Old Delhi, to many, might come across as intimidating because of the labyrinth of narrow gullies, thronged by swarms of people, ever bustling and replete with chaos. Within this mayhem and humdrum are eateries, dating back to the Mughal Era, that still stand tall with poise, serving delicacies that are hard to resist and impossible to replicate.
With nooks and crannies housing an overwhelming variety of food, Old Delhi has a charm of its own, away from the modern city life, that Delhi-ites and people travelling to Delhi by besotted by.
Lanes that’ll inspire you to pull out your cameras, motivate you to explore the unexplored and binge on to some delicious grub without caring about calories, that’s how Old Delhi can cast an enchanting spell and hence, becomes a must visit for every gastronome and shutterbug.
The trails in Old Delhi have plenty of stories to narrate and I have a long list of memories and experiences, that I’ve jotted down over the years, to provide you all with a fairly comprehensive list of places, old or new, famous or not, hidden or visible, all, sharing one common denominator. And that denominator is just good food.
This post is primarily dedicated to all my meat-lover friends, who’re always giving in to the temptations of gorging down succulent kebabs, fat-laden curries and fragrant biryanis. I’ll be taking you through the lanes of the one and only: Jama Masjid, unfolding all must-have places, that you wouldn’t want to miss out on.
1. Qureshi Kebabs:
Try: Mutton Seekh Kebab
Where: Opposite Gate No 1, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk
There’s no dearth of places selling kebabs in the lanes and bylanes of Jama Masjid, but Qureshi’s is probably the most celebrated of kebab places amongst all. They say that the renowned lane, Gali Kababian in Jama Masjid was named after their family, as it was only their family that stayed here during partition. Post partition, they started selling kebabs and hence, the street got its name. This 73-year old shop does only a handful of kebabs and rolls, but it is their mutton seekh kebab that is the hottest selling item. Succulent, moist, tender seekh kebabs, replete with spices, tossed with butter and served with roomali roti, green chutney and onions.
2. Haji Mohd. Hussain Fried Chicken
Try: Fried Chicken
Where: 113, Bazar Matia Mahal, Jama Masjid (Near Qureshi’s)
A little over 40-years Old, Haji Mohd. is famous for selling the most crispy fried chicken in the vicinity. Tossed with a number of dried powdered spices and chickpea flour, the chicken morsels are half fried and kept aside. When ordered, those morsels of chicken are flash fried to complete the cooking process and to give the chicken a super crisp layer outside and moist meat on the inside. It is topped with a generous helping of chaat masala and is served with green chutney, onions and roomali roti. If you’re visiting during winters, Haji sa’ab does some amazing fried fish, too. Forget about KFC and indulge in some delicious, desi-style fried chicken.
3. Aslam’s Butter Chicken
Try: Butter Chicken
Where: In the lane right opposite Gate No 1 of Jama Masjid. Walk of around 600m from Kareems.
Butter chicken is a dish that is loved by everyone. Rich and creamy tomato-based curry having morsels of tandoori chicken, served with butter-laden laccha paranthas. Aslam’s, too, does butter chicken, but unlike any other place ever. Their version of butter chicken comprises of a gravy that is nothing but melted butter. Yes. You read that right. Here at Aslam’s, they believe that waistline shouldn’t be paid attention to and hence, they offer butter chicken that is basically chicken, cooked over a charcoal grill, tossed in a creamy sour curd based sauce and a generous helping of Amul butter. The 4-storey narrow building is probably the most frequented place in this area for when it comes to starters. For vegetarians, they do a version of butter paneer by replacing chicken with tandoori paneer, but that certainly isn’t close to its non-vegetarian counterpart.
4. Nawab Qureshi’s watermelon shake
Try: Pyar Mohabbat Mazaa
Where: Spot a small thela i.e. cart while walking towards Aslam’s. In front of 1149, Matia Mahal.
Available only during summer time, this refreshing concoction named Pyar Mohabbat Mazaa (affection, love, fun), is the perfect drink that you might need to quench your thirst while roaming around in the streets. The pink concoction is made with fresh Amul milk and cream, the cartons of which are stacked on top of each other in his cart, and Rooh Afza, a typical summery drink relished in Indian households. Qureshi adds freshly cut watermelon cubes for summery kick. A small glass costs Rs. 10 and the big one would cost just Rs. 20.
5. Gur ka Sharbat at Pahadi Imli
Try: Gur ka Sherbat
Where: Corner of Pahadi Imli, Chitli Qabar, Bazar Matia Mahal.
A small shop in the corner of Moholla Pahadi Imli sells refreshing drink: gur ka sharbat, which isn’t available anywhere else and is in fact, unheard of. The jaggery is brought from Ajmeri Gate Market and is kept soaked in water in a big container along with a block of ice, which when ordered, is filled in a glass, a dash of lime juice is added and is served. The shop opens at 8 am and serves the drink until stocks last. A small glass would cost Rs. 5 and the bigger one is for Rs. 10.
The above list consisted of place where you can enjoy appetisers and can quench your thirst but the next listicle would cover places where you’ll get the best of curries, khameeri rotis, biryanis and of course, desserts.
PS: My vegetarian friends, worry not, I am working on a list for you guys, too! Stay tuned.