Friday, February 8, 2013

Chandni Chowk - foodwalk

My world revolves around travel, food and love. Travel, requires a lot of brain raking and hard work and the only easy thing about love is learning how to spell it, so for a lazy being like me, food is the easiest to get and so out of the three food it is that I indulge myself most in.

Since, I can't cook even half as decently as would impress the taste buds of the food lover in me, I go around searching for great food cooked by people who are blessed with the beautiful gift of cooking. And mercifully these people (with their amazing food) can be found anywhere and everywhere, in our own house like our mothers (sometimes fathers), grand mothers, aunts, neighbors, just around the corner as the street food options or farther (and expensive) in restaurants, fine diners and farther (and more expensive) the featured and starred chef diners and farther in every little village, town in any country.

Of course I could save myself all this effort (at times disaster) of going in search of food, reading about it, sampling it (that is when u come to know about the success or the disaster that the undertaking was) and learn to cook myself (I do try), but like I said, I am lazy and also because it makes these good natured people who cook (this is something I have noticed, that all good cooks are good natured) very happy, when people eat their food and love it. And so I go about eating their food, paying for it not just with money but also with my compliments and sharing the joy that their food gave me with others by recommending them to people I know and off late by blogging about it.

My quest for food has taken me often to the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk. This part of Delhi, also called as old delhi, a maze of countless narrow, congested lanes, with it's countless big and small shops, warehouses is the biggest whole sale market in India, name it and you will find it here. But this place also happens to be a treasure trove of food, heritage and culture, it hides in it deep lanes and dark corners many little eateries (if u know where to find them) that are institutions and will leave u licking your fingers and wanting for more. Being somebody who has lived in Delhi, I visit Chandni Chowk often, and now with the ease of connectivity with two metro stations, Chawri bazar and Chandni Chowk in it's heart, I can visit it and enjoy it's tasteful food to my heart's content.

If u are planning to visit Chandni Chowk to experience it's food delights, u can make for yourself an itinerary by referring to these websites and blogs : (a comprehensive guide by Delhi Tourism), for suggestions and directions, this blogpost of @Finelychopped . I have found these websites and blogs very informative and helpful.

The list of shops and food that one can find in Chandni Chowk is endless, and I have not yet compiled a list of all the places that I have visited or eaten at. But the few that I have and would recommend are -

Paranthewali gali - Parantha are a type of stuffed Indian bread made of wheat dough, fried in ghee or oil and served with pickles and chutneys. They are made in all Indian homes, but the reason why one would want to travel all the way to Chandni chowk is 'cuz these shops (now only 3 left out of 60) offer paranthas fried in Ghee and range from the regular aloo, paneer to Bitter Gourd, lemon, khurchan. I have tried paneer, aloo, lemon, bitter gourd and mixed veg at Pandit gaya prasad shiv charan paranthewale and loved them. To confess I have shunned eating bitter gourd, but I dared to try the parantha and it was mouth watering, so was the lemon one (made from dried lemon powder) especially when eaten with the Pumpkin chutney. (To reach walk out of Chandni Chowk metro station and either hire a Rikhsaw or ask someone for directions to paranthe wali gali, it's a narrow lane on the left when u are walking from redfort towards sitaram bazar)

Daulat ki chaat - a sweet dish made out of pure whipped cream, It's just as amazing to taste as it is to look. U will find this at many small mobile stalls across Chandni Chowk. It's one of the best whipped creams that I have tasted, neither too sweet, nor too heavy and yet fresh and it melts away in mouth before u have had the fill of it.

Kulfi - It's a milk based ice-cream, served with or without falooda, and is available in many flavors across India, but Chandni Chowk of course offers u some unique variations of it own. There are many kulfi shops offering u a delightful piece of this dessert, but for an experience do visit Siya Ramnannumal kulfiwale (near Ajmeri gate) or Shri dhoolichand naresh gupta kulfiwale in Sitaram bazar. I suggest u try their orange kulfi, pomegranate sorbet and mixed fruit kulfi.
                              But the real gem, is the kulfi served by the elusive road side Kulfi baba, who if and when found is found somewhere along the chawari bazar lane during afternoon. There are no fancy ingredients or flavors that his kulfi has to boast about, just milk, sugar and saffron, and yet it will make you fall in love with kulfi all over again, I guess what makes his kulfi special is the subtlety with which these basic ingredients have been blended and the love with which he serves them with. At the age of 80 baba is alive with his stories and his love for kulfi.

The kulfi frozen within orange pulp.

Kulfi baba with his kulfi @ Rs 10 which can give any 5 star chef a run for their money

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Nankhatai - I have a special corner for these cookies sans all the fuss and fancy techniques that modern cookie baking comes with, because these were the first cookies I remember falling in love with. There is nothing special about flour, butter and sugar mixed together baked over coals and yet there is, the subtle fusion of flavors, the beauty of this dish lies in it's sheer simplicity. This is how I guess cookies came into being and it's a joy to bite in one of these freshly baked golden brown Nankhatais wait for them to melt away in mouth. I used to think they had become extinct and so it was joy to find them being baked here and there across Chandni Chowk. I hope that they never become extinct.


Chaat - Another thing that Chandni chowk is famous for, and though I cannot recommend any particular shops, because they are all equally great with their own concoctions, I do recommend that as u go about exploring, do try the gol gappa, papdi chaat, aloo chat etc from different shops that u can find.

Ashok chaat bhandar, is a shop I often eat at (because of it's convenient location, right at the turn while getting out of chawri bazar metro station, and can recommend their gol gappe, papdi chaat and kalmi ke vade ki chaat ( a must try), as u will walk down the lane, about 100 paces down u will find a small shop serving aloo chat and kulle ki chaat (they hollow fruits and vegetable and fill them with spicy bengal gram).
Chole kulche is another dish that u can't miss while exploring food in chandni chowk, I enjoyed it at the road side stall right opposite Ashok chaat bhandar. Another thing not to be missed is the Kanji vada.

Ghantewala - right at the entrance of paranthewali gali has now become a sort of chandni chowk food legend, though I am not sure if the flavor is a legend too, but I do recommend their pista samosa, kalakand and sohan halwa as worth a try.

The list doesn't end here, but my patience to continue writing this post has (and I am sure so has the patience of the reader, if any who has managed to read this far). I'll leave u to savor these dishes for now, and save the rest for another blog post. Bon appetit!


Victoria said...

Oh, you've made me hungry! I was lucky enough to visit India in the early 1980's and, while I can't remember the names of the food I ate, I certainly remember how delicious it all was. Thank you for bringing back some happy memories...



Kyra said...

@Victoria thank you for dropping by and your comment. I am glad it brought back some memories of your travels to u, it's a lovely feeling to have those memories