A Slice of Life in Old Delhi

Old Delhi has held the imagination of the food-obsessed for as long as it has the history-nerds. Entire gullies dedicated to a particular kind of food — paratha-walle gully being the most famous — ensures that you never go home empty-bellied. However, more often than not, wading through the sub-par, to experience the real gems that Old Delhi has to offer, can be a challenge. Which is where guided food walks step in. Delhi Food Walks has been around for 7 years, taking intrepid eaters into the heart of Old Delhi to get a taste of the diverse dishes found here. One winter morning, Anubhav Sapra, co-founder of Delhi Food Walks, took us on one of the most delicious tours of our lives. 

 A traditionally sweet and savoury breakfast is the rich nagori halwa and crisp bedmi-aloo, a hot, crumbly semolina-poori served with potato curry.

A traditionally sweet and savoury breakfast is the rich nagori halwa and crisp bedmi-aloo, a hot, crumbly semolina-poori served with potato curry.

 At 7 am, the dough is rolled and ready to be slipped into a giant vat of hot oil.

At 7 am, the dough is rolled and ready to be slipped into a giant vat of hot oil.

 We stop for soft, warm kulchas paired with chole masala, a quintessentially Delhi dish. You can also have a glass of warm, spiced chickpea broth instead — equally delicious and full of 'takat' to survive the Delhi winter.

We stop for soft, warm kulchas paired with chole masala, a quintessentially Delhi dish. You can also have a glass of warm, spiced chickpea broth instead — equally delicious and full of 'takat' to survive the Delhi winter.

 Daulat ki Chaat is a dish found only in the old city, in the coldest months of winter, because as legend has it, it is only then that the secret ingredient can only be sourced — winter dew

Daulat ki Chaat is a dish found only in the old city, in the coldest months of winter, because as legend has it, it is only then that the secret ingredient can only be sourced — winter dew

 Milk and cream are whisked for hours before daylight, to form a light, foamy cloud, dusted with saffron and pistachio, and the merest sprinkling of sweetened khoya. 

Milk and cream are whisked for hours before daylight, to form a light, foamy cloud, dusted with saffron and pistachio, and the merest sprinkling of sweetened khoya. 

 What breakfast in Old Delhi is complete without a portion of Nalli Nihari? Traditionally served after morning prayers, this dish of tender mutton, is slow-cooked till falling off the bone, to be mopped up with soft, fluffy bread.

What breakfast in Old Delhi is complete without a portion of Nalli Nihari? Traditionally served after morning prayers, this dish of tender mutton, is slow-cooked till falling off the bone, to be mopped up with soft, fluffy bread.

 A walk through the gullies of Chandni Chowk means seeing the streets slowly awaken, and experiencing immersively the noise and chaos of hundreds of different livelihoods in the oldest parts of the capital.

A walk through the gullies of Chandni Chowk means seeing the streets slowly awaken, and experiencing immersively the noise and chaos of hundreds of different livelihoods in the oldest parts of the capital.

 A plate of beef biryani in a small squat shop at 9 am, is fragrant and filling. The owner cooks his biryani with only the 1211 variety of rice — a variety of basmati known for its extraordinary length of grain, upto 9mm.

A plate of beef biryani in a small squat shop at 9 am, is fragrant and filling. The owner cooks his biryani with only the 1211 variety of rice — a variety of basmati known for its extraordinary length of grain, upto 9mm.

 Along the route of our 5-hour walk, Anubhav greets the street vendors and the shopkeepers like old friends. He has been bringing tourists from within the country, and beyond, to these lanes for over seven years now.

Along the route of our 5-hour walk, Anubhav greets the street vendors and the shopkeepers like old friends. He has been bringing tourists from within the country, and beyond, to these lanes for over seven years now.

 Tea and generously buttered slices of toast heated on coal fire, in a tea shop almost 70 years old.

Tea and generously buttered slices of toast heated on coal fire, in a tea shop almost 70 years old.

 By the end of the walk we have eaten at 12 places, loosened our belts considerably, and are opting to walk instead of hopping into a rickshaw so we can make a bit more room. This chole bhature was hot, spicy and definitely worth it.

By the end of the walk we have eaten at 12 places, loosened our belts considerably, and are opting to walk instead of hopping into a rickshaw so we can make a bit more room. This chole bhature was hot, spicy and definitely worth it.

 Anubhav takes us on a detour into a spice market. Up a stairwell at the back, he leads us to the rooftop, where the minarets of the old city are laid bare, and down below, the chaos of business is engulfed in swirls of dust and spice.

Anubhav takes us on a detour into a spice market. Up a stairwell at the back, he leads us to the rooftop, where the minarets of the old city are laid bare, and down below, the chaos of business is engulfed in swirls of dust and spice.

 An old mithai shop makes an extraordinary variety of sweetmeats, including pre-partition treats from Karachi.

An old mithai shop makes an extraordinary variety of sweetmeats, including pre-partition treats from Karachi.

 We call it a day at about 1 pm, with glasses of thick, creamy lassi, topped with slivers of badam and pistachio. 

We call it a day at about 1 pm, with glasses of thick, creamy lassi, topped with slivers of badam and pistachio. 

Follow the Delhi Food Walks here.

 

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