Celebrating The Street Food Of Old Delhi

Delhi is home to a cosmopolitan crowd, with a throng of people from a multitude of regions and cultures. A bustling city with great food options, street food in Delhi is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. It’s not for no reason the phrase Delhi Belly exists. One really can go overboard with all the finger-lickin' food that’s available all over town. You’ll find vendors selling samosas, puris, pav bhaji, chaat and more! 

We start our journey in good old Chandni Chowk, the densely populated neighborhood in the heart of old Delhi that is almost three centuries old. Chandni Chowk is famous for its markets, with vendors selling a range of wares from spices and dried fruit to sarees. The area is renowned for its street food, and evenings see entire streets lined with fast food vendors selling a variety of inexpensive dishes. 

One of the most famous spots in Chandni Chowk is Paranthe Wali Gali. This lane have been in business for a long time, and the oldest, most famous of them all is Pt. Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan Paranthe Wale. The outlet is one of the original twenty shops in the area established in the late 1960s. The parathas are made by filling a ball of dough with stuffing (vegetables with masala being the usual), pinching the dough out by hand, rolling it slightly, and deep frying it in a large vat of oil. The parathas are served hot with chutney, pickle, and sabzi. The accompaniments are every bit as memorable as the paratha itself: pudina (mint) chutney, kela sabji (a mildly sweet vegetable dish made with plantain), aloo sabzi (a potato-based dish), and sitaphal ki sabzi (a dish made using custard apples, the fruit imparts a treacly sweetness). The meal is incredibly filling, and costs as little as 80 rupees per plate. 

Chandni Chowk is also a hotspot for kachori chaat. Vendors use pyaaz (onion) or khasta (means ‘crispy’, filled with a potato based stuffing, unique to Delhi) kachoris to make the chaat. There may be various types of kachori chaat on offer, the method of preparation, however, remain the same, with minor differences in the fillings and toppings. The top of the kachori is smashed in, and filled with matar (peas) or aloo gravy, and topped with various condiments, such as imli (tamarind) chutney,  pudina chutney, dahi (yogurt), and sev. Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala, a franchise renowned for its unique takes on the popular fried snack, will sell you a plate of urad dal ki kachori, with the signature kachalu (taro root) ki chutney for just 55 rupees.

The city has a myriad of options for non-vegetarians as well, scattered around the Jama Masjid, Delhi’s principal mosque. The monument is just a stone's throw away from Chandni Chowk. The area surrounding it hosts a large number of vendors selling a variety of kebabs, sweetmeats, biryani, and butter chicken. It sees an exponential increase in footfall on festive days like Ramzan, when devotees and enthusiasts flock to the markets in order to get their fill of nihari, haleem, and other festive preparations.

Nihari is served in the market year round, which can be attributed to the way most vendors make the dish with a taar. ‘Taar’ is Hindi for string, which is sufficient to describe the practice wherein a vendor adds a part of the previous day’s batch to the nihari served on that day. This is said to enhance flavor. Outlets in Old Delhi claim to have kept their taar running for well over a century. The rich stew of lamb, or beef, is a meal in itself, although vendors usually serve it with tandoori roti. A full plate of nihari will set you back anywhere between 100 to 380 rupees. Kallu Nihari, one of Delhi’s oldest outlets specializing in the dish, will sell you a half plate of Bade (buffalo meat) ki Nihari for just 60 rupees.

Delhi’s streets have plenty to offer for patrons with the most discerning sweet tooths. Vendors sell everything from halwas to faloodas (a cold dessert of flavored milk and vermicelli noodles), with plenty of beverages to help you wash it all down. Faloodas are a perennial favorite, and few do it better than Rewari Mishtan Bandar, a sweet shop housed in Chandni Chowk. The outlet sells several variants of lassi and faloodas, but their signature is a glass of Rabdi Falooda that costs just 70 rupees. You can have it served with kulfi (a typically Indian flavor of ice cream) for an additional ten rupees. And there you have it: a tour of the best in Delhi’s street food. That is, until we take you on the next one, which will be just as rewarding. Because Delhi never runs out of great food.