I recently stopped over in Delhi for a day enroute to Jim Corbett National Park. Having lived in India for over three years now, I've accepted that one can't do or see as many places in a day as you could overseas. However, having heard so much about the culinary extravaganza that is Purani Dilli I was determined to make the most of my day.
In preparation for the 'big day', I'd done several hours of research of where to stop and what to eat. In hindsight though all that was a bit pointless as Purani Dilli is a sensory overload and there are interesting things to eat everywhere your eyes rests.
Over the course of our Sunday in Purani Dilli, we walked eight kilometres and tried nine different places spread across Jama Masjid, Chawri Bazar, Chandni Chowk and Daryaganj. It was the best one-day stopover I've ever had in a city till date. If you're heading to Purani Dilli anytime soon, here's just some of the food options you simply must try.
Bedum Puri at Shyam Sweets
Start your day in Chawri Bazar by trying the Bedmi Puri at Shyam Sweets. Hot crispy puris accompanied by a sour and spicy potato sabzi, this dish will be the perfect start to your day--especially if you've not had breakfast. The Bedmi Puri comes with a potato pickle called 'Kachauli Chat' which is a must-try.
Natraj's Dahi Bhalla
Pass through a lane known for selling second-and third-hand books and arrive at the renowned Natraj for Dahi Bhalla. For those not familiar with this dish, the bhalla is a bigger and sweeter version of the dahi vada of Mumbai. The bhalla is served with yogurt and a tamarind chutney. While I prefer the Mumbai version, the bhalla is still worth having.
Paranthe Wali Gali
Your next stop should be the famous Paranthe Wali Gali--a lane where, coincidentally, every store seems to have been around for 'six generation'. Each of the stores have about 20 different kinds of parathas and they all come deep fried in ghee with a potato sabzi on the side. We ate ours at the 'Parawthewala' whose store has been apparently visited by both Ranbir Kapoor and Imtiaz Ali. Give the standard options a skip and instead try the nimbu, dal and mirchi parathas. My favourite was the Nimbu one which was deliciously tart and chatpata. The mirchi ones that comes stuffed silly with green chilli slivers came a close second.
Daulat ki Chaat
After all this savoury food, it's time for something sweet, so stop over for some Daulat ki Chaat. Light and airy, Daulat ki Chaat is a dessert made with whipped milk, cream and khoya, which is then topped with chopped pistachios. It's only available in the winters and I really enjoyed this one as it closely resembles the Parsi Dudh na Puff that are available in Mumbai and Udvada.
After all this eating it's time for some walking--to the next food stop of course! Pass by the Gurudwara and stop at the Mushhoor Jalebiwala for some hot jalebis. The dough of these jalebis is not as thin and crispy as its Mumbai counterpart but it means that there's more of the jalebi from which you can suck out the sugar syrup--a well-deserved treat as you get to the halfway point.
Kebabs and Korma at Karim's
Having finished the vegetarian part of your food trail, head towards Lal Quila on foot and loop back towards Jama Masjid or catch a rickshaw. A walk is recommended for what awaits is the legendary Karim's. This was my most favourite stop in Purani Dilli and it totally lives up to all the hype. We had the chicken burra and mutton korma here along with the tandoori roti and my tastebuds came alive. The roti was soft, the chicken lightly spiced and moist and the korma both tangy and spicy. I have just two words for you--must try!
Butter Chicken at Moti Mahal
At this point if you've kept walking as I suggested you are likely to be dead on your feet as we were. Keep going though as you can't leave Purani Dilli without trying the butter chicken at Moti Mahal in Daryaganj. While you could probably find any number of 'Moti Mahal's' spread across India, this restaurant is where butter chicken was invented sometime soon after 1947 by Mr. Kundan Lal Gujral. The boneless butter chicken we ordered was creamy and sweet and came with generous helpings of chicken cooked in the tandoor. Despite professing that we wouldn't be able to put anything else in our mouths, we polished this off in about five minutes amidst various appreciative mumblings.
If you've still got appetite for more, there's also the sohan papdi at Ghantewala Sweets, the kachoris in Paranthe Wali Gali and the shahi tukda in Chandni Chowk that are also worth a visit. The next time you're in Delhi, give this culinary trail a go--you'll be talking about it for years to come.