I’ve been to Delhi umpteen times, sometimes passing through to catch a train for Calcutta or Amritsar, visiting aunts and cousins on other occasions, attending weddings and workshops, and there have been some some serious shopping trips too. But one area that I’ve really not explored in all these years, including a year of living in Delhi, is Purani Dilli.
The three-day Dehlvi Cuisine food trail hosted by JW Marriot Aerocity, New Delhi was the perfect opportunity to correct this most unacceptable oversight 🙂 The first post in this series here covers the predominantly non-vegetarian cuisine of the Jama Masjid by-lanes. This post is all about the Chandni Chowk area in Old Delhi, which is renowned for all kinds of delicious, mostly vegetarian fare.
Our Chandni Chowk adventure started with a trip on the very efficient Delhi Metro, which got us to the nearest station – Chawri Bazaar – in no time. Cold towels and a cooler of chilled water bottles awaited us as weren’t up the steps from the station, courtesy the ever-smiling JWM staff! Honestly, these were not really needed since the Metro journey was very comfortable and quick, but you won’t catch us saying no to such solicitous hospitality!
A cavalcade of rickshaws bearing signboards saying – ‘Dilli ke Dehlvi Rang JW Marriot ke sang’ had been organised to take us on a tour of the main bazaar before we hit the food stalls.
Riding in a rickshaw is something that I hadn’t realised I’ve missed..it was so much fun to just sit back and look around the bazaars. Another advantage of a rickshaw is that one can actually take some passable pictures, unlike if you are in an auto or car 🙂 The rickshaw-walla kept up a steady commentary on the areas that we were passing through and it made for a very interesting trip.
This part of Delhi isn’t a touristy trap but a busy, working, wholesale market, mostly with shops stocking similar items grouped together. The main roads are wide, like everywhere in Delhi but they are cluttered and congested with all manner of hawkers, vehicles and carts.
Before we get on with all the things we ate, here are some pictures of goodies that we gawked at and took pictures of, but unfortunately couldn’t try 🙂
Apart from the shops and stalls there are rows and rows of food carts, as well as vendors on the pavement with all kinds of goods, and one can spend hours just looking at their wares.
Our first pit-stop was the Natraj Dahi Bhalle Wala, a shop tucked into a corner, with a counter and outdoor cooking area downstairs, and seating plus a small kitchen on the first floor. The dahi bhallas here are popular, and rightly so. They were super soft and had soaked in some of the seasoned fresh yogurt they were dunked in. Topped with the tangy-sweet sonth and their signature roasted masala, they were just delicious!
The Aloo Tikkis that came next were simple and scrumptious. The tikkis had a filling of spiced dal inside and were served with the usual green chutney and sonth. This is one place that does the basics really well, and pretty much lives up to all the hype.
The Ram Laddus that we had next were as frill-free as the aloo tikkis, and just as delicious. These are savoury fritters made with soaked, ground and fermented moong dal. The batter is fried up into crisp laddus and then served sprinkled with a special masala, chutney and shreds of radish. It is fairly hard to stop at one laddu since they are hot, crusty, flavourful and just so good.
One of the most famous landmarks in Chandni Chowk is the Parathe Wali Gali. These are stuffed and deep-fried breads that taste more like stuffed pooris then parathas. This lane is very narrow and the original Parawthe Wala is really crowded, so this experience may well be avoided in favour of more chaats and sweets.
While the parathas were a trifle disappointing, the accompaniments were stellar. A spicy aloo ka saag was balanced by the sweet sonth with slices of banana. There was also a spicy green chutney, kaddu ki subzi and aloo-mutter, all very good. A bowl at the table offered a tangy mixed vegetable pickle.
Another legend in these parts is the Daulat Ki Chaat, an airy, gossamer concoction of frothed milk and cream that is usually available with cycle vendors in winters. The fluffy souffle is scraped into a plate, and castor sugar and powdered khoya is added on top before serving. This was super light and a truly melt-in-your-mouth kinda dessert.
A visit to the Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib beautifully rounded off this exciting excursion. The atmosphere inside the Gurudwara was peaceful and reverential, and the floral decorations were lovely.
With the strains of the Gurbani ringing melodiously in our ears and the rich earthy sweetness of the Kadha Prashad in our mouths, we bid adieu to this fascinating place that has so much more to offer than what we experienced. Chandni Chowk surely calls for another visit, but on an empty stomach, on another day! That’s something to look forward to.
Note: This trip was sponsored and curated by JW Marriot New Delhi Aerocity but the thoughts expressed here are our own.
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