I GREW UP in Delhi. The city is home to food from nearly all the states in India, and in all variety of forms: snacks, street food, mains, appetizers.
Given 24 hours, this is how I’d stuff my face.
To get everything in, you have to start early. First stop: a cup of Chai and Bread Pakora at the nearest tea-stall you can find. Finding a tea-stall will be easy; most are strategically placed on roadside corners and main intersections. Chai khokhas, as they are commonly known around India, are popular all day hangouts that cater to all sorts, from the urban working class to students to minimum wage earners.
Chai, which is the Hindi word for tea, served at the khokhas is special — it’s milky and sugary with just the right amount of cardamom in it. Bread Pakora, a North Indian snack, is made of bread that is stuffed with mashed potato, dipped in a paste of gram flour, and then deep-fried.
Head to Paranthe Wali Gali in Chandni Chowk for breakfast. Parantha is the Hindi word for a flat bread made out of whole wheat flour dough, stuffed with various fillings and then pan fried on a flat pan using oil or ghee (clarified butter).
Fillings range from potato, cauliflower, goat cheese, and radish to even meat mince in some cases. Paranthe Wali Gali is strictly vegetarian and translated in Hindi literally means the “bylane of flat bread.”
Once there, walk into any tiny restaurant (any is as good as another) and order a couple of paranthas with different stuffing. Paranthas are normally served with a bowl of plain yogurt and a dash of hot pickle as a side.
The Central Market in Lajpat Nagar will be stop number three. From Chandni Chowk (where you just ate your paranthas), either travel by Metro train to Lajpat Nagar or take an auto rickshaw. Once in Central Market, look for a Chaat vendor. Chaat is a collective term in Hindi used to describe roadside savory snacks.
Out of all street food found in Delhi, Chaat wins hands down when it comes to popularity. Aloo Chaat, Papari Chaat, Dahi Bhalla, Tikki, and Golgaape are all different kinds of Chaat you’ll find. Order a plate of Dahi Bhalla followed by a round of Golgappas.
Dahi Bhalla is a concoction of deep fried gram flour balls, garnished with yogurt, coriander leaves, mint, and sweet tamarind sauce. Golgappas are hollow bite-size fried balls, stuffed with boiled potato and tamarind sauce, dipped in tamarind water and eaten one at a time. One round usually consists of six to eight Golgappas.
It’s lunchtime. Walk into a local restaurant-cum-sweet-shop and order a plate of Chole Bhature with Lassi. Chole Bhature — a combination dish made up of spicy, cooked chickpeas that are eaten with hollow deep-fried white flour bread — is accessorized with whole green chillies, chopped red onion, and pickle.
Lassi, salted or sweet, is a yogurt-based drink prepared by mixing yogurt and water and topped with ground-roasted cumin for flavor. After lunch, order Gulab Jamun for dessert. Gulab Jamuns are balls made out of buffalo milk and white flour, first deep-fried and then immersed in sugar syrup containing cardamom seeds, rose water, and saffron. Have it served hot.
At this point, consume an Antacid.
After hanging around in Central Market for a couple of hours, walk back into the same restaurant and order a plate of Samosa and Jalebi. Traditionally, Samosa is a triangular shaped flaky pastry that is filled with a stuffing made out of boiled potato, green peas, salt, chili powder, cumin seeds, and then deep-fried and served with green mint-coriander sauce.
Have a cup of restaurant tea with your plate of Samosas. Jalebi is a sweet dessert-style savory, made out of white flour batter, fried in round pretzel like shapes, and then immersed in sugar syrup.
Look for an Indo-Chinese food truck. In all likelihood, there will be one within two miles of Central Market. Ride a cycle-rickshaw and take the rickshaw-puller’s advice to find one. Once there, order a plate of steamed Chicken Momos and a small plate of vegetarian Chowmein.
Momos are dumplings made out of white flour and yeast that are then filled with various different stuffings and served either steamed or fried. Served with a hot, red chili sauce and a clear white broth, Momos are originally Nepalese-Tibetan.
Chowmein is stir-fried noodles cooked in three sauces: soya, chilli, and worcester, with meats and vegetables of different varieties thrown in. The Indo-Chinese truck will offer the Indianized version of both of these, essentially spicier and also having vegetarian options.
Next, head to Jama Masjid area in Old Delhi. Dinner destination: Karim’s restaurant in Gali Kababian (take the Delhi Metro to Chawri bazaar and ride a rickshaw to Jama Masjid). Start with two types of Kebabs — Tandoori Murgh (Chicken) and Reshmi Seekh Kabab (Mutton).
Both these kebab varieties are marinated and slow-cooked in an inverted clay oven called the Tandoor. Karahi Gosht (spicy mutton) and Karahi Paneer (spicy goat cheese) will make up the mains. Devour these with the help of some plain naan bread, also cooked in the Tandoor.
After dining at Karim’s, look for a Paan Shop. Order a Meetha Paan. Paan shops are paan equivalents of chai khokhas and can be found easily around most food establishments. Paan essentially is betel leaf containing various ingredients such as coconut, fruit preservatives, rose petal preservatives and candy-coated fennel seeds.
Paan is mostly consumed as a digestive mouth freshener after meals in India. ‘Meetha’ in ‘Meetha Paan’ means sweet.