The markets of Old Delhi reveal their traditions during a food walk
Kurt Vonnegut has said, “You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.” A group of like-minded food enthusiasts I met this weekend, on a walk through the tasteful streets of Chandni Chowk and Chawri Bazar, live by Vonnegut’s dictum.
The bunch of 12 gluttons had gathered for the “Summer Street Food Walk”, an initiative of Delhi By Foot. DBF, as they are known on the Delhi circuit, is a collective run by three friends, Ramit Mitra, Asif Khan and Jaya Iyer, who have been walking and exploring Delhi in all its seasons, festivities and eccentricities for almost 10 years now.
The walk towards the delicacies of Bazar Matia Mahal and Bazar Sitaram began at 5.15 p.m. from the Chawri Bazar Metro Station. The walk, led by Asif and Ramit, had its first stop at Ashok Chaat at the station exit. It had all sorts of chaat, but we had the unique Kalmi Vada chaat which had small crisp discs made of ground lentils. As Asif elucidated the history of Old Delhi and its markets, we walked ahead to the 100-year-old chaat shop Ramji Lal Chaat. Ramji Lal, the 68-year-old owner, prepared Kulle, another unique chaat served in baskets made by scooping out the centre of a canary melon, tomato, banana or cucumber, filled to the brim with a mix of spiced chickpeas, pomegranate seeds, with lemon juice sprinkled generously.
Enjoying the scrumptious chaat, Mridul, a fellow walker working as a manager at IBM, said, “This is my first food walk with DBF. I find this initiative amazing, as you get to know the better side of Delhi.”
A brisk walk took us to Anmol Chicken Corner opposite gate 1 of Jama Masjid, which dishes out chicken tikkas, drenched in a sinful mixture of Amul butter and a secret yellow masala. It is this deadly combination that almost ends any street food adventure in Old Delhi, as one tends to over-eat! But for the brave-hearted foodies amongst us, Al-Jawahar restaurant in Matia Mahal served excellent Chicken Jahangiri and Mutton Stew, pronounced ‘ishtu’, with thick khameeri rotis. Meanwhile, Madhusudan, a participant who works at the service desk at HCL, shared how he got in touch with DBF. “I am an internet freak and a complete foodie. I used to search the internet for such food communities. I got to know about these people from a cousin and I am loving the experience!” he said.
Further on at Chitli Qabar, in an alley off the main road is Mota Pehelwan’s small shop whose speciality is Mirchi Masala Biryani. Its huge deghchi (pot) was exuding a fragrant aroma of exquisitely cooked biryani. The rice and pieces of mutton were cooked in ghee and special spices which, according to the Pehelwaan saab, are changed with the changing seasons so as to always keep the customer healthy and happy.
A glass of rabri at Kallan Sweets rounded off a day well spent in the alleys of Old Delhi, savouring age-old culinary treats.