Let’s explore Delhi’s Street Food Culture!
New Delhi, the capital city of India, is also considered the country’s Street Food Capital. Ask any ‘Delhite’, as an every Delhi resident is called, and, they will promptly, proudly and strongly vouch for it…. Every corner of every street and, every colony of every region will boast of their own street speciality!!
The Birth of a Food Ethos
The early settlements in the Old Delhi area, known as Chandni Chowk, was always important for traders and trading and, as it is to be believed, the culture of street Food started here, over a century back; with a few innovative individuals providing the working class with cheap fresh food, the food was always high on calories and spicy as the customers and the weather demanded. Old Delhi still remains the haven for all true street food lovers and has designated streets and lanes.
Street Food- a way of life
Delhi prides to be a hustling cosmopolitan city and the Delhi street food is a perfect example of a merger of numerous cultures and states, due to its past and present history. And today, Delhi humbly maintains the widest variety of such foods available too.
The top favourites are Chaat; Chola Bhatura; Alu Puri/ Kachoris; Matar Kulcha; Samosa/ Pakoras; Chowmein/ Momos; Rolls, Ram Ladoos and Biryani. The list can go on, as Delhi is a city of foodies and we love our food and our appetite is always ready for some more. The variety available here leaves all astounded.
Delhi residents are a perfect blend of traditions and modern lifestyle and live life to the fullest; friends and family being the top priority and thus Food plays a very important role. Hanging out with friends in the evening and enjoying a round of Chaat is a must-do for any Delhite, and they may be of any age.
ALSO READ: Top 11 Weekend Road Trips from Delhi
The Ultimate Street Delicacy
CHAAT is an anytime, anywhere nibble. Synonymous to mouth-watering and spicy, this is usually fried, available on these ‘Thela’ or street carts, with all food freshly prepared, and that too as per the customers choice. But these, very symbolic, temporary food stalls found at every little corner, may look shabby and cluttered, but, as a habitual foodie, I can vouch that they have the freshest of material and are usually completely sold out in a few hours. Each hawker has his own touch and speciality and the magic is usually in their mix of spices and the chutneys they serve, thus each one is unique and incomparable.
Popular Chaat Varieties
GOL GAPPAS: The ‘Chaat Waala Bhaiya’ or hawker, as he is fondly called, will give these small puffed up, deep-fried dough ball, stuffed with potatoes, a sweet and sour chutney, some chickpeas and topped with spicy mint-coriander flavoured water. The fun is to eat them as a whole, as soon as they are individually served….. the taste and that moment has to be experienced only and cannot be explained in words, as this is a fixed set of taste drilled deep in the nerve of every Indian and we just cannot stop at ONE.
ALOO TIKKI: The same vendor on the other corner of his stall will have a big iron tawa or skillet, where boiled and mashed potatoes patties/cutlet, stuffed with spices and legumes are deep fried and served along with curd, sweet-sour and mint-coriander chutney. They are hot and crispy on top, with a soft gooey middle.
ALU CHAAT: Boiled potatoes are cut into bite size and deep fried, and then are sprinkled with special masala or spices, along with mint-coriander chutney and a generous squeeze of lemon. It is very popular snack with youngsters especially girls.
DAHI BHALLA PAAPDI: Soft legume-based deep-fried balls, soaked and squeezed in water are added to a plate of round flat crisp crackers or paapdi and served with curd, chutneys and special spices.
The Chaat Haven
Old Delhi lanes still remains the favourite of a true Delhite. It’s a beautiful gastronomically delightful site to witness and also to savour these single basket hawkers selling homemade delicacies randomly at fixed corners and, have locals as their fixed regular customers and are usually sold out within the few hours they set up their stall. One finds these hawkers in the early noon hours when the trading community starts looking out for a quick midday meal. It is a must-try if in this area during these hours…
The Secret Cache
Another very unique and a super speciality found only in these by lanes of Chandni Chowk is Daulat Ki Chaat. It’s a sweet dish and not a savoury as it may sound, and, is only available for a couple of winter months. A very complex and lengthy process creates this unique delicacy and only a few remaining specialised families prepare this traditional goodness. The milk is continuously churned and the creamy foam is collected in all its richness, mixed with sugar and served garnished with slivered dry fruits like almonds and pistachios. The exquisiteness is the mild sweetness and creamy texture with crunch from the dry fruits. A must-try!
Two Ultimate Chaat destinations of Delhi
Delhi prides in offering delectable Chaat corners in innumerable places and it may be considered unfair to compare but these two are tried, tested and tasted for years and their quality and taste remains perfect and never is there a disappointment.
