Food walk in Old Delhi – Discovering some Legends

I think I have stated this earlier, despite all the chaos, noise, crowds and everything that is wrong about Old Delhi, it never fails to fascinate me. I go there several times a year, for various reasons, but I always end up looking like a kid who has come to Disneyland (rather Appu ghar for us Dilliwalas) for the first time. Somehow I am able to find my spot, right in the middle of that chaos and I feel like I belong there.
Coming to food, I find lot of stuff in Chandni Chowk area to be overrated, and unfortunately most of us are only aware about the much talked about joints, for eg. Natraj Dahi Bhalle or Paranthewali Gali or  Kaka or Giani. Well, some of them joints are perfectly all right, however we were more keen on life beyond them, on tasting from the unknown and finding our own gem. And this was an aimless walk, without any specific ‘agenda’ in mind, guided by our nose and ears.
As we assembled outside gate no. 5 of Chandni Chowk metro station, we could not help but spot a fruit that most of us had never seen before. Well, my introduction to it was only a couple of days back, and I knew it was called Khirni. Its easy for me to try and equate its taste with many other fruits available, however I would not do that. Lets say that its a fruit, with its own flavor, and is quite delightful to eat in this summer heat. I have been told that this comes from Gujarat and is quite popular there.

Gol Gappas we never had.
Khirni, not easy to find.

We all know how bad Delhi summers are, and as we started to walk towards Khari Baoli, we passed Pundit Vedprakash Lemon wale at Ghantaghar, and suddenly a temptation to moisten our parched throats arose, and at FED, we love to give in to temptations.Now what is so special about Pundit Vedprakash, that makes him so popular? What differentiates one Lemon or Nimbu Lemon or Banta from another? Its the masala that goes into it. Most popular Lemon and Shikanji vendors have their own secret recipes for the masala, and Pundit Vedprakash is no different, i.e. his special masala makes him special.

Pundit Vedprakah Lemon Wale

We decided to give rest of Chandni Chowk a skip, and briskly walked towards Khari Baoli, where Hemanshu’s (from EOiD) friend shared with us his knowledge about the spice and dry fruit business in that part of city. Talking about Khari Baoli, it is not an easy place to be, especially if you have a sensitive nose. Passing through, there is a constant buildup to a sneeze, which takes its own sweet time coming through. There are certain points where the smell of spices is so strong that you cannot stand there for more than a few seconds, and in those few seconds you would have sneezed several times.

Various Dry Fruits on Sale in Khari Baoli

Post the ‘knowledge session’, some members went to Fatehpuri Masjid to get a birds eye view of that part of the city, however more dedicated foodies like me stayed back and decided to gorge chaats from an unnamed and unknown khomcha. We started off with Gol Gappas, then moved on to Kalmi Vada Chaat and Kachori Chaat, all washed down with Thandai from the neighboring peddler (without the negative connotations ofcourse). Now this is Dilli 6, so even average chaat of the area would be better than or at par with the finer stuff we get elsewhere in the city, or if I may say, anywhere else in the world. At this point, it is important to mention that most of people were surprised to see kachoris being served in Chaat form, and they had never heard of Kalmi Vada or kachalu before in their life. So don’t worry, you are not alone.

The Unknown Chaat wala khomcha

From there we entered a street, which would lead us to Naya Baans, while on that street, we sampled Mutter Kachori of what looked like a sweet shop, and was either named Thakur or Thakuran, then Hing Kachori with Aloo subzi from a khomcha in the same street. Mutter Kachoris were served with mithi chutney and were quite awesome, I also liked the taste of Hing Kachori, but subzi served with it left a bit to be desired. However if I am in the area, I am definitely going to give it another shot. At Naya Baans, we again had a kachori from a different vendor, whose subzi was much better than the first one, however I have had lot better stuff in walled city.

From there, we headed straight to Lal Kuan, and landed near Hamdard Dawa Khana. Being a vegetarian I had no clue that it was the corner of Master Skewer, the beef Kebab maker Ustad Moinuddin. I knew it had to be something special, what with that glitter in Hemanshu’s eyes, his ears refused to hear and when they heard something, his head refused to turn, and when his head turned, he was not able to speak, what with all the drool he had in anticipation of the Kebabs. ‘Ustad’ is an informal honorary social title, reserved for the finest artisans and musicians. And when that title is bestowed on a Kebab waala, I can only imagine what kind of magic he weaves with this culinary skills.

Anyhow, while the non vegetarians were busy with Kebabs, we satisfied ourselves with Stick Kulfi sold on the otherside of the street. Not the best I had, however at Rs.5 a pop, very good value for money.

Kulfi wala at Lal Kuan

Our little group of vegetarians, decided to walk further down the Lal Kuan bazaar, towards Hauz Qazi, trying to spot whatever vegetarian we can find. However at that hour, there was not even a single joint in the bazaar, which even resembled to serve anything vegetarian. Then I spotted a small nondescript looking shop, which was selling kheer, an elderly gentleman was at helm of things. Having had Kulfi a few minutes back, I was not in mood for more ‘dessert’ and wanted something spicy/tangy for my taste-buds. However I decided to ask others if they were keen, and too my surprise no one refused.

