. Yummy-spicy chole-bhature is the one of most popular among other food of the shop. Don’t miss the jaljeera vendor who has been putting up his cart there since many years. It is called Rajasthan’s special tabadtod jaljeera, and the vendor claims that the cool summer drink drink has 64 masalas, which enhance its digestive properties.
Despite its incredible variety of culinary delights, Delhi’s roadside eateries are facing the heat of competition from upstart rivals. The holy trinity of Delhiwallah’s is now more likely to be masala dosa, Manchurian noodles, and momos, the steamed dumplings from Tibet which have virtually replaced tikki and samosa as the capital’s favoured snack. Nevertheless, no visitor can claim to have ‘done’ Delhi without having done the street food rounds.
by Sanjay K Bissoyi