- Prabhu Chaat Waala, outside UPSC building lane on Shahjahan Road
- Natraj Dahi Bhalla in Chandni Chowk.
Is Delhi’s Street Food Culture all about Chaat?
Not at all!
Delhi, being the Capital city, is a strong confluence of all Indian States, thus, majorly influencing the food habits. National, as well as International Tourism and employment in the city, have added beautifully to the already vibrant food culture. Delhi proudly can state that it is one of the few cities to have the availability of a vast variety of Indian as well as Western cuisine.
Other Popular Street Foods of Delhi
Now, that we have gone is details of our favourite, The Chaat, its time to take a tour of other super yummy and uber-popular Street Foods of Delhi.
Any discussion about Delhi Street Food is practically incomplete without mentioning the Chola Bhatura!
Chola Bhatura is the most popular of all Punjabi dishes, where spicy tangy chickpeas are served with pickles, onion and deep-fried puffed soft bread. As it tends to get a bit heavy for digestion, it’s more of a morning or day meal and best eaten fresh, as soon as the fluffy soft bhaturas are fried.
The healthier option of a similar kind of combination is Matar Kulcha, here boiled spiced white chickpeas are served with baked soft flatbread…. this tasty and nutritious food is a staple meal to the majority of the junior working-class residents in the city.
Kachori and Jalebi
The most favourite Delhi breakfast is Aloo with Puri/ Kachoris, a thick spicy potato vegetable in gravy is served along with deep-fried puffed wheat bread with or without stuffing of legumes and spices. Speciality shops start serving this mouth-watering dish as early as 7 am and are jam-packed with foodies to savour them hot and fresh. These are followed by the mouth-watering juicy and crispy Jalebi, a sweet legume batter deep-fried in the shape of rings and soaked in cardamom and saffron flavoured sugar syrup. This makes a completely satisfying breakfast.
Parathas and Kulchas
The Stuffed Parathas are so loved in the city that there is a whole street in Old Delhi where rows of shops sell these delicious spicy oily stuffed wheat-bread. All possible fillings are available from vegetarian to non-vegetarian to sweets etc. Though the popular ones are potatoes, paneer, keema, onion, cauliflower. The parathas are usually served along with gravy, curd and pickles. The healthier version of parathas are known as Amritsari Kulchas, these are stuffed bread but, baked in a tandoor and served with chickpeas and a big dollop of white butter.
The All-Day Snacks
Samosas, spicy peas and potato-filled deep-fried triangular-shaped bread served with chutney. The original is stuffed with potatoes but, nowadays we even get options with minced meat and cottage cheese.
Pakoras or fritters are vegetables deep-fried in gramflour, hot and super crisp, served with mint chutney, they are best had with a cup of tea. The popular varieties are Potatoes, Onions, Brinjal and Paneer (cottage cheese).
The eastern influence on food and, considered as a healthier option and guilt-free snacking are the steamed Momos and Chowmein. These are very popular amongst the younger generation.
If one is visiting Lajpat Nagar, a popular south Delhi market, we just cannot miss the Ram Laddoos, or deep-fried lentil paste balls served with chutneys and grated radish; these melt in the mouth, delicate balls are a very popular roadside snack in Delhi.
Beverages and Desserts
Honestly, all the spicy roadside delicacies will leave a very empty feeling till we complete and satiate our taste buds with a piping hot Masala Tea in an earthen mug.. one will always find a tea stall close to the food hawkers.
Delhi is also famous for its wide variety of local ice cream or commonly known as Kulfi. Milk is thickened, sweetened and flavoured with cardamom, saffron and nuts and frozen on sticks. These creamy lollies are a delight to any dull moment and happily savoured even on the coldest evening of Delhi winters.
Must-Visit Places to try out Delhi’s Street Food
- Chola Bhatura at Sitaram Diwan Chand Chana Bhature, Paharganj
- Matar Kulcha at Central Market, Lajpat Nagar
- Aloo puri/ kachori at Shyam Sweets, Chawri Bazar
- Stuffed Paratha at Parathe wali gali, Chandni Chowk
- Amritsari Kulcha at under Moolchand flyover
- Samosa at Bengali Market
- Pakoras at Khandani Pakode Wala, ring road Sarojini Nagar
- Momo and Chowmein at Dolma Aunty, Lajpat Nagar
- Ram Laddoos at Central Market Lajpat Nagar
- Kulfi at Pandara Road Market and Ajmal Khan Road, Karol Bagh
So, what are some of your favourite street foods of Delhi? Do, let us know in the comments below.
This blog-post was co-authored by Anuradha Nag. An ex-marketing professional, Anuradha hails from NCR (National Capital Region). She loves to travel, especially going on road trips with her son.
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