Now this was a small shop opposite Badal Beg Mosque, with no customers and nothing interesting at first glance, we decided to start with one helping of Kheer for Rs.20. As the first morsel went into my mouth, I knew I had stumbled on something great. It was not our usual kheer, it was very thick in consistency, rich and had a brown layer on it, which seemed be the caramel color of thickened milk. We ordered few more helpings and I could not stop but notice the grace and tehzeeb of the elderly ‘Mian’ ji serving us. Exchanged a couple of words with him on Urdu and Lucknow, while we savored every spoonful of his kheer. And Reena, our American friend in the group, tried to pronounce a name with ‘B’, who she said was a very famous Kheer wala, unfortunately no one in the group had any clue about it. Soon we moved on, and a couple of calls to other members of the group were made to coordinate, and that is when we realised that Mian ji serving us were actually Bade Mian, a man whose name commands respect in foodie circles, who is loved by locals and visitors alike.

Bade Mian, with his Kheer

Post Bade Mian, we moved on to Hauz Qazi, which opened a sea of options for vegetarians, as Chawri Bazaar and Sita Ram Bazaar, have traditionally been populated by trader class (baniyas) and hence are predominantly vegetarian. We skipped both Ashok’s (Chaat Corners) and slipped into the Chawri Bazaar. Stopping at the first joint we came across, we sampled Dal Cheela or Chilla, Aloo Tikki and Rabri Falooda, everything was strictly OK for walled city, however would have been good outside it.

Aloo Tikki

Bhaaji of Pao bhaaji, which we skipped.

Dal Cheela or Chilla
Making Aloo Tikkis

 Then we entered Sita Ram Bazaar for what would be our final stop for the evening. And what a finale it was !  Kuremal Kulfi came into the picture with Jamun Kulfi as a show stopper, followed by pomegranate, falsa, mango, kesar pista, fruit cream and several other varieties of delightful kulfi. Kuremal needs no introduction for people who follow and are passionate about food in Delhi. Kuremal’s name is nothing short of a legend now. His shop is based out of Kucha Pati Ram, in Sitaram Bazaar, and attracts absolutely no attention. We were told that most of his business was through major hotels, where he supplied Kulfis, however were we delighted to sample his summer delights ! I can continue raving about how good they were, however Kuremal, along with other legends in this post, deserve their independent space on FED blog.

Shani Dev doing duty in Kucha Pati Ram.

The Show Stopper – Delightful Jamun Kulfi

There are no conclusions to this post, all I can say is that I would be soon headed back, for more adevntures, for the fun of exploring the unknown and stumbling on legends like Ustad Moinuddin, Bade Mian and Kuremal. The Walled City has many Aces up its sleeves, and the treasure chest has just started to open up.

Author: Shashank

CFE – Cheap Food Enthusiast Entrepreneur by birth, hippie by heart he is here just because he loves to eat. This adventurous biker is constantly looking for new avenues to satisfy his insatiable hunger for food & life. Though he loves sugar dense food, there is nothing sugar coated about him- brutally honest with his words, he often ruffles feathers with his stark naked opinions about food, fancy restaurants & orthodox ideas.

7 thoughts on “Food walk in Old Delhi – Discovering some Legends”

  1. Archana Shah Kotadia

    Good Blog…Very well written… shashank.. true foodie with some flair 🙂
    Couldnt agree more…yes the best way to enjoy prani dilli is wandering around the galis and trying out some famous and some 'not so famous' khomchas and 'laris' or 'thelas' as they are called. Here you will find lots of familiar and unfamiliar, earlier experienced and some not ever experienced lip smacking and drool dripping…food, fruits, sweets, chaats etc etc… that are there for the getting…
    Infact, if my childhood memory serves me write, sitaram bazaar ( a friend of my dad stayed there then) had some of the best aloo chana chaat, tikkis and fruit chaat i have ever eaten and all the other ususal and unusual chaats of purani dilli… dont know if you guys found those… if not look for them next time- these are evening thelas only which finish off in an hour or two and then thats it 🙂
    happy food walking… 🙂

  2. bro this is not all for a foodie like me. thr is still more to be discovered in old delhi specialities that you have missed. there are items like rabri faluda, daulat ki chat, krishna bhojnalya ka khana, giani specialities, and if you are a non veg lover then changezi, karim, paya, nihari, tukde and a lot more is thr. next tym when you plan the visit do let me know about it. i would love you help you guys in finding new places to eat.

  3. DD, the places you mention are not exactly new are they ? All of them have been done to death but good nevertheless. I have clearly mentioned that we are going back again, and I am sure you know it impossible to explore the entire area, even in several walks, forget about one.

  4. Hey Shashank,
    I just sampled some extremely delicious kachoris with kachalu-alu sabji combo which my colleague brought in. He says its from Sitaram Bazar from a person called Baburam(apparently its almost in the interiors of the street and is quite popular). He sits in the mornings and shuts shop by 11 and that's the story.
    Thought i should share with you 🙂

  5. Amazziinngg Pictures .. After seeing this , i can say that i am going to purani dilli tomorrow itself.. very well written and drives you back there !!! love it !! After all its the best place in Delhi to eat !!

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