So last Saturday those crazy kids over at Dillinet finally persuaded me to take them on a street food walk and in the process made Golgappe, Shahi Tukda and Kebabs look cute, glamorous and lots of fun.
Twelve food-lovers (including two unsuspecting tourists we roped in at the Metro station) set off on Saturday night from Chawri Bazaar. The first stop was Ashok Chaat right by the Metro, a well-known chaat joint and a safe bet if you’re new to Delhi’s street food. It’s always mobbed and that’s always a good sign! We shared several plates of Golgappe – definitely a bit more gutsy than the sanitised Haldirams version! – Papri Chaat and Kachori Chaat followed by a couple of Aloo Tikkis which were sizzling at a stall a little further on. Eagle-eyed Siddartha then spotted a Daulat ki Chaat vendor and to much sighing and drooling we managed to finish his entire stock.
About a third of the way down Chawri Bazaar at Hira Lal Chaat corner we ordered a plate of Kulle, an unusual chaat made by scooping out the centre of either a tomato, a banana, sweet potato or cucumber. The hole is then filled with chick peas, pomegranate seeds, spices and lemon juice. A great palate cleanser for the meat-fest that was to follow.
First, though, we took a detour into Raghu Ganj, a peaceful grain store off Chawri Bazaar where, since 1958, the family of Anil Kumar Jain have been making amazing fruit sandwiches. Depending on the season, this involves fruits like mango, apple and banana, finely sliced and layered with slivers of paneer, pomegranate seeds and lashings of marmalade (or Jum Jum jelly as Mr Jain calls it) between two slices of soft white bread. It sounds a bit unlikely – not a grain of chaat masala in sight – but is utterly delicious especially when washed down with one of their sensational chiku milkshakes.
We walked round to Matia Mahal which, as ever, felt like Eid, Diwali and Christmas all rolled into one. Sid, from Chef at Large (palate-weary from all that ‘fine’ dining) took us to his favourite kebab stand so we could tear into some beef.
Down in Chitli Qabar we went in search of a special kind of sheekh kebabs which are so soft they have to be held onto the skewers with fine string – in fact they’re sometimes called Sutli (string) Kebabs. The men who make the kebabs sit in a sort of bunker below street level turning out plates of meat that melts in the mouth. There was also some interesting-looking fish but by now we were slowing down – I’ve noted it for my next trip!
Then it was Biryani time and that means Mota Biryani Wala, a very formidable-looking gentleman the same shape as his giant cooking pot who sits in a gully off Chitli Qabar. Here the gluttony was starting to take its toll so we stepped off the street and sat in the back to enjoy the exceedingly tender mutton and perfectly moist rice.
Back on the main drag, we stopped for dessert at a one-stop shop serving Shahi Tukda, Phirni, ice cream and badam milk.
Most people might have called it a night there and the caveman was definitely begging to be taken back to the Metro in a rickshaw but a couple of us knew the night wouldn’t be over until we made the pilgrimage to Bade Mian’s mighty kheer shop. As well as eating a couple of plates on the spot, I bought a huge pot to take home.
All in all an excellent evening – a treat to see new converts to eating street. You know, I could probably be persuaded to do another one!
Photos by Jacek Ratajczak from Dillinet