Various regions of India have their high points and trademarks. It is said that Mumbai is the financial capital of India. Kolkata is the cultural capital of India. Delhi, in addition to being the political capital of the sovereign India, is also, definitely the food capital of the country. New bars, restaurants or cafes keep opening every other day. In fact, many food hubs have been established in the Delhi National Capital Region (“NCR”) over time. One would find an agglomeration of pubs and clubs in Hauz Khas; designer restaurants in Connaught Place; fancy Indian or Indianised food restaurants in Rajouri Garden; international restaurant chains in Cyber Hub and Golf Course Road in Gurgaon. In addition to age-old Chinese restaurants, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Lebanese, Burmese and other cuisines have already established a successful presence in Delhi NCR.
What exactly is Delhi food?
In all this frenzy, it would be difficult for a visitor in Delhi, India to identify what is Delhi food?
Delhi is an age-old city that has experienced the rule of many dynasties. It was the capital of the Mughal dynasty during later years and in 1911 it became the British capital of India. Along with the administration, each of these rulers brought their own culture and cuisine to Delhi. Further, given the political significance, people from all over the country came and settled in Delhi. Post-independence, Delhi became a major Punjabi settlement. All the communities brought their unique food habits as well. Some such food practices got imbued into the cultural melting pot of Delhi. However, some dishes survived in their original form or adorned a modern avatar. And if one is a foodie, then these items are some of the must-try dishes when you visit Delhi.
Things to eat in Delhi & The Best Places to Eat Delhi Food
Chhole bhature comprises soft fried bread or bhatura eaten with a spicy chickpea curry – chhole. The bhatura was traditionally fermented with yoghurt and that lent a mild tanginess with an earthy flavour. For quicker processing, many eateries have replaced the yoghurt with yeast and that is a dampener. Nonetheless, it is still a popular dish and Delhi people throw all dietary cautions to the wind when served a hot platter of chhole bhature. Given that it is a heavy meal, chhole bhature is commonly had for breakfast and is widely available. You can safely have this at any outlet of Haldiram, Bikaner or Om Corner. Word of caution, the chickpea curry or chhole can be spicy.
Aloo Tikki Chaat
This is the Indian version of hash browns. Cutlets made chiefly with mashed potato are deep-fried and served with sweet and sour tamarind chutney and mint chutney. It is sometimes topped with yoghurt for tanginess. Typically a street food, this is meant to be had hot to retain the crunchiness of the top layer of the cutlet. Aloo tikki stalls dot almost every neighbourhood in Delhi and almost every Delhiite swears by the popularity of his local aloo tikki vendor. For a good experience, you can try this dish at Bittoo Tikki Wala and Sindhi Corner for their heart shaped tikki.
It is tough to describe gol gappe in English. A snack item, these are hollow ball-shaped deep-fried flour crepes that are perforated and stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes and chickpeas. The ball is then dipped in flavoured water that could be sour with tamarind or sweet-sour, depending on the taste of the consumer. The whole piece is to be put in the mouth at one go. The sour tamarind water, in combination with other spices and the bland potato or chickpea, is a riot on the palette. Gol gappe are available in many snack shops but they taste best at roadside vendors.
Parantha – the flat fried stuffed bread is a staple breakfast in a Punjabi household or a dhaba, that is, a highway restaurant. The stuffing can be made of potatoes, onions, other vegetables and sometimes desiccated milk for a sweet version. This dish is had with butter or curd and pickle. Heavy enough to make a meal, it keeps you full for long. Stuffed paranthas at Moolchand Paranthewala are extremely popular. But Parathawali Gully in Old Delhi is the most celebrated place in Delhi for parathas.
Old Delhi is also the hub of Mughlai food. The Jama Masjid area in Chandni Chowk is the centre for old style Mughlai cuisine. This is predominately a non-vegetarian paradise. The most popular dish here is biryani and people swear by Kareem’s for this dish. You can also try chicken korma, khameeri roti and kebabs here. Adjacent to Kareem’s is Al Jawahar and their nihari, a meat-based breakfast stew draws foodies from all over early in the morning. Morning is a good time to be in Old Delhi since the lanes are narrow and the area is very crowded in the day and evening.
If you are not a fan of spicy food, butter chicken is your poison. This is a typically Delhi twist to a thick gravy chicken dish. The gravy is rich with butter, cream and pureed tomato and has a mild sweet after taste. Butter chicken goes extremely well with the bread varieties naan or tandoori roti. Urban legend has it that the restaurant Moti Mahal in Delhi invented this dish. However, it is available in all restaurants in Delhi that serve non-vegetarian food. Juneja’s in Meherchand Market off Lodhi Road in South Delhi serves extremely tasty butter chicken.
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Jalebi and Rabri
There is no dearth of confectionery or dessert items in Indian cuisine. But very few of them can beat the popularity of jalebi – rabri combination. Jalebi is a sweet crispy, somewhat like a churro and is soaked in sugar syrup. You can have this on its own, or topped with rabri, the sweet condensed milk. The fried jalebi with the smoothness of rabri is a most satisfying dessert and is a great way to end a meal. You can have this dish at Jalebiwala, Chandni Chowk at Old Delhi. But the best version of this dish is available at the dessert counter of any Delhi wedding dinner.
Delhi is a mixture of an enormous variety of experiences. Along with history, art or shopping, one must try these pocket-friendly delicacies here to understand the city’s belly. A word of caution – you may find some of the dishes hot with chillis and a bottle of water should come handy. Yet, Delhi food is colourful and exciting and we are big fans. We hope you enjoyed this Delhi food experience as much as we enjoyed compiling it for you.
About Authors Sundeep and Bedabrata
This compilation of must try Top Delhi Food items is a guest post by Sundeep and Bedabrata. Sundeep and Bedabrata popularly known as Delhi-Fun-Dos are a food blogger duo from India, always up for good times. Through their website Delhi-Fun-Dos.com and other media channels, they aim to provide a guide to a fun way of life. Be it street food, luxury dining, home-cooked food, regional Indian cuisine or fancy baking, they cover it all. Follow them on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.