The Richness Of Dehlnavi: Delhi's Own Cuisine With Diversity
Image Credit: ITC Hotels

Let’s just agree that Delhi is a vibrant tapestry of diverse cultures that have seamlessly blended to form a unique identity. The capital city has become a melting pot for people from all corners of the country, where they come together to share their traditions and celebrate the spirit of Delhi. And the culinary scene of Delhi is a result of the confluence of diverse cultures, each contributing their unique flavours to the city's gastronomic landscape. Be it the dal makhani and butter chicken of Punjab, Kolkata’s kathi rolls or the South Indian dosas, Delhi's cuisine is a melting pot of regional delicacies.  

Mughals have been largely credited for introducing some of the most succulent kebabs, nihari gosht and chicken korma to Northern India, that we relish like nothing else till date. So is the cuisine of the Kayastha community, who appeared early in the court of the Mughals and whose cuisine spans across Delhi, UP, Bengal and even Hyderabad. Their proximity with the Mughals and the Islamic culture is known to be a major precursor in shaping the distinctive cuisine which includes a whole lot of meaty affairs such as kacche keeme ke kofte, parsinde, mutton pulao and so on. Keema kaleji and gurde kapure are some of the festive staples that adorn the dining tables of a Kayastha household. 

The culmination of these different pieces of history and culture constitutes what we know as the Dehlnavi or Dehlvi cuisine - an Urdu word which roughly translates to "From Delhi". 

Giving the true essence of Delhi's cuisine from the Walled City, Delhi Pavilion at Sheraton is hosting a Dehlvi food festival which showcases the flavours of the city and the vibrant culinary prowess of erstwhile ‘Dilli’ that's impossible to resist.  

Aimed to showcase this incredible fusion of flavours that have been united by Delhi's love for good food, Chef Mohid and Chef Aditi spearheaded the spread and presented some of the most iconic delicacies of Dehlnavi cuisine. Speaking on the occasion, Manisha Bhasin, Corporate Executive Chef, ITC Hotels said “The food trail endeavours to replicate Red Fort's rugged splendour and Chandni Chowk's flavours while preserving the Lutyen’s Delhi’s old-world charm. Through the Dehlnavi Food Trail, ITC Hotels pays a tribute to this beautiful cuisine legacy of Delhi.” 

Image: ITC Hotels

The food trail starts off with chaats such as papdi chaat, and the unique kulle ki chaat from the walled city. Kulle ki chaat, for the unversed, is made by scooping out the centres of boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes or summer specials like watermelons, and filling them with a mixture of chickpeas, pomegranate seeds, spices, and tangy chutneys. The stuffed potatoes or watermelon are then garnished with a variety of toppings such as sev, coriander leaves, and chaat masala, which is a spice blend commonly used in Indian cuisine.  

Besides the chaats, Dehlnavi cuisine also had kebabs and fish fry. While bhey ke kebab or lotus stem kebabs stood true to the earnest effort for uniqueness, the fish fry could’ve been more succulent and flavourful. The starters could've had much more in the fare as well, considering the vast diaspora of Mughlai kebabs and street foods of Delhi. 

The main course, however, was the highlight of the fare and perhaps for the first time ever, the vegetarian side seemed more enticing! The dal dehlnavi served with a crisp biscuitty roti had caught our fancy. Imagine the tantalizing fragrance of slow-cooked moth and split moong dal, infused with the pungency of chopped chillies, roasted cumin, and ginger juliennes. As you dip the sweet, biscuit-like roti into the creamy and thick textured dal, a heavenly blend of flavours dances on your taste buds. 

Images: ITC Hotels

The nimona pulao was as intriguing as the dal and biscuitty combination, since the usual nimona pulao has green peas (matar) all over, here it was given a unique spin with matar stuffed inside the salan mirchis! The matar paneer naize was the perfect blend of rustic flavours and a smooth, creamy-like texture thanks to the pine nuts. The chatpate soya charra aloo were enough to hit anyone with nostalgia, while kunni dal which is slow cooked on a gentle flame with a blend of Bengal gram and black lentils is a heavenly dish too. Infused with a handful of secret spices and a hint of garlic, it is sure to comfort you to no end. 

The non-vegetarian fare on the other side was as royal as it could get. The all-time favourite Dilli Butter Chicken had a luscious gravy with a velvety texture and an indulgent buttery taste that coated the tongue. A generous dollop of full cream and a pat of butter added to its richness, making it an irresistible treat. The juicy and tender boneless chicken pieces were perfectly cooked and complemented the buttery goodness of the dish, leaving a lasting impression on the taste buds. The extravagant Nihari and Gosht Pulao too were irresistibly delicious and added the perfect touch of Mughlai to the unforgettable experience. 

The dessert platter was the perfect conclusion to the hearty meal – full with Barf Ki Handi and decadent kheer and gulab jamun.  

The Dehlnavi Food Trail can be experienced for dinner buffet from 26th April 2023 to 30th April 2023 for 1850 plus taxes only at Sheraton New Delhi, Saket and ITC Maurya, New Delhi.