Before I moved to Delhi, the food community pages of the city were already sprawling with updates about Old Delhi’s food and the well kept secrets in the area. My first introduction to this part of Delhi and its food happened in the 2015. Before that, my knowledge was limited to a few places like the holy lassi of Mote Lala and the must avoid Paranthi Wali Gali. Slowly I was introduced to more places. In this quest, I also met people who were visiting here from places far away on a regular basis.
Chandni Chowk’s food trail is simple and yet very complicated. Simple because you don’t have to enter the lanes in the hunt of food (although if you try then you won’t be disappointed), complicated because after a plate of choley bhature or a glass of lassi, you won’t have any space in your stomach left to continue further.
Chandni Chowk food walk starts from Chandni Chowk metro station. You step out, walk a few steps and you’ll find yourself standing next to a small flee market. The roadside shops selling shirts, jackets, perfumes and regular household materials are a big hit. But you are not here to purchase stuff. This is the starting point of your food walk.
Adjacent to this flee market, you’ll notice some choley bhature stalls. Avoid, because the star of the food walk is not here. Look a little further and you’ll find two or three shops selling pakodas. These shops are famous for something unique. Ram laddoo is a well-known snack loved by the Delhites. But the ones that are sold here are bigger than any you’ll every have in your life. Want to try something different, then ask for a plate of karele (bitter gourd) ka pakoda. Its speciality is that while kerala is very bitter, these pakodas do not leave any of that effect on your taste.
These pakodas go perfectly with a glass of sweet potato juice.
Running since 1977, Lotan’s Choley has been pulling Delhites from faraway places. It is so popular that his stock finishes in minutes, the moment he sets his shop at 6 in the morning. His appetizing, spicy cholas are served with potatoes in a red hot curry, garnished with coriander and green chillies. He doesn’t have a shop but his popularity is so huge that one can tell you the address just by asking the name.
Time has passed by but Mote Lala’s lassi has retained its charm. A glass of this yummy delight fills your stomach instantly. In summers, the visitors travel all the way from South Delhi (at-least I did), to have a glass of this lassi served in an earthen pot.
You’ll also find parathe wali gali somewhere here. Many travel websites make you believe that this is one of the best places to visit in Delhi, but trust me, the only thing that paranthe wali gali offers is a day filled with diarrhoea and added cholesterol. Paranthe wali gali is a must avoid.
On the winter mornings, the Old Famous Jalebi Wala becomes the star of Old Delhi. When these piping hot jalebis come out of the pot, the visitors standing around waste no time in taking bites and bites.
Assuming that it is 10 and you have walked enough to digest that lassi and jalebi, it is the time to hit Natraj Café – Natraj Dahi Bhalla shop. This is again, one of the places which is generations old and needs a lot of patience to stand and wait for the order. This crispy snack with a portion of yogurt has a history that goes back to 1940. Apart from this, the aalu tikki is also a star of the establishment.
Right next to Natraj, you’ll find some street side vendors selling Daulat ki Chaat. This sweet, milk and water based pudding has its origins from Uttar Pradesh. Following Daulat ki Chaat, you can visit the lemon soda shops, the most famous of which is the ved prakash lemon wale.
From here you continue further until you find a shop named Bhikharam’s, This shop is famous for its assortment of sweets and snacks, the most famous of which is the Manchurian dhokla. Right at the corner, you’ll find the famous Shiv Mishtan Bhandar. Their Bedami Puri and Aalu ki sabzi is a star attraction especially during the winter season. Shiv Mishtan is considered among one of the best places to eat in Delhi. Nagori Halwa is another Delhi cuisine without which, your visit to Chandni Chowk is incomplete.
You walk towards Fatehpuri and take a right; you’ll be next to the legendary Giani di Hatti. The famous chain’s original (or semi original) shop. Famous for its choley bhature and lassi, Giani is the best way to give your trip a finale. Or better you take a detour and find Lala Duli Chand Naresh Gupta’s shop and try one of the kulfis. Their seasonal mango kulfi is one of the best. Apart from that you can also try rose and papad flavour kulfi here.
This is just one corner of Old Delhi. The Jama Masjid side is buzzing with the amazing non-veg food and unlike Chandni Chowk’s morning buzz, these shops only open in the evening.
While the most casual visitors prefer visiting Kareem’s and Al Jawahar, those who know this place well will walk a little further and visit Aslam’s. His butter chicken is literally served in a bowl filled with butter. So if you have a thing for health and fitness, it is better to avoid this place. Otherwise, Aslam is a treat for the tastebuds.
Jama Masjid area is abuzz with small food stalls. From veg kebabs to biryani, everything is served in these hole-in-the-wall shops. The next stop will be Haji Mohd. Hussain which is famous for its fried chicken. A plate only costs you INR 100 and is served with a rumali roti.
You can take a right just before entering Matia Mahal and enter another small establishment called Fish Point. The fried fish here is something that you won’t find anywhere in Delhi. These flavorful, crispy bites of fried fishes are the best when tasted with rumali rotis.
Your last stop of the walk should be at Kallan Sweets. A little hard to find, Kallan’s shop is located in the corner of Matia Mahal. You can try Khoya Samosa, Keema Samosa and Paneer ki Jalebi if you are not concerned a lot about your calories.
Of-course this list is just a small introduction to the many, hidden food joints of Delhi. Every foodie in Delhi has a personal list of favourite places and so is mine. There is something about Old Delhi’s food that despite regular visits, I keep returning and end up finding something